How to Disinfect Shoes to Get Fresh, Sanitized Footwear

Updated April 29, 2022
Woman spraying disinfectant over pair of shoes

You know how to disinfect doorknobs and countertops, but did you consider your shoes? The bottoms of your shoes are crawling with nasty germs that have the potential to make you and your family sick. Make sure you stay safe by learning how to disinfect shoes. You'll even learn how to disinfect used shoes, gym shoes, or stinky shoes.

Disinfecting Germs on the Top of Shoes

Germs are in the air. So, they can easily get all over the tops of your shoes. However, depending on the material of the top of your shoe, you'll need to take a little more care when it comes to disinfecting. Before you even start, you'll need:

How to Disinfect Leather, Patent Leather, Running, and Tennis Shoes

Cleaning dirty trainers

Most men's dress shoes and high heels are made of either leather or patent leather. This material is a bit more delicate than other types of materials. Therefore, you'll want to use caution when it comes to sanitizing the outside. You can also clean leather sneakers and gym shoes with alcohol.

  1. Create a three-to-one mixture of rubbing alcohol to water.
  2. Dip the cloth in the mixture.
  3. Rub the damp cloth over the outside of the shoe.
  4. Leave the shoes outside for five to 10 minutes to dry.

Sanitize White Sneakers

For white sneakers, you can break out the bleach to sanitize them. You'll want to mix one part bleach to five parts water for this method.

  1. Dip your cloth in the mixture.
  2. Wring it out and thoroughly run it over the shoes.
  3. Leave outside to completely dry.
  4. Don't forget to wash those germs off your hands.

Clean Open-toed Sandals and Wedges

Sandals and wedges come in a few different types of materials. They can be cork, rope, or even leather. No matter what material your shoe is made of, just follow these steps:

  1. Mix a couple cups of water with a drop or two of soap.
  2. Dip the cloth in the mixture and thoroughly wipe down the shoes.
  3. Create a three-to-one mixture of rubbing alcohol to water.
  4. Dampen a cloth with the mixture, wipe down the shoes.
  5. Allow to completely dry.

Disinfect Sandals and Flip-flops

Disinfecting flip-flops or sandals is pretty easy. Since these are typically made of rubber or foam, you can easily sanitize them with soap and water.

  1. Make a hot soap water mixture.
  2. Put the flip-flops in the water for about five to 10 minutes.
  3. Scrub them down with an old toothbrush.
  4. Continue scrubbing until you've covered every part.
  5. Rinse away the germs and allow them to air dry.

If your sandals are machine-washable, you can also throw them in the washer.

Remove Germs From Canvas Shoes

Woman washing sneakers sole

When it comes to canvas shoes, you might want to just consider throwing these in the washer with bleach or a bleach alternative as directed. This will ensure that all those vicious germs are completely off your shoes.

Disinfecting Germs on the Bottom of Shoes

Disinfecting shoes when arriving home

When you go out into the world, you come into contact with viruses and bacteria. Therefore, before you go into the house, it's important to disinfect the bottom of your shoes. To clean the shoe sole, you'll need:

Disinfect the Bottoms of Shoes

The Center for Disease Control has guidelines for decontaminating your shoes, which are good to follow when avoiding bringing bacteria and viruses into your home. However, you can be a little more lenient unless you're a medical professional. To disinfect your shoes, you'll need to:

  1. Take off your shoes, preferably outside.
  2. Use soap, water, and cloth to remove any debris from the bottom of your shoes.
  3. Allow a minute to dry.
  4. Spray the disinfectant on the sole of the shoe and wipe it down. You can also use disinfecting wipes. If neither are available, spray the sole down with straight 3% hydrogen peroxide. Allow to sit for five minutes, then wipe away.
  5. Dry shoes and wash your hands.

How to Sanitize Used Tennis Shoes

Sanitizing Tennis Shoes

You can find some pretty amazing shoes second-hand. However, you might not want to put your foot where someone else's foot has been. To ensure that there isn't any lingering fungus living inside or on those used shoes, you'll want to disinfect them. For this, you'll need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Bleach or bleach alternative
  • Antibacterial spray for shoes

Machine Washing Shoes

If the shoes are machine washable, this is going to be your best bet for getting rid of those pathogens. To do this, you'll need to:

  1. Remove the insoles and place them in alcohol to soak.
  2. Put the shoes in the washer.
  3. Use the appropriate amount of bleach and detergent for disinfecting. This can vary based on product and load.
  4. Allow shoes to air dry.

How to Disinfect With Alcohol

For shoes made of cloth, you can pour rubbing alcohol into a bowl and just let the shoes sit for about 30 minutes. However, for more sensitive materials like leather men's shoes or high heels, you'll:

  1. Mix a three-to-one mixture of rubbing alcohol to water.
  2. Dampen a cloth and rub down the entire shoe.
  3. Allow them to dry completely.
  4. Take the antibacterial spray and spray the inside of the shoe.
  5. Allow to dry.

This method can also work great for getting rid of germs on your gym shoes.

How to Disinfect the Inside of Smelly Shoes

Woman spraying deodorant over pair of shoes at home

You know you have bacteria build-up in your shoes when they stink. Therefore, you need to learn how to disinfect the inside of your shoes. Get rid of the smell and sanitize quickly with a few simple cleaners.

  • Baking soda
  • Socks
  • Lysol spray or rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle

How to Deodorize and Disinfect Shoes With Alcohol

Now that you have your materials at the ready, you are first going to eliminate odors then sanitize.

  1. Take the laces out of the shoe, if it has any.
  2. Fill a sock with baking soda.
  3. Stick it in the shoe.
  4. Allow it to sit for at least 24 hours.
  5. Pull out the socks.
  6. Spray down the inside of the shoe with Lysol or rubbing alcohol.
  7. Allow it to dry completely.

You can also throw washable stinky shoes in the washer with a sports detergent or bacteria-killing detergent.

How Often Should You Disinfect Your Shoes

You should be sanitizing your shoes when you wash them. So about every two weeks. However, if someone in your home is sick or you work around germs, you'll want to sanitize your shoes more often. Additionally, if you have frequent smelly shoes, you'll need to take precautions to ensure bacteria take over. For example, spray Lysol inside your shoes when you take them off, put your shoes on a dryer, and rotate your shoes often.

How to Disinfect Shoes

Germs are everywhere. To keep your family safe and healthy from dangerous pathogens, you should consider disinfecting your shoes. This is especially true if you work or walk in an area that might have a lot of pathogens. Now to make sure you've covered all your bases, get some specific tips on cleaning Birkenstocks.

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How to Disinfect Shoes to Get Fresh, Sanitized Footwear