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How to clean thrifted shoes in 5 simple steps

Looking for a way to clean your thrifted shoes without damaging them? Then you’ve come to the right place. Let’s break down how to clean thrifted shoes using simple steps that won’t damage the material. So, grab some cleaning supplies and get started!

When is it not a good idea to buy thrifted shoes?

There’s no shame in being thrifty. In fact, many people see it as a smart way to save money, and over the past decade or so, thrifting has gained almost a cult-like popularity. However, there are some things that are best left un-thrifted, and sometimes, that can include shoes. 

Shoes are one of the most personal items we own. We wear them all day long, and because of that, it’s important that they fit well and feel comfortable. However, thrifted shoes don’t always hold up to the test of time, and it’s important to give a secondhand pair of shoes a good lookover prior to purchasing.

If you notice any of the following signs, you may want to pass on a thrifted pair of shoes:

  • Missing soles, laces, or added design elements
  • Cracking material
  • Small fissures or tears in the material (this will lead to large holes rather quickly)
  • Internal or external stains (especially if the stains are due to dirt or sweat)

Keep in mind, unless you’re picking up a thrifted pair of shoes for pure collecting purposes, you should always get a pretty significant discount on what the original price was. For example, a nice pair of boots may set you back $200 — but it would be extremely rare to pay more than $50 for a lightly used pair of nice boots at a thrift store. Make sure you do your due diligence and research brands and market value prior to striking a deal. 

How to clean thrifted shoes

Cleaning thrifted shoes is easier than you think. In most scenarios, you’ll likely only need to use water, dish soap, a toothbrush, and some patience.

  • Prep: Remove any laces and inserts from the shoes. If you want to reuse the laces, be sure to remove them gently. Use tweezers if you can. Feel free to throw these laces in the washer. You’ll be amazed how bright, clean laces can refresh thrifted kicks!  
  • Cleaning Solution: Fill a bucket or sink with warm water and add a few drops of dish soap. (Yes, it really is that simple.) 
  • Soak: Soak your thrifted shoes for about 20 minutes. Afterwards, use a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush to scrub them clean. Just like you would brush your teeth, leverage multiple angles to get as deep into those nooks and crannies as possible. Make sure to rinse off the brush frequently, so you’re not working with dirty soap and bristles.
  • Rinse: Rinse the shoes off with cool water and let them air dry. This is the part where you see your sweat equity pay off! As a pro tip, there are a variety of sealers that can help extend the life of the fabric. To find one for your shoes, head over to Google or Amazon and make sure to read the product reviews thoroughly. 
  • Rebuild: Replace the laces and inserts, and enjoy your newly cleaned shoes! If you’re into thrifted shoes for collecting purposes, consider picking up a shoe display case. There are a ton of really cool ones out there.

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How to extend the life of thrifted shoes

If you spend all that time and money to find that perfect pair of thrifted shoes, then you likely want them to last as long as possible. Fortunately, there are a few simple tricks that can help you extend the life of your thrifted shoes, so you can get more wear out of them. 

  • Rotate: One way to make your shoes last longer is to rotate them regularly. This means alternating between two or more pairs of shoes on a daily basis. Not only does this help to evenly distribute wear, but it also allows each pair of shoes to air out between wearings. 
  • Wipe Down & Air Dry: Another way to prolong the life of your shoes is to take care of them when they get wet. Immediately after wearing them in the rain or snow, wipe them down with a dry cloth and allow them to air dry completely before storing them away. 
  • Polish & Protect: Regular polishing and cleaning will also help to preserve the finish of your shoes and make them look their best. 

By following these simple tips, you can keep your shoes looking new for longer.

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