How to Clean Thrifted Shoes? Safe Disinfecting Guide!

Shopping in thrift stores is a sustainable and cost-efficient way to cop more clothes and shoes for your wardrobe. Apart from not needing to spend a lot of money, you will also have a lot of choices no matter the trends.

There is one thing that you need to keep in mind, though. When you buy clothes or shoes, you need to clean them thoroughly. In this way, you won’t have to go through allergic reactions or bacterial infections. This is most especially true in shoes.

To help you with this, today’s article will guide you on how to clean thrifted shoes. We’ll also fill you in on the necessary related details that you need to know.

Why Should You Clean Thrifted Shoes?

It’s a given that you should clean your thrifted shoes as soon as you buy them. However, only some people are aware of how necessary it is, no matter the season.

The main reason that you have to look out for is the existing formation of fungi and bacteria in the shoes. Apart from that, several virus types can also live within the shoes’ surfaces if they are stocked in the thrift shop for a long time. These can last for months if not properly taken care of.

Leaving your shoes as is can lead to your feet having allergic reactions, infections, and other undesirable effects.

Although it’s hard to pinpoint which pair of shoes has fungi and which doesn’t, it’s still best to avoid those that have strong or weird odors.

Disinfecting Thrifted Shoes

The first step on how to clean thrifted shoes is to disinfect them. This will help in initially eliminating the bacteria and fungi from the shoes.

Here are some ways on how you can disinfect your shoes:

  • Dry your shoes under direct sunlight. You can leave this for the whole day for the best results.
  • If you have a budget, investing in a UV Scanner is a good and more secure way to get rid of fungi.
  • You can purchase antimicrobial sprays over the counter. Make sure that you use an EPA-approved spray to ensure effectiveness. To use this, simply spray it over your shoes, both inside and outside, and let it dry for a few minutes.
  • Use wet wipes to clean your shoes every after use. This will prevent new fungi from forming on the shoes’ surfaces.

If you’re on a budget, you can also use the following remedies as alternative cleaning sprays:

  • Apple Cider or Regular White Vinegar
  • Bleach
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Baking Soda

When choosing what home remedy to use, ensure that you won’t accidentally give your shoes any kind of discoloration.

Disinfecting is a continuous task. This is why as an additional note, remember to wear clean socks every time you wear your thrifted pair.

Cleaning Thrifted Shoes by Hand

After initial disinfection, we can now go on to clean thrifted shoes by hand. You should resort to this method if you feel like your shoes are made of delicate materials like leather and suede.

Here are the steps that you should follow:

1. Fill up a container with warm water.

2. Prepare your go-to laundry powder or liquid soap.

3. Mix your chosen detergent with warm water. Ensure that there are no detergent clumps if you use laundry powder.

4. Dip a cloth or brush, and gently clean your shoes with it. Do this until you are sure that there is no dirt left on the surfaces.

5. Rinse the shoes using the same warm water and detergent mixture.

Note that during the brushing process, stick to brushing on only one direction. This most especially applies to suede shoes.

When drying, simply leave them out in direct sunlight. Just make sure that the pair of shoes will be in a safe position.

Cleaning Thrifted Shoes by Machine

Alternatively, you can also turn to cleaning your shoes using a washing machine. This is ideal for shoes made out of breathable materials, canvas, or stretched leather like what is used in Nike Air Force 1.

To do this method, here are the steps that you should do:

1. Fill the washing machine with warm water and strong laundry detergent.

2. Remove the shoes’ shoelaces and soles before throwing them into the machine.

3. Set the spin settings for at least 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Rinse the shoes with antimicrobial detergent.

Same with hand washing, dry the shoes outside under direct sunlight. Optionally, you can also stuff the inside of the shoes with crumpled newspaper. This will help absorb the surfaces’ water.

Cleaning the Soles and Laces

Apart from the shoes themselves, you should also know how to clean their soles and laces. Again, you can do this by hand or machine.

If you want to do the task by hand, refer to the following:

1. Fill up a small container with warm water and detergent.

2. Dip the soles and laces in the mixture.

3. Rub the soles and laces individually until you remove the visible dirt from the surfaces.

4. Rinse the newly-washed parts in clean and warm water.

For machine wash:

1. Fill the machine with warm water and detergent.

2. Put the soles and laces in the machine.

3. Spin for at least 5 minutes.

4. Rinse with antimicrobial detergent and warm water.

Again, you can simply hang the soles and laces under direct sunlight for the drying process.

If you want a more convenient method, then you can turn to use the machine wash method. It, however, isn’t practical if you’re only washing one to two pairs of soles and laces. If this is the case, then the hand wash will be better.


Now that you know how to clean thrifted shoes, you can rest assured of the safety of your newly copped staples. Wearing it will feel like brand new shoes.

It’s essential that you disinfect and clean all the parts of your shoes as soon as you get home. This will prevent its existing fungi from spreading into your home. Not only that, but it’s a necessary matter of sanitation.

Of course, you can hire a professional to do the cleaning task. You can save more money by doing it yourself, though.

On a side note, it’s important to check if the shoes need any kind of repairs before going on to clean them. In this way, you won’t have to deal with bigger damages in the long run.