How to Clean Shoes From Thrift Store

Are your thrift store shoes in need of a little TLC? Learn how to clean and revive them with these simple tips.

  • Assess the condition of your shoes.
  • Remove dirt and grime.
  • Treat odors.
  • Clean and refresh the soles and insoles.
  • Polish and restore the exterior.
  • Properly store and maintain your cleaned shoes.

With a little effort, you can have your thrift store shoes looking good as new in no time.

Key Takeaways

  • Examine the overall appearance for stains, scuffs, or discoloration
  • Check the soles for signs of wear or damage
  • Identify the specific areas that require attention during cleaning
  • Determine the material of the shoes (leather, suede, fabric, synthetic)

Assessing the Condition of Your Thrift Store Shoes

Before you begin cleaning your thrift store shoes, it’s important to assess their condition so you can determine the best cleaning method to use. Start by examining the overall appearance of the shoes. Look for any visible stains, scuffs, or discoloration. Check the soles for any signs of wear or damage. Take note of any loose threads or missing buttons. By carefully assessing the condition of your thrift store shoes, you’ll be able to identify the specific areas that require attention during the cleaning process.

Next, it’s crucial to inspect the material of the shoes. Are they made of leather, suede, fabric, or synthetic materials? Different materials require different cleaning techniques and products. Leather shoes can be cleaned with a leather cleaner and conditioner, while suede shoes require a special suede brush and stain remover. Fabric shoes can often be safely cleaned with a gentle detergent and a soft brush. Synthetic materials, such as rubber or plastic, can be wiped clean with a damp cloth.

Additionally, check for any structural issues with the shoes. Are the heels worn down or uneven? Are there any loose or broken parts, such as straps or buckles? These issues may require repair before cleaning. It’s important to address any structural problems to ensure the longevity and comfort of the shoes.

Removing Dirt and Grime From the Exterior

To remove dirt and grime from the exterior of your thrift store shoes, you’ll want to grab a soft brush and gently scrub away any debris. Start by removing the laces and any loose dirt or dust from the shoes. Then, use the soft brush to gently scrub the surface of the shoes in small circular motions. Pay special attention to the areas with stubborn stains or buildup.

If the shoes are made of leather, you can use a mild soap or leather cleaner to help remove dirt and stains. Apply a small amount of the cleaner to a clean cloth and gently rub it onto the affected areas. Be careful not to use too much water or soak the shoes, as this can damage the leather. After cleaning, wipe away any excess moisture with a dry cloth.

For fabric or canvas shoes, you can create a homemade cleaning solution by mixing equal parts of vinegar and water. Dip the soft brush into the solution and scrub the shoes, focusing on the areas with dirt and grime. This mixture is effective in removing stains and odors from the shoes. After scrubbing, rinse the shoes with clean water to remove any residue.

After cleaning, allow the shoes to air dry completely before wearing them or storing them away. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight or using a heat source to speed up the drying process, as this can cause the shoes to warp or shrink.

Treating and Removing Odors From the Shoes

To eliminate odors from your thrift store shoes, try using a deodorizing spray or powder. Odors can be a common issue with second-hand shoes, but with the right treatment, you can freshen them up and make them smell as good as new. Here are some effective methods to tackle those unpleasant odors:

Baking SodaSprinkle baking soda inside the shoes and let it sit overnight. In the morning, shake out the excess powder. Baking soda helps absorb and neutralize odors.
VinegarMix equal parts of water and white vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the solution inside the shoes and let it air dry. Vinegar is known for its odor-eliminating properties.
Tea BagsPlace dry tea bags, such as black tea or green tea, inside the shoes and leave them overnight. Tea contains tannins which help absorb unwanted odors.

These methods are simple yet effective in combating odors. You can choose the method that suits you best or even try a combination of them for maximum results. Remember to always test any product or solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the shoes before applying it to the entire shoe.

Cleaning and Refreshing the Shoe Soles

To properly clean and refresh the shoe soles, start by removing any dirt or debris that may have accumulated from previous use. This is an essential step in maintaining the overall cleanliness and condition of your thrift store shoes. Begin by taking a soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush and gently scrubbing the soles to loosen any dirt or grime. Pay extra attention to the crevices and grooves, as these areas tend to trap more dirt.

Once you have removed the loose dirt, it’s time to tackle any stubborn stains or marks on the soles. You can create a simple cleaning solution by mixing mild dish soap with warm water. Dip a clean cloth or sponge into the soapy water and gently scrub the affected areas. Avoid using any harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as these can damage the material and the adhesive holding the sole in place.

After you have cleaned the soles, rinse them with clean water to remove any soap residue. Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe away the excess water. If the soles are still not as fresh as you’d like, you can try using a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water. Apply this solution to the soles and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off.

Cleaning and Disinfecting the Shoe Insoles

To disinfect your shoe insoles, there are several methods you can try.

One effective method is to spray them with a mixture of water and vinegar, which helps kill bacteria and eliminate odors.

Another option is to sprinkle baking soda on the insoles, let it sit for a few hours, and then vacuum it off.

