How to clean shoe insoles

You’re probably no stranger to the unpleasant sight of stained, dirty insoles. No matter how much you take care of your shoes, stains seem to appear out of nowhere and can be embarrassing when you take off the shoes.

As annoying as they are, shoe inserts usually contain very stubborn stains, and sometimes, washing the shoes cannot remove the bad smell; this leaves us looking for a more practical way to clean the insoles.

You’ll learn how to clean shoe insoles with different substances such as baking soda, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide in the following sections.

clean removable insoles

Do You Have To Clean Your Shoe Insoles?

There are a couple of reasons why you should clean your shoe insoles every once in a while. One of them is the infamous funky odor.

Your shoe insoles are constantly exposed to sweat, dust, and other sorts of grime. Over time, this can lead to unsightly stains and an unpleasant smell. However, putting your feet on dirty inlays bears more dangerous consequences than that.

Stinky insoles are a sign of bacterial growth in your shoes. In a dark, damp, and warm environment such as a shoe, these microorganisms can thrive and lead to foot conditions such as ingrown toenails, cellulitis, and athlete’s foot.

Also, dirty inlays can reduce your shoes’ lifespan. When you don’t properly maintain your shoe interiors, they lose their appeal. So, you’re more likely to get sick of them and throw them away.

Can You Wash the Insoles of Your Shoes?

How to clean shoe insoles depends on their structure, color, and type of material. In some instances, you can easily remove the insoles and wash them, while in others, washing can lead to deterioration.

In the following, we’ll show you how to clean removable and non-removable insoles. We also teach you how to clean the insoles of leather shoes when washing is not an option.

How To Clean Removable Shoe Insoles

If you’re lucky enough to have removable shoe insoles, cleaning them will be simple. The good thing is that you can find all the ingredients already in your home.

Here are four easy ways to clean removable shoe insoles.

Scrubbing Insoles With Soap and Water

hand brush

  1. Fill a sink with lukewarm water, or add a few cups of water to a basin. Remember that the container should be large enough to fit the soles, so they don’t fold.
  2. Pick a mild detergent (it can be a dish detergent, liquid soap, etc.) and drop a little into the container to make a soapy solution. Then, put the insoles inside the mixture.
  3. Take a dishrag or soft brush, dab it in the mixture and scrub the insoles. Make sure you remove all stains, including the stubborn ones in the toe and heel areas.
  4. Use the same method to scrub the back of the insoles.
  5. Rinse the insoles of soap.
  6. Place the insoles on a clean surface and let them dry overnight. Make sure they contain no moisture before putting them back in the shoes because dampness can breed bacteria.

Sanitizing Insoles With White Vinegar

If you can’t fix the problem with soap, use a stronger disinfectant such as vinegar. With a PH of around 2.5, vinegar is an acidic solution that can kill most germs and bacteria.

Take the following steps to benefit from its properties:

  1. Mix one part water with one part white vinegar in a bucket.
  2. Remove the insoles, put them in the mixture, and let them soak for three hours. Make sure it doesn’t exceed that period because excessive exposure to acid can warp your insoles.
  3. Rinse them under the flowing water to wash off the acidic solution.
  4. Place them on a piece of towel, dish rack, or clothesline until dry.

Note: Vinegar is a powerful deodorizer, but it can produce an undesirable smell in itself. This smell will automatically vanish after a few days, but if you’re too sensitive, you can add a few drops of essential oils to replace the odor with a natural, sweet fragrance.

Disinfecting Insoles With Rubbing Alcohol

Alcohol has a wide range of antimicrobial properties. Compared to vinegar, it’s also less destructive to the textile structure, making it more ideal for delicate insoles. However, due to its bleaching effect, you should only use it to clean white innersoles.

This five-step method shows you how to clean dirty shoe insoles with alcohol:

  1. Take out the insoles.
  2. Mix one part water with one part rubbing alcohol and pour into a spray bottle.
  3. Place the insoles on a clean rag, and squirt a generous amount of mixture onto their surface.
  4. Let them dry for a few minutes, this doesn’t need to be so long because alcohol is a fast-dry solution.
  5. Once completely dry, put them back in your shoes and enjoy fresh insoles.


Note: If you don’t have a spray bottle at home, there’s no need to buy one. You can also dampen a cloth with rubbing alcohol and rub the insoles.

Note 2: You can also replace rubbing alcohol with hydrogen peroxide, but remember that this may cause discoloration too. You shouldn’t mix hydrogen peroxide with water; most products are a combination of 3 percent peroxide in water, enough to kill microbial cells. What’s most beneficial about hydrogen peroxide is that it treats insole bacteria and prevents them from regrowth.

Killing the Insole Bacteria With Baking Soda

baking soda 768950 960 720

Baking soda is another agent with high antibacterial qualities; it can neutralize 70 percent of odors. So, if you can’t recover your smelly insoles with other solutions, this one will definitely do the job.

