How to Clean Shoe Insoles

Although we clean the outsides of shoes, we often neglect the insole. The insole is the lining of the shoe that goes under your foot, making it susceptible to bacteria growth.

How does it happen? Well, our feet are bound to sweat. And when they do, bacteria multiply and inevitably cause unpleasant odors.

That’s why it’s so important to clean your insoles. In this article, I’ll tell you how that’s done.

How to Clean Shoe Insoles

Some insoles are removable from the shoe, while others are not. Let’s first discuss how to deal with non-removable insoles, as that is a bit more difficult to achieve.

Cleaning Non-Removable Shoe Insoles

To begin with, there is the steaming method. You will need a handheld steamer—think of the kind that is used to clean upholstery. Make sure your shoe is made of materials that are suited to a steamer.

Take out the shoelaces and open up the space inside your shoe to accommodate the steamer. You should know how to do the rest if you’ve handled a steamer before. Once you’re done, leave the shoes out to dry.

Another option is to use dryer sheets. Place them inside your shoe and leave them overnight. Not only will it remove the smell, but it will also leave a pleasant aroma. Do not use this method, however, if you’re handling suede shoes.

Or you can simply use what you already have at home: baking soda. All you have to do is sprinkle it on your shoes and once again, leave overnight. In the morning, shake the shoe to get rid of the excess, then let the shoes air for a bit before you wear them.

Your other options include charcoal and cat litter. For both, simply fill a small cloth bag/sock with either of them and insert it into your shoes. They will remove the smell.

Now, let’s discuss removable insoles!

Cleaning Removable Shoe Insoles

This is much easier to do but is a lengthier process. There are two main ways you can do it: with soap and warm water, or vinegar and water. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Water
  • Detergent/soap or white distilled vinegar
  • Cloth or brush

Using Soap and Water

Here is a step-by-step guide for you to clean insoles with soap and water.

Step 1: First, fill a small bucket or a container with warm water. You won’t need more than a few cups of water since insoles are small. Hence, this can also be done in the sink.

Step 2: Next, add the detergent of your choice to the water. You can also use liquid soap; the type doesn’t particularly matter.

Step 3: The next part is pretty easy. With the help of a soft brush, start scrubbing the insoles. While doing so, take care to remove existing stains and dirt. You can also use a rag or cloth in this step.

In the case of leather insoles, do not use a brush as this will damage them. Instead, use a cloth. Dip the cloth in the soapy water and dab it on the insoles instead of scrubbing. Be careful not to get the insoles too wet. That’s because leather is fragile.

Step 4: Finally, in the case of non-leather, rinse the insoles. With the help of a wet sponge, remove any excess soap that might still be on the insoles.

Then simply dry overnight, to do which you can place them on a towel or pin them to a clothesline.

Using Vinegar and Water

Vinegar kills bacteria, and is also a great deodorizer for insoles, making them a good cleaning agent. Here is a step-by-step guide for you to clean insoles with Vinegar and water.

Step 1: For this step, you have to mix equal amounts of white distilled vinegar and warm water in a large bowl or a container of your choice. Your insoles have to be placed and soaked in this mixture.

Step 2: Now give it no less than 3 hours. After that is done, rinse out the insoles under running water to remove the vinegar-water mixture.

Tip: this is optional, but you can also add essential oils of your choice to the mixture. This will help eliminate the smells entirely and add an extra aroma.


Make sure that no matter which method you use, the insoles are completely dry before you use them again. And don’t forget to clean your insoles regularly.

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