How To Clean Vintage Dress Shoes

If you enjoy thrift store shopping for the greatest looks of yesteryear, you'll probably want to learn how to clean vintage dress shoes. Cleaning older shoes is a necessity if you want to be able to wear them proudly, but you must be careful before you attempt to clean them. Vintage shoes can often be quite fragile if you're too rough while cleaning. Follow these simple steps if you want to be sure your shoes remain in excellent condition.

  1. Before you do anything else, get rid of all the loose dirt and other things that might be on the inside or outside of the shoe. Use a clean soft cloth and gently wipe away whatever you see on the outside of the shoe, taking care to not be too rough in how you handle it. Many times what you at first may think to be a difficult job of cleaning will instead turn out to mostly be nothing more than a simple wipe or two.
  2. Laces are generally far more delicate on vintage shoes. If they are too frayed, you may not even want to attempt to clean them; instead, remove them from the shoe and place aside for later. When wearing the shoes, you will need good laces, but when displaying the shoes, the original laces are always best, even if they are too frayed to actually be worn. Clean sturdy-looking laces with soft detergent in cold water by hand and allow to dry on a clothesline. Do not clean laces using a washing machine or dryer, because they will too easily be torn.
  3. The next step is to kill bacteria. Vintage shoes are almost never unused, and you should always disinfect used shoes. Using rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball, gently dab a small spot near the edge of the heel to see how the alcohol affects the shoe. If it does not damage the shoe further, wipe the entire outside of the shoe gently with the alcohol to kill all the bacteria. Afterward, set the shoes aside to dry for a number of hours, preferably in a warm place, like next to a heater or in a sunny window.
  4. Mix a cup of water with a quarter cup bleach and fill a spray bottle. Using a cotton ball, dab the concoction to a small spot on the inside of the shoe that you can easily see. Verify that it will not damage the shoe. After ensuring the safety of your shoes, cover the outside of the shoe with a wrapping material such as a garbage bag and spray the inside of the shoes thoroughly. Do not get the solution on the outside of the shoe; just the inside. Afterward, set the shoes in sunlight and let them dry for twenty-four hours.
  5. Baking soda is the key. Sprinkle a light coat inside the shoe, then gently spread the coat around so that it sits across the entire bottom of the shoe. Remember to let it sit for a good long while before moving on to the next step; how long depends on how stinky the shoe was to start with. A few hours is generally enough time, though some shoes may require a full quarter day.
  6. Now it's finally time to clean. Only use a cleaner specifically designed for the material your vintage shoes are made of. Dab the cleaner first on a small portion of the shoe to test, and if it works as desired, clean the entire shoe gently. Take your time with it, and do not ever rub vigorously. If a particular stain does not come out, do not worry: vintage shoes are supposed to look old, and a little stain here or there will only give your shoes character.
  7. If you do not plan on ever selling your shoes, but are very interested in wearing them often, you should replace the insole of the shoe. This will make it much more suitable for everyday use. Just remember that doing so makes the item less interesting to some collectors, but they'll be more comfortable.
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