How to Sanitize Dress Shoes

by Dan Ketchum

Hand-me-downs and thrift-store finds are great values for budget-conscious fashionistas, but used dress shoes may come with a few unwanted surprises. Fortunately, it only takes a few common products and a little time to eliminate odors and prevent nasty foot fungi. Of course, the sanitizing process varies a bit depending on the shoe material -- in particular, you'll have to take a different tact for genuine leather dress shoes. But for most of your dress shoes, whether they're second hand or they've been yours from the get go and they need freshening up, a little homespun TLC will have them ready to trot.

Cover a work surface in a well-ventilated area with newspaper and place your equipment and the shoes on the surface.

Make a mixture of mild antibacterial liquid soap and warm water in a bowl, dip a clean towel into it and gently scrub the surface of the shoe with the dampened part of the towel. Dampen a towel with clean water to rinse the soap from the shoe and then thoroughly pat the shoe dry. This works for vinyl and imitation leather dress shoes, but avoid rinsing genuine leather or suede.

Apply a coat of leather saddle oil that contains fungicides to your leather dress shoes, then wait about 30 minutes and apply a second coat. To apply, brush the oil onto the shoes with the paintbrush-like applicator included with the product or massage the oil into the leather with a circular motion using a soft, lint-free cloth. This kills bacteria and helps to preserve the leather.

Spray the insoles of the shoe with household spray bleach or an anti-fungal spray until they are lightly moistened, not soaking wet. If the insoles are removable, take them out of the shoe before spraying them. Spray only the insoles if they are glued into the shoe, not the outside of the shoe.

Leave the shoes -- and insoles, if you have removed them -- outside on a clear, dry night. This allows them to dry completely, reduces the presence of fungal spores and airs the shoes out, helping to alleviate odors. If you can't leave your dress kicks outside, allow them to dry completely in a cool indoor space or next to an open window before wearing them.

Replace the insoles, if necessary, and coat the inside of each shoe with a generous sprinkling of anti-fungal powder. Allow the shoes to absorb the powder in a cool, dry, indoor space for about 48 hours. Shake the excess powder out in the garbage and you're ready to sport your freshly sanitized dress shoes.

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Items you will need

  • Newspaper
  • Clean towels
  • Mild antibacterial liquid soap
  • Bowl or basin
  • Leather saddle oil with fungicides (optional)
  • Clean, lint-free cloths
  • Spray bleach or anti-fungal spray
  • Anti-fungal powder
  • Anti-mildew leather wax (optional)


  • If your dress shoes have shoelaces, remove them before you start the sanitizing process. If possible, replace the laces with a new pair for both sanitary and style-oriented purposes after sanitizing the shoes.
  • For leather dress shoes, wax with anti-mildew leather wax after you've shaken out the anti-fungal powder to help prevent moisture from entering the shoe. Store your leather dress shoes in a clean, dry place to prevent mold, mildew and fungus.
  • Consider purchasing new inserts for your dress shoes. This simple addition offers a sanitary option that may increase the shoes' comfort.

About the Author

With a diverse professional background and a decade of experience as a freelance writer, Dan has contributed lifestyle content -- from fashion to travel to fitness and more -- to publishers including Chron, Fortune, Sony, GlobalPost, ModernMom, Moviefone,, Techwalla and dozens of others.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images