Fashion Shoes

DIY Shoe Cleaning Tips: Natural & Effective Solutions

Keeping your shoes clean is essential not only for their longevity but also for maintaining a polished look. While commercial shoe cleaners are available, they often contain harsh chemicals that can damage your shoes and the environment. Fortunately, natural cleaning solutions can be just as effective and are usually found right in your kitchen. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best DIY shoe cleaning tips using natural and effective solutions.

The Importance of Cleaning Your Shoes

Regularly cleaning your shoes can help them last longer and look better. Dirt, grime, and stains can wear down the materials and cause premature aging. As Becky Rapinchuk, founder of Clean Mama, states, “Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and can be used to absorb moisture and odors from shoes. Simply sprinkle some baking soda inside your shoes and let it sit overnight. In the morning, shake out the baking soda and your shoes will smell fresh.” (Source: Clean Mama)

Natural Cleaning Solutions for Different Shoe Materials

Leather Shoes

Leather shoes require special care to maintain their appearance and durability. Here’s a simple, natural method to clean leather shoes:

Materials Needed:

  • Mild soap (like Castile soap)
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Soft cloth
  • Soft toothbrush


  1. Prepare the Cleaning Solution: Mix a few drops of mild soap with warm water. For tougher stains, mix equal parts water and white vinegar.
  2. Clean the Shoes: Dip the soft cloth into the soapy water or vinegar solution and gently wipe the surface of the shoes. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub any stubborn spots.
  3. Rinse: Wipe off the soap or vinegar with a damp cloth.
  4. Condition: Once dry, apply a small amount of olive oil to a clean cloth and rub it into the leather to condition and protect it.

Personal Anecdote: I remember spilling coffee on my favorite leather boots. I used the vinegar solution to clean the stain, and after conditioning with olive oil, they looked brand new.

Suede Shoes

Suede is delicate and requires gentle cleaning methods. Cornstarch is excellent for removing oil stains, as Jillee from One Good Thing by Jillee recommends: “Cornstarch is a great way to remove oil stains from suede shoes. Simply sprinkle some cornstarch onto the stain and let it sit overnight. In the morning, brush away the cornstarch and the stain should be gone.” (Source: One Good Thing by Jillee)

Materials Needed:

  • Cornstarch
  • Suede brush
  • White vinegar
  • Soft cloth


  1. Remove Oil Stains: Sprinkle cornstarch on the stain and let it sit overnight. Brush away the powder in the morning.
  2. General Cleaning: For dirt and grime, dampen a cloth with white vinegar and gently rub the stained areas.
  3. Brush the Suede: Once dry, use a suede brush to restore the texture.

Personal Tip: I keep a small suede brush in my car for quick touch-ups, especially after walking through dusty areas.

Fabric Shoes

Fabric shoes, such as canvas sneakers, can get dirty quickly but are relatively easy to clean.

Materials Needed:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Warm water
  • Soft cloth
  • Soft toothbrush


  1. Create a Cleaning Paste: Mix baking soda and water to form a paste. For tougher stains, add a few drops of white vinegar.
  2. Apply the Paste: Use a toothbrush to apply the paste to the dirty areas and scrub gently.
  3. Rinse and Dry: Wipe away the paste with a damp cloth and allow the shoes to air dry.

Expert Advice: Melissa Maker of Clean My Space suggests, “White vinegar is a natural disinfectant and can be used to clean and deodorize shoes. Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the solution onto your shoes. Let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a clean cloth.” (Source: Clean My Space)

Rubber Soles

Keeping the rubber soles of your shoes clean can make a huge difference in their overall appearance.

Materials Needed:

  • Toothpaste (non-gel)
  • Soft toothbrush
  • Water


  1. Apply Toothpaste: Squeeze a small amount of toothpaste onto the rubber soles.
  2. Scrub: Use the toothbrush to scrub the soles, focusing on scuff marks and stains.
  3. Rinse: Rinse with water and wipe dry.

Tip from Cleanipedia: “Toothpaste can be used to clean white rubber soles. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to the soles and scrub with a toothbrush. Rinse off with water and your soles will look like new.” (Source: Cleanipedia)

Preventive Care Tips

Preventive care is just as important as regular cleaning. Here are some tips to keep your shoes looking their best for longer:

Use Shoe Protectors

Applying a protective spray can help repel water and stains. Look for sprays that are suitable for the specific material of your shoes.

Store Properly

Store your shoes in a cool, dry place. Use shoe trees for leather shoes to maintain their shape and absorb moisture.

Rotate Your Shoes

Wearing the same pair of shoes every day can cause them to wear out faster. Rotate your shoes to give them a chance to air out and recover.

Personal Anecdote: I used to wear the same pair of sneakers every day until I noticed they started to wear out quickly. Since then, I’ve started rotating my shoes, and they’ve lasted much longer.

The Environmental Impact of Natural Cleaning Solutions

Using natural cleaning solutions not only benefits your shoes but also the environment. Commercial cleaners often contain harmful chemicals that can pollute waterways and harm wildlife. Natural alternatives, such as baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice, are biodegradable and less harmful to the environment.

Effectiveness of Natural Cleaning Products

According to a study in the Journal of Cleaner Production, natural cleaning products like baking soda and vinegar are effective in cleaning and deodorizing various shoe materials without causing damage. (Source: Journal of Cleaner Production)

Consumer Perceptions

A study in the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management found that consumers are increasingly interested in sustainable shoe care products. They appreciate the effectiveness, environmental impact, and cost savings of using natural ingredients. (Source: Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management)


Keeping your shoes clean and well-maintained doesn’t have to be expensive or harmful to the environment. With natural and effective DIY solutions, you can tackle dirt, stains, and odors with ease. Whether you’re using baking soda to deodorize or white vinegar to clean, these simple ingredients can keep your shoes looking their best.

Remember the advice of experts like Becky Rapinchuk and Melissa Maker, and don’t be afraid to try these natural methods. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also contribute to a healthier planet.

Next time your shoes need a little TLC, reach for those kitchen staples and give your footwear the care they deserve.

Serena Mitchell

I'm a fashion-obsessed gal with a passion for sharing affordable finds, styling tips, and body-positive fashion inspiration. I believe great style is about feeling confident and expressing your unique personality – not about breaking the bank. When I'm not hunting down the perfect pair of jeans, you'll find me sipping coffee at my favorite local café or exploring new hiking trails with my pup.

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