How to Clean Shoes from the Thrift Store Before you Sell Them

Before we get into how to clean thrift store shoes, I just want to say that obviously I am not condoning selling yucky shoes. You should always clean them well before selling them and you shouldn’t list dirty shoes to sell.

Most thrift store shoes aren’t super dirty, but they could always use sanitization and a good wipe down before you list them for sale. Sometimes you’ll also need to remove a small stain or two on a shoe before you can sell it.

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Let’s go over the ways that you can easily clean shoes from the thrift store before you sell them.

1.) General cleaning and sanitizing shoes before listing

No matter how clean a shoe looks, I always like to give it a quick clean before listing it. I can’t stand the idea of shipping out dirty shoes! These Clorox microscrubber wipes are top-tier for this because they disinfect while giving your shoes a good clean.

They have a smooth side and a scrubby side that really helps get into small nooks and crannies in your shoes to thoroughly remove dirt, dust, and whatever the heck else is hiding in there. I use them to clean the outside of most shoes. I also use these antibacterial moist wipes to sanitize the soles of the shoes and wipe them down before listing. You can also find something very similar in the dollar store or in the Walmart checkout line and they work just as well!

2.) Remove sticker or gum residue with Goo Gone

You probably already know about this stuff because it’s awesome, but definitely keep it on hand for getting sticker residue off on any thrifted shoes you buy before listing them. You’ll be surprised at how often you can run into shoes with the tags still on them at the thrift store, so this is super helpful for those moments.

This will also remove permanent marker on rubber-bottom shoes (not leather-bottom shoes, though!) so that’s helpful if your thrift store writes on the bottoms of their shoes like my local Goodwill does.

Check Goo Gone price on Amazon (P.S. Just get the one-pack of this, it will last you for a while, so no need to grab a ton of it!) Also recommend grabbing some Scotty peelers to help you scrape off any stickers or labels easier, they’re super cheap and help save time.

3.) Cleaning up scuffed leather shoes

Dr. Martins Wonder Basalm is the BEST when it comes to getting scuffs off of scuffed-up leather shoes and boots. This stuff always saves me when I get home and notices scuffs that I didn’t see in the thrift store and it removes a surprising amount of scuffing. So glad I discovered it and I’ll always keep this in my reselling toolkit. It’s a clear conditioning balm, but I do recommend spot testing this on lighter leathers before going all in. You can use it on handbags, too.

4.) Cleaning dirt out of the bottom of shoes

Grab a cheap grout cleaning brush or another, thin cleaning brush to clean dirt out of the bottom of sneakers and other shoes that are difficult to clean the bottoms of. Just use soap and water and give the bottom fo the shoe a good scrub and that stuff comes right out. Highly recommend doing this over a bathtub or a sink!

You can usually get good cleaning brushes at the dollar store, but here’s a link to my favorite skinny cleaning brush set for this on Amazon.

5.) Whitening the bottoms of sneakers with a magic eraser

Chances are, you probably already have a magic eraser or two floating around somewhere. They work well for cleaning up the bottoms of white sneakers with rubber bottoms, like Converse, Vans, etc. Those shoes always look so much better after giving them a once-over with a magic eraser and I find that they sell for a bit more when I take the time to do this. I’ve found that you don’t need to have the brand name unless you prefer it and I usually buy this pack of unbranded melamine sponges to save a little.

6.) Cleaning up stains on suede shoes

Stains on suede weren’t something I knew how to handle until a few months ago when I finally had the idea to look it up online. I found this suede stain eraser, which I’ve been using ever since and it really works. I’m honestly thankful for this, because I had a few pairs of suede shoes that I have been refusing to list because of a couple of stains on them and I’m terrified of disappointing a buyer. They’ve since been listed and 4 out of 5 have sold with positive reviews! 🙂

7.) Getting hair and dust off of suede/faux fur shoes

With any shoes that pick up hair, you’ll want some lint rollers to remove that hair for sure. As a seller, the last thing you want is a customer opening up their package only so find hair on their shoes. I usually pick up a multipack of lint rollers every other month and use them on most of the dry-clean-only clothes I sell as well as any shoes that have hair on them!

8.) Shining up leather shoes

This is optional, but using leather wipes or a leather cleaner is amazing for leather shoes and makes them look so much better in photos and in person. I usually reserve these for higher-end leather boots and shoes but they really do give your shoes the wow effect and they definitely don’t look like thrifted shoes after giving them a wipe down with one of these.

And that’s how you clean thrifted shoes!

It’s not a ton of products, but it really makes a difference in your listing photos as well as on the first impression your customer has when they get their package.

Shoes are pretty easy to clean if you have the right stuff on hand and people are (rightfully) really sensitive to dirty shoes, so I tend to spend a little more time cleaning shoes than I do on other items that I sell.

What’s your cleaning routine for thrifted shoes? If you have any questions for me about how to clean thrifted shoes before listing them to sell, let me know in the comments and I’ll help ya out!

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