Make it Last: 3 Ways to Properly Care For Your Footwear

Whether you splurge for $2,000 sustainable shoes or score a $30 secondhand pair, taking care of your footwear matters. Making ethical fashion purchases is just the beginning of the journey to being a responsible consumer. Voting with your dollar is significant, how you maintain the products you invest those dollars in is even more important. Although more footwear brands providing a machine-washable product are arriving on the scene, most shoes still require a bit more attention to detail. From DIY cleaning solutions and protective padding, to proper storage and professional assistance, there are a myriad of ways to make your footwear last.

Use Proper Cleaning Methods

It may be easy to assume that cleaning your shoes requires specialty products and expensive services, yet getting your shoes into top shape can actually be accomplished with materials you already own. Without introducing toxic chemicals or time-consuming processes, your beloved footwear can look as good as new!

Vegan leather

Real leather dress shoes require regular care to retain their quality and style over time. While vegan leather absorbs elements like ink, oil, and wine so maintaining a pair of this kind takes consistent care. Use a natural or mild detergent combined with lukewarm water to produce a cleaning solution. Dip a cloth into this mixture and wipe down your vegan leather items to remove any stains or dirt. Then, use a cloth dipped just in water to remove any excess soap. Use a dry cloth to finish. Vegan accessories brand Labante London also suggests using cornstarch to aid in removing stains which have set over time. Finally, whatever you do, do not dry your vegan leather shoes with a blow dryer or fan! Even though it may be tempting to speed up the process after making it through a rainy day, air drying this material is the best course of action.


Many shoes have rubber soles which easily catch dirt and grime. To clean this area use a dry brush to get rid of any debris on your shoes, then mix equal parts baking soda and laundry detergent to create a cleaning solution. Use this homemade mixture and a toothbrush or cleaning brush to scrub away the rest of the dirt. Make sure to thoroughly wipe down the soles afterwards to avoid slipping the next time you wear your newly cleaned shoes. And lastly, take some nail polish remover or toothpaste to any noticeable scuffs in order to keep them looking brand new.


    While wildly different materials on the outset– cleaning fabric shoes is rather similar to cleaning faux leather or rubber. The first step is to remove any loose dirt with a brush and then mix up a cleaning solution of one teaspoon detergent and two cups of water. Now this is where the methods diverge: dab, do not rub fabric stains! It’s important not to scrub the stain at first in order to avoid spreading or further setting the stain. Only after you’ve lifted most of the stain should you bring a brush or scrubbing method into the picture. After that, plot with only water until all the soap has been “washed out.” Let your clean shoes air dry and enjoy a job well done. And, if all else fails, there are some green dry cleaners which will take on the challenge of caring for your textile shoes.

Picture by Rosie Kerr via Unsplash
Picture by Rosie Kerr via Unsplash

Store and Travel Wisely

Whether packing up your winter boots for the season or going on a vacation, correctly storing shoes is a bigger deal than you might think. It could seem harmless to leave your shoes strewn across the floor of your closet but the truth is that it eventually wears them down. In order to combat this, purchase or save dust bags and shoe boxes for safe storage. Dust bags are especially helpful when travelling to keep shoes protected in your suitcase and at your destination. If your apartment is lacking storage space and keeping every pair of shoes in bags or boxes won’t work, make sure to neatly line them up on the floor or on shelves. Organize your footwear so that there’s a bit of breathing room between each pair and purchase a shoe rack if needed. You can even use your shoe storage as a decorative element in your home by showcasing your most stylish pairs! Just make sure not to store any footwear in direct sunlight to avoid fading.

Find a Skilled Cobbler

Last year Fashion Revolution reported that it takes from 25 to 40 years for some shoes to breakdown in the landfill and Fashionista recently found that most of the 24.2 billion pairs manufactured annually are thrown away. Aside from stains and scuffs, many send their shoes to landfills because of breaking seams, ripped insoles, or broken heels– all of which can be fixed. Despite what you may have been told, worn out shoes can be brought back to life when placed in the right hands. Seams can be mended, insoles can be patched, and heels can be glued back on. Even if your shoes aren’t seemingly falling apart, getting a rubber sole or heel cap put on the bottom of your shoes will ensure durability for years to come. By doing a quick online search you’ll be sure to find a skilled cobbler in no time. Don’t throw away those shoes just yet!

-Audrey Stanton
Top image by Ben Weber via Unsplash

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