How to clean sneakers

Sneakers, whether they’re collectibles, daily runners, or cherished fashion statements, deserve proper care and maintenance to preserve their aesthetics and extend their lifespan. Cleaning sneakers isn’t merely about removing dirt; it’s about respecting the craftsmanship, materials, and memories attached to each pair. This comprehensive guide will delve into the nuances of how to clean sneakers effectively, covering various materials and detailing techniques to restore your kicks to their former glory.

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Section 1: Assessing Your Sneakers

1. Material Identification

Different sneaker materials demand different cleaning methods. Common materials include leather, suede, canvas, nubuck, knit fabric, and synthetic materials. Inspect your sneakers closely to identify the primary materials and any special features, such as metallic accents or patent leather.

2. Pre-Cleaning Inspection

Check for any severe stains, caked-on dirt, or damages. Note the condition of the laces, soles, midsoles, and interiors. This will help determine the appropriate cleaning strategy and products.

Section 2: Gathering Supplies

1. Essential Cleaning Tools
Soft-bristled brush or toothbrush (for detailed cleaning)
Microfiber cloths
Mild detergent or a specialized sneaker cleaner
A bowl or basin for mixing water and detergent
Suede/nubuck cleaner and eraser for delicate materials
Leather conditioner (for leather sneakers)
Protectant spray (optional for post-cleaning protection)
Replacement laces (if needed)

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Section 3: Step-by-Step Cleaning Process

1. Remove Laces and Insoles

Take out the laces and wash them separately by hand with soap and water. Soak dirty insoles if possible, or clean them with a damp cloth and mild detergent.

2. Brush Off Loose Dirt

Use a soft-bristled brush to gently remove loose dirt and debris from the uppers and soles. Be gentle on sensitive materials like suede and nubuck.

3. Create Cleaning Solution

Mix a small amount of mild detergent with water to create a sudsy solution. Avoid bleach and harsh chemicals that can damage the materials or discolor the sneakers.

4. Spot Treatment

Treat stubborn stains with a targeted application of the cleaning solution, using a soft brush or cloth to gently scrub. Let the solution sit for a few minutes before wiping away.

5. General Cleaning

Dip a clean cloth in the soapy water and wipe the sneakers in a circular motion, being careful around any logos or printed areas. For knit or mesh fabrics, lightly dab instead of rubbing.

6. Cleaning Delicate Materials

Suede/Nubuck: Use a suede cleaner and a suede brush to gently clean in one direction. Erase any stains with a suede eraser and then let dry naturally.

Leather: Clean with a leather-specific cleaner and condition with a leather conditioner after drying.

7. Rinse and Dry

Rinse the sneakers with clean water to remove soap residue. Stuff the shoes with newspaper to absorb moisture and maintain shape, and let them air dry away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

8. Post-Cleaning Care

Once dry, apply a protectant spray (if suitable for your shoe material) to help repel future stains and water damage. Replace the cleaned laces and insoles.

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Section 4: Advanced Tips and Tricks

Rotate your sneakers to give each pair ample rest time between wears, preventing excessive wear and odor buildup.

Store sneakers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent fading and cracking.

For heavily soiled sneakers, consider using a washing machine only if the manufacturer permits it and with a laundry bag to minimize abrasion. Always use a gentle cycle and cold water.


Cleaning sneakers is an art that requires patience, attention to detail, and knowledge of the materials involved. With the right tools, techniques, and care, your sneakers can stay fresh, vibrant, and functional for years to come. Regular cleaning and maintenance routines not only enhance the visual appeal of your footwear but also safeguard your investment in style and comfort. Treat your sneakers with love, and they will reward you with lasting joy and miles of confident strides.