How to Clean the Rubber Soles on Sneakers

Clean the Rubber Soles on Sneakers

No matter where or when you wear sneakers, the rubber soles attract dirt, which means you track that same dirt around everywhere you go while in those shoes. Dirty soles can also include bacteria that end up on your house floor if you wear your sneakers inside. Clean your rubber soles on a regular basis to keep your shoes in good shape for years to come.

How To Clean the Rubber Soles on Sneakers

Knock Off the Dirt

A quick look at the shoe soles reveals whether they’re caked with dirt left behind after walking through a muddy area. If so, take those sneakers outside and smack their soles together to knock out as much loose dirt as possible. Scrape between grooves in the traction pattern using a plastic knife or an unneeded car key. A dry scrub brush helps get between even tiny grooves on the soles and also helps brush off dirt around the sole edges.

A Soak for Dirty Soles

General dirt from walking through dusty or muddy areas requires a soak in a shallow pan. A squirt of mild dish soap mixed into a small amount of tepid water — enough to cover the sole but no other part of the shoe — in a wash tub serves as the soak. Avoid soaps with bleaching agents, as they may cause discoloration. After 15 minutes or so, remove the shoes, dip a scrub brush into soapy water and scrub those shoe soles. Wipe them clean with damp paper towels.

Troubled by Tar

Sticky substances such as tar leave behind a mucky mess on a sneaker sole. Scrape off as much as you can first with a plastic knife, or grab at it with a paper towel. A scrub brush dipped in warm, soapy water removes the rest of the residue. If the tar stays put, apply a tar and tree sap remover designed for automotive use and deemed safe for rubber. A soft cloth allows control of the solution to ensure it doesn’t get on remaining parts of the shoe.

A Gummy Mess

Gum may be fun to chew, but it’s not so much fun to step in — especially when it sticks to the bottom of your shoe. Pick away as much as you can with a paper towel while the gum is still pliable. If it’s partially hardened, scrape with a plastic knife. Place the shoe in a freezer bag, then freeze both for several hours to make the gum brittle enough to break it away with a knife. If you don’t have room to place the whole shoe in the freezer, rub ice cubes over the gum until it becomes brittle, then scrape off with a plastic knife.

References & Resources

Creative Homemaking: How to Clean Tennis Shoes
Good Housekeeping: Hints From Heloise: Removing Black Tar From Rubber Soles
ABC News: How Dirty Are Your Shoes?
Sole Rebirth: Sole Care
Guide to Detailing: How to Remove Road Tar, Tree Sap and Bugs

The shoe advice given in this article is the author’s. Please use the above tips at your own discretion. Famous Footwear is not responsible for any damage caused to shoes by using these tips.

About the author:

Paige Turner has been writing and editing professionally since 1989. She won several investigative journalism awards from the Associated Press while working at "The Morning Journal" in Lorain, Ohio. Turner has ghostwritten several books and edited for popular music artists' websites. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in music from Case Western Reserve University.. Follow him on Twitter / Facebook.