How to Clean Bottom of Shoes from Stubborn Dirt

What do you call the bottom of a shoe?

Before i explain how to clean bottom of shoes, let me tell you a little information about Bottom of shoes. The bottom of a shoe is often called the outsole, it’s a piece of hard material that protects your feet from dirt, pebbles, animal excrement, sharp objects, and many more.

Shoe sole material

Shoe sole material

The bottom soles of shoes are made from various materials, listed below.

  • Rubber sole material

Also known as TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) material. This type of soles can be found in sports, work, and casual footwear.

  • Leather sole material

This type of soles can be found in leather shoes and exudes elegance that matches formal footwear. Leather sole material provides nice thermal insulation and resistance to water. Furthermore, the leather’s porosity makes the sole breathable and comfy.

  • PVC outsole material

Vinyl chloride, or goes by PVC is made from durable plastic that lasts after many use. PVC is the primary material for sandals, soles, boots, and even accessories. 

  • EVA outsole material

This polymer material consists of ethylene and vinyl acetate, hence the name. Besides soles, EVA material is perfect for insoles. This material is breathable, lightweight, and flexible thus guaranteed to maintain the shoes’ shape.

  • Combined material

True to its name, some bottom soles of shoes are also made from combined materials. One of the most ideal and used combinations is polyurethane, rubber, and EVA. 

Shoe sole types

There are plenty of different shoe soles types, listed below.

  • Rubber soles

Arguably rubber soles are the most popular type of shoe soles. Organic or recycled rubber is the main component of rubber soles. It has great flexibility, and durability, and is water-resistant. Commonly found in casual shoes for daily occasions, formal, to hiking boots.

  • Lugged soles

Moving to the next type, we have lugged boots which are characterized by chunky soles. This one is usually found in hiking or utility. Lugged soles are designed to stand in any weather and various terrain types. Sometimes dirt and mud get trapped and stuck between the lugs, thus needing regular cleaning.

  • Christy soles

Characterized by ripple marks on the lower part, christy soles provide perfect traction and can uplift the entire look. It’s very lightweight and perfect for casual and non-heavy activities.

  • Camp soles

You can find this soles type on Moccasins and loafers. Made from rubber, camp soles are also lightweight and waterproof, as well as providing great traction.

  • Cork soles

The last on this list is cork soles, made from the titular tree. They’re also water resistant and provide excellent foot support which is perfect to wear for standing for a long time.

Should I clean the bottom of my shoes?

Definitely. You should clean the bottom of your shoes frequently to prevent build-up dirt which is harder to remove. Cleaning the soles also make them look clean and maintain the shoe’s lifetime. In my experience, it’s better to clean them off regularly once every month. Although in some conditions, such as wearing shoes outdoors, you need to clean them more often as the soles trapped plenty of dirt and debris.

How to clean the bottom of the shoe

Now that you understand how important it is to clean the sole, aka the bottom of the shoes, let’s move to the method used for cleaning. You might know that shoes’ soles are varying, both in color and material. This article has compiled some useful and easy ways how to do them. Keep scrolling to see our guides on how to clean the soles of your shoes from dirt and stains.

1. What you’ll need to clean your soles

  • Shoe cleaner

Special soap for cleaning shoes.

  • Apron

Wear an apron to keep your clothes clean from the mess and dirt from cleaning soles.

  • Standard brush

Also known as the all-purpose brush, it has strong and sturdy bristles that are perfect for cleaning the outsole from dirt and debris.

  • Microfiber cloth

You’ll need a microfiber cloth to wipe the dirt and soapy moisture off the sole.

  • Washbowl

Fill the washbowl with water to create the cleaning solution by adding the shoe cleaner later.

  • Small stick

To scrape and pluck specks of dirt and other stuff from the outsole. You can replace it with a toothpick for smaller crevices and nooks.

