More Than Washing Shoes- The Best Tricks to Make Old Shoes New Again

Trying to figure out how to clean hand me down shoes? We’ve got the best advice for how to clean used shoes (AND how to make them look new again!), to help your kids show off their style on a budget. 

I don’t know about you all, but this mama is on a BUDGET.  My kids do get the occasional new pair of shoes, and I buy new uniforms for school (only if I can’t find a hand-me-down version). But more often than not, my kids are sporting hand-me-down shoes or clothes I purchased at a consignment shop.

But even though my kids are rocking someone else’s outgrown duds, I don’t want them to LOOK like a dud. And washing shoes in a washing machine can feel like a pretty big risk! So over the years, I’ve found lots of ways to keep their clothes looking fresh, right down to their kicks.

Through some trial and error, I’ve finally found out how to clean used shoes, from Converse to Skechers light up shoes. It’s a bit of a process, but MAN does it make a big difference.

A pair of shoes show dirty first and then clean.; Text overlay: Giving new life to old shoesThis post contains affiliate links. You can read the full details at our legal page. Thanks for supporting The Salty Mamas!

Step One: How to Clean Shoe Laces

Those white laces aren’t likely to stay white for long, so you’ll start by removing and stained or dirty laces.  I recommend buying a fresh new pair if you can.

You can often find them at the Dollar Store, or you can spring for these cool no-tie ones (perfect for littler kids!) It’s a super cheap way to make your hand me down shoes look cleaner, and really gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

A bowl with dirt shoe laces soaking in solution with an oxi clean bottle in the back.

If you can’t get new ones, give the old laces a nice soak in some OxiClean. Let them soak for about ten minutes, and then rinse with super hot water. There should be a notable difference when you’re done.

Step Two: Scrub the Edges and Toes of Your Hand Me Down Shoes

After a thousand scuffs and scrapes, you need to know how to clean used shoes, especially the toes.  Especially if your kids are rocking Converse! Use a magic eraser to gently wipe the discoloration from the toe and edges of your shoes.

A magic clean eraser sitting on top of a pair of converse.

Step Three: Washing Shoes

This is where you might take a gamble. Some shoes can handle a cycle in the washer, but not all. So if the shoes are in pretty bad shape, you might consider washing shoes with a load of towels and seeing what happens.

If you’re a little more worried, or if you’re cleaning light up shoes, you can spot clean used shoes using OxiClean Laundry Spray. Start with an inconspicuous area (like the inner arch) to test how the colors hold up to the spray. If it goes well, spray the fabric of the entire shoe.

If you’re trying to figure out how to clean Twinkle Toes shoes, don’t despair- the lights will still work after spot cleaning!

Related Post: Do Rothys Make Your Feet Stink? How to Clean Rothys the Right Way

Step Four: Scrub Those Used Shoes!

Got some stubborn stains? No need to give up! You might just need a different tool (and a little elbow grease).

A pair of dirty shoes sitting next to a pig shaped scrub brush with a bottle of Oxiclean in the back ground

I love to use a dish scrubber I picked up at the Dollar Store to work the stain remover into the fabric of the shoe. It can be rough on fabric, so test a small spot first.  You can also use a soft toothbrush to achieve the same results.

The bristles of either scrubber will help the stain remover access all parts of the fabric and get down to the tough stains below.

Step Five: Rinse with Hot Water

Super hot water is the key to getting out stubborn stains and keeping shoes from looking dingy. If you’re cleaning Skechers light up shoes or similar, try to keep the water away from the lights. If not, feel free to give the shoes an all-over deep rinse.

You also want to make sure you got out any cleaner or soap, as these can get itchy (and attract more dirt!) over time.

Step Six: Allow Your Kids’ Shoes to Dry

A few hours in the sun will do the trick (and can also remove some staining, too!), but if you don’t have that kind of time, you can give them a tumble in the dryer. Run them through on an air-only cycle (with a towel or two to deaden the noise!) until they are dry.

Related Post: Why We LOVE Wee Blessing for Our Kids’ Clothes 

Step Seven: Remove Scuffs from Kids’ Shoes

So you know that scene in Pretty Woman where she’s zipping up her…um… “lady of the night” boots, and she notices a white scuff on the heel? She hits that scuff with a Sharpie and moves on with her day…er…night.

So it’s time to pretty woman those hand-me-down shoes, mama.

If you’re working with black shoes or you’ve got an array of colored sharpies, cover up scuffs in your kids’ shoes with permanent ink. I particularly like these fabric markers for the job, since they come in assortment of kid-friendly colors.

A close up of a child's pair of sketchers one has been touched up with a sharpie marker

I’m not gonna lie to you, these scuffs won’t suddenly become invisible. Heck, as you can see up there, I didn’t even have the right color marker, so I used purple instead of pink. But they’ll be a lot less glaringly obvious than a streak of white on a sparkly pink strap, which is a big improvement.

A before and after image of a sparkly red shoe with the color touched up.

Step 8: Adding the Finishing Touches

Trim any loose threads, pull fuzz out of Velcro enclosures, and put the laces back in place. Your shoes should be looking shiny and fresh. Betcha no one would even know your kids were rocking second hand shoes!


There’s no shame in using hand-me-downs. I mean, Abram only spent about three weeks in a size 7 shoe! I’m not trying to spend a bunch of money for something he’ll barely wear. But you CAN make a difference just by figuring out how to clean used shoes, making those old hand me down shoes look brand new again.

Are you Team Hand Me Downs, too?

Looking for more frugal cleaning tips? Head here next-


2 thoughts on “More Than Washing Shoes- The Best Tricks to Make Old Shoes New Again”

  1. This is what I will be doing this weekend….cleaning up kids shoes before they start school because I refuse to buy them new sneakers again! I need to try the marker trick on some of their boots too….they always immediately scuff up the toes.

    • I made the mistake of buying my daughter new shoes this school year- and the black top destroyed them by day three! Should have just listened to my own advice and made an old pair LOOK new again.

Comments are closed.