How To Disinfect Shoes The Proper Way

Tuesday Bote - April 7, 2021


Can there be anything more horrendous than shoes that reek? Yes: the infections that may affect your feet from wearing dirty or unlaundered footwear!

The specter of the pandemic has made us all more than a little paranoid, making many of us err on the side of caution when it comes to disinfecting our homes, ourselves, and our personal belongings. As a result, we have all stockpiled cleaning materials and agents, from antibacterial soaps and shampoos for ourselves and our pets to high-impact disinfectants for living spaces and laundry. However, we cannot help but think that there’s probably one crucial thing that many of us tend to forget when we disinfect – our shoes.

Even before COVID-19 showed up, disinfecting footwear is something that has been a cause for concern by those suffering from fungal infections, which cause conditions such as athlete’s foot and toenail disorders – some of which may prove disastrous for those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or circulatory issues.

What microorganisms are lurking in your shoes?

In times like these, it’s easier to understand why the Japanese take their shoes off before entering their homes, schoolrooms, and offices: mud and dust are one thing, but one cannot be too careful about the potential dangers brought by microorganisms that stick to one’s shoes.

According to researchers, most people are likely to pick up the following harmful viruses and bacteria from their footwear:

  • Rhinoviruses and Coronaviruses COVID-19 notwithstanding, these viruses are very common as these cause colds and the flu. But be ready to run to the hospital if you or anyone around you displays symptoms like a persistent dry cough, high fever, shortness of breath, a sharp and sudden loss of taste and smell, and a sore throat.
  • Coliform Bacteria
  • Listeria
  • Staph-infections

In addition to what your shoes pick up from the outside, negligence and sloppy personal hygiene of shoe owners and wearers can lead to fungi. Specifically, Tinea pedis (the little culprit that causes athlete’s foot,) onychomycosis, and dermatophytes are responsible. Fungi can grow within a shoe’s interior, which causes one’s feet to reek horribly. Moreover, toenails can grow unevenly and become thick and discolored. 

That’s bad enough, but a fungal infection may also lead to complications such as cellulitis. This causes cracks in the skin where bacteria can slip in. 

In the worst-case scenario, this sort of fungal infection can get into the blood and cause lasting damage and even death.

Okay, now I’m scared – so how do I disinfect my shoes?

Shoe trees are made with cedar or pine wood – both of which have natural deodorant and antimicrobial properties.

It depends on the shoe type. Some are easier to clean and disinfect than others. Leather shoes, on the other hand, need a little more TLC. Here, we show you how to disinfect your shoes depending on the type, material, and how much time you have on your hands.

Quick Fix: Spray on the Sanitizer

Hand sanitizers have become a standard item in our individual vanity kits and now everyone can’t leave the house without at least one small bottle of gel or a spray-on atomizer that’s at least 70% medical-grade alcohol. While these are great for keeping your hands clean, did you know that you can actually use sanitizers as a quick fix for knocking out any germs inside your kicks?

If you’re the type who has a favorite pair that you’re wearing non-stop, this quick fix may work for you. After taking off your shoes, take out the insole and smear all over with sanitizing gel or thoroughly spray all over with a disinfectant solution. Note that your gel or sanitizing solution needs to be at least 65% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol in order to kill off the bulk of harmful microorganisms. Be sure to hang up your smothered or sprayed insoles and allow them to dry thoroughly prior to reinsertion.

Constantly on the go? Oliver Cabell Quick Wipes can help you keep your sneaks clean, fresh, and safe wherever you may be.

Quick Fix: Bring on the Wipes

On the go and don’t have time for a thorough clean? That’s where quick wipes come in handy. Specially created for shoes, these work on the same principle as cosmetic and other forms of antibacterial wipes: sheets of paper are soaked in a disinfectant solution and used to wipe off more obvious splotches and smudges on the uppers and outer soles of your shoes.

These work with any kind of material, with the exception of velvet, suede, and nubuck. Likewise, these should not be considered a viable mode of disinfection for the long term as the solutions used by many commercial brands tend to vary in strength.

Not only is the Oliver Cabell Phoenix a uniquely sustainable shoe, but it’s also surprisingly easy to clean and disinfect: simply toss these kicks into the wash with plenty of antibacterial detergent and bleach to do the job thoroughly.


Thorough Disinfection for Leather Shoes

Unlike canvas shoes which can easily be tossed into the wash, leather shoes need a certain degree of care. So how do you disinfect leather dress shoes and premium leather kicks?

You will need to make a solution composed of three (3) parts 70% isopropyl or ethyl alcohol dissolved in one (1) part sterilized water and a clean cloth to both clean and disinfect the uppers of your leathers. Simply dampen the cloth with the resulting solution and rub it thoroughly over each shoe’s exterior. Place the shoes in a warm, dry place for five to ten minutes or until completely dry.

In the case of white leather sneakers, the cleaning/disinfectant solution should be made with one (1) part bleach dissolved in five (5) parts sterilized water for a thorough clean. Like the procedure mentioned above for leather shoes, the cleaning cloth needs to be soaked in the solution and then wrung out before being used to clean the shoes. As above, place your white kicks in a warm, dry place until completely dry. 

The interiors of your shoes also need ample care using the same bleach solution for white shoes. Dampen a clean cloth in the solution and wipe down the inside of your shoes; again, allow to dry thoroughly.

After cleaning and disinfecting your shoes, be sure to wash your hands very well with soap and water to clean off any residual dirt and microorganisms.

Scrubbing Down Your Soles

Because the soles are, technically, the filthiest part of any shoe (it’s the part that’s in contact with the ground and floor, after all,) these need special attention – and you need to clean them outside.

In your garage, yard, or designated laundry area, fill a washtub with clean water and have laundry soap, a scrubbing brush to get in between the grooves of the sole, a disinfectant spray, and a clean cloth ready.

Dampen the shoes’ soles and wash thoroughly with laundry soap, being sure to scrub well between the grooves or cleats to remove all grime and debris; rinse thoroughly. Spray a disinfectant over the soles, leave for five minutes, then wipe the soles dry with a clean cloth.

If you don’t have a disinfectant spray on hand, you can use quick wipes or spritz on hydrogen peroxide at 3% strength. Again, be sure to wash your hands well after cleaning your shoes.

For Clean Shoes, Oliver Cabell Has the Solutions

Oliver Cabell not only offers an extensive range of high-quality footwear for both men and women, but it also provides numerous solutions for keeping your shoes clean and fresh. From naturally deodorizing wooden shoe trees, to a proprietary leather cleaner that keeps your shoes looking new, to a leather conditioner that keeps your kicks in top form, there’s a product that works for you.

Check out more helpful articles on shoe cleaning through these links: