How to Clean Leather Insoles?

Photo of dirty leather insoles on the left and clean leather insoles on the right. How to Clean Leather Insoles?

Cleaning leather insoles is a necessary job if you don’t want stinky shoes. Learn how to clean leather insoles properly by focusing on the process I describe below!

Cleaning leather insoles is a matter of working methodically and logically with your insoles. You’ll clean the removable insoles with baking soda and saddle soap. If you have non-removable insoles, you’ll want to stick with baking soda and warm water.

The technique for cleaning both of these is very different, so make sure that you take a look below at the instructions to help achieve clean insoles with no damage!

Can I wash leather insoles?

There seems to be some misconception that you can’t wash insoles, but this isn’t the case! Many people take too long to wash their insoles, so cleaning them effectively can be much more challenging. But I’ll talk more about that later in detail.

Another common belief is that you can simply stick your leather insoles in the washing machine. I strongly encourage you don’t do that (at all). Leather and water don’t get along, and you will ruin your otherwise perfectly good insoles!

Fun Fact:

Whirlpool explains that you should never wash insoles by machine, even if your label says otherwise. They’ll get waterlogged and take a long time to dry out.

You’ll be happy to learn that, as I mentioned briefly in the introduction, you’ll be able to clean both removable and nonremovable leather insoles effectively. 

Should I wash leather insoles?

Yes, absolutely. You must keep your leather insoles clean so your socks and feet stay clean! A lot of people completely neglect to clean their shoes. Not only will dirty shoes get smelly, but they’ll also put you at risk of foot infections and wearing their shoes and insoles out faster. Learn how to clean your shoes, and read below to learn how to clean your insoles properly!

Needed materials to clean leather insoles

If you want to thoroughly clean your leather insoles, you won’t need a huge toolkit. Your essentials to have on hand are:

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Warm water
  • Saddle soap
  • An approved leather brush

You’ll also want to know whether you have removable or nonremovable insoles since that will change your cleaning technique. This is easy to tell, of course, since it’s as simple as trying to pull them out, and either they will come out or they won’t!

How to clean leather insoles step by step

In this section, I’ll assume that you have removable insoles since I will show you how to clean non-removable insoles later. Okay, here are the steps!

  • Remove your leather insoles and brush them free of dirt and debris
  • Rub them down with warm water and baking soda
  • Let them sit for 10 minutes
  • Rinse them
  • Apply saddle soap to the top and bottom of your insole
  • Rinse off thoroughly with warm water and vinegar
  • Blot dry thoroughly
  • Allow them to air dry completely

These steps are pretty straightforward, but I want to specify a few details to help this go as smoothly as possible, especially if this is your first time cleaning your leather insoles and working with their sensitive leather!

The baking soda water primer is a great option to help draw out bacteria and odors that naturally build up in insoles. If you skip this stage, you might find that your clean insoles still have a bit of a smell to them.

The other detail is to go light with the saddle soap! This heavy-duty cleaner is designed for saddles (hence the name), though some will still clean a saddle without saddle soap

Saddle soap is a great cleaner to help remove grime, oil, sweat, and other deep-reaching bacteria common with saddles and insoles. I recommend erring on the side of caution when it comes to the amount you use until you get used to how it works!

How to clean non-removable leather insoles

If you’re dealing with nonremovable leather insoles, you’ll skip a few of the steps I mentioned above. Here are the steps:

  • Brush your leather insoles thoroughly and shake the shoe out 
  • Rinse lightly with warm water
  • Use a slightly moistened cotton ball or q tip coated with baking soda to wash the insole
  • Allow them to sit for 10 minutes
  • Rinse off with warm water 
  • Blot dry thoroughly
  • Allow the shoes to air dry completely

It’s much easier to clean non-removable insoles when you look at it this way. It can be disappointing to keep your cleaning focused on the top rather than the bottom, but this method thoroughly cleans them!

Nonremovable insoles often have a layer beneath them that helps protect them from smells, oil secretion, and more. You don’t need to worry about feeling like you’re wearing greasy insoles because you can’t clean the bottoms of them! Just keep the tops clean, like I’ve mentioned, and the rest of the shoe will follow suit!

Natural products to clean leather insoles

If you want to skip the saddle soap, you can absolutely do that by skipping using baking soda with water. You can also use vinegar and water, but you’ll want to use this lightly since it can be a bit acidic on your leather!

Natural products are an excellent choice for those who want to minimize how many commercial cleaners they have in their home, and it’s also reassuring to know that you can grab some of these if you run out of your classic cleaner and you’re in a pinch!

How to prevent leather insoles from getting dirty?

You’ll need to wash leather insoles much more often than the rest of your leather shoe or boot. This is because they take a lot more use and wear than the rest of your boot or shoe. It makes sense when you think that this is the layer that separates your foot from your sole and takes all its weight. So, how do you prevent your insoles from getting dirty? Take a look.

Firstly, as I mentioned above, you’ll want to brush them off and clean them. You’ll want to do this regularly, especially if you have sweaty feet or wear your leather insoles a lot. Generally, the more you wear your leather insoles, the faster you’ll need to wash them.

Cleaning proactively means keeping them from discoloring and getting prematurely worn out, too, so it’s an excellent choice for protecting your investment.

The other detail is to wear your leather insoles with clean socks on. Wearing them barefoot worsens the bacteria (which are responsible for the smell). It can also worsen oil transfer from your skin to the leather insole, so you’ll have to deep clean them more regularly!

Do leather insoles smell?

Leather insoles can quickly lose their natural leather smell, and you’ll find it replaced with the classic foot odor (ew) instead. Remember that leather is sensitive to odors, so you’ll need to air out your insoles regularly, at the very least, and you’ll also want to wash and dry them properly. This helps minimize the odors.

Lastly, remember to focus on resting them between wears! Give them several days to air out after you’ve worn them for a few days. The more you care for your leather insoles, the longer they’ll last without a foot odor, even if it seems like a huge feat right now!

Should you condition leather insoles?

If you’ve had other kinds of leather items, you know that you have to condition them regularly. However, you’ll want to skip this step when it comes to your leather insoles! Since leather insoles get enough moisture from your feet, conditioning is just wasteful of the materials and can even make the insoles uncomfortable. In rare cases, it can even ruin your leather insoles entirely! 

I recommend you spend your time on proper washing and drying and airing them out. This will take much better care of your leather insoles than conditioning them. The use and wear of your leather changes how you care for them, right? 

Cleaning your leather insoles doesn’t have to be a long or frustrating chore. You just need to learn how to do it effectively. If you have removable insoles, use a combination of warm water, baking soda, and saddle soap to help get them looking and feeling like new again.

For nonremovable inserts, it’ll be best to use straight baking soda and water. Just ensure that you leave time for them to air dry and air out entirely so they can return to their smell-free and clean selves for us to use for a long time.

If you know someone who will find this article helpful for proper leather care, consider sharing it with them and spreading the good news!

Andre from leatherninja.com

Andre is a passionate leatherworker who spends his spare time working with leather. He loves the smell and feel of leather, and he takes great care in selecting the right pieces of leather for his projects. Read more here.