How to Clean the Soles of Women’s Dress Shoes (In 5 Minutes or Less)

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Our first daughter has never slept well.  It has been a constant battle ever since she was born to get her to sleep for more than a two hour stretch during the night.  Now that she’s almost 3, she takes melatonin every night and things are slightly better.  However, last week she found one of her chewable pills that somehow had been dropped and decided to eat it…at 4:00 in the afternoon.  We normally have about 15 minutes after she takes it to get her into bed before she turns into a uncontrollable little puddle.  We didn’t really want to have that on our hands for the 4 hours until bedtime…so we headed to McDonalds!  We figured that getting some ice cream and spending some time in the play place would be a good distraction.  

It sort of worked, but when it come time to leave, Hazel didn’t want to come out.  So I kicked off my flats and went in after her!  She came out with me without much trouble and I didn’t even get stuck in the little kid space.  However, when I got back out, I noticed that one of my flats was upside down…the black, nasty, gummy gross sole waving my mom flag to the world.  Now, people don’t normally see the soles of my shoes… but that doesn’t seem like a reason to let them be nasty.  Couple that with the fact that Seth and I sell full-time on eBay, and I have cleaned hundreds of shoes to send to other people – and I was understandably embarrassed.  So let’s you and I take 5 minutes together and learn how to overhaul the soles of your flats!  Well actually, I’ve already learned this…so let me share it with you!

*I usually ignore the spot-test warning on cleaning products, but this is one you should take seriously.  You have the potential to stain or ruin your soles so make sure to test a small patch before continuing!


  • A dirty pair of shoes with a cleanable sole (rubber is fine, hard leather is probably fine, plastic is fine, soft nubuck or sueded leather is probably not fine…). The ones I’m using as an example are a faux-leathery rubber.
  • A stiff nylon shoe brush.  I used a cleaning brush but you can use a regular old toothbrush if you want.  It may take a bit more time and work, but hey, use what you’ve got!
  • Goo Gone.  This is our magic potion.  While there are probably other options that will work, I have had other cleaners melt and ruin soles.  Goo Gone has never betrayed me.


If you’ve got your dirty pair of shoes in hand, head to the bathroom and clean everything off the counter to give you room to work.  My Goo Gone came in a bottle with a spray top, so I sprayed a generous layer across the bottom of the shoes, focusing on the gum spots.  Goo Gone isn’t much besides oil, so you can use your finger to spread it around, ensure even coverage, and get it into those hard to reach cracks.


If you try to scrub or wipe off your shoes too early, you’ll be disappointed.  Goo Gone takes a bit of time to penetrate, so I let mine sit for about a minute.  If you’re cleaning tar or asphalt off the bottom of your shoes, you might want to wait a bit longer…and change where you walk.  Goo Gone really only penetrates the top layer, so there’s no need to wait too long.  60 seconds and let’s move on!


Grab your toothbrush or bristle brush and go to town!  I actually applied a bit more of the Goo here to ensure the I was scrubbing it deep into any scratches or thick messes.  I scrubbed for about 30 seconds per shoe here.  You’re not trying to get them pristine, just get the majority of the mess gone so we can repeat.


Rinse off the dirt, grime, and Goo-Gone.  There should be a huge difference in the look of your shoe now, and you can see where your extra efforts are needed.  I didn’t need to use my brush during the rinse off, I just rubbed the shoe a bit with my hand to make sure everything kept moving.


I applied my favorite chemical one more time and let it sit for another 60 seconds.  I had to use my finger nail to scrape off a hard piece of gum, but everything else came off with one more brushing!  A quick rinse and wipe with a rag and things were as good as they were going to get!  Less than 5 minutes per shoe and no  more embarrassing soles.


That’s all there is to it!  Whether you just cleaned a pair of shoes to sell on eBay or refreshed a personal pair, I hope that was super easy and helpful.  If you haven’t visited our blog before, stick around for a bit!  We show people exactly how you can make thousands of extra dollars per month as a stay at home mom (or dad) or as a part-time gig.  You can read our story here or just get right into the how-to-make-money here!  

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