Laundry is part of everyone's household chore list, but when it comes to footwear, it seems like shoes don't get the same level of treatment and care.
Just like our clothes, shoes also require maintenance to keep our feet healthy and safe from bacteria. With so many shoe types and materials, the cleaning time and technique can vary from person to person, depending on your activity level and how often you wear your shoes.
We talked to experts to decipher this cleaning activity and which products will keep your footwear looking brand new and stench-free.
How often should I clean my shoes?
According to Fabiana Rigamonti, head of design at Aerosoles, it depends on the type of shoe, material and how often the pair is worn. "I would say [to clean your shoes] every two weeks or as soon as they begin to look dirty," says Rigamonti.
Consistent maintenance is also important if you wear a specific shoe daily. "The time frame usually varies from person to person, but if you’re wearing [the same] shoes every day for the gym, for work, etcetera, you may find that you need to clean your shoes...every two to four weeks," says board-certified podiatrist Mohammad Rimawi.
Why is shoe hygiene important?
While regular maintenance and cleaning can extend the longevity of your footwear, the main reason you should clean your shoe is for hygiene.
"Shoes carry so much bacteria, so a regular cleaning will help combat the odors, dirt and bacteria that accumulate from routine wear," says Rigamonti.
"Both feet have over a quarter of a million sweat glands. That’s a lot for the surface area of the foot. The sweat glands produce sweat, then the sweat produces bacteria or invites bacteria into the skin, which then produces odor," shares Rimawi.
That's why is so important to clean our shoes to protect our feet from producing fungus or another type of bacteria. "Anytime you have moisture or sweat you can guarantee that bacteria and fungus will follow (such as athlete's foot) and cleaning your day-to-day shoes is crucial, especially if you perspirate," says Rimawi.
Wearing your outdoor shoes inside your home will also spread allergens and more bacteria around your dwellings. According to a previous interview with Dr. Lisa Cuchara for Shop TODAY, the bottom of your shoes carries more bacteria than a public toilet seat. “Fecal matter is something found on almost all shoes that have been worn for more than four weeks," she noted.
What products do you use to clean the inside of your shoe?
This depends on the type of insole your shoe has or the added insoles you wear. "Some athletic insoles can be washed in a washing machine. Water and vinegar on a soft cloth can clean and also eliminate some odors," says Rigamonti.
Usually, the brand will indicate the care instructions for the insoles and if they can be washed in a washing machine. Otherwise, Rimawi recommends washing by hand and at least once a month.
But the most essential products to clean the inside (including the outside) of a shoe are terry wash clothes, dish soap and shoe brushes. Shoes are made with delicate materials and using harsh chemicals can destroy the fabric and color of the footwear.
Shoe cleaning products
These lightweight terry cloths are made from a thicker fabric that will make it easy to dry your sneakers after washing them. This pack includes four cleaning cloths to keep your essentials clean.
Lift the dirt away with this foamy formula in a bottle. It features a quick dry formula that works for your sneaker and is convenient to use when you're in a rush. According to customers, this product cleans light to medium dirt in an instant.
If you're someone who tends to sweat a lot, spray this deodorizer inside your shoes. This will control the odor and give you that refreshing scent after a busy day. "I have used it in trainers, wellies and Ugg boots and I am so impressed, a quick spray leaves shoes smelling fab for days!" says one reviewer.
Add a feeling of freshness to your feet with these shoe insoles. They're made with a latex and fabric perforation that improves air circulation, plus they feature Actifresh, a Swiss-made technology for odor management.
Give your shoe a nice shine with these horsehair boot brushes. Whether you need to care for your loafers, oxfords or Chelsea boots, these brushes will remove debris from any type of footwear.
Wipe off any grime from your favorite sneakers with these shoe wipes that work well on rubber, suede and leather, according to the brand. "These are pretty soapy, but do a great job cleaning my sneakers. I use a damp washcloth afterward to wipe off excess," says one reviewer.
Always keep a pack of microfiber cloths when you need to dry your shoes or remove dirt on the outer soles. These bestsellers are reusable and washable, plus it will save you from using toilet paper.
Rocket Pure Natural Shoe Deodorizer Spray
This natural odor eliminator will give your shoe a scent of fresh mint. It is safe to spray on your skin and will target the odor instantly, according to the brand. Reviewers love how fast this product works and how great it smells.
"This spray worked so well for my boys' shoes! They even loved it. The smell is just right," shared one buyer.
This kit comes with the essentials you need to clean your shoes including a standard brush and premium shoe cleaner. The solution works well on most materials like suede, nubuck, canvas, cotton mesh and more. Also, this formula will help you in tackling dirt on your midsoles.
With over 23,500 positive reviews, this shoe cleaner delivers perfect cleaning and a stain-free result. This product is an all-in-one cleaner and conditioner that contains gentle oils that work in an array of fabrics. A little bit goes a long way and you can even use it in leather shoes.
Meet the experts
- Mohammad Rimawi is a board-certified podiatrist and works at Manhattan Specialty Care.
- Fabiana Rigamonti is the head of design at Aerosoles, a brand that offers shoes with comfort, support and flexibility.