Ready to learn how to clean shoelaces?
We all know how the story goes. You have a favorite pair of sneakers, but every time you step out the door you can’t help but notice the stains on your shoelaces. There are plenty of methods and products for cleaning the shoes themselves, but what about the all-important laces? Don’t fret, I have some tips that will teach you how to clean shoelaces properly so you can sport your kicks with pride.
The unfortunate reality is that shoelaces are the dirtiest part of the shoe. They attract dirt, drag on the ground, and soak in moisture. To make matters worse, germs and bacteria get attached or soaked into your laces…you know, those things you touch everyday. This scenario leaves you with two options:
- You can buy new shoelaces (we have some recommendations below) OR
- You can read our guide on the best ways to clean shoelaces (we have tips for both synthetic and leather laces).
So let’s get this lace-cleaning party started!
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When and where shoelaces were first utilized is a bit hazy, but some historians trace their roots back to the Areni-1 shoe, discovered in an Armenian cave in 2008. The one-piece leather-hide shoe features leather laces in the middle, and is believed to be nearly 5,500 years old.
Everyone knows *that* person who rocks classic kicks and can’t stop talking about how awesome they are. Next time they run their mouth, direct them to the Areni-1 and blow their shoe snobbery to pieces.
While the Areni-1 shoelaces were groundbreaking, laces have come a long way in the past 5,500 years. Whether made of leather, cotton, hemp, jute, or another rope material, shoelaces or “shoestrings” make us feel secure and safe against the ground. Here are some of our favorite shoelaces available on Amazon now:
The Orthostep Round Athletic Shoelaces (price range $2-$9)
- Made in USA
- Round laces
- 1/8″ Wide, not very thick
- Good Shoelaces for Sneakers, Boots and Shoes
AOMIDI Flat Shoelaces (price range $2-$7)
- Flat laces
- 5/16″” Wide, a bit thicker than the previous option
- Includes 2 Pairs (4 Laces)
Toucan Laces Dress Shoe Laces (price range $11-$13)
- Premium Cotton, waxed for water resistance and shine
- 7 bold colors included in each box
- Designed for 4-6 eyelet shoes (most dress shoes fit this criteria)
- Backed by a 100% guarantee
The Best Way to Clean Shoelaces
Handwashing Your Shoelaces, Step by Step
This may be hard to believe, but hand-washing is the best way to clean your shoelaces. I’ve included step by step instructions below that you can follow.
If you hate reading, you can also scroll down to a YouTube video that follows a similar process.
These steps will require a bit of patience, but hang in there, it’s worth it.
- Remove shoelaces. Though it can often be a nuisance, the first step to cleaning your laces is to remove them from your shoes.
- Preliminary clean. Before completely washing them, it is best to first remove any loose dirt or stains. Do this using a simple toothbrush (preferably not the one you regularly use) and gently scrape off any visible dirt.
- Prepare water. Either in a bucket, a sink, or a tub, fill with warm water. Once you have prepared your water, add a small amount of laundry detergent or substitute bleach for cleaning. There is some debate here about cold vs. warm water. If you want to be extra cautious, try these steps with cold water, and if it doesn’t get the job done to your standards, try them again with warm water.
- Note: only use bleach if you are cleaning white laces to avoid any potential damage.
- Add laces. Take a small mesh or laundry bag to hold the laces and place the bag in the water. Use a spoon or spatula to move laces around and submerge them under the water.
- Note: it is best to wear gloves, especially if you are using bleach.
- Hold down laces. If the bag with the laces continues to float and is not fully submerged, use a dishwasher safe plate or another object to hold down the laces in the water.
- Sit back and relax. Allow the laces to soak in the water for 15-20 for the best results. While you wait you can dance, read, watch tv, or whatever else your sneaker-loving heart desires.
- Drain water. Pour or drain the soupy water and rinse out the bucket. Refill the bucket with just warm water and place laces back in the water to get one last clean
- Note: If desired, you can use the toothbrush again if any visible stains remain
- Let laces dry. Drape your laces over the sink, a railing, or in your tub and allow them to dry. After an hour or so you should have fresh shoelaces that are ready to put back on your shoes!
- Note: Although conventional wisdom tells you to throw them in the dryer, do NOT take this route. While they will dry quicker, you risk destroying the ends of your laces beyond repair.
Video for Cleaning White Shoelaces
Cleaning Leather Shoelaces
Leather shoelaces are a bit tougher to clean, and if you don’t have it already, you’re going to need some saddle soap. We give some saddle soap recommendations below.
- Remove loose dirt or debris from shoelaces. Use a toothbrush to remove any visible dirt from your leather laces. These laces are not as absorbent as synthetics, so the chances of any permanent dirt remaining is far less.
- Use Saddle Soap (see our recommendations below) and warm water. Prepare a small bucket or bowl of warm water and add your favorite Saddle Soap. Soak the laces very briefly and apply the saddle soap gently. Wipe off with a damp rag.
- Note: Do not soak the laces in the soap solution for an extended period of time, as it can ruin the color.
- Note: Reference any details or directions on your saddle soap container for any additional steps
- Allow laces to dry. Set laces out on a clean cloth or newspaper until they are completely dry. Make sure to place them away from the sun to avoid them losing any color.
- Rub on a natural oil. Using a clean rag and gloves, apply olive oil or another natural oil. Doing this step softens the laces and re-applies any shine that has been lost since first purchasing them.
- Note: We suggest putting another rag or cloth underneath the one you are using to add the oil. Leather cleaning can damage or stain surfaces.
- Dry laces. Let laces dry, preferably on a clothes hanger, so that they are not touching anything else. Allow them to dry for an hour or so.
- Wipe off excess oil. After an hour, take laces and wipe off any excess oil that might remain. Once you have completed this, let them air dry another hour or so for the best results. Once they are dry they are ready to re-lace!
Saddle Soap Recommendations
Here are a few good saddle soap options on Amazon.
- Made in the USA
- Formulated with lanolin neatsfoot oil for added moisturizing
- Available in 2.8 and 6.5 oz
- Available in multiple sizes
- Specializes in leather boot restoration
- Good enough for horse saddles, so it can definitely handle your leather shoelaces
- Made in the USA
- Consists of beeswax and castile soap, along with lemongrass oil
- All natural and environmentally-friendly
If the unlikely scenario occurs that you cannot salvage your laces, it may be a sign that the time has come to hang them up. At this point, you have two options: throw them out and start anew, or ‘recycle’ the pair and find other household uses for the laces.
Deciding on a fresh pair of shoelaces can be a bit tricky (we gave some cheap recommendations above), as you don’t want to run into the same dilemma of laces that fray and fall apart. A good way to avoid this is to invest in a pair of paracord shoe laces. Best used with steeltoe or hiking boots, Paracords are sturdy, strong, and reliable. They can double as string in case of emergency. They get their name from – you guessed it – their use in parachutes, an attribute that all other types of shoelaces cannot claim. Though not the most stylish shoelace, if you are tired of buying new ones these may be your best bang for your buck. Just remember to come back here when you need them cleaned.
Next, if you have decided to part ways with your current (but hopefully now clean) laces, do not rush to toss them into the bin. Shoelaces can be saved and reused in all kinds of ways, basically a substitute for anything that you would need string. The creative folks at One Good Thing have compiled a great list of alternative uses for shoelaces, from bookmarks to potential cat toys. You can see the rest of their great ideas here.
Products We Recommended in this How-To Guide
Do You Feel Like a Shoelace Cleaning Expert?
We hope so!
Cleaning shoelaces is a boring task that requires some patience, but nothing beats clean laces.
Feel free to post some before/after photos in the comments below.