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How to Clean Cork Heels

by Carole VanSickle

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Cork heels

Things You Need:

  • Fine-grit sand paper
  • Mild detergent
  • White vinegar
  • Scrub brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Small bucket

Cork shoes are fashionable, but you may hesitate to buy cork-heeled women's shoes because cork can so easily become soiled. However, with a little care, you can easily restore even heavily soiled and damaged cork shoes to good, wearable condition. These tips can help you get your cork shoes back in commission.

Cleaning Cork Heels:

  1. Make your cleaning solution. Add five drops of the mild detergent to a half gallon of warm water. The detergent must be nontoxic to prevent any chemicals from harming your shoes. Add half a cup of white vinegar to the mix and swirl everything around. You do not need to make suds.

  2. Wipe down the cork shoes with a damp rag. Moisten the rag with the cleaning solution and then use it to remove as much dirt and grime as possible from the cork. This will make your scrubbing less extensive later and preserve the life of your cork heels.

  3. Scrub the cork shoes with the cleaning solution. Use a gentle, circular scrubbing motion. The scrub brush should be damp but not sopping wet, and you should stop frequently to rinse out the brush so that you are not just smearing dirt around on the shoes. Use the toothbrush to scrub areas that cannot be reached with the larger scrub brush.

  4. Wipe down the shoes to remove all soap residue and suds. This will give you an idea of how effective your cleaning has been. If you still see a lot of grime or discoloration on the shoes, you can scrub the entire shoe once more. Do not scrub more than twice or you risk breaking the cork. If the shoe looks clean, you can stop after a thorough wipe-down.

  5. Examine the shoes. There is no need to rinse the shoes since the vinegar will lighten stains, but you can scrub the shoes a final time with clear, warm water to remove all cleaning solution. If you like the look of your cork heels at this point, let them dry out for a day or two.

  6. Lightly sand the cork shoes. Do not do this until the shoes are completely dry, which can take a day or two. You must not use heavy pressure or sand repeatedly in the same area. You are removing the top layer of cork, so you can only do this a few times before you wear out your shoes. However, a very light sanding will remove nearly all evidence of stains. This is only necessary for heavy stains that did not come out with the cleaning solution.

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