Image of the soles of someone's sneakers

5 tips to clean smelly and stained shoe soles.

Last Updated: October 26, 2021

Mud, dog poop, daily grime — shoe soles get dirty and need a wipe down to stay in tip-top shape. We’ve got five easy tips on how to clean shoe soles.

It’s time to cleanse your soles. Maybe you’re a sneakerhead with a pair of Dior Jordan 1’s that need a thorough cleaning. Perhaps you put on your fav trainers to run errands and unwittingly stepped in a fresh wad of gum on the sidewalk.

Mud, dog poop, the wear and tear of daily use — no matter the cause, shoe soles get dirty and require the occasional wipe-down to stay in shape. We’re here to help with five tips to get your mucked-up kicks looking brand new again.

How dirty are your shoe soles?

You won’t be surprised to know that your shoe soles are harbingers of bacteria and germs — but you might be surprised to learn just how filthy they really are.

E. coli, a strain of bacteria found in feces, is a regular guest on shoe soles. In fact, more than 90% of bacteria found on shoe soles — including E. coli and bacteria that cause infectious diseases— are transferred from your shoes to the floors of your home.

To stop the spread of gnarly bacteria from your soles to your floors, it’s a good idea to take your shoes off at the door or wash your shoes regularly to protect you and your family from germs and diseases.

Got more oddly specific items that could use a good cleaning? Take a look at our Clean Team’s guides on how to disinfect toys, remove sticker residue from just about anything, and get wax off your walls.

What you’ll need to clean your soles

Depending on the method you choose, you’ll need some of these products to clean white soles of shoes and bring them back to their original luster.

Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and Grove Co. cleaning caddy

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How to clean rubber shoe soles

We’ve got five easy tips and tricks on how to clean white soles of shoes (or any color really) — pick your fighter, and let’s get cleanin’.

Illustration of bubbles

How to clean shoe soles with baking soda

Step 1: In a small, non-metal bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 1/2 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 tablespoon of warm water. Stir to form a paste.

Step 2: Dip a toothbrush into the baking soda paste, and scrub the soles in a circular motion, then let the paste dry for 30 minutes.

Step 3: After the paste has dried, clap off any excess, and rinse the soles with clean water. A wet rag or sponge works nicely for this step.

Step 4: Repeat as needed until the soles are sparkling clean.

illustration of a toothbrush

How to clean shoe soles with toothpaste

Step 1: Grab a toothbrush and a non-gel, white toothpaste — a colored toothpaste could stain white soles rather than clean them.

Step 2: Squirt a pea-sized amount of toothpaste onto the toothbrush, and scrub the soles in circles, adding more toothpaste as needed.

Step 3: Let the toothpaste sit for 10 minutes, then wipe it off with a damp microfiber cloth. Repeat if necessary.

Why microfiber? Read up on this amazing material and why it’s your best bet for cleaning practically everything.

Illustration of water droplets

How to soak rubber soles

Step 1: Fill a small pan or tray with warm water and a squirt of mild dish soap. Make sure the water is only high enough to soak the soles — fill it too high, and it’ll get the fabric of your shoes wet, too.

Feel free to add an oxygen-based bleach to the mix for extra cleaning power.

Step 2: Swish the dish soap through the water until some suds form.

Place your soles in the water and let them soak for at least 30 minutes — longer if they’re super soiled.

Step 3: Take a toothbrush, and scrub away the loosened bits of dirt and grime, then use a damp cloth (microfiber works great) to wipe ‘em clean.

How to get gum off shoe soles

There are a couple of ways to get gum off the bottom of your shoes.

Method 1: Take a cotton ball and pour some nail polish remover onto it. Rub the gum with the remover until the gum comes away easily.

Method 2: Place your shoes in the freezer for 30 minutes or until the gum is hardened.

Take a butter knife and chip away at the gum — freezing makes the gum brittle and it should fall away from your soles in pieces.

How to remove scuffs from shoe soles

If there are any scuffs or discoloration left after you’ve cleaned the soles of your shoes, use a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide to remove them.

This is also a good maintenance method for those times when you need to remove a small smudge but don’t want to bother with a deep clean.

Take a gander at this video for more tips on how to clean white soles of shoes.

How to get yellow stains out of white shoes

Keeping your white shoes in just-outta-the-box condition is a real feat. Here’s how to get yellow stains out of white Vans or other pairs of white and light-color shoes.

Step 1: Fill a small bowl with 1 cup of hot water, and add one tablespoon of salt. Stir the mixture until the salt has completely dissolved.

Step 2: Vigorously scrub the salt solution onto the yellow shoe stains with a toothbrush.

You might have to re-dip the toothbrush and apply more salt solution to the stains before they start to fade.

Step 3: Let the shoes air dry for 20 minutes. If any stains remain, repeat step 2 until they’re completely gone.

For more pro shoe-cleaning tips, check out our in-depth guide on how to clean white shoes and sneakers (plus laces!) like new again. While you’re at it, keep all your whites looking their best with our guide on how to wash white clothes.

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