2. Use the right cleaning kits for the shoe part

  • Outsole

You can find the outsole at the very bottom of the shoes. It has direct contact with various surfaces, which leads to it getting dirty. Specks of dirt, pebbles, mud, leftover gum you accidentally stepped on, and other stains sometimes get stuck there. It’s best to utilize a standard brush with strong and sturdy bristles which are perfect for eroding dirt and stains from the sole.

3. How to clean the soles of your shoes?

  • Prepare the shoes

The first step is to take a pair of shoes with dirty soles for cleaning. Brush the dust and dirt off the soles to check which part needs extra maintenance.

  • Get the cleaning kits ready

Next, prepare the cleaning kits mentioned before. Pour a little part of the shoe cleaner into the washbowl filled with water then mix until it’s all incorporated.

  • Clean the outsole

To clean the outsole, take the standard brush then dip it into the soapy mixture. Clean the shoes’ soles thoroughly and ensure that all dirt comes off from the surface. You can use a small stick or a toothpick to pluck out stubborn build-up dirt that sticks in the soles. When you’re done, wipe the dirt and soap water with the microfiber cloth.

  • Detailing

Use the microfiber cloth to clean the dirty small parts of the shoes’ soles. Alternatively, you can use wet wipes to do the job, but the result might be different. I prefer to use microfiber cloth because it has excellent absorption, especially for moisture and dirt.

  • Drying

After you’re done cleaning the bottom sole, allow them to dry in front of a fan. The drying process may take about 1 hour.

  • Finishing  

After the outsoles are dry, check them again to ensure no dirt or stains are left behind. Now your shoes are looking clean and brand new.

4. How to clean white rubber soles on shoes

Shoes’ soles in white are more prone to dirt and stains. Not only that, but they also catch scuff marks after a long time of use. If you’re looking for a way to clean the white soles, here are some of our guides on how to do it.

Baking soda and vinegar combo

These home ingredients combo do an excellent job of removing dirt and stains (even some light scuffs) from your bottom soles. Below is how to clean shoe soles with baking soda and vinegar.

  • In a small bowl, mix an equal part of baking soda with white vinegar until forms a thick paste.
  • Using a toothbrush, work the paste in the sole with a circular motion. Scrub the soles vigorously and make sure that you don’t miss any spots.
  • Leave the paste to dry for a few minutes.
  • Damp a clean cloth, then use it to wipe the dried paste off the sole. Wipe thoroughly until clean. Repeat the scrubbing process if necessary.

After using those two home ingredients, I’m impressed with the result. The dirt and stains are gone, and I don’t notice visible scuff marks anymore. 

Toothpaste

Not only for cleaning teeth, but you can also use this cleaning paste on the sole. Here’s our step-by-step on how to clean bottom of shoes with toothpaste to look new.

  • Squeeze a small part of the toothpaste into an old toothbrush. 
  • Work the paste into the stained areas. Scrub them thoroughly in a circular motion.
  • Allow the paste to sit on the soles for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Use a damp towel to wipe the dried toothpaste off.
  • Repeat if needed until you get the desired result.

I’ve tried this hack for white soles, and the result is impressive. I advise you to get the whitening and non-gel toothpaste for a more satisfying result.

Nail polish remover

Acetones, also known as nail polish removers, is another quick and easy ingredient to clean the bottom soles. You can clean the bottom of the shoes with this cosmetic product by following these simple steps.

  • Shake the bottle before use.
  • Pour some nail polish remover solution into a clean cloth (or tissue).
  • Wipe the dirty or stained area of the soles with the solution. Repeat until you get the desired result.
  • Allow for air drying.

After using this product, my white soles look brand new and crisp. Because acetones are from alcohol, it doesn’t take a long time to dry. I suggest using this carefully and only for white bottom soles because it might fade other colored soles or the upper canvas of your shoes.

Bleach

Another chemical household product you can use to clean the bottom sole is bleach. These steps are easy to follow if you’re planning to clean the dirty or yellowing bottom soles of shoes.

