What Is The Best Way To Clean Sneakers?

Sneakers are more than just footwear, they’re an extension of our personality, a badge of experience, and a canvas for self-expression. But like prized canvases, they deserve the care and attention to keep them vibrant and functional.

A teen applying cleaning techniques for his replica sneakers.

Deep Cleaning Techniques

Pre-Treating Stains

  • Identify the stain type (grass, food, ink, etc.).
  • Apply a specific stain remover based on the type (check labels and test on an inconspicuous area).
  • Blot the stain with a clean cloth to absorb excess liquid.
  • For stubborn stains, create a paste with baking soda and warm water, apply it to the stain, and let it sit for 15-30 minutes before rinsing.

Soapy Water Solution and Gentle Scrubbing

  • Mix lukewarm water with a mild laundry detergent or gentle dish soap to create a sudsy solution.
  • Dip a soft-bristled brush (toothbrush for tight spaces) into the solution and gently scrub the surface of the shoe.
  • Focus on areas with heavy dirt or grime, working in circular motions.
  • Avoid over-scrubbing, as it can damage the fabric or cause color bleeding.

Rinsing and Air Drying

  • Rinse the entire shoe thoroughly with clean, lukewarm water to remove all soap residue.
  • Stuff the insides with paper towels or clean cloths to maintain the shape while drying.
  • Place the shoes in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or heat sources.
  • Do not use a dryer, as it can shrink or warp the fabric.


  1. Saddle Soap Cleaning:
    • Purchase a good quality saddle soap specifically formulated for leather.
    • Apply a small amount of saddle soap to a damp cloth and gently rub it onto the leather surface.
    • Work in circular motions, focusing on dirt and grime build-up.
    • Avoid using water directly on the leather, as it can cause water stains.
  2. Stain Removal with Specific Solvents:
    • For specific stains like salt marks, use a damp cloth with diluted vinegar to gently wipe away the residue.
    • For oil stains, apply a small amount of cornstarch to absorb the oil before cleaning with saddle soap.
    • Test any cleaning solutions on an inconspicuous area of the leather first.
  3. Polishing for a Gleaming Finish:
    • Once the leather is clean and dry, apply a leather conditioner or polish to nourish and protect the material.
    • Choose a polish suitable for the type of leather (smooth, nubuck, suede).
    • Apply a thin layer of polish with a soft cloth and buff to a shine.

Knit and Mesh

  1. Specialized Sneaker Cleaners or Diluted Castile Soap:
    • Opt for cleaning products specifically designed for knit and mesh fabrics.
    • Alternatively, dilute gentle castile soap with lukewarm water for a DIY solution.
  2. Stuffing with Paper Towels for Shape Retention:
    • Stuff the insides of the shoe with clean paper towels before cleaning to maintain its shape while wet.
    • Replace the paper towels as needed during the cleaning process.
  3. Air Drying in a Well-Ventilated Space:
    • Do not submerge knit or mesh shoes in water. Instead, use a damp cloth or spray bottle to apply the cleaning solution to the surface.
    • Gently scrub with a soft brush or sponge, focusing on areas with dirt or grime.
    • Rinse with clean water and allow the shoes to air dry completely in a well-ventilated space.
    • Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources, as they can damage the fabric.

Synthetic Materials

  1. Warm Water and Gentle Detergent:
    • Mix lukewarm water with a mild laundry detergent or gentle dish soap to create a sudsy solution.
  2. Special Attention to Stubborn Grime on Textured Surfaces:
    • Use a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush to reach into crevices and clean textured surfaces of the shoes.
    • Pay extra attention to areas with stubborn dirt or grime build-up.
  3. Towel Blotting and Air Drying:
    • Do not submerge synthetic shoes in water. Rinse the cleaning solution from the surface with a clean, damp cloth.
    • Use a clean towel to blot away excess moisture without rubbing, as it can spread stains.
    • Allow the shoes to air dry completely in a well-ventilated space away from direct sunlight or heat sources

The Washing Machine Warrior

Before You Plunge: This section should emphasize the importance of checking if your sneakers are machine-washable. Look for care labels or consult the manufacturer’s website. Canvas and some types of knit or mesh sneakers may be suitable, while leather, suede, and delicate materials should be strictly hand-washed.

Cycle & Temperature: Explain the importance of choosing a gentle cycle on cold water. Hot water can cause shrinkage, warping, and discoloration. Highlight alternative cycles like “delicate” or “sportswear” if they are available on your machine.

Mesh Bag Magic: Dive deeper into the benefits of using a mesh laundry bag. It protects your sneakers from snags, abrasions, and tangling with other clothes. Mention using multiple bags if washing multiple pairs simultaneously.

