cleaning and polishing a shoe
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How to clean and restore your shoes

When it comes to footwear, there’s no greater feeling than wearing new, straight out the box shoes. Knowing that they are in brand new condition provides an uplift; It boosts your confidence, you feel more self-assured, but most important, it gives your look something new. But as they go unloved, scuffs and blotches begin to accumulate and the initial feeling you once had slowly fades. That feeling never has to go if you follow the steps to keep your sneakers and shoes in virtuous condition.

Before we get started there are a few items you will need to get to do a successful job of restoring your footwear close to its former glory. Depending on the material of your shoes it will determine what items you will use:

Suede

  • Suede brush
  • Suede cleaner
  • Suede eraser
  • Shoe brush (or toothbrush)
  • Natural laundry detergent
  • Warm water
  • Baking soda (if you are cleaning white midsoles)
  • Microfibre cloth
  • Water-resistant spray

Leather

  • Shoe brush (or toothbrush)
  • Natural laundry detergent
  • Warm water
  • Baking soda (if you are cleaning white midsoles)
  • Microfibre cloth
  • Water-resistant spray
  • Neutral shoe cream

Canvas & textile

  • Shoe brush (or toothbrush)
  • Natural laundry detergent
  • Warm water
  • Baking soda (if you are cleaning white midsoles)
  • Microfibre cloth
  • Water-resistant spray

Cleaning shoe laces and insoles

  • A washing machine
  • Natural laundry detergent
  • A pillowcase
  • Odour neutraliser

Step 1: Remove dry visible dirt

For step one, you will need to remove any visible dry dirt. You can do this in two parts. Firstly, you will need to gently knock the pair together by the bottom of the sole to encourage any loose dirt to fall off. Lastly, you can use a dry cloth to wipe away any stubborn loose dirt that requires a bit more force for removal. Give your shoe or sneaker a close inspection to ensure all the dry dirt has been gone. If you are satisfied with the first result you can proceed to the next task.

Step 2: Create your cleaning solution

With two household items we can create a good enough alternative shoe cleaning solution that will help restore the look of our sneakers and shoes. But we have to make it clear that this cleaning solution cannot be used on suede material footwear. To create the solution all you will need is non-bio, or even better, natural laundry detergent and lukewarm water. Simple but effective. In a mixing bowl, include one teaspoon of detergent and one full cup of lukewarm water. If your solution is heavily foamy, then you have added too much detergent. If you’ve used a non-bio detergent we recommend to start over, as non-bio still contains chemicals, which over time can damage the material.

Step 3: Revive the sole

For this step, you will need a cloth, preferably a microfibre (or an old t-shirt), a shoe brush (or a toothbrush) and the cleaning solution we made in step 2.

  1. Dip your shoe brush into the solution, and shake off any excess. Begin scrubbing around the midsoles, make sure to also work within the grooves and crevices.
  2. Once you feel you have successfully removed stubborn stains and dirt, use the microfibre cloth to wipe away any residue solution.

For suede based footwear, you can still use the solution to clean the midsoles, but take precaution not to get the solution on the material.

How to unyellow your white sole

A common occurrence with sneakers with white midsoles is the discolouration, or commonly known as “yellowing” of the midsole. But it’s not the end of the world, as disheartening as this can be, it can be reserved.

  1. In a mixing bowl include 2 tablespoons of baking soda and a full cup of lukewarm water. Make sure the mixture has a somewhat thick consistency
  2. Dip the shoe brush in the solution and scrub thoroughly around the midsole. Once you’ve finished scrubbing do not wipe away the residue as this will help with the next step
  3. Place the pair outside, preferable within the sunlight. Position the sneakers upside down (bottom sole facing upwards) and leave outside for 30-60 minutes.

This process will need to be repeated 3-4 times until you get the dazzling white result you are looking for.

Replace your heel

No amount of scrubbing and cleaning can restore the wear and tear of your shoe’s heel. So we recommend that you take your shoes to your local shoe repair specialist. The easiest way to find a shoe repair specialist is to Google “shoe repair [the area you live]” or “shoe repair near me” and look through the business listing that has reviews. We recommend shortlisting businesses that have a review rating of 4 and higher, this is usually a good sign of service. Once you’ve decided on your specialist, here are a few pointers to judge craftsmanship:

  1. Symmetry – Does the left and right heel look as equally good and look to be the same?
  2. Professional standard – Can you instantly tell that the restoration has been completed to a high standard?
  3. Comparison – With the repairs, do the shoes somewhat resemble how you originally bought them?

If the answers come back positive, then you’ve had a successful repair. On average, the repairs should cost around £10-£20, any less check the reviews to evaluate the service, any higher do due diligence to get the average price in your area.

Step 4: Cleaning the material

Every material cannot be cleaned the same way and when exposed to the wrong substance can cause some lasting damage. There are shoe cleaning solutions that can be used on a multitude of materials, but there are items you buy at your local supermarket.

Leather

For leather, you are going to use the cleaning solution we made in step 2. Wrap the microfibre cloth around your index finger and drip into the solution. Begin wiping around the shoes, making sure to apply moderate pressure to remove stains. With the dry side of the cloth, use it to wipe any residue solutions and place in a ventilated area to dry.

Suede

For suede shoes, you cannot use the cleaning solution in step 2, as exposure to soap can cause the material to damage and dry. So for this, we recommend purchasing a suede shoe brush, suede eraser and suede cleaner.

  1. Use the eraser to get rid of any scuffs or marks
  2. Apply the suede cleaner all over the shoe
  3. Use the suede brush to work in the suede cleaner
  4. Use the microfibre cloth to wipe away any residue
  5. Once finished, leave to dry naturally, especially away from direct heat such as a radiator or hairdryer

Canvas & Textile

For canvas and textile material shoes, you’ll be able to use the solution from step 2 and a shoe brush. Dip the shoe-brush into the solution and thoroughly scrub the shoes until you’ve covered every area. When you’ve finished scrubbing, use the cloth to remove any solution and leave to dry naturally.

Step 5: Machine wash your laces and insoles

To have clean shoes, the laces need to be clean and they have to smell the part too. Lucky for you, these are the easiest and least effort to clean.

  1. Remove the laces and insoles from the footwear and place in an empty pillowcase and tie the top. If you are cleaning white shoelaces make sure to place in a separate pillowcase to avoid the possibility of colour transfer during the wash
  2. Set your washing machine on a cold wash with a small amount of laundry detergent
  3. Once washed, place in a ventilated area to dry naturally

For some formal shoes the insoles cannot be removed, so a good alternative is to use an odour neutraliser. Once applied, the neutraliser will breakdown and eliminate the enzymes that cause odour to occur when combined with sweat and heat.

Step 6: Finishing touches

Aftercare is just as important as the clean itself when maintaining the condition of your shoes. Just like most items, neglect and lack of attention can rapidly diminish the shelf life of your shoes. Simply using a water-resistant solution, or neutral or pigment coloured shoe polish, will not only protect against some of the environmental elements but also improve the aesthetics of the footwear themselves. No matter if your shoes are leather, suede, formal or sneakers, these simple aftercare solutions go a long way.

Let us know through Instagram how well you managed to clean and restore your sneakers and shoes. Just use the hashtag #FootwearBeast or @ us using @FootwearBeastUK

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