The short answer is yes, most shoes can be brought to your local dry cleaner for deep-cleaning or general upkeep.
Although this may be the best option for your investment pieces, the cost can quickly add up. This may be a favorable option for materials that cannot be cleaned with detergent and water at home.
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You always want to trust the professionals, and as you would go to a doctor with a cold, you should go to the dry cleaner to get your delicate textiles cleaned.
Dry Cleaning Shoes
Dry cleaners hold a wealth of knowledge surrounding fabrics, stains, and chemicals. With time and experience, they perfect which combinations guarantee clean and unscathed products: in this case, shoes.
It is important to note that not every dry cleaner will work with shoes, so you will have to confirm prior to bringing your shoes in.
If you find one that does clean footwear, it is likely that there are specialists on staff to work with your shoes.
The process of dry cleaning shoes will look very similar to how you would wash them at home; however, the same way hospitals and medical facilities are supplied with medical-grade materials, a dry cleaner is equipped with supplies not necessarily found on a store shelf.
An expert with a multitude of experience surrounding textile cleaning will first assess your shoes and take a look at the material, the stains, and their overall condition. From there they will determine which products are necessary to clean them.
Following the assessment, a dry cleaner will scrub the shoes with a soft-bristled brush and a cleaning solution compatible with the material of shoes brought in. Not all materials can handle certain cleaning solutions or chemicals, and some – such as suede – should not even be handled with water.
From there, the soles of the shoes will be scrubbed with a less-sensitive brush, ensuring all dirt, rocks, and grime has been removed from the treads of your shoes. If necessary, the cleaner may also replace the laces. Lastly, the dry cleaner will likely add a deodorizer to the interior of your shoe.
If your shoes are made from velvet or suede, there may be an option to have them sprayed with an anti-staining solution.
So what exactly is the best option for your favorite pairs of shoes?
Because tennis shoes are built to be durable, these can handle an at-home cleaning. The first step is to check the inside tag on the lip of your shoes to see if they are “hand-wash only”.
If the tag indicates that the shoes are hand-wash only, you are going to want to lightly scrub the shoes with a scrub brush. Synthetic bristles are a nice option because they have some softness and malleability to them and are less likely to cause wear or damage.
After all of the surface dirt is removed, take a damp cloth with a couple of drops of laundry detergent or Dawn dish soap and gently scrub the surface of your shoes. Be sure to clean the laces as well. Once finished, let air dry.
If the tag on your shoes indicates that they can be machine washed, place your shoes in a pillowcase or mesh delicates bag and pop them into your washer with a couple of towels or blankets (these will prevent your shoes from bouncing around mid-cycle). Set your washing machine to a delicate, cold water cycle, and let them air dry.
Genuine leather shoes are an investment piece but they are an investment piece that can be cleaned relatively easily. Although it may be beneficial to get these periodically deep-cleaned by a professional, routine maintenance is as simple as using a soft-bristled scrub brush and shoe leather cleaner.
Be sure not to scrub too hard, as this will distress the leather material. For a quick clean, shoe leather cleaner can be substituted with Dawn dish soap and water.
It is also recommended to periodically polish leather shoes in between cleanings as this will create a barrier to prevent scuff marks.
Suede leather shoes are trickier to clean than most. They should be brought to a professional for cleaning, especially when stains are involved.
Most dry cleaners are equipped to clean suede, and if you have a genuine cobbler nearby, they will handle suede with the utmost care. Suede cannot be cleaned with water so if you are in a pinch, lightly scrub your suede shoes with dry terry cloth.
Dry stains can sometimes be literally erased with a clean pencil eraser. Wet stains may be saved with corn starch.
Much like tennis shoes, canvas shoes are durable and can easily be cleaned at home. Because its material differs from tennis shoes, it could be beneficial to spot-treat stains or marks prior to washing.
For delicate or thin canvas shoes, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a drop or two of laundry detergent to gently scrub out any stains.
For heavier canvas like Vans, a scrub brush can be used. Once spot treating is completed, place your shoes in a mesh delicate bag or a pillowcase and add a couple of towels or blankets to your load. Be sure to set your machine to a cold and gentle cycle and air dry your shoes once the cycle is finished.
Because espadrilles are on the delicate side, it is recommended that you clean them with warm soapy water and a toothbrush.
If you are trying to remove a mud stain from your espadrilles, be sure that the mud is dry to prevent wet mud from seeping further into the fabric of your shoes.
Do not scrub too hard. It may also be beneficial to purchase a cleaning kit specifically catered to espadrilles.
Tips and Tricks For Cleaning Shoes
- Use mild laundry detergent to prevent discoloration
- Use toothbrushes and scrub brushes with soft and synthetic bristles
- If your shoes are all white, gently clean them with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser prior to a soap and water wash
- Do not forget to deodorize the inside of your shoes using deodorizing shoe spray, dryer sheets (left inside unworn shoes for 12-24 hours), or baking soda (with leftovers dumped and wiped out before wearing)
- Switching out shoe laces regularly can immediately upgrade your shoes
- The rubber bottoms of your tennis shoes, Vans, and Converse can be cleaned with cotton and acetone-based nail polish remover
- “Shoe Goo” can save a pair of shoes ruined by a premature hole or scuff mark