Skipping the Dryer: This is crucial! Machine drying can shrink, crack, and warp your sneakers. Encourage air drying in a well-ventilated space, preferably out of direct sunlight. Stuffed paper towels inside the shoes can help them retain their shape while drying.

Sole Mates: Dedicated section for tackling dirty soles

Soapy Scrub Down: Detail how to thoroughly scrub the soles with a mixture of warm water and gentle detergent using different brush sizes for different areas. For tougher grime, suggest a pre-treatment with a dedicated sneaker cleaner or a baking soda paste.

Magic Eraser Mayhem: Explain the effectiveness of a magic eraser for stubborn scuffs and marks on soles. However, advise using it in gentle circular motions to avoid damaging the rubber or plastic surface.

Baking Soda Brilliance: Elaborate on a DIY baking soda paste recipe for restoring white soles. Mix baking soda with a little water to form a paste, apply it to the soles, leave it on for 15-20 minutes, then scrub and rinse. Mention it may take several applications for stubborn stains.

Odor Busters: Tips for combating shoe stench

Shoe stench doesn’t stand a chance with these powerful odor-busting techniques! Let’s delve deeper into each method:

Baking Soda Sprinkle

  • The Science: Baking soda is a natural deodorizer that absorbs moisture and neutralizes odor-causing bacteria. Its power lies in its high pH level, which creates an environment inhospitable for bacteria to thrive.
  • The How-To:
    • Remove the insoles (if detachable) and sprinkle generous amounts of baking soda directly inside the shoes and on the insoles.
    • Focus on sweat-prone areas like the toe box and heel cup.
    • Leave the shoes overnight, allowing the baking soda to work its magic.
    • In the morning, shake out the baking soda and wipe away any residue with a damp cloth.
    • For extra power, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (tea tree oil, lavender, or lemongrass work wonders) to the baking soda before sprinkling.

 Essential Oil Sprays and Shoe Fresheners

  • The Aromatic Assault: Essential oils pack a fragrant punch against funky smells. Their natural antibacterial properties also help combat the root cause of the odor. Shoe fresheners offer similar benefits, though their scents may be more synthetic.
  • The Spritz and Stash:
    • Choose an essential oil or commercial shoe freshener with a scent that appeals to you (citrus, mint, or cedarwood are popular options).
    • Test the spray on a small, inconspicuous area of the shoe before applying it liberally to the inside and outside of the shoe.
    • Avoid over-spraying, as too much fragrance can be overpowering.
    • Consider placing shoe fresheners inside the shoes for long-lasting odor control.

Freezing the Funk

  • The Cryogenic Cure: The cold temperatures of a freezer can kill odor-causing bacteria. This method is particularly effective for sneakers worn after intense exercise or in hot weather.
  • The Chilling Technique:
    • Ensure your shoes are completely dry before attempting this method.
    • Place each shoe in a separate, sealable plastic bag (double bagging for extra protection is recommended).
    • Put the bags in the freezer for at least 24 hours. The bacteria will be frozen and deactivated during this time.
    • Remove the shoes from the freezer and allow them to thaw naturally before wearing again.

Bonus Tips

  • Wash Your Feet Regularly: Proper foot hygiene is key to preventing shoe odor. Washing your feet daily with a gentle soap and thoroughly drying them, especially between the toes, is crucial.
  • Rotate Your Shoes: Don’t wear the same sneakers every day. Give them time to air out and dry completely between uses. This allows the moisture to evaporate and prevents bacteria from multiplying.
  • Invest in Moisture-Wicking Socks: Synthetic socks trap moisture and contribute to odor. Opt for socks made from natural materials like cotton or wool, which breathe better and absorb sweat more effectively.
  • Sun-Dry When Possible: Sunlight is a natural disinfectant and can help kill bacteria and neutralize odors. When weather permits, air-dry your shoes in direct sunlight for an extra refresh.

With these odor-busting techniques in your arsenal, you can conquer shoe stench and keep your kicks smelling fresh and fantastic!

A guy focusing on cleaning his replica sneakers

Advanced Techniques and Tips

DIY Stain Removal Solutions

  • Grass Stains: Mix 1 tablespoon white vinegar with 1 cup lukewarm water. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and dab the stain, blotting repeatedly until it lifts. Rinse with a damp cloth and air dry.
  • Food and Beverage Spills: For sugar-based spills, apply a paste of baking soda and water to the stain, let it sit for 15 minutes, then gently scrub with a toothbrush and rinse. For oily spills, sprinkle cornstarch on the stain to absorb the oil, then brush it off and clean with mild soapy water.
  • Ink and Dyes: Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Using a cotton swab, dab the stain gently and avoid spreading it. Blot with a clean cloth and repeat until the stain fades. Rinse with water and air dry.
  • Sweat and Odor: Combine 1 tablespoon baking soda with 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Pour the solution inside the shoes and let it sit for an hour. Remove the solution and sprinkle baking soda inside the shoes overnight to absorb odor.

