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How to Clean the Bottom of Shoes to Return Them: 6 Ways

Fact checked by A. Thompson

how to clean the bottom of shoes to return them

The dilemma of wanting to return new shoes after already trying to break them in for several days must be familiar to many of us. It can be the color, the feel, or the price that makes us have second thoughts.

Still, even if it’s in the store policy that we can return the pair, we have to ensure it’s squeaky clean, like brand-new, and absolutely spotless. So, if you wonder how to clean the bottom of shoes to return them, read below for the best methods.

How to Clean Bottom of Shoes to Look New


Method 1: Use baking soda and soap

If you have a collection of shoes, you must be familiar with baking soda, as it’s a wonderful home remedy for cleaning.

So, let’s combine the power of baking soda and soap (or another mild detergent) to clean bottom of sneakers and return them without a hitch.


Here’re what you should have at hand:

  • Your soap/mild detergent
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • A toothbrush
  • Some pieces of clean cloth

Here’re the steps to make bottom of shoes white again:

  • Step 1: Use a toothbrush with already wetted bristles to remove loose and large dirt on your shoes’ soles. Be very gentle to not hurt any fragile treads of the soles.
  • Step 2: Make the cleaner by mixing baking soda and detergent/soap and adding some water. Now, use your clean toothbrush to stir the paste.
  • Step 3: Use the same brush to apply the paste onto your shoes’ bottom and scrub gently. Make sure you do not miss out on any tiny corners.
  • Step 4: Leave the cleaner there for about 3 minutes for it to work.
  • Step 5: Then, you can wipe off the cleaner with a damp cloth.
  • Step 6: As you make sure all the stains are gone, you can use another clean, dry cloth to wipe your shoes when the first one becomes too dirty.
  • Step 7: Now, hang the shoes in an open space for them to dry for several hours. Then, pack the pair neatly for returning.

Read more: Steps to clean Timberland boots with baking soda.

Method 2: Use white toothpaste


This next method is safe for use on the soles of leather shoes, but is not recommended for its other surfaces.

However, if you want to clean dirt on the fabrics of work shoes, canvas shoes, or sneakers, feel free to utilize white toothpaste.

You should prepare the following beforehand:

  • White and non-gel toothpaste
  • Clean cloth
  • A toothbrush
  • Water

Follow these steps to whiten the bottom of shoes:

  • Step 1: Use the soft toothbrush to scrub off any loose dirt on the soles and heels. You can use a piece of damp cloth to do some cleaning, too. Just make sure the soles are dry before moving to the next step.
  • Step 2: Pour the toothpaste on your brush to apply to the shoe bottoms. Do not hesitate to make a thick layer that covers every tiny hole in the soles.
  • Step 3: Now, rub the paste and leave it there for 3-5 minutes.
  • Step 4: You can use a clean cloth to wipe off the toothpaste. Use water with the cloth if necessary; just do not stain your shoe fabric.

Method 3: Use vinegar and iodized salt


If you want to clean shoes to return them using just home remedies, then take out the white vinegar and iodized salt for the following method.

Distilled vinegar is an excellent disinfectant and cleaning agent due to its acetic acid. With this substance, you can clean bottom soles of shoes and remove any bad smells, ensuring they are in great condition for returning.

What you need for the cleaning task:

  • White vinegar
  • Iodized salt
  • A soft toothbrush
  • Water
  • A clean cloth

The steps to remove stains off the soles of dirty shoes are easy to follow:

  • Step 1: Make the solution by adding a bit of iodized salt in white vinegar to increase its cleaning power.
  • Step 2: Apply the cleaner onto the soles and rub gently for the grass stains, mud, or oil marks to be dissolved completely.
  • Step 3: After 3 minutes, dip the clean cloth into water and squeeze the excess moisture out. Now, use the piece to wipe off the cleaner on the soles.
  • Step 4: When you have already cleaned and let the shoes dry for several hours, keep them in a box to protect bottom of shoes to return.

Method 4: Use nail polish remover


Another magical agent to clean bottom of heels to return is your nail polish remover or acetone. You can even use it to remove tiny stains on the shoe material.

Just bring out some cloth cotton balls and ear swabs to start cleaning right away:

  • Step 1: Use the cotton ball to dap the nail polish remover onto your shoe soles, and apply more pressure on the dirty areas.
  • Step 2: For smaller corners or tread holes, you can use an ear swab to remove the tiny specks of stains.
  • Step 3: The sole dries as you clean, so there is no need to use water for washing off the acetone. Just keep the shoes in your box after you are done.

Method 5: Use bleaching powder


If the methods above do not work, you will need a potent solution to whiten your shoe’s bottom. In such cases, using bleach powder should be the best way to get rid of stubborn stains.

Just make sure you put on a pair of gloves and a face mask before cleaning:

  • Step 1: Mix the bleaching powder with water to make a solution that can penetrate hard stains.
  • Step 2: Use a piece of cloth to dab the cleaner and rub gently until the shoe soles are white again.
  • Step 3: Finally, use a dampened cloth to remove the bleach and let your shoes dry.

Method 6: Use detergent or dish soap


Do not undermine the power of warm water and dish soap in removing dirt on the bottoms of your shoes.

If you act quickly, you can use a mild detergent or dishwashing soap in your kitchen to clean rubber soles.

Just make soapy water from the cleaner and brush off the stains using a soft toothbrush.

Read more: Tips to clean Timberland boots with soap and water.


Above are the easiest and quickest methods on how to clean the bottom of shoes to return them. You can start with the gentle ingredients and move to the potent cleaner like bleach powder if the stains are too stubborn.

Better yet, if you are not sure you’re going to keep the pair, make sure to keep the bottom of your shoes clean when trying them on at home. Try wrapping the soles with nylon or newspaper to avoid grass and moisture stains.

Good luck with returning your footwear!

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