How to Clean and Wash Cycling Shoes

Founder, Mr. Mamil

Cycling shoes are essential for any cyclist, providing comfort, support, and efficiency during rides. Like any other part of your cycling kit, these shoes can accumulate dirt, sweat, and odor over time. 

Regular shoe cleaning and maintenance extend their lifespan and ensure optimal performance and hygiene. In this article, I’ll walk you through a step-by-step guide on cleaning and washing your cycling shoes effectively.

Materials and tools required

Before you begin, gather the following materials and tools:

  1. Mild detergent or specialized shoe cleaner
  2. Soft brush or toothbrush
  3. Clean cloth or sponge
  4. Bucket or basin
  5. Warm water
  6. Shoe deodorizer (optional)
  7. Newspaper or paper towels

Step 1. Prepare the shoes

The first step is to remove dirt and debris that may have accumulated on their surface during rides. Use a soft brush or cloth to gently brush off excess dirt from the shoe’s surface.

It is important not to use harsh brushes or abrasive materials, as these may damage the shoe’s fabric and compromise its durability. Any remaining debris can be wiped down with a damp cloth to ensure the shoes are as clean as possible before proceeding with the next steps.

Step 2. Disassemble removable parts

This step includes removing the insoles, unlacing or unstrapping the shoes, and detaching the cleats.

By removing the insoles, you can clean them separately, ensuring better hygiene and comfort. Unlacing or unstrapping the shoes allows for better access to hidden areas, which often collect dirt and sweat.

Detaching the cleats is essential; they require cleaning to maintain proper engagement with the pedals and prevent premature wear.

Step 3. Clean the shoes’ exterior

Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing a small amount of mild detergent or specialized shoe cleaner with warm water in a bucket or basin.

Dip a soft brush or cloth into the solution and gently scrub the shoe’s exterior, paying special attention to any stubborn dirt or stains.

Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe away any soap residue from the shoe’s surface.

Step 4. Clean the shoes’ interior

Apply the cleaning solution using a cloth or sponge, making sure to reach all interior surfaces. Gently scrub the interior to remove any dirt or sweat buildup.

Rinse the interior with clean, warm water to remove any remaining soap.

Step 4. Clean removable parts

This process involves focusing on three primary components: the insoles, laces or straps, and cleats (if applicable), each requiring individual attention and specific cleaning methods.

  • Insoles. To do this, handwash them using a mild detergent and warm water, removing dirt and odors without causing damage. After washing, rinse the insoles thoroughly to eliminate any soap residue, and set them aside to air-dry.
  • Laces or straps can be handwashed or, alternatively, placed in a laundry bag and machine washed on a gentle cycle. Regardless of the method chosen, it is vital to let the laces or straps air-dry completely before reattaching them to the shoes, preventing mold or mildew growth from residual moisture.
  • Cleats. Use a brush and mild detergent to scrub away dirt and debris from the cleats. Once cleaned, rinse them thoroughly and air-dry them before reattaching them to the shoes. Regularly cleaning cleats helps maintain proper pedal engagement and prevent premature wear.

Step 5. Dry the shoes

One of the key steps in the drying process is to stuff the shoes with newspaper or paper towels. This helps absorb moisture from the interior of the shoes while also aiding in maintaining their shape. The absorbent materials work to draw out excess moisture, ensuring that the shoes are dried thoroughly and evenly.

Next, place the shoes in a well-ventilated area for air-drying. This allows for the circulation of air around the shoes, facilitating the evaporation of moisture. It is important to avoid direct sunlight or heat sources during the drying process, as these can damage the materials or compromise the integrity of the shoes.

Replace the newspaper or paper towels as needed throughout the drying process. As the absorbent materials become saturated with moisture, replacing them with fresh, dry materials helps expedite the drying process and ensures that the shoes are dried effectively.

Step 6. Reassemble the shoes

Once the shoes and all removable parts are completely dry,

  • Reinsert the insoles and cleats.
  • Reattach the laces or straps.
  • Apply shoe deodorizer (optional) to keep your shoes smelling fresh and minimize odor buildup.


How often should I clean and wash my cycling shoes?

Based on my own experinece, the frequency of cleaning your cycling shoes depends on your usage and riding conditions. For those frequently riding in wet or muddy conditions, it’s best to clean the shoes every few rides.

For casual riders, cleaning them once a month or when visibly dirty should suffice. However, airing out the shoes after each ride is recommended to minimize odor and moisture buildup.

Can I machine wash my cycling shoes?

I would not recommend machine washing cycling shoes, as the washing process can damage the shoes’ materials and construction.

In my opinion, handwashing the shoes using a mild detergent and warm water is the best approach to ensure their longevity and maintain their performance.

How can I prevent my cycling shoes from developing unpleasant odors?

Having faced similar situations, I suggest airing out your shoes after each ride, allowing any moisture to evaporate. Regular cleaning and washing and using a shoe deodorizer can help keep odors at bay. Additionally, rotating between multiple pairs of shoes can give each pair time to dry and air out between uses.

Is it safe to use bleach or other strong cleaning agents on my cycling shoes?

Speaking from experience, it’s best to avoid using bleach or other harsh chemicals, as they can damage the materials and compromise the shoes’ integrity. Instead, opt for a mild detergent or a specialized shoe cleaner for sports footwear.

How do I dry my cycling shoes properly to avoid damage or mold?

To dry your cycling shoes correctly, stuff them with newspaper or paper towels to absorb moisture and help maintain their shape. Place the shoes in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or heat sources, to air-dry.

Avoid using direct heat sources like hairdryers or radiators, as they can cause damage to the shoe materials. Replace the newspaper or paper towels as needed to expedite the drying process.

What can I do if my cycling shoes are still damp or have a lingering odor after cleaning?

If your cycling shoes remain damp after cleaning, replace the newspaper or paper towels inside the shoes more frequently to absorb the excess moisture. Ensure the shoes are placed in a well-ventilated area to facilitate faster drying.

You may consider using a shoe deodorizer or odor-absorbing products such as activated charcoal bags for lingering odors. Additionally, clean the shoes more frequently and air them out after each use to prevent odor buildup.

Alex Lee at Mr.Mamil

Alex Lee is the founder and editor-at-large of Mr. Mamil. Coming from a professional engineering background, he breaks down technical cycling nuances into an easy-to-understand and digestible format here.

He has been riding road bikes actively for the past 12 years and started racing competitively in the senior category during the summer recently.