Restoring Color

  • Leather: Use a leather conditioner with natural oils to nourish and revitalize the leather. Apply a thin layer with a soft cloth and buff gently. This will bring back the shine and prevent fading.
  • Canvas and Textiles: Pre-wash the sneakers to remove dirt and grime. Mix a few drops of fabric dye in warm water, dip a toothbrush, and lightly dab faded areas. Be careful not to over-dye. Rinse with clean water and air dry.
  • Knit and Mesh: Spray fabric refresher with UV protection to prevent sun damage and fading. For stubborn discoloration, consider using a specialized sneaker recoloring kit.

Waterproofing Wonders

  • Waterproofing spray: Choose a water-based or silicone-based spray depending on the material of your sneakers. Apply an even coat, holding the can at least 6 inches away. Let it dry completely before wearing.
  • Fabric protector: For canvas shoes, apply a fabric protector spray to repel water and stains. Follow the instructions on the product label.
  • Beeswax treatment: For leather shoes, use a natural beeswax conditioner to add a protective layer and repel water. Rub a small amount into the leather with a soft cloth and buff to a shine.

Storage Savvy

  • Stuff your shoes: Use paper towels or shoe trees to maintain the shape of your sneakers while storing them. This prevents creases and helps absorb moisture.
  • Clean and dry before storing: Always brush off dirt and grime before storing your sneakers. Let them air dry completely to prevent mold and mildew growth.
  • Choose the right location: Store your sneakers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat. Avoid damp basements or attics.
  • Original boxes: If you have the original shoe boxes, use them for storage as they are designed to protect the shoes.

Resole and Repair Resources

  • Finding a cobbler: Research reputable cobblers in your area who specialize in sneaker repairs.
  • Common repairs: Get your soles reattached, replace worn laces, fix broken eyelets, or patch minor tears. Professional repairs can significantly extend the life of your sneakers.
  • DIY fixes: For minor issues like loose stitching or frayed seams, you might be able to do some simple repairs yourself with a needle and thread.
A happy teen holding his replica sneakers

Importance of Clean Sneakers

  • Hygiene and Health: Elaborate on how dirty sneakers harbor bacteria and fungi, leading to foot odor, infections, and even allergies. Mention that cleaning not only improves aesthetics but also promotes personal hygiene and well-being.
  • Fashion Statement and Confidence Booster: Discuss how clean sneakers elevate your entire outfit, enhancing your personal style and making you feel confident and put-together. Share examples of how different sneaker styles complement specific clothing choices.
  • Extending the Lifespan of Your Kicks: Explain how proper cleaning prevents premature wear and tear, saving you money and preserving your favorite sneakers for longer. Emphasize the environmental benefits of extending the life of your shoes.
  • Just throw them in the washing machine!” Dedicate a paragraph to the potential pitfalls of machine washing sneakers. Mention shrinking, color bleeding, and damage to delicate materials. Offer alternative cleaning methods for different sneaker types.
  • “One method fits all” Showcase the diversity of sneaker materials and their unique cleaning needs. Briefly mention the different techniques covered in the guide, like handwashing, machine washing, and specific stain removal methods.
  • Conclude the introduction with a concise overview of the guide’s structure:
    • Understanding your sneakers and their specific needs.
    • Deep-cleaning techniques for various materials.
    • Advanced techniques for stain removal, restoration, and waterproofing.
    • Tips for proper storage and extending the life of your shoes.

A boy examining his replica sneakers

Understanding Your Sneakers

Canvas and Textiles

  • Cleaning Approach:
    • Pre-brush to remove loose dirt and dust.
    • Mix mild laundry detergent with warm water (avoid harsh soaps).
    • Use a soft brush or microfiber cloth to gently scrub the surface.
    • Focus on seams and stitching, where dirt hides.
    • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and towel blot excess moisture.
    • Air dry in a well-ventilated space, away from direct sunlight.
  • Stain Removal:
    • Mud and Dirt: Pre-treat with water and gentle scrubbing before washing.
    • Grass Stains: Apply a paste of baking soda and water for 15 minutes, then rinse.
    • Food and Beverage Spills: Blot with a clean cloth immediately, then treat with appropriate stain remover for specific spills (e.g., vinegar for coffee).
  • Additional Tips:
    • Use shoe inserts when air drying to maintain shape.
    • For stubborn stains, consult a professional shoe cleaner.

