There are any number of reasons that you may wish to disinfect your shoes, and, fortunately, any number of solutions that you can turn to.
The most obvious reason would be that they have been worn by somebody else. The shoes could be a thrift store purchase, they could be a hand me down – especially if they are children’s shoes.
Alternatively, they could be a much-beloved pair that are due a complete spring-clean. It is, of course, always our favourite trainers that start to show how many visits to the gym they have made. Foot and shoe odour is a really big issue, and one that we really don’t talk to anyone about, but no need to replace them, you can give them a thorough sort-out and jog on with the same footwear.
Importantly there could also be potential medical concerns: – fungal infection (athlete’s foot), verrucae’s, problems with infected nails. Feet can carry a lot of medical issues, treating the foot then putting it back into the same shoe can clearly affect the recovery.
As with all things cleaning start by taking a really good look at the materials of construction and choose your cleaning method with those in mind – it would be absolutely disastrous to put a pair of leather brogues into the washing machine, but a pair of trainers would probably survive the experience on a cool setting.
The least invasive starting place is usually the insole – these can often be removed for cleaning and replaced afterwards. Insoles are also generally made of a material designed to take the considerable wear and abuse. The insole can be the main factor when considering where any odour issues are located for well-worn footwear.
If your insole isn’t removable then it can be cleaned in-situ if you are careful.
A good, favourite cleaning product that can be relied upon is biological washing powder. Be careful not to add too much to your water because it will affect colour, but if you use warm water and no more than you would add to your machine then you will have no issues at all.
Take your removed insoles, do not put them into the bowl, using a brush or sponge and the water with the laundry detergent in scrub them thoroughly. Rinse the detergent mixture from them under a warm running tap or from another bowl, and dry thoroughly before replacing.
If you cannot remove your insoles then be sparing with the laundry detergent mixture, rinsing will be an issue and you do not want to be unable to get the laundry detergent out of your shoes. Consequently, useless laundry powder in the cleaning water, and using paper towel blot out all excess before cleaning again, twice, with clear water and repeating the blotting exercise.
Insoles can often be replaced, which is easier than trying to clean worn insoles, and has the benefit of putting slight structure back into the shoes, and often curing the slight looseness issue of well-worn and stretched shoes.
There are removable deodorizing insoles that can be put into the shoe to save the problem recurring. Even better they can be added to new shoes to maintain freshness and prevent the issue from occurring in the first place.
If after your diligent washing your insoles are still a problem and the odour has not gone, then Baking Soda can be a really good solution. Put the insoles into a sealed plastic bag overnight along with some Baking Soda, hopefully, they will be fresh as a daisy in the morning. Ensure that you clean all Baking Soda from the insoles before replacing, you do not want to be crunching up and down the street.
If you cannot remove your insole then Baking Soda can be put straight into the shoe and left – but be sure to clear it all out before wearing them.
My personal favourite is the washing machine, no scrubbing there. Sneakers, fabric shoes, running shoes, many shoes that are used regularly are now completely machine washable. At a minimum remove the shoe laces and put the shoes into an old pillow-case. If you can then also add some fabric to the wash – not coloured – to prevent the shoes from banging around in the drum. Some old duvet sets or sheets would be perfect. Wash the shoes on a warm wash and then allow to dry naturally – your tumble dryer will not benefit your shoes at all.
Interestingly though, a dryer sheet or two popped into each shoe can work wonders. They are often fragranced, and can not only remove odours but leave the shoe fresh and smelling lovely.
For stubborn or particularly bad trainers then they can be soaked in a bowl of rubbing alcohol – again, make sure that you rinse them thoroughly and dry them naturally before use. If they are a more delicate shoe then they cannot be soaked, but could be rubbed down using a rubbing alcohol solution.
It is worth mentioning again that many shoes, leather, patent leather, suede or plastic will not survive a spin in the machine. Ensure that you satisfy yourself that your shoes will tolerate a machine wash before popping them in there.
There are any number of anti-bacterial and deodorising sprays on the market, they are an inexpensive and effective solution but the application generally needs repeating at regular intervals, and works best if you start before you have a problem. After washing though that would be a good step to take.
If your shoes are manufactured in a more delicate material then hand washing is the best way to go. Brush off any loose dirt and debris from the shoe and wipe down. Using your trusty laundry detergent and warm water lightly sponge the shoes off.
Suede shoes are particularly susceptible to water damage, and you may like to take them to a professional cleaner.
There are sprays that you can purchase for both nubuck, leather and suede that will revitalise your shoes and protect from any damage during future wear. The sprays are not expensive and will increase the life-span of your shoes.
For leather shoes the regular practice of polishing prevents damage, protects the exterior of the shoes and maintains cleanliness – it also makes it much easier to remove dirt or mud from the shoes.