How to clean second hand shoes

I get very mixed reactions from people when I tell them that I buy and wear shoes from second hand stores.  Some people are fine with it, but others seem distinctly grossed out at the prospect of treading around in someone else’s shoes.


I can understand the reservations of the nay-sayers.  Shoes are the receptacles for all kinds of nasties, such as athlete’s foot and other types of fungus.  A well-worn pair of shoes can also be a bit smelly and sweaty, which isn’t very appealing.

Today I thought I’d give you a quick run-down of how I choose second-hand shoes and how I get them ready for a debut outing on my tootsies.

DSCF8597When it comes to buying pre-loved shoes, I’m very selective.  I like to choose pairs that look as though they’ve had little to no wear.  The less wear and tear the shoes have had, the less likely they are to harbour bacteria.  Also, shoes have a tendency to conform to the shape of the wearer’s foot with time, so a well-loved pair will probably be quite uncomfortable and awkward to wear.  Here are the things I like to check before buying a pair of pre-loved shoes:

– Take a gander at the soles.  Unworn shoes will have clean, unscuffed soles.  If the bottoms of the shoes are scuffed, dirty or worn-down in places, they’ve probably been well worn.

– Check the insides of the shoes for signs of wear.  Discard any shoes that have frayed in-soles or imprints of the previous owners feet.

– The instep of a well-worn pair of shoes may be stretched out or frayed.  If there are signs that the original shape of the shoe has changed (such as stretching around the toes or folding-down at the heel) I wouldn’t purchase them.

Once you’ve selected a pair of shoes that fit well and you’ve taken them home it’s really important to disinfect them before wear.  Even if you plan on wearing the shoes with socks or stockings, it’s a good idea to give them a good clean before their first trip out.  I use a two-step process to clean second-hand shoes before I wear them.

DSCF84111. Give the insides of the shoe a good spray with an anti-bacterial spray.  I like to use Glen 20, which deodorises and kills germs and bacteria.  It also dries clear without a sticky residue so it’s less likely to damage the shoe.  Be particularly careful with fabric shoes as the spray may stain or discolour the finish of the shoe.  Try to keep the spray confined to the inside of the shoe if you can.

2. After I’ve given the shoe a good spray, I’ll put them outside in the sun for a few hours.  Sunlight is a great anti-bacterial agent, and a bit of sun will help to kill off any residual nasties.

And that’s it.  After this process, my shoes are usually ready for their debut trip out on the town.

If you have any questions about cleaning or buying second-hand clothing, feel free to drop me a line.  I’d be happy to try to answer them.



  1. I am a germaphobe and never thought I’d be considering a pair of 2nd hand shoes but when I jokingly bid on ebay for a $250 pair of Nike’s (in excellent condition) and surprisingly won them for $16… well I just had to try not sanitising them but sterilising these bad boys.
    I purchased pure hospital grade alcohol which kills 100% of everything. Poured into a small spray bottle and first thing I did is remove the inner souls and spray A LOT on both sides.
    Then turned my attention to the shoes and sprayed even more towards the front toe area where the great danger potentially lies. I of course sprayed the rest of these sneakers – inside and out – every few hours the first day and consecutively for 2 more days virtually saturating them, drying them and again
    re-saturating them before I wore them.
    The good news is 1 month on the shoes work a treat, no nasty surprises and despite concerns by friends the excessive alcohol might dissolve the glue used in parts of the shoe were wrong.
    In conclusion Im certain I could’ve in much less time and effort but what price your health?

  2. Ahhh nice tips – I often see nice shoes but hesitate on buying them because i’ve seen enough people with feet problems and don’t want to risk not being able to wear sandals anymore, you know? But like this it honestly sounds like they’re almost “new” in terms of bacteria.

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