  • In a bowl, dilute bleach with water on a ratio of 1:5 and mix them well.
  • Dip an old toothbrush into the solution and start scrubbing the sole. Make sure that you brush them thoroughly, especially on the yellowing area.
  • Rinse with cold water and leave to dry overnight.

In my personal opinion, this method yields a terrific result. The yellowing soles are gone, and so are the dirt and stains. I recommend doing this in an open area or a well-ventilated room to prevent inhaling dangerous chemicals that can harm you. Be careful while applying the bleach and don’t let them seep through the upper shoes or you’ll end up with discolored shoes.

Repainting

This is the last resort if the stains are just too persistent to handle and no cleaning agents can eliminate them. All you need to do is just following these easy steps to repaint the bottom of your shoes.

  • Get a shoe touch-up paint in white.
  • Cover the upper with scotch tape to prevent the paint from getting into the area.
  • Squeeze the paint into a palette and dab a small brush onto it.
  • Paint the stained area carefully.
  • Leave to dry in a cool room.

In my case, repainting is the best option to mask the stains and make them look brand new. Some touch-up shoe paints are also available in markers, which are easier for applying. From what I tried, it doesn’t really matter whether you use paints or markers, because the result is almost identical.

5. How to clean black rubber soles on shoes

Most people tend to buy shoes with black soles because it’s more practical and caught less dirt. In reality, all rubber soles are prone to catching dirt, stains, and scuffs, including black ones. Afraid not, here are some ingredients you can try to clean the bottom sole.

Dish soap

This household cleaner is one of the best alternatives if you don’t have a shoe cleaner at home. Below is how to clean black rubber soles on shoes with dish soap based on my experience.

  • Mix one cup of warm water with one tablespoon of dish soap until all is incorporated and the water turns soapy.
  • Use a toothbrush to apply the soapy mixture to the soles. Scrub them thoroughly to get rid of the dirt and stains.
  • Wipe the suds with a clean cloth, and repeat the process until all dirt and stains are gone.
  • Pat the soles dry and leave for a few hours.

From my personal experience using this product, the result is almost similar when I use shoe cleaner for the soles. You can also use a cloth to apply the mixture, but I advise using a toothbrush because it’s more effective in scrubbing the dirt and stains that get stuck in the soles.

Baking soda

Moving on to an eco-friendly home ingredients combo that has been proven to remove dirt, stains, and scuffs from the bottom soles. Here’s how to clean rubber shoes with baking soda.

  • Combine baking soda with water in a ratio of 1:1 until the consistency turns into a paste.
  • Dab a toothbrush into the paste and apply the paste on the sole.
  • Scrub them strong enough and thoroughly, especially in stained or scuffed areas.
  • When you’re done scrubbing for about 5 minutes, rinse the soles with warm water to reveal the now-clean soles.
  • Repeat the scrubbing and rinsing process if needed.
  • Pat the shoes’ soles dry with a clean towel and allow them to dry.

After following this method, some light scuff marks on my shoes’ soles aren’t noticeable anymore, and greasy stains no longer stick to the soles. I tend to use this method every time for cleaning my shoes with black soles because the result never disappoints.

Repainting

If the scuff marks or stains won’t leave the bottom sole, it’s best to hand it over to the touch-up paint or markers. Here’s how to repaint and cover the stubborn stains and visible scuff marks on the shoes’ soles.

  • Cover the upper shoes with scotch tape to prevent the paint from getting into the area.
  • Squeeze the black touch-up paint into a palette. 
  • Dab a small brush into the squeezed paint and cover the stained or scuffed area carefully. Strike the brush gently and apply the paint thinly.
  • Leave to dry in a cool room. Repeat the painting process if the stains are still visible.

And here’s how to use touch-up markers to cover the stains and scuffs.

  • Shake the touch-up marker before use to help the ball mix the paint and oil inside.
  • Remove the cap and apply the marker to the desired area.
  • Allow the soles to dry and repeat the process if needed.

