How to Clean Shoes with a Toothbrush

How to Clean Shoes with a Toothbrush

Even if you’re not a hardcore sneakerhead, knowing how to keep your shoes clean is a necessary life skill.

However, the tools and methods you use depend on the shoe’s colour, material, and condition. But did you know that an old toothbrush can work wonders?

Below, we discuss cleaning shoes with toothbrush. We’ll cover what areas you can use a toothbrush on, the products that it works with, and how to clean shoes with a toothbrush.


Cleaning Shoes with a Toothbrush

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that a toothbrush is a useful shoe-cleaning tool. After all, the bristles are soft and designed to get into small gaps, making them perfect for removing dirt from tight areas on your shoes.

Better yet, a toothbrush is quite a multi-purpose tool. You can use a toothbrush to clean:

  • Leather uppers
  • Fabric uppers (canvas, polyester, etc.)
  • Soles
  • Insoles

In other words, a toothbrush is suitable for cleaning pretty much any area of a shoe!


Choosing the Right Toothbrush for Shoe Cleaning


It’s typically best to clean shoes with an old toothbrush, but this is only because it saves you money compared to buying a new one for this purpose.

If you want to use a new toothbrush, go ahead!

The size of the toothbrush’s head doesn’t really matter. Larger heads cover more surface area, but smaller ones can get into smaller gaps.

If you’ve got the option, go for a smaller brush because it’ll usually provide better cleaning.

 What does matter, though, is the stiffness of the bristles. A stiffer toothbrush is better because it’ll get into gaps more easily.

Just make sure you don’t press too hard when cleaning leather, as it could scratch. The risk is pretty low, but it’s worth mentioning.


How to Clean Shoes with a Toothbrush

clean shoes with toothbrush

Once you’ve found your perfect shoe-cleaning toothbrush, it’s time to move on to how you use it. The steps are pretty simple, but we’ve broken them down into the different shoe areas.

Cleaning the soles

This method works for white, black and coloured soles. If your shoes have leather soles, follow the method for leather uppers below.

  1. Remove as much loose dirt and debris as you can before the shoes get wet.
  2. Mix 1 teaspoon of laundry detergent with around 250 ml of warm water.
  3. Dip the toothbrush into the mix and scrub it on the soles of your shoes. Keep rinsing the toothbrush as you go along.
  4. Rinse the toothbrush as much as possible and then replace the detergent mix with clean water. Use the brush to rub this into the soles to rinse off any excess.
  5. Dry the soles with a clean towel.


Cleaning canvas and fabric uppers

  1. Knock off as much loose dirt as possible before you start.
  2. Mix 2 teaspoons of detergent with 250 ml of warm water.
  3. Scrub the shoes’ uppers using the toothbrush. The aim is to create a lather and work the mixture into the material.
  4. Remove the insoles and clean them too.
  5. Use a clean sponge and clean, warm water to remove as much of the mixture as possible.
  6. Leave the shoes somewhere out of direct sunlight to dry.

cleaning shoes


Cleaning leather shoes

Cleaning leather shoes with water is a bit of a risk. Similarly, washing up liquid and laundry detergent can strip oils out of the leather, causing it to dry up and crack.

If you’ve got some stubborn stains, use a few drops of gentle washing up liquid and warm water to clean them off.

However, a toothbrush can be useful for removing stubborn dirt from around the join between the sole and the upper.

You can obviously use a toothbrush to clean the soles of leather shoes, but try to avoid getting any liquid on the leather itself.

 No matter how you choose to clean your leather shoes, make sure you use a moisturising cream on them after, such as this Kaps Shoe Care Cream. Provided you’ve got something like this to hand, you can use washing up liquid or laundry detergent to clean the leather itself.


Final Thoughts

cleaning shoes with toothbrush

Cleaning shoes with toothbrush is a fairly easy job. Toothbrushes are versatile tools when it comes to shoe care. You could probably even apply shoe polish with one if you wanted.

Using an old toothbrush is probably the cheapest and most eco-friendly option. But just make sure it’s completely clean before you start, and that you don’t use it to brush your teeth again after!