We love our sneaks. They go everywhere with us, no matter the season or weather condition, because of how comfortable and convenient they are. You have your running sneakers to pair with comfy sweats during weekend hikes or with leggings for exercising. And you have your most beloved, go-to pair for trekking through the city or even for a casual day at work. Everyone probably has multiple pairs of sneakers with different uses. However, cleaning them can be a headache, especially since some sneakers consist of overlays of various construction types.
Knowing how to clean sneakers and keep them clean and protected is a must for anyone. You may groan at the idea of taking time out of your precious off day to clean your kicks, but a fresh pair of sneakers can elevate an outfit. What’s a sneakerhead to do? Don’t fret. We’re here to help make your life easier. Our tips will educate you on the best ways to keep your sneakers clean based on material type (knit, leather, suede, and canvas) and part (outsole, midsole, tongue, interior, and laces). Our guide also instructs on how to keep your sneakers clean, too. Once you’ve mastered your favorite cleaning techniques, you’ll only sigh a little once it’s time again to clean your sneaks.
Before getting into how to clean your sneakers, you must know what to add to your toolkit. Chances are you already own some of these common household items, but if not, you can easily buy them at the grocery store or online.
Common household items you’ll need include an old toothbrush, baking soda, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, a wash rag or paper towel, a bucket, liquid detergent, mild bar soap, and toothpaste.
Other items to purchase include a suede brush, a suede eraser, protectant spray, leather cleaning solution, microfiber cloth, a magic eraser.
Before cleaning, first prep your shoes by removing visible dirt using an old toothbrush or a towel. Remove your shoelaces (we’ll go over how to clean shoelaces later). It’s now time to get to deep cleaning. Your old kicks will be looking brand new in no time to wear with your favorite skinny jeans.
Knit shoes look super cool and stylish, but since they’re porous, dirt and grime can sink into the material. The breathable material provides ventilation and wicks moisture away, but knit fabric soaks in the nasty stuff, too, just like cotton hand towels. As you’re exercising outside or trekking through hills, dirt, mud, and sweat are seeping into your kicks. Therefore, you’ll need a dose of patience to get your knit sneakers looking their best again.
To clean your knit sneakers by hand, dilute a little bit of liquid detergent in warm water. Then, using a clean towel, apply the solution to the stains, and rub with force. Repeat the process (you may have to switch out the solution if your kicks are especially dirty to avoid applying dirty water). After you’ve cleaned your shoes, apply a cloth damped with only water to rinse off your shoes. Alternatively, you can damp the cloth in cold water and gently rub it on a bar of mild bath soap. After cleaning your shoes, wipe them down with a separate damp cloth. No matter the method you choose, let your shoes air dry afterward.
Sleek leather sneakers look oh so fabulous, especially when elevated with a midi dress. They’re an investment, so knowing how to keep them looking brand new is a must. As beautiful as leather is, it’s just darn sensitive, so you must be gentle to avoid damaging this precious material. A simple solution involves using a leather cleaning solution and a soft-bristle brush or a microfiber cloth. Dip the brush or cloth in hot water and pour on some leather cleaning solution. Work up a lather by gently rubbing back and forth. Then, use a towel to remove excess solution, and let the shoe air dry. Once they’re completely dry, spray a weather-protectant spray to keep them protected.
If your sweet leather kicks should be bright white, try especially hard to keep them sparkling clean. Dampen a magic eraser and scrub it over your sneakers. Or lather up a piece of cloth with mild soap, and apply it to the stains. Whatever method you use, make sure you thoroughly dry your sneakers.
You may already have a few tricks up your sleeve for tackling pesky stains on soft suede since suede women’s winter boots are popular. However, there are still a few things you must keep in mind when cleaning suede sneakers. First, make sure your sneakers are completely dry since water is suede’s enemy. Using a suede brush, softly remove loose dirt and dust. The brush will also remove simple scuff marks, but be sure to brush in one direction for a smooth finish. For tough water, grease, and oil stains, apply a suede eraser in a back-and-forth motion.
You can also use a mixture of white vinegar or rubbing alcohol to tackle stubborn stains that need a bit more TLC. You’ll need a bucket or bowl for your liquid of choice and a piece of clean cloth. Dip the cloth in the liquid and gently apply it to the spots. Repeat if necessary. Once you’ve finally removed all stains, brush the shoes in one direction for a smooth finish, and spray the shoes with a suede protectant spray.