After using both products, it’s safe to say that the black rubber soles on my shoes look brand new and clean. In my opinion, the marker does a quick and excellent job, but the coverage from the paint is better.

6. Does toothpaste clean the bottom of the shoes?

how to clean bottom of shoes

Yes, toothpaste does an excellent job cleaning the bottom of shoes. It’s a well-known fact that toothpaste doesn’t only clean your teeth, but also various surfaces including the rubber sole of shoes. The soft abrasive particle on it helps get rid of dirt and stains that get stuck in the sole. I recommend using non-gel toothpaste to clean the shoes’ soles because the gel ones leave stains and make your soles dirty instead. To clean white soles, you can pick whitening toothpaste to do the job.

7. Can you use a magic eraser on the bottom of the shoes?

how to clean bottom of shoes

Absolutely. You can use a magic eraser on the bottom of the soles. Magic eraser is deemed an all-rounder cleaning tool for removing stains. From ink stains to scuff marks on the shoes’ soles, this sponge does an excellent job removing them and making the surfaces clean again. The sponge itself is from melamine foam that acts as an abrasive scrubber which helps get rid of the stains and fade the scuff marks, leaving you with clean and brand-new soles.

8. Can you use Clorox wipes on the bottom of the shoes?

how to clean bottom of shoes

Yes, using Clorox wipes on the bottom of the shoes is another alternative to try if you need to clean them fast. The wipes also function as disinfectant which helps eliminate bacteria from the soles. It’s perfect for whitening your soles and making them shine again. All you need is just wiping them in either circular motions or back and forth to reveal the look of your shoes’ soles. If the dirt is more stubborn, wipe them vigorously until the grime layer is gone.

Before using this product, I test it by wiping the unnoticeable part of the sole to ensure that the wipes don’t damage the material. I must say that this product is safe for cleaning the soles, especially white ones.

9. How do you deep clean the bottom of the shoes?

how to clean bottom of shoes

There are many ways to deep clean the bottom of the shoes. In a plastic container, combine water with a shoe cleaner (using dish soap can be a great alternative) until homogenous, and soak the soles for about 15 to 20 minutes. Soaking them will allow the soap molecules to break the dirt and stains down and make them easier to clean. Scrub the soles with a strong-bristled brush until all is clean, and leave the shoes to dry. 

I’ve tested this method and the result is impressive. I don’t have to scrub the dirt and stains vigorously because the soap helps soften the dirt and lift the stains easily. I only need to scrub the bottom soles lightly and don’t break a sweat.

10. Other cleaning methods

Remove chewing gum from soles

Accidentally stepping on leftover chewing gum in street can be upsetting because the gum itself attracts more dirt to get in the sole. Below are how to remove chewing gum from the soles and make them clean again.

  • First, put the shoes into a plastic bag and press the gum firmly into the plastic.
  • Place the shoes (now wrapped in a plastic bag) in the freezer for a maximum of 2 hours.
  • Take the shoes out and peel the plastic bag where the chewing gum gets stuck.
  • Your shoe soles are now clean and free from chewing gum.

Freezing the shoe to get rid of the chewing gum is proven effective. After several trials and errors from testing this method, there’s no gum left over in my soles. If the electricity is off and your freezer doesn’t work, alternatively you can use olive oil to remove the chewing gum from the bottom soles, especially rubber ones. Here’s how to do it.

  • Pour some olive oil into the area in which the gum gets stuck and leave for a couple of minutes.
  • Use a paper towel to remove the excess oil and chewing gum.
  • Use a pointy-ended tool if some gum leftover remains.
  • Wipe the soles clean.

In my case, olive oil does an excellent job of removing chewing gum. My advice to you is don’t use this product to remove gum from leather or suede material because olive oil might leave a yellowish stain which can be a great issue.

