How To Disinfect Shoes From The Thrift Store | Easy Explanation

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Even though buying used shoes can save you a few dollars, it can also expose you to some foot infections. And how is that possible?

You see, the used shoes could be containing fungi, bacteria, or other viruses that can be transferred to your feet when you put them.

But the good news is that you can solve this by disinfecting the shoes. In this article, we will be discussing how to disinfect shoes from the thrift store. Furthermore, we will explore how to clean used shoes accordingly.

Let’s get on with it, shall we?

Before buying the shoes

As you plan to go for second-hand shoes, you will need to consider a few things. First off, you must ensure that the shoes you purchase are not worn out excessively. You also need to check the soles of the shoes. Preferably, the soles should be clean and that they are not worn down.

Concerning the interior, the inner sole should not have a foot-shaped imprint. Also, do not purchase the shoes if the instep is frayed, heavily creased, or worn down.

How Long Will Fungus and Bacteria Live in the Shoes?

Unfortunately, fungi can stay on the shoe fabric for months. Some fungi tend to cause rashes on your skin. Such fungi are known as the dermatophytes, and they mostly live on keratin. Keratin is a protein found in hair, dead skin, and nails. Dermatophytes live perfectly in a warm and humid environment.

In other words, there are high chances that fungi still live in the second-hand shoes you purchase. Another type of virus found on second-hand wear is papillomavirus that tends to cause plantar warts. Mostly the virus can only be passed if the skin is broken.

Avoid buying used shoes that have a weird odor.

Above all, make sure that you clean the shoes properly before you wear them.

How To Clean Used Shoes?

Cleaning the second-hand shoes can be achieved in several options. You can do it by hand or toss them in your washing machine. Let’s look at how you can clean the used shoes accordingly.

1. Cleaning the insoles

When you have the shoes, start by removing the innersole. If you can remove it, wash it in a basin of soapy water with a soft bristle brush or a washcloth. Preferably, start by soaking the insoles in the soapy water before you scrub them with a washcloth or brush. You can then rinse them thoroughly under cold running water. 

After that, make sure you squeeze the water out of the insoles and allow them to dry outside under a shade. Ensure that you wash them gently.

Alternatively, you can always choose to replace the insoles if they get uncomfortable after drying.

2. Hand Washing 

If you purchased delicate shoes that cannot be washed in the machine, you will have to do it manually. Hand washing the shoes can actually be enjoyable if you do it correctly. 

Here, you will need some warm water and your normal laundry detergent. Mix the detergent with warm water and mix thoroughly. You can then use a rag or brush to scrub the shoes with the mixture. Do so until the shoe is clean enough. After that, use clean warm water to rinse the shoes thoroughly.

For suede shoes, use a soft-bristle brush or rag and clean the shoe in one direction. Ideally, brush the shoe using downward strokes. 

3. Machine Washing

If the shoes are made of canvas or fabric, then you can easily toss them in your washing machine without any worries. But for the plastic, suede, and leather shoes, you might want to wash them by hand.

Before you toss the shoes in the machine, make sure you remove the shoelaces and scrape off the heavy dirt off them. You can use warm water and strong detergent to clean them. If you have an anti-bacterial detergent, it would be better. After that, allow the shoes to dry outside. You can stuff some newspaper inside to suck out the

How To Disinfect Used Shoes?

Disinfecting the shoes helps to get rid of the fungus accordingly. There are several ways to disinfect used shoes.

Let’s explore them together.

1. Use Ultraviolet Light

UV light is known to kill the fungus. The shoes might be clean and smell fresh, but they might still contain fungi. Here, you can use the UV light to sanitize the shoes properly. The UV rays will kill and prevent fungi from growing further.  

Here, you only need to place the shoes inside the sanitizing device and turn on the bulb. The sanitization will take around 15 minutes. There are some devices that automatically go off after the cycle of sanitization. Avoid looking at the UV light directly with your naked eyes.

If you are short of money, you can air the shoes outside in direct sunlight to dry. The sunrays will automatically kill the fungi and germs as the shoes dry.

For the delicate shoes like leather and suede, you might want to use the UV sanitizing devices.

2. Wear Some Socks

Another way of how to sanitize used shoes wearing a clean pair of socks daily can help to prevent the spread of fungi. Ensure that you change the socks whenever they get damp. Avoid wearing shoes with wet socks.

Preferably, wear sweat and moisture-wicking socks with the used shoes. Bamboo or synthetic fiber shocks are always the best choices. Keep in mind that some dye chemicals might cause some bad odors and the dark colors can retain heat. In that case, wear white socks whenever possible. 

Remember that the socks should be a moisture barrier. They should not trap the moisture.

3. Use Disposable Wet Wipes 

The wet shoe wipes should be used daily. This should be done as soon as you get home. The wipes will clean your shoes while deodorizing them. If you have leather shoes, you might want to use the wipes to give them an appealing shine. Keep in mind that the wipes are best for getting rid of the germs on the surface of your shoes.

4. Use a Disinfectant Spray

Keep in mind that a disinfecting spray is not similar to a deodorizing shoe spray. The deodorizing spray is specifically used to get rid of the bad smell. But if you need to kill the fungus in the shoes, you will need a good disinfectant spray.

Ideally, spray the disinfectant spray inside the shoe to avoid staining the surface. Always make sure that the disinfectant spray you use is EPA approved.

Related: For more advice on how to clean a boots, read our other article, “how to clean clarks desert boots” It’s got tons of helpful information.

Home Remedy for Disinfect Used Shoes

Another option of how to sanitize used shoes is to go with the supplies you have at home. For example, vinegar is acidic and it can do an amazing job of killing the fungus in your shoes. 

  • Apple cider vinegar: You can also use apple cider vinegar, which you will spray in a fine mist inside the shoe. Ideally, it should not leave the shoes too damp.
  • Baking soda: Sprinkling some baking soda in the shoe can also help to eliminate the bad odor. Preferably, use the home remedies separately.
  • Bleach: Bleach is another remedy that is known to kill bacteria and fungus. However, it can discolor the shoe. If they are white already, then you can spray the bleach inside to kill the fungus.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide is also similar to bleach. It can kill the fungus and bacteria, but it can also lead to discoloration

Things To Remember when disinfect used shoes

  • Do not use bleach or hydrogen peroxide on colored shoes
  • Never wear shoes with wet socks
  • Avoid storing the shoes indoors when they are still wet
  • Stuff in some newspaper or dry cloth to absorb moisture that might build up in the shoe
  • Never wash plastic, leather, and suede shoes in the machine
  • Avoid scrubbing on the shoe surface vigorously 
  • Do not purchase worn-out used shoes
  • Avoid wearing second-hand shoes without a pair of socks
  • Always wear a clean pair of socks at all times (daily)
  • Do not rinse the shoes with dirty water
  • Never wear used shoes before you wash them
  • Makes sure you scrape off the heavy dirt on the shoes before you toss them in the washing machine

Related: How do you clean white shoes without bleach or baking soda?


There you have it, folks. Now you know how to disinfect used shoes. Make sure you wash them properly with warm water and detergent before you wear them. When disinfecting the shoes, remember to wear a clean pair of socks at all times and that the shoes are dry completely. Above all, choose used shoes that are in good condition. 

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