Leather (Full-Grain, Top-Grain, Suede)

  • Cleaning Approach:
    • Full-Grain and Top-Grain: Wipe down with a damp microfiber cloth and saddle soap. Work in circular motions and buff excess soap.
    • Suede: Use a suede brush to raise the nap and remove surface dirt. Avoid water, as it can darken the leather.
  • Stain Removal:
    • Water Stains: Apply a suede protector after drying completely.
    • Oil Stains: Sprinkle cornstarch on the stain, leave for 24 hours, then brush off.
    • Salt Stains: Dab with a vinegar-soaked cotton swab, followed by clean water rinse and thorough drying.
  • Additional Tips:
    • Condition leather regularly to maintain its suppleness and prevent cracking.
    • Invest in leather protectors for extra stain and water resistance.
    • Suede eraser can be helpful for minor scuffs on suede.

Knit and Mesh

  • Cleaning Approach:
    • Use a specialized sneaker cleaner or diluted castile soap.
    • Fill the shoe with paper towels to maintain its shape.
    • Gently scrub the exterior with a soft brush or microfiber cloth.
    • Rinse with clean water and blot with a towel.
    • Air dry in a well-ventilated space, away from direct sunlight.
  • Stain Removal:
    • Ink and Dyes: Pre-treat with a stain remover before washing, following product instructions carefully.
    • Sweat and Odor: Soak the laces in a vinegar solution (1:1 vinegar to water), then wash with the rest of the shoe.
  • Additional Tips:
    • Avoid harsh detergents and bleach, as they can damage the delicate knit and mesh fibers.
    • Consider hand-washing over machine washing for better control and stain removal.

Synthetic Materials

  • Cleaning Approach:
    • Use warm water and mild detergent or a specialized sneaker cleaner.
    • Wipe down the surface with a microfiber cloth or soft brush.
    • Pay attention to textured areas where grime can accumulate.
    • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and towel blot excess moisture.
    • Air dry in a well-ventilated space.
  • Stain Removal:
    • Scuffs and Marks: Try a magic eraser for gentle removal of surface marks.
    • Stubborn Stains: Consult a professional shoe cleaner, especially for oil-based stains.
  • Additional Tips:
    • Some synthetic materials may be machine washable on a gentle cycle, check the shoe’s care label.
    • Avoid harsh cleaners and excessive scrubbing, as they can damage the material.

Rubber and Plastic Soles

  • Cleaning Approach:
    • Use a rubber eraser or stiff brush to remove dirt and debris.
    • Mix warm water and dish soap for stubborn grime.
    • For white soles, try a baking soda paste for gentle brightening.
    • Rinse thoroughly with clean water and let air dry.
  • Stain Removal:
    • Oil Stains: Apply cornstarch and leave for 24 hours, then brush off.
    • Marker Stains: Dab with rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab, testing on an inconspicuous area first.
  • Additional Tips:
    • Avoid harsh chemicals and bleach, as they can discolor or damage the soles.
    • Shoe shields can help prevent future stains and scuffs.


  • Briefly revisit the key takeaways from the guide. Summarize the importance of:
    • Understanding your sneakers: Different materials demand different cleaning approaches.
    • Choosing the right tools and methods: Brushes, cloths, solutions – finding the perfect match for your kicks.
    • Mastering the techniques: Handwashing, machine washing, sole scrubbing, odor tackling – becoming a cleaning pro.
    • Going beyond the basics: Advanced techniques like DIY stain removal, color restoration, waterproofing, and proper storage.

In conclusion, sneakers transcend their role as mere footwear; they serve as a canvas for self-expression, a reflection of individual style and personality. However, maintaining their pristine condition is crucial for hygiene, elevating your fashion game, and ensuring their longevity. This comprehensive guide not only covers basic cleaning methods but delves into advanced techniques, offering solutions for stain removal, color restoration, and even waterproofing.

Revitalizing your kicks is not just a chore; it’s an opportunity to take pride in preserving your prized possessions. Clean sneakers not only make a powerful fashion statement but also boost your confidence, allowing you to put your best foot forward, quite literally. The satisfaction of witnessing your sneakers transformed from worn-out to gleaming works of art is unmatched.

So, let’s not just clean our sneakers; let’s celebrate the art of sneaker care. Join the conversation within our community, where enthusiasts like you share success stories, ask questions, and contribute valuable tips. Stride confidently into the world with fresh kicks and a clean slate, knowing that your footwear not only complements your style but also stands as a testament to your commitment to quality. Explore the world of sneaker care and beyond at everythingreps.live, where our passion for excellence extends from sneakers to all aspects of your lifestyle.

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