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How to Clean Shoe Insoles

Cleaning shoe insoles is a vital aspect of foot care that often goes overlooked. Insoles bear the brunt of daily foot traffic, accumulating dirt, sweat, and odor. This can lead not only to an unpleasant smell but also to the deterioration of the insoles and the inside of your shoes. Proper maintenance can extend their lifespan, improve foot comfort, and prevent fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. In this detailed guide, we will explore several methods to clean shoe insoles effectively, tackle challenging stains and odors, and provide practical advice for regular insole maintenance.

Table of Contents

Understanding Insole Materials

Insoles come in various materials, with foam, gel, leather, and cork being the most common. Each material requires specific care. Foam insoles are prone to absorbing sweat and can be cleaned with mild detergents, while gel insoles need gentle wiping to avoid damage. Leather insoles demand special leather cleaners to prevent cracking, and cork insoles benefit from spot cleaning and natural drying methods.

Pre-Cleaning Steps

Start by removing the insoles from your shoes. Tap them gently to remove loose dirt. If there is a noticeable odor, apply a light sprinkle of baking soda on the insoles and let them sit overnight. The baking soda acts as a natural odor neutralizer, preparing the insoles for a thorough cleaning.

Manual Cleaning Methods

For a hands-on approach, use a soft brush or cloth, mild soap, and lukewarm water. Gently scrub the insoles, being careful not to soak them as this could cause damage to the material or the shape. For tougher dirt, a toothbrush can get into the crevices and remove accumulated grime.

Machine Washing Insoles

If the insoles are machine-washable, as indicated by the manufacturer, place them in a mesh laundry bag and select a delicate cycle with cold water. Avoid using harsh detergents or bleach, as these can break down the insole material.

Stain Removal Techniques

For stains, create a paste with baking soda and water or use a specialized stain remover. Apply the paste or stain remover to the affected area and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before scrubbing off. Leather insoles, on the other hand, should be treated with a cleaner appropriate for leather care.

Deodorizing Insoles

To combat odors, use a mixture of vinegar and water, or an essential oil blend with antibacterial properties like tea tree or eucalyptus. Spritz the insoles lightly and allow them to dry completely. Commercial insole deodorizers are also available for more persistent problems.

Drying Insoles Properly

After cleaning, place the insoles in an airy, shaded spot to dry. Do not put them in the dryer or expose them to intense heat, as this could warp or shrink them. Proper drying is crucial to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Preventive Care and Maintenance

Regular cleaning, along with alternating insoles if you have more than one pair, can prevent excessive wear and tear. Using foot powders or moisture-wicking socks can also help in keeping insoles fresh.

When to Replace Insoles

Over time, insoles can become compressed and lose their supportive qualities. If you notice any signs of severe wear, odors that don’t go away with cleaning, or if the insoles are no longer comfortable, it might be time to replace them.


Cleaning your shoe insoles not only promotes foot hygiene but also enhances your overall shoe-wearing experience. By following these steps, you can ensure that your insoles remain clean, odor-free, and comfortable for as long as possible.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Agents

Selecting the appropriate cleaning agents is crucial when cleaning insoles. Opt for mild, non-abrasive cleaners that are suitable for the insole’s material. Harsh chemicals can damage the insoles, making them brittle and less effective in providing support and comfort. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations before using any cleaning solution.

Maintaining Insole Shape and Support

While cleaning, take care not to bend or twist the insoles excessively. This can damage their structural integrity, leading to a loss of support and shape. Insoles are designed to provide ergonomic support to your feet, and maintaining their shape is essential for them to function correctly.

Spot Cleaning Vs. Full Cleaning

Differentiate between spot cleaning and full cleaning. Spot cleaning is suitable for minor stains or when the insoles have just started to develop an odor. Full cleaning should be reserved for when insoles have significant dirt build-up or a persistent smell. Understanding when each type of cleaning is necessary can save time and preserve the life of your insoles.

Using Natural Cleaning Alternatives

For those preferring natural alternatives, consider using solutions like white vinegar, baking soda, or lemon juice. These natural ingredients can effectively clean and deodorize without the need for synthetic chemicals.

Dealing with Persistent Smells

When dealing with persistent smells, it may take several treatments to completely deodorize the insoles. After cleaning, placing them in a sealed bag with activated charcoal or coffee grounds can help absorb stubborn odors.

Foot Hygiene and Insole Care

Maintaining good foot hygiene is paramount for reducing the need for frequent insole cleanings. Washing your feet regularly, drying them thoroughly before putting on shoes, and using antifungal foot sprays can all contribute to healthier insoles and feet.


Caring for your shoe insoles is a straightforward but important task that enhances the comfort and longevity of your footwear. By understanding the materials, employing the right cleaning techniques, and incorporating regular maintenance, you can ensure that your insoles stay in top shape, providing the support and comfort your feet deserve.