How to Clean Thrift Store Shoes? (Step By Step)

Do you actually know what thrift store shoes mean?

Thrift stores are the ones that sell second hand items especially clothing and shoes from thrift stores means second hand shoes that were used by someone earlier and later sold to the thrift store for reselling.

Cut short, thrift store shoes are used up shoes that are available at cheap prices!

But when you are getting something at a cheaper price than the original, there ought to be some problem with it and thrift shoes are no exception to it!

While buying thrift shoes remember that they were once worn by someone else and they have sold it for a purpose that might include wearing down of the shoes, fraying of the shoes, soles coming out, insoles not providing the cushioning any more, faded colour of the shoes and along with these problems comes the major concern that the shoes might carry bacteria and germs from the feet of the previous owner.

How to Clean Thrift Store Shoes

Keeping all this in mind, if you are still interested in buying thrift shoes to save some bucks, I have some excellent tips for you on how to clean, disinfect and make those old shoes brand new!

In order to clean thrifted shoes the very thing you need to do is disinfect them with some disinfectant spray or home-remedies like apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, wet wipes, etc.

After the sanitization process then comes the cleaning part in which you need to go with deep cleaning of each and every part of the shoes either by hand washing or machine washing (of course with a good detergent).

Let’s hop into the details of these disinfection and cleaning processes of thrifted shoes through this article…

Cons of thrift store shoes:

While you are saving some bucks from your pocket, you need to be aware that you are also sacrificing the condition of the shoes for being a second hand item. 

Yes, second hand shoes from the thrift stores will definitely have one or some of the following cons:

→ They will be frayed

→ The stitches might be coming out

→ The soles might be uneven and too much worn out

→ The uppers might be faded and look dull and lifeless

→ The insoles might be too much pressed and have become so thin that it would be capable enough to provide you the cushioning

→ There might be fungi and bacteria present in the shoes which would get transferred to your feet and cause rashes and itching

→ The shoes might be creased and too dirty

Things to keep in mind while buying thrift store shoes

When you know that thrift store shoes will definitely have some of the above mentioned cons, you need to be really careful and keep in mind the following things while buying them:

1.) The shoes are not too smelly 

2.) There are no foot imprints on the insole

3.) The insole does not look too oily or stained

4.) The outsole is not too worn out

5.) The stitches are in good condition

6.) The upper material has not started to worn out or is creased

7.) The shoes do not look way faded and used up

How to disinfect/sanitize thrift store shoes?

As is mentioned earlier, thrift store shoes can contain bacteria, viruses and fungi from the sweat and wearing of the previous owner and these germs can thrive in the shoes for months and years.

Therefore, it becomes crucial for you to disinfect and sanitize them as soon as you bring them home.

Here’s how to do it:

1.) Steaming thrift store shoes:

You can use your cloth steamer to steam or vaporize the germs present in the shoes. Steaming the shoes inside out will kill germs partially.

2.) Sanitizing thrift store shoes with a good sanitizer:

After steaming, you have to use a good sanitizing spray to kill viruses and bacteria from within the shoes. You can also use the machine sanitizer if you have one at your home.

3.) Disinfecting thrift store shoes using a disinfectant spray:

Disinfecting thrift store shoes using a disinfectant spray

Many disinfectant sprays are available online and you can choose one of your choice to disinfect the shoes. Disinfecting will kill most of the germs present in the shoes.

4.) Disinfecting thrift store shoes with UV radiation:

There are machines available for UV radiation and you can use one to disinfect those thrift store shoes. UV light is considered one of the strongest radiation in killing harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Alternatively, you can also keep the shoes in sunlight for a few days after cleaning them thoroughly.

5.) Disinfecting thrift store shoes using bleaching soda:

Bleaching soda is an excellent agent in cleaning shoes and the bleaching agent in it helps to kill germs and fungi growth.

Make a paste of water and bleaching soda and apply the paste inside out of the shoes using a toothbrush. Keep it for 10 minutes and then wash off thoroughly under running water or using a wet wipe.

6.) Disinfecting thrift store shoes using apple cider vinegar:

Applying apple cider vinegar with a lint free cloth will also help to disinfect the germs in the shoes.

7.) Disinfecting thrift store shoes using hydrogen peroxide:

Hydrogen peroxide is also an excellent agent in killing bacteria and fungi. Remember to wear gloves before applying it to the shoes.

8.) Disinfecting thrift store shoes using rubbing alcohol:

Rubbing alcohol will not only clean spots and grease from the shoes, but the alcohol will also kill most of the germs present in the shoes. You can again use a clean cloth for this purpose.

How to clean thrift store shoes?

Cleaning thrift shoes will be similar to cleaning your normal dirty shoes yet you might need some extra effort for these shoes are old enough and used up:

Step 1: using a horsehair brush:

Using a horsehair brush

Use a horsehair brush or a clean dry cloth or a soft bristled toothbrush to clean off the loose dirt from the shoes. Do not forget to clean the sides and the bottom as well.

Step 2: remove the laces and insoles:

For deep cleaning it is necessary to clean each part in detail and separately.

Step 3: washing the laces and insoles:

In a bucket mix a mild detergent or shampoo with water and make froth. Soak the laces and insoles in it and keep for 30 minutes. Then rub with your hands to get rid of the dirt and then wash with cold water.

Step 4: using wet wipes to clean the inside as well as the outside of the shoes:

You can literally use any wet wipes for this purpose. Use your fingers wrapped in the wet wipes to clean each nook and corner of the shoes.

Step 5: using toothbrush and soap-water solution to wash the shoes:

Take a bowl and make soap-water solution in it. Use the toothbrush to rub the shoes with the soapy solution. Remember you need to be detailed with the inside, the corners, the sides and the bottom. 

Step 6: the final cleaning:

The final step is to clean the shoes off the soapy solution with a wet wipe or under water.

Step 7: drying the shoes:

You need to dry the shoes thoroughly under the fan or the Sun. In this case, I would prefer drying the shoes in the sun to give them a final disinfecting.

And it’s a wrap!

So you see, cleaning thrift store shoes is no big deal, you just need to put in some extra effort of disinfecting them so that they do not cause any harm to your feet.

Stephen Luettgen
I have 12+ years of experience in construction, inspections, handy work, and currently working as a Construction Site Manager. In today’s day we spent a significant part of our time at workplace and a right work gear can have significant impact not only on your safety but also work quality.

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