Insole Disinfection Methods

Clean and disinfect the shoe insoles using the following methods:

  • Baking soda and vinegar: Sprinkle baking soda on the insoles, then pour vinegar on top. Let it fizz for a few minutes before scrubbing with a brush and rinsing with water.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Dampen a cloth with rubbing alcohol and wipe down the insoles. This will help kill bacteria and eliminate odors.
  • Tea tree oil: Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with water and apply the solution to the insoles. Allow them to air dry. Tea tree oil has natural antifungal properties.
  • Bleach solution: Dilute bleach with water and soak the insoles for 10-15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and let them air dry.

Remember to always check the care label on your shoes before using any cleaning method. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting your shoe insoles will help maintain hygiene and freshness, ensuring a more comfortable wearing experience.

Removing Odors From Insoles

After disinfecting the insoles, it’s time to tackle those stubborn odors that may still linger in your thrift store shoes. To effectively remove the odors from your shoe insoles, follow these simple steps:

1Baking Soda
3Tea Tree Oil
  1. Baking Soda: Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the insoles. Let it sit overnight to absorb the odors, then brush or shake off the excess.
  2. Vinegar: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto the insoles and let them air dry. Vinegar helps eliminate bacteria that cause odors.
  3. Tea Tree Oil: Add a few drops of tea tree oil onto a cloth or cotton ball. Rub the oil onto the insoles to kill odor-causing bacteria. Let them air dry.
  4. Charcoal: Place activated charcoal inserts or sachets into your shoes. Leave them overnight to absorb the odors.

Polishing and Restoring the Shoe’s Exterior

Once you have selected your thrift store shoes, it’s time to restore and polish their exterior to bring out their best appearance. Follow these simple steps to make your shoes shine like new:

  • Start by cleaning the shoes thoroughly. Use a soft brush or cloth to remove any dirt or debris from the surface. Pay extra attention to the seams and crevices where dirt tends to accumulate.
  • Next, apply a small amount of leather cleaner or saddle soap to a clean cloth and gently rub it onto the shoe’s surface. This will help remove any stains or marks on the leather. Be sure to follow the instructions on the cleaner for best results.
  • After cleaning, allow the shoes to dry completely. Avoid placing them near direct heat sources, as this can damage the leather. Instead, leave them in a well-ventilated area to air dry naturally.
  • Once the shoes are dry, it’s time to condition and polish them. Apply a small amount of leather conditioner or shoe polish to a clean cloth and rub it onto the shoe’s surface using circular motions. This will help restore the leather’s natural oils and improve its appearance.

Remember to test any cleaning or conditioning products on a small, inconspicuous area of the shoe before applying them to the entire surface. This will ensure that the products don’t cause any damage or discoloration.

Storing and Maintaining Your Cleaned Thrift Store Shoes

To properly store and maintain your cleaned thrift store shoes, it is important to follow a few key steps. After investing time and effort into cleaning your shoes, you want to ensure they stay in good condition for as long as possible. Here are some tips to help you store and maintain your thrift store shoes effectively:

Step 1:Choose the Right Storage Solution
Description:Find a suitable storage solution that protects your shoes from dust, sunlight, and moisture. Shoe boxes, clear plastic containers, or shoe racks are all great options. Avoid storing your shoes in damp or humid areas, as this can cause mold and mildew to develop.
Step 2:Use Shoe Trees or Stuffing
Description:To help your shoes maintain their shape, use shoe trees or stuff them with tissue paper when they are not being worn. This will prevent them from becoming misshapen or creased.
Step 3:Rotate Your Shoes
Description:Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day. Instead, rotate them with other pairs to give them time to rest and recover. This will help prolong their lifespan and prevent excessive wear and tear.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Clean Thrift Store Shoes in a Washing Machine?

Yes, you can clean thrift store shoes in a washing machine. However, it’s important to check the care instructions on the shoe label and use a gentle cycle with mild detergent to avoid damaging them.

What Can I Do if My Thrift Store Shoes Have Deep Stains That Won’t Come Off?

If your thrift store shoes have deep stains that won’t come off, you can try using a mixture of mild detergent and warm water to gently scrub the stains. If that doesn’t work, consider taking them to a professional shoe cleaner.

How Often Should I Clean and Disinfect the Shoe Insoles?

You should clean and disinfect the shoe insoles regularly to maintain hygiene and prevent odor-causing bacteria. Use a mild soap and warm water to gently clean them, then let them air dry completely before wearing again.

Is It Safe to Use Bleach or Other Harsh Chemicals on Thrift Store Shoes?

Using bleach or harsh chemicals on thrift store shoes may not be safe as it can damage the material. Instead, opt for gentle cleaning methods like using mild soap and water or a mixture of vinegar and water.

Can I Use a Hairdryer to Speed up the Drying Process After Cleaning the Shoes?

You can use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process after cleaning the shoes. It’s a convenient way to ensure they dry thoroughly and quickly, but be cautious not to overheat them.


In conclusion, cleaning thrift store shoes can be a simple process.

By assessing their condition, removing dirt and grime, treating odors, cleaning the soles and insoles, polishing the exterior, and storing them properly, you can refresh and maintain your thrift store shoes.

With a little effort, you can enjoy clean and comfortable shoes that are ready to wear.