How to Clean Different Types of Shoes

It doesn’t take long to build a large and varied collection of shoes. Practical ballet pumps or moccasins for every day, strappy sandals and stiletto heels for glamorous nights out and trainers or pumps for running around and exercising, there are no end of attractive styles to look for.

Although it’s tempting to throw them in a cupboard when you take them off, it’s worth developing a routine of cleaning your shoes correctly before putting them away. It will help to make them last longer and ensure they look as good as new when you next need to wear them. You might also need to consider updating your shoe storage to provide them with the protection they deserve.


Leather has long been an obvious choice for products such as shoes, wallets and bags because it is a hard-wearing, breathable material. Whether you want to learn some unique ways to clean a wallet or tidy up your leather sofa, it’s an easy material to clean. Taking the time to clean leather properly will help to keep it comfortable and supple. First remove any debris or dirt with a stiff bristle brush or a dry textured cloth. Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing a small quantity of tepid water and white distilled vinegar in equal proportions. Dip a cloth into it and squeeze out the excess until the fabric is just damp. Wipe over the leather taking care to clean into crevices. The fluid is usually an effective remedy for removing the unsightly watermarks that often occur during wintry or wet conditions. The solution can also be used on the heels and for imitation or faux leather. Allow the shoes to dry naturally before buffing the leather with a soft brush or cloth. Use a specialised polish to treat scuff marks or make a paste of bicarbonate of soda and water. Rub it into the scuffed area before wiping away. Finish by polishing the leather with a soft cloth or brush.

Patent Leather

Patent leather in particular needs careful attention to preserve its glamorous, glossy good looks. Use a soft cloth to gently remove any dirt before wiping over the shoes with a solution made of water combined with an equal amount of white distilled vinegar. When the shoes have dried naturally in the air, rub a small, pea-sized amount of petroleum jelly into the surface to help remove any blemishes. To restore the beautiful shine, polish the shoes with a soft microfibre cloth and all in one leather care.


To maintain the elegant, velvet finish of suede shoes you need to follow a careful cleaning routine. Ensure the suede surface is dry by dabbing with an absorbent paper towel before cleaning. Use a brush to remove any debris remembering to follow the direction of the grain. Any scuff marks can usually be removed with an ordinary pencil eraser from your stationery box. Patches of oil can be lifted by applying a small amount of cornflour or baby powder to the stain. The fine grains are highly absorbent and can penetrate between the fibres of the suede. Heavy stains might need more than one application. To regain the beautifully soft velvet texture, gently brush the surface following the grain.


Nearly everyone has a pair of soft and comfy sheepskin ankle boots. The exterior can easily be kept clean through regular brushing. To remove any stains and scuff marks, follow the directions outlined for suede shoes. The warm, cosy interiors of sheepskin boots can often encourage an excess of bacterial or fungal growth. To ensure your sheepskin footwear is hygienic, prepare a solution of medicinal disinfectant diluted with an equal quantity of water. Using a cloth that has been dipped into the solution and wrung out until it’s damp, thoroughly wipe over the boot linings. Take care not to make them too wet. Place the boots where the air can freely circulate around them for at least twenty-four hours before storing or wearing them.

Canvas and Fabric

Breathable, pliable fabric espadrilles, lace up pumps or sandals are wonderfully comfortable, particularly in hot weather. When they begin to look dirty, it’s worth taking the time to clean them by hand. Machine washing can be too harsh, causing the adhesive solvents to dissolve and any insoles that may be made of leather can become distorted and brittle. Begin cleaning them by gently removing any dust or debris with a brush or cloth. Prepare a weak solution of washing up liquid and water. Moisten a toothbrush with the soapy water and carefully work it into the fabric by following the weave of the material. Take care not to damage the fibres and don’t allow the shoes to become soaked. Blot with an absorbent cloth to remove any excess solution before dabbing over the fabric with a sponge moistened with plain water to rinse out the soap. Use an absorbent towel to thoroughly blot the surface before allowing the shoes to dry away from direct heat or sunlight. When storing, pad the shoes with paper to help them stay in shape.

Cork and Rope Wedges

Many casual shoes and sandals have wedge heels trimmed with rope or cork that need cleaning as often as the uppers. Make a solution of four parts warm water, one part white distilled vinegar and half a teaspoon of washing up liquid. Moisten a cloth or toothbrush with the fluid and gently scrub in the direction of the fibres or grain to gradually lift out dirt and stains. Rinse in the same way using clean water. Dab the surface with an absorbent paper towel before leaving the shoes to dry in an airy location.

Trainers and Athletics Shoes

Carefully remove any caked-on mud with a blunt knife or stick. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding the suitability of the shoes for machine washing. If in doubt, clean the shoes according to the type of material they are made of as outlined above. Remove the laces and wash separately in warm soapy water. As for the insoles, it depends on the type. If you have normal ones, they can usually be washed with soap or if they are leather, wipe thoroughly with a diluted solution of medicinal disinfectant to keep bacteria and fungus at bay. If you happen to own a pair of orthotic insoles (take a look over at this website to compare the best ones), you may have to wash them with a mild soap or detergent and clean them with a soft cloth. However, don’t be tempted to send your insoles for a spin in a tumble dryer as the heat can damage the shoes. Instead, leave them to dry out naturally at room temperature.

Storing Shoes Correctly

After you have paid a small fortune for your shoe collection and spent ages cleaning them properly, it’s a shame not to store them correctly. One of the best methods is to invest in flexible shoe storage that consists of individual, stackable shoe boxes.

They are often made of a brilliantly clear acrylic which enables you to instantly see which shoes are stored inside. Some boxes are not transparent, but they have a convenient clear viewing panel at one end that drops down to provide easy access to the shoes.

Shoe storage boxes also keep your shoes dust-free and safe from being damaged. Some are equipped with ventilation slots to ensure the atmosphere inside stays fresh. Stacked boxes look stylishly presentable if they are displayed in your room or they can be placed inside a wardrobe.

An alternative is a drawer system that is made of clear acrylic for easy viewing. Boxes are usually available in different heights to accommodate various heels and there are also smaller versions for children’s shoes. Another advantage is that you can add boxes as your shoe collection grows.