how long to soak shoes in vinegar 1
how long to soak shoes in vinegar 1

Have you ever wondered how long you should soak your shoes in vinegar to remove that stubborn smell? Well, look no further because we have the answer for you!

Vinegar has long been praised for its natural deodorizing properties, and it can work wonders in eliminating odors from your shoes.

But the burning question remains – how long should you soak your beloved footwear in this magical elixir?

Read on to find the perfect duration to achieve the freshest-smelling shoes you’ve ever had!

What is vinegar, and why use it to soak shoes?

How Long To Soak Shoes In Vinegar?

Definition of vinegar

Vinegar is a liquid made through the fermentation process of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria. Due to its acidic nature, it is often used in cooking, cleaning, and various household applications. Vinegar is a versatile and affordable product that offers a range of benefits, including its effectiveness in soaking shoes.

Benefits of using vinegar on shoes

Soaking shoes in vinegar can be highly beneficial for several reasons. Firstly, vinegar acts as a natural deodorizer, neutralizing unpleasant odors caused by bacteria and sweat accumulation in shoes.

Additionally, vinegar has mild antimicrobial properties that can help eliminate fungus and bacteria that may be present in shoes. Furthermore, vinegar can help remove stains, dirt, and grime from shoe surfaces, restoring their original appearance. Lastly, vinegar can also help soften and break in stiff leather shoes, making them more comfortable.

Types of vinegar to use

Not all vinegar types are created equal when it comes to soaking shoes. While white distilled vinegar is the most common option and generally suitable for most shoe materials, other vinegar varieties can be used for specific purposes.

Apple cider vinegar, for example, can be an excellent choice for cleaning and maintaining the quality of leather shoes. Red wine vinegar, on the other hand, may be preferred for certain types of canvas shoes. Ultimately, the choice of vinegar will depend on your shoes’ specific needs and materials.

Preparing the shoes for vinegar soaking

Removing dirt and debris

Before soaking your shoes in vinegar, removing any dirt, debris, or loose particles from their surface is essential. Use a soft brush or cloth to gently brush off any visible dirt, paying close attention to crevices and hard-to-reach areas. This step will ensure that the vinegar can penetrate the shoe material more effectively during soaking.

Prewashing the shoes

If your shoes are excessively dirty or stained, it may be beneficial to prewash them before soaking. Prewashing can be done by hand or washing machine, depending on the shoe material and care instructions.

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines or use a gentle detergent specifically designed for shoes. Prewashing will help rid the shoes of any heavy grime or stains, allowing the vinegar soak to be more effective.

How Long To Soak Shoes In Vinegar?

Choosing the proper vinegar-to-water ratio

To achieve optimal results while soaking your shoes in vinegar, using the correct vinegar-to-water ratio is crucial. The ideal ratio often depends on the shoe material and the severity of the odor or stains.

For most situations, 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water is recommended. This dilution will minimize the risk of damaging the shoe material while providing vinegar-soaking benefits. However, for highly resistant odors or stains, you may consider adjusting the ratio to 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water.

Soaking duration based on the shoe material

Leather shoes

Regarding leather shoes, vinegar soaking duration should be cautiously approached. Leather is a delicate material easily damaged by excessive moisture or prolonged contact with acidic liquids like vinegar.

Limiting the vinegar soak for leather shoes to a maximum of 15-30 minutes is generally recommended. This timeframe should be sufficient to remove odors and stains without compromising the leather’s integrity.

Canvas shoes

Canvas shoes are more durable than leather, allowing for a slightly longer vinegar soak without significant risks. Soaking canvas shoes in a vinegar-water solution for approximately 30-60 minutes should effectively eliminate odors and stains. However, avoid soaking them for too long, as extended exposure to vinegar may cause discoloration or weaken the fabric.

Suede shoes

Suede shoes require extra care due to their delicate nature. Unlike leather or canvas, suede is more susceptible to water damage and discoloration. When soaking suede shoes in vinegar, keeping the soaking time to a minimum is recommended. Aim for 10-15 minutes, ensuring the shoes are not fully submerged in the vinegar solution. This limited exposure will help prevent unwanted effects on the suede’s texture and appearance.

Rubber or plastic shoes

Rubber or plastic shoes are highly resistant to damage from vinegar, allowing for a longer soaking time if necessary. These shoes can be soaked in vinegar for up to 2 hours without significant risks.

However, remember to monitor the shoes during the process and avoid leaving them in vinegar for an extended period, as it may lead to potential deterioration or color fading.

How Long To Soak Shoes In Vinegar?