How to get dog poop out

For dog owners, stepping on their pet’s excrement can be annoying and embarrassing, not to mention their offensive smell. Here’s my tip on getting rid of dog poop and its smell from the shoe soles. 

  • Use a hose to erode the poop from the soles and make sure you use the gentle setting otherwise it’ll spray back.
  • To reach the crevices and nooks in the soles, use the jet setting. Alternatively, use a brush to remove the remaining poop and let the hose wash them away.
  • Pour some dish soap into the soles and start scrubbing the area.
  • Rinse with running water. Repeat the process if needed.
  • Leave the shoes to dry.

From my experience, it’s best to clean the soles as soon as possible to prevent the poop from soaking into the fabric and leaving an unpleasant smell. If this happens, I recommend using a pet enzyme cleaner to do the job. You can also use natural home ingredients such as baking soda or activated charcoal to eliminate the smell and make your shoes more pleasant.

11. Do’s and don’ts 

Do’s

  • Clean the button sole of the shoes thoroughly and don’t miss any dirt or spot.
  • Wash the outsole at least once every month if you wear them on daily basis to prevent the dirt from sticking too hard and getting difficult to be removed.

Don’ts

  • Don’t dry shoes under direct sunlight to prevent discoloration and damage.
  • Don’t use a soft-bristled brush to remove dirt in the sole, because they won’t come off and clean.

12. Shoe care tips and tricks

  • Don’t store them in a humid environment

As you might know, humidity is shoes’ biggest enemy. There’s a big chance your shoes get stink and moldy. The worst part is the glue gets loose and your shoes are damaged due to excessive moisture presence. Make sure that you’re storing the shoes in a well-ventilated room. From my experience, adding one or two packs of silica gels into the shoes can also be beneficial in reducing moisture getting trapped in the shoes.

  • Don’t store wet shoes directly

Similar to the previous point, excessive moisture in shoes can cause significant damage. If you store shoes while still wet, the microorganism grows rapidly and might cause plenty of issues, from offensive odor to mold. Moreover, if the shoes are soaking wet the water might drip into other shoes below and potentially causes more problems. Dry the shoes entirely before storing them in a rack to keep their life last longer.

  • Don’t stack shoes

Not only it will damage the shoes’ shape, but the dirt from the soles can also be transferred into the other shoes. Line them up in the shoe rack, or use shoe boxes with good air circulations to stack them if you don’t have enough space to store the shoes. I prefer the second option because it saves so much space. To ensure that my shoes didn’t get humid, I always put silica gel packs inside.

  • Don’t store dirty shoes in shoe plastic wrappers

When your shoes are looking filthy, it’s better not to wrap them in plastic wrappers and store them in a rack. Why you might ask? The dirt build-up is more difficult to remove, as well as brings more microbes that can infest the shoes. Only clean shoes can be stored in plastic wrappers. From my experience, it’s best to get the shoes clean and dry first before putting them in.


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What soap cleans the bottom of shoes?

There are many soaps you can use to clean the bottom sole. I advise using a shoe cleaner, which is specially formulated for cleaning shoes and doesn’t have hazardous chemicals that can damage the shoes. This product is proven effective in getting rid of dirt, stains, and even grease from my shoes’ soles and making them look brand new.

If you don’t have one, use a mild detergent (preferably liquid) to do the job. I don’t recommend using powdered detergent because the granules can get stuck into the shoes and potentially causes damage. Even so, you still can use powdered ones for cleaning the soles, but make sure that all granules are dissolved into the water.

Another home cleaner I mention several times in this article is dish soap. It’s affordable and can clean dirt and stains easily. I must say that dish soap is perfect for cleaning various types of shoes except for leather soles, which need a special cleaning agent.

Summary or Conclusion

In short, it’s important to clean the bottom sole regularly to get rid of dirt and stains that stick to the sole. Using various products, from natural and eco-friendly home ingredients to cleaning chemicals. You can choose which method works best for your soles and make them shine again.