How to clean your summer sandals for winter storage

In most parts of the country, winter is here. And though you may be stubbornly holding out and wearing your summer shoes and sandals still, it is time to face the fact that summer shoes and sandals need to be put away for the winter. To avoid the cluttered doorway look and ensure that your favorite spring sandals won’t be squished in a pile somewhere, there are a few steps to take.

Sandals and shoes are not only an investment; they are a reflection of your personal style and comfort, so it’s important to store them with care. It is also essential to clean your tennis shoes and sandals before you store them for the winter so they don’t sit there soiled for months. They’ll also be fresh and looking new when you take them out again.


The first step to getting your summer sandals and shoes ready for winter storage is to sort through your shoes and determine what pairs your need to store and those you need to get rid of. If you have broken pairs of sandals, uncomfortable pairs, pairs that cause blisters, etc., odds are you will never wear them. These are the pairs to get rid of. If your favorite pair is broken, consider having them repaired before storing them. If you don’t plan on fixing them, don’t keep them. You can always buy a new pair in the spring, but there is no point in wasting space by storing a broken pair.


Once you’ve chosen the keepers, it’s time to clean them. The first step is to remove dirt and grime from them using a stiff-bristled brush. Take the sandals or shoes outside and use the brush to remove as much loose mud and grime as possible. If your sandals are leather or suede, you will want to use a softer brush so you don’t damage them.

Cloth or canvas

The next step is to mix equal parts baking soda and warm water in a small container to form a paste. Using an old toothbrush, scrub the mixture onto the sandal to remove both dirt and odors. After cleaning, rinse the paste off with cool, running water, and use an old towel to absorb any excess liquid. 


For leather sandals and shoes, soak a sponge in equal parts water and distilled white vinegar and scrub the outside of the sandal. This will remove surface grime and dirt without damaging the leather. Once the shoes or sandals are dry, apply a leather conditioner to ensure the leather doesn’t dry out while in storage. 


Use rubbing alcohol and fine-grit sandpaper to remove dirt and grime. Gently sand the suede and take care not to grind all of the suede away. Tough stains can be removed with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. Be careful not to get water on the suede, and spray them with a suede protector when you’ve finished to protect them in the future. 


Rubber flip-flops can be tossed into the washing machine on the delicate setting. Use cold water and a quarter of the detergent amount you would typically use for clothes, combined with 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar. The detergent will clean the sandals, and the vinegar will eliminate odors. If there is still dirt on the footbed of your rubber flip flops after washing them, use a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol to remove any stubborn dirt and grime. Rubbing alcohol also removes odors, so you can repeat this step as needed. 


Regardless of the method you use to clean your sandals or shoes, you should dry them all the same way. Air-drying in an open area away from direct heat or sunlight is the best method. Keep them on a shaded porch or in the garage for best results. The better the air circulation, the faster they will dry. As a general rule, never put shoes or sandals in the dryer. The tumbling and hot air can damage and misshape them.

Pre-storage prep

Once your sandals are dry, they are ready for storage. Shoes, on the other hand, could use another step if they need some additional deodorizing – like utilizing baking soda for smelly shoes. Sprinkle the inside of smelly shoes with baking soda to eliminate lingering odors. Let the shoes sit overnight, and dump the excess powder out before placing them in storage. Take care when using baking soda with leather shoes, as repeated applications can dry the leather out.

Stuff your sandals and shoes with newspaper before storing them to absorb moisture and odors. If your shoes are light-colored, plain white tissue paper or brown shipping stuffing works better since it doesn’t have ink on it and won’t discolor your shoes as newspaper could.

Use leather conditioner on your leather sandals and shoes before storing them to ensure they are protected during the winter months. Spray suede shoes and sandals with a suede protector, and ensure there is no moisture in the area where you are storing them.


Use clear plastic shoeboxes to see which pair is which and quickly find the pair you want. Plastic bins prevent dust and bugs from getting into your freshly-cleaned shoes. You can put scented dryer sheets in each box to keep the shoes or sandals smelling fresh all winter. Many plastic bins are designed to be stacked, so you can pile them into a closet neatly. If you don’t have room in a closet, under the bed is a great place to store not-needed shoes for a while.

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