Mesh or knit shoes

Mesh or knit shoes are often breathable and lightweight, making them popular for athletic activities. When soaking these types of shoes in vinegar, keeping the duration relatively short is recommended. A soaking time of approximately 20-30 minutes should help eliminate odors and refresh the shoes without causing any adverse effects on the mesh or knit material.

Factors influencing soaking time

Degree of odor or stains

The severity of odor or stains in your shoes will significantly determine the appropriate soaking time. If the shoes have a strong odor or are heavily stained, it may be necessary to extend the soaking duration slightly.

Remember that excessive soaking times may increase the risk of damage, so balancing the desired results and potential risks is essential.

Length of time since last cleaning

If it has been a long time since you last cleaned your shoes, they may require a more extended soaking duration to remove built-up dirt, bacteria, and odors.

Shoes not cleaned for an extended period may benefit from soaking them in vinegar for slightly longer than the recommended time. However, always be cautious and monitor the shoes for any signs of adverse effects.

Environmental factors

Environmental factors, such as humidity and temperature, can influence the effectiveness of vinegar soaking. Bacteria and mold tend to thrive in warmer and humid climates, leading to more potent odors and stains.

In such cases, you may need to extend the soaking time slightly to ensure thorough cleaning. Conversely, odors and stains may be less pronounced in more relaxed and drier environments, requiring a shorter soaking duration.

Proper techniques for soaking shoes in vinegar

Using a vinegar-water solution

To begin the soaking process, prepare a solution by combining vinegar and water in the appropriate ratio for your shoes.

Mix the solution thoroughly to ensure that the vinegar is evenly distributed. The vinegar-water solution will help penetrate the shoe material and effectively neutralize odors and stains while minimizing the risk of damage.

How Long To Soak Shoes In Vinegar?

Choosing the right container

Selecting an appropriate container is crucial to soaking your shoes in vinegar effectively. The container should be large enough to accommodate the shoes without overcrowding, allowing the vinegar solution to immerse them fully. Avoid using containers of reactive materials, such as metal or certain plastics, as they may interact with the vinegar and potentially damage the shoes.

Immersing the shoes in vinegar

Gently place the shoes into the vinegar-water solution, ensuring that they are fully submerged. A gentle swirling motion encourages the vinegar solution to penetrate every part of the shoe’s interior and exterior. While immersing the shoes, be mindful not to agitate them aggressively, especially if they are made of delicate materials like leather or suede.

Agitating or brushing during the soak

To enhance the effectiveness of the vinegar soak, you may consider lightly agitating or brushing the shoes while they are immersed.

This process can help dislodge dirt particles and aid in the removal of stains. However, exercise caution when agitating or brushing, as excessive force may damage the shoe material. Use soft brushes or cloths and gentle motions to avoid any potential harm.

The effects of prolonged soaking

Potential damage to shoe material

While vinegar soaking can be highly effective in cleaning and refreshing shoes, it is crucial to avoid prolonged soaking, as it can lead to damage.

Excessive exposure to vinegar can cause the shoe material to break down, warp, or lose its original shape. It is essential to monitor the soaking time carefully and remove the shoes promptly once the desired duration has been reached.

Risk of color fading or bleeding

Certain shoe materials, especially those with vibrant colors or delicate dyes, are prone to color fading or bleeding when exposed to vinegar for extended periods.

It is advisable to avoid prolonged soaking and follow the recommended soaking times for each shoe material to prevent color-related issues. If unsure about the material’s colorfastness, perform a patch test on an inconspicuous area before proceeding with the vinegar soak.

How Long To Soak Shoes In Vinegar?

Weakness in adhesives or stitching

Prolonged soaking may weaken the adhesives and stitching holding your shoes together. Adhesive failure or compromised stitching can result in structural damage or loosening of shoe components.

To minimize the risk of adhesive or stitching-related issues, adhere to the designated soaking times for your shoes and handle them with care during the soaking process.

Tips for a successful vinegar soak

Testing vinegar on an inconspicuous area

Before immersing your shoes entirely, it is wise to perform a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area of the shoe.

Apply a small amount of the vinegar-water solution to the test area and observe for any adverse reactions, such as color fading, material damage, or unwanted texture changes. You can confidently soak the entire shoe if the patch test yields no adverse effects.

Adding essential oils for fragrance

While vinegar effectively eliminates odors, its sharp scent may linger after soaking. Add a few drops of your preferred essential oil to the vinegar-water solution before soaking. This will impart a pleasant fragrance to your shoes, leaving them smelling fresh and inviting.

