How to Clean & Disinfect Used Cycling Shoes – Budget Cycling

Kill germs and get your cycling shoes clean and shining again

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cleaning used cycling shoes

There’s a specific term of endearment that my in-laws have labeled me with: Cheapskate. On a recent trip to my LBS, my husband laughed when he saw me attempting to squeeze my size-8 foot into a size 7.5 carbon Pearl Izumi shoe. It had a supple upper, super stiffness, and a sweet design. But, most importantly, red inked slashed the original price to $29.99. How could I pass that up?!

When my husband reminded me that I could also pass up untold hotspots and a general feeling of discomfort, I re-stuffed the shoe with its packing paper, set it gently back in its box, and carried the pair up to the counter.

I couldn’t ignore opportunity.

Two weeks later, I traded my $30 pair for some barely used Specialized shoes of similar quality. Sweet. But here’s another term of endearment my in-laws use for me: Germaphobe.

Hence, the reason for this article that mixes budget-friendly with freedom from bacteria.

Clean Cycling Shoes

There are two steps to getting any pair of cycling shoes clean and de-germed. First, let’s go through the general steps for removing dirt and grime from your kicks. This doesn’t just go for used shoes–you can use this method for polishing up your own pair after a ride.

Give ’em a Wash

clean used cycling shoesBefore you use any of these methods, you might want to remove the insoles first and wash them thoroughly. In fact, if you’re buying a used pair of cycling shoes, it’s not a bad idea to simply order replacement insoles from the manufacturer–they’ll make the whole shoe feel (and, let’s face it, smell) brand new.

Method 1: Dish Soap and a Brush

In a bucket, or sink, or tub, add some Dawn dish soap to cool water. To really get the muck off, grab a soft dish brush (preferably not one that you’ll re-use on your dishes), and gently scrub all the marks and dirt off using the soapy water.

Method 2: Toothpaste

Toothpaste works some serious wonders on all kinds of things–especially white handlebar tape–and it can do the same for your shoes. Simply squeeze out a liberal helping of toothpaste onto your brush, add a little water, and scrub in circles (this should feel familiar to you). Once you’ve scrubbed the shoe down, grab a clean towel and wipe off all of the toothpaste. In minutes, the shine should come back to your shoes.

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Method 3: Magic Erasers

This is slightly controversial, and you’ll definitely want to do a test spot on your shoes before trying this method, but Magic Erasers remove scuffs, scum, and marks for a return to that original luster (yes, some folks have used these on leather and other expensive materials–just make sure you’re willing to take on the risk first). Add a little water and squeeze out the eraser before scrubbing your shoes. Once you’re done, you might want to also rinse them in cool water to remove the chemical that makes the eraser so magical.

Method 4: Although I don’t personally go in for this method, a friend of mine puts her shoes into a pillowcase, ties a not in the top, and throws them into the washer with a few towels to balance the machine and protect it from the hard soles. You probably also want to remove your cleats first. But one caveat: please don’t put your shoes in the dryer.

Dry Your Shoes

Here’s where the fun comes in. And by “fun” I mean hours of waiting. First off, don’t use any heat source to dry your shoes like an oven or the aforementioned clothes dryer or even a sunlit window. However, you can try a hairdryer set to cool if you feel like sitting there for a while holding a hair dryer over your shoes. Open up all the buckles and fasteners, make sure the soles are out, and try one of the following methods.

Method 1: Scrunched Newspaper

While this isn’t my method of choice because of the harsh inks that can transfer to light colored shoes, many cyclists swear by the old newspaper staple. Simply stuff the inside of your shoes with scrunched up newspaper to speed up the air drying process a great deal.

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Method 2: Rice or Silica Gel

Dump rice in a bucket and bury your shoes in with it. The rice will soak up all the moisture quite quickly, won’t leave any stains or residue, and it can be left in the sun to re-dry and save for the next wash. This is my favorite method.

Of course, it also works with silica gel–assuming you’ve been saving those little packets over the years.

Disinfecting Used Cycling Shoes

clorox and alcohol to clean used cycling shoesThere are two main ways to make sure that your shoes are properly free of gnarly germs. As I said before, you might want to start with brand new insoles from the shoe’s manufacturer. But that’s your call.

Step 1: Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is a great way to get rid of creepy bacteria. You can apply it by dousing a clean rag with the alcohol and wiping the shoe inside and out. Make sure to get the highest alcohol percentage possible here.

One word of caution here, though. This could not only wipe out germs, but printing as well–especially on tags or logos imprinted inside the shoe. Definitely be careful to spot test this method before you accidentally scrub the color off your fancy shoes.

Step 2: Disinfecting Wipes

Finally, bring out the atomic weapon. Disinfecting wipes. A final wipe inside and out should ensure you kill all the germs involved. Of course, always remember to do a test spot first.

Et Voila!

You’re done. Whatcha think? Feel drawn to a particular method? Tried something that worked great for you? Let us know!


Disclaimer: You should always check with the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning your particular pair of shoes. We’re not responsible for any damages as a result of using these methods. These are simply tips that have worked for us.

About Bek 301 Articles
SLO Cyclist's former chief editor and recovering road snob, Bek made sure everything ran smoothly around here. She was also the one who reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously--unless it involves black socks. Black socks are always serious.


  1. I bought used cycling shoes and took them to my local bowling alley and asked them to spray the inside with the disinfecting spray they use for the bowling shoes.

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