When walking on a mucky road is unavoidable, clean shoes soon afterward.

How to Clean Discolored Shoes

by Mimi Bullock

Everyday foot travel can leave a faithful pair of shoes looking worse for wear. Some shoe materials, like canvas, stain easier than more durable components, such as leather. Still, even tough shoe materials aren't impervious to staining via contact with the environment. Cleaning dirty shoes quickly, before the mud sets in, and drying prior to water damage is crucial for maintaining your original shoe look. However, discolored shoes may be restored if you're willing to spend some time cleaning the shoes.

Cleaning Leather Shoes

Take the shoes outdoors and bang the soles on a hard surface to remove any crusted dirt. Brush away the debris with a shoe brush.

Place the shoes on newspaper or an old towel. If the shoes are wet, blot away the excess from the outside with a soft towel. Stuff newspapers or a small towel on the inside to draw the remaining moisture out. Place the shoes in a dry location, away from direct sunlight for an hour or overnight if the shoes are soaked.

Apply a cream, leather polish to the shoe in a color that matches the leather. Rub the product into the entire surface of the shoe using a soft cloth.

Dab on a waterproofing compound to protect the shoes before your next outdoor adventure. Apply the compound with a lint-free cloth and let the shoes dry overnight before wearing them.

Caring for Canvas Shoes

Brush canvas shoes with a soft shoe brush to remove ground-in and surface dirt.

Wet a cloth with warm water and grab a gentle bar or liquid soap. Rub the cloth together with the soap to create a lather.

Scrub the canvas with the soapy cloth, paying special attention to discolored, stained areas.

Wipe away soapiness with a damp, clean cloth. Set the shoes on a flat surface to dry, away from direct heat. Using a washing machine and dryer to launder shoes may damage or warp the shoes.

Suede Shoe Care

Rub a suede shoe brush over the surface of the shoe. This will invigorate the fabric and remove debris.

Address oily spots by sprinkling talcum powder of the shoe fabric. Leave the powder in place for a few hours, long enough to absorb the oil. Brush the powder away over a garbage can or outdoors.

Clean the shoes with suede shoe solvent. Follow the product manufacturer's directions.

Items you will need

  • Shoe brush
  • Newspaper
  • Old towel
  • Small towels
  • Cream-based leather shoe polish
  • Soft cloths
  • Waterproofing compound
  • Bar or liquid soap
  • Suede shoe brush
  • Talcum powder
  • Suede shoe solvent


  • Keep a shoe cleaning kit handy for shoe emergencies.
  • Consult a professional shoe shop for severe discolorations.

About the Author

Mimi Bullock's writing reflects her love of traveling the back roads of small towns and sampling the local cuisine. As a regular feature writer for "Southern Hospitality Traveler" and journalist for "Beachin' Magazine," she gets to experience the rich heritage of the southern culture. She is also a licensed cosmetologist who has her own skin care line.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images