Sun drying or air drying after soaking

After removing your shoes from the vinegar-water solution, it is crucial to properly dry them to prevent moisture-related issues like mold or mildew growth.

Depending on the shoe material and environmental conditions, you can sun dry them or allow them to air dry indoors. Ensure proper ventilation during drying and avoid placing the shoes near direct heat sources, as excessive heat may cause damage.

Rinsing and post-soak care

Removing vinegar residue

Once your shoes have been soaked in vinegar, it is essential to rinse them thoroughly to eliminate any residue.

Rinse the shoes under cool running water, ensuring all traces of vinegar are washed away. Check the shoes carefully to confirm that no vinegar scent or residue remains before proceeding with further care steps.

Drying the shoes properly

After rinsing, gently squeeze excess water from the shoes using a soft cloth or towel. Avoid wringing or vigorously twisting the shoes, which may strain the material and cause distortion.

To expedite drying, stuff the shoes with crumpled paper or clean, dry cloths to help absorb moisture. Allow the shoes to air dry in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

Applying conditioner or waterproofing

Once the shoes are completely dry, apply a suitable conditioner or waterproofing product to enhance longevity and appearance.

The specific type of conditioner or waterproofing treatment will depend on the shoe material and the manufacturer’s recommendations. Follow the instructions provided with the product and ensure even application to protect and maintain your shoes effectively.

Frequency of vinegar soak

Regular maintenance soaking

Performing regular vinegar soaks can help keep your shoes fresh, clean, and odor-free. For general maintenance and prevention of odor buildup, it is recommended to soak your shoes in vinegar every 3-6 months, depending on usage. Regular maintenance soaks will help remove accumulated bacteria and sweat, ensuring your shoes stay in optimal condition.

As-needed soaking for specific issues

Sometimes, you may encounter specific issues with your shoes that warrant more frequent or targeted vinegar soaks.

For example, if your shoes have been exposed to excessive sweat, mold, or stubborn stains, you may need to soak them in vinegar more frequently. Adjust the frequency of vinegar soaks as necessary to address specific concerns and maintain the cleanliness and freshness of your shoes.

Alternative methods to vinegar soaking

Baking soda and vinegar combination

A combination of baking soda and vinegar can be highly effective for stubborn odors or tough stains. Before soaking your shoes, sprinkle baking soda inside them, focusing on the areas prone to odor or staining.

Allow the baking soda to sit for a few hours or overnight to absorb odors. Then, proceed with the vinegar-soaking method outlined earlier. The baking soda will complement the vinegar’s odor-neutralizing properties, producing more potent cleaning and deodorizing effects.

Using specialized shoe-cleaning products

While vinegar is a natural and versatile cleaning agent, there may be instances where specialized shoe-cleaning products are more appropriate.

Some shoe-specific cleaning products are formulated to target certain materials or issues more effectively. If you have specific concerns or are unsure about using vinegar on your shoes, consult with a reputable shoe cleaning product brand or a shoe care professional for appropriate alternatives.

In conclusion, soaking your shoes in vinegar can be an effective and affordable method for refreshing them, eliminating odors, and removing stains. By following the proper techniques, considering the type of vinegar and shoe material, and monitoring the soaking duration, you can achieve successful results without compromising the integrity of your beloved shoes.

Remember to exercise caution, perform patch tests when necessary, and prioritize your shoes’ long-term care and maintenance. With regular vinegar soaking and appropriate post-soak care, your shoes can remain in excellent condition, ensuring comfort and style for years.

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Lucy Markk
Hi, I'm Lucy Markk, your go-to shoe cleaning expert at With years of experience in the industry, I have built a strong reputation as a reliable source for shoe cleaning tips and tricks. Throughout my career, I have received numerous prizes and rewards for my exceptional techniques and knowledge in keeping shoes looking brand new. I take immense pride in sharing my expertise with readers who are passionate about maintaining the longevity and aesthetics of their footwear. Whether you have a collection of high-end sneakers or need guidance on how to care for your favorite pair of leather boots, I am here to help. My writing philosophy revolves around providing practical, easy-to-follow advice that anyone can implement. I believe that with the right care and maintenance routine, you can extend the lifespan of your shoes and keep them looking their best. Besides being a shoe cleaning expert, I am also a dedicated enthusiast in the shoe industry. I understand the love and connection people have with their shoes, which is why I am committed to delivering content that not only educates but also inspires. Thank you for visiting I invite you to explore the site and discover valuable tips and techniques to make your shoes shine. Stay tuned for regular updates and remember, a little care goes a long way in preserving the beauty of your beloved footwear. Best regards, Lucy Markk