Thankfully, canvas isn’t as hard to clean as suede, leather, or knit. But that doesn’t mean you can slack off. It may tempt you to toss your canvas sneaks in the washing machine, but cleaning them by hand is still the best method, especially to avoid ruining their shape. To wash them by hand, mix a small amount of liquid detergent with warm water in a bucket to create a slightly soapy mixture. Then dip your toothbrush in the mixture and scrub any dirty areas. Use a clean cloth to wipe off your sneakers and let them air dry. You can also handwash other staples, like swimsuits and backpacks, using a mixture of detergent and water. Easy!
You can clean white canvas sneakers using the above steps. However, there are other methods too for cleaning white kicks. Using white vinegar, baking soda, and hot water, you can make a paste-like substance for cleaning. You will need to mix in a small bowl one tablespoon of white vinegar, one tablespoon of baking soda, and one tablespoon of hot water. Then using a toothbrush, scrub in circular motions the canvas parts of your shoes to remove dirt and stains. Let the paste harden, preferably under direct sunlight. After letting your shoes dry for 3-4 hours, wipe off the paste using a soft cloth or paper towel. Your old canvas white shoes should appear as good as new.
Or rather than making a paste, you can use non-gel white toothpaste to clean white sneakers. Apply the toothpaste to the toothbrush and work in a circular motion, cleaning the extra-dirty spots on your white shoes. After working the paste into the fabric, let your shoes sit for about 10 minutes. Then, using a damp cloth, towel, or paper towel, wipe the paste off your shoes. Repeat the process if you’re still noticing dirty spots.
Now that you’re an expert on cleaning various types of sneakers, it’s time to learn how to clean based on the sneaker part. Being patient and cleaning each shoe part according to the proper cleaning method will work wonders for the overall appearance of your sneakers.
Sorry to break it to you, but you’ll never completely clean the outsoles of your sneakers. The outsoles get the brunt of the messiness since they interact directly with the outside world, from dirt, mud, and grass to all the nastiness you encounter on city streets. However, you can upkeep them as best as possible, especially to avoid dirtying up your home and car. Wipe off excess dirt as soon as you see it or weekly with a paper towel or brush. Using a mixture of a small amount of detergent and warm water, clean the outsoles and dry them with a clean cloth.
Most midsoles are bright white, and since the midsole is noticeable, you cannot avoid cleaning it. Solution? A magic eraser can work wonders keeping midsoles clean. Try to make cleaning the midsole a regular thing to keep it looking as white as possible.
The tongue on the shoe most likely has the same material as the rest of your sneakers. Therefore, the method will be the same. The tongue still shows despite being pushed in a bit or partially hidden by shoelaces, so you don’t want to avoid cleaning it. Cleaning the tongue will ensure your sneakers will look like new.
Cleaning the interior of the shoe will help knock out the smelly odor. If you can remove your insoles, take them out and wash them in white vinegar (vinegar helps with odor) and warm water. Then, let the insoles air dry for several hours or until completely dry before putting them back inside the sneakers.
Soak your shoelaces in a mixture of hot water and dishwashing liquid or laundry detergent for about 15 minutes. Massage them occasionally during that time. After rinsing and squeezing the laces, hang them to air dry. Or you can just toss them in the washing machine with your load. Just don’t lose them!
Giving your sneakers a nice deep clean requires patience and takes time out of your precious off days. You’re a busy person, so to regain some of that time, there are preventative steps you can take so that you can have more time catching up on your shows while lounging in comfy clothes. First, after arriving back home, spot check your sneakers. If you notice something unsightly (like gum on your outsoles), tackle the issue ASAP. Don’t delay since dirt and grime will sink deeper into the fabric. Also, after unboxing your sneakers, spray them with a stain-and-water repellent or suede protectant spray for an extra dose of protection. Remember to spray them according to the bottle’s instructions for ongoing protection, no matter the time of the year.
That’s it! Your kicks are an investment, so you must take the time to clean them. While you’re at it, research how to clean other hard-to-clean items (like winter coats) for outstanding head-to-toe style.