Here are the instructions on how to clean shoe insoles with baking soda:

  1. Remove insoles and put them in a plastic bag or a zippered storage bag.
  2. Add no more than three teaspoons of baking soda and seal.
  3. Shake the bag to spread it all over the insoles.
  4. Leave it for a whole day so that the baking soda has enough time to do its job.
  5. Remove the insoles and wipe the residue with a dishcloth.
  6. Now you’re good to put them back in your shoes, free of bacteria.

Note: If there are any remaining odors, buy a shoe cleaning spray, and apply it to the insoles. Shoe sprays are a powerful germicide that contributes to killing the bacteria; they also eliminate black stains and renew your insoles’ appearance.

Note 2: If you don’t have a plastic bag, you can put the insoles on a piece of paper and use your gloves to disperse the powder over their surface.

How Do You Clean Non-Removable Insoles

The above methods are for removable insoles, but what if the insoles are sewn to the shoes, and you can’t take them out?

Here are a few easy ways to clean non-removable insoles.

  • Steam cleaner: A hand steamer is a practical way to get rid of germs and bacteria. Steam not only removes surface grime from an insole but gets into the deepest pores and disinfects its fibers. Also, a small steamer is compatible with most shoes and won’t deform their insoles. Buy a low-cost handheld streamer and use it on your shoes. Remember to take the laces out before using the steamer; this gives you better access to clean the insoles. Remember not to apply this method on suede shoes as it can damage its texture.
  • Baking soda: As with the removable insoles, you should coat the insoles with baking soda. Sprinkle one or two pinches of baking soda into the shoes, and let them sit until the next morning. Then, shake your shoes to remove powder.
  • Dryer sheets: This is not a cleaning method, but can remove your shoes’ foul smell when you can’t take out the inserts and wash them. All you need is to buy a pack of dryer sheets and place one in your shoes overnight.

How Do You Clean Leather Shoes Insoles?

To clean leather shoe insoles, follow the same steps as the soap and water method. However, do not soak the insoles in the solution because excessive exposure to water is harmful to leather. Use a dishrag instead, dip it in soapy water, and gently rub the insoles.

Also, never use a brush to clean leather shoe insoles. Leather is rather fragile and may be scratched by intense pressure.

If this wasn’t helpful, use saddle soap instead of regular hand soap. It’s a potent cleaning compound that can clean the most greasy spots off your leather insoles.

Baking soda, diluted alcohol, and white vinegar are also useful in cleaning leather shoe insoles, but you should proceed with caution while doing these methods. First, apply the solution to the back of the insoles. If it didn’t discolor the leather, go ahead with the upper surface.


How To Clean Smelly Shoe Insoles?

You can use any of the above methods to clean the insoles, but sometimes you need more effort to remove the funky odors.

The easiest way to freshen your shoes is to invest in a deodorizer such as shoe spray or shoe powder. If you’re looking for a cheaper solution, activated charcoal or cat litter are good alternatives.

As crazy as it sounds, these two compounds are super-efficient in deodorizing your shoes. Make two sock balls with charcoal or cat litter, and place them inside the shoes for a full day; this is a practical method to deodorize the insoles, especially in situations where you can’t remove the shoe insoles.

FAQs on How To Clean Shoe Insoles

Can I Wear My Shoes With Baking Soda in Them?

You can’t wear your shoes with baking soda in them because the clumps of powder may feel uncomfortable. As a powerful hygroscopic substance, baking soda needs contact with all parts of your shoes to absorb the moisture; this won’t happen when you have them on your feet.

How Can I Stop My Feet and Shoes From Smelling?

You can stop your feet and shoes from smelling with the following methods:

  • Wear breathable and moisture-wicking socks, such as those designed for athletes.
  • Give your shoes a bit of air between wearings, or stuff them with dry paper to remove the dampness.
  • Wash your shoes and insoles regularly.
  • Switch between your shoes each day so that they have enough time to dry out.
  • Change your socks as frequently as possible.
  • Buy a foot antiperspirant or foot powder to control the moisture.

How Do You Kill Germs on Your Feet?

Killing germs on our feet is another way to keep shoe insoles clean, and at the same time, prevent foot disease.

Pour two cups of white vinegar or Epsom salt into a half-full tub of lukewarm water. Put your feet in the mixture for 15 minutes. Doing so twice a day is great to remove odors, reduce sweating, and prevent insoles from stains.

Wrapping Up

There are various ways to clean shoe insoles. For mild stains, you can simply wash the inserts with soap and water. However, to treat intensive spots, you may have to use more abrasive solutions such as vinegar, baking soda, and rubbing alcohol. Once the inserts are clean, you can apply deodorizers such as shoe sprays, dryer sheets, or charcoal to take away the smell.


Read The Reviews First

Sign up to get our latest articles straight to your inbox.