hands gently scrubbing white sneakers with a soft brush. Bubbles of soap are visible on the surface of the sneakers, indicating the use of a cleaning solution. To the side, there is an open container of baking soda and a small bowl of water, commonly used for sneaker cleaning.

How to Clean Sneakers

If you’ve ever looked down at your favorite pair of sneakers and thought, “Oops, these don’t look as shiny as they used to”, you’re in the right place. We all want our kicks to look brand new, even if we’ve had them for months or years. Besides, who doesn’t love the feeling of wearing spotless shoes? It’s like getting a brand new pair without the price tag!

Our shoes take us on countless adventures, from school hallways to weekend hangouts with friends. And, just like any superhero, they can get a little dirty from all that action. That’s why we’ve crafted this guide on “How to Clean Sneakers”. Whether you’ve spilled something on them or just went on a muddy hike, this guide will help bring back that fresh-out-of-the-box look.

By the end of this article, you’ll be a sneaker cleaning pro! So, get ready to dive into the world of sparkling shoes. Keep reading to find out the best tips and tricks to make sure your sneakers are the cleanest on the block.

Determine the Material of Your Sneakers

Before we dive into the cleaning process, it’s essential to know what type of material your sneakers are made of. This step is crucial as it will guide you on which cleaning products and methods to use.

Identifying Common Sneaker Materials

  1. Leather: This material is usually found in high-end and fashionable sneakers. It has a smooth and shiny surface.
  2. Suede: Suede has a soft and fuzzy texture, often used in stylish and trendy sneakers.
  3. Canvas: Canvas is a common material for casual sneakers. It has a textile fabric that is easy to care for.
  4. Mesh: Typically found in athletic sneakers, mesh is lightweight and breathable, making it perfect for sports and outdoor activities.
  5. Synthetic: This category includes a range of artificial materials designed to imitate leather or other natural fibers.

Understanding Why Material Matters in the Cleaning Process

The type of material your sneakers are made of plays a significant role in the cleaning process. Some materials, like leather and suede, require special care to avoid damage, while others, like canvas and mesh, can handle more rigorous cleaning methods. By knowing the material of your sneakers, you can ensure you’re using the right products and techniques to keep them in tip-top shape. Remember, the goal of “How to Clean Sneakers” is to get them looking as good as new, and that starts with understanding the material!

Pre-cleaning Preparations

Before jumping into the full cleaning action, some prep work can make the process smoother and more effective. Like a chef setting out all their ingredients before cooking, these pre-cleaning steps ensure that once you dive into the world of sneaker cleaning, it’s all smooth sailing.

Removing Laces and Insoles

Laces: Start by untying and removing the laces from your sneakers. This allows you to clean them separately, ensuring they regain their brightness and also gives you better access to the shoe’s surface. You can later wash these laces either by hand or toss them in a mesh bag and put them in the washing machine.

Insoles: If your sneakers have removable insoles, take them out. Cleaning them separately will help eliminate any odor and ensure they retain their shape and comfort.

Brushing off Loose Dirt and Debris

Before you introduce any liquids, grab a soft brush or an old toothbrush. Gently brush away any loose dirt, sand, or debris from the shoe’s surface. Pay special attention to the soles and crevices. This ensures that when you start the wet cleaning process, you’re not just moving mud around.

Selecting the Right Cleaning Products for Your Sneaker Material

This step circles back to understanding your sneaker’s material. For example:

  • Leather sneakers usually do best with specialized leather cleaners.
  • Canvas and mesh shoes often come out great with mild soap and water.
  • Suede needs extra care, so a suede cleaner is typically the way to go.

It’s always a good idea to read any product labels and do a spot test on an inconspicuous area of the shoe before going all in.

Remember, proper prep is half the battle in our quest on “How to Clean Sneakers”. With these steps, you’ll be set to make your kicks look as dazzling as the day you first wore them!

Basic Cleaning for All Sneakers

Whether you’re rocking leather high-tops or mesh running shoes, there’s a foundational cleaning routine that works wonders for most sneakers. This section will guide you through the fundamental steps of “How to Clean Sneakers” that every sneaker enthusiast should know.

Creating a Cleaning Solution

The magic potion for cleaning most sneakers is a straightforward one. All you need is some mild detergent and water. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Fill a bowl with lukewarm water.
  2. Add a few drops of the mild detergent.
  3. Stir the mixture until you see bubbles forming. Voila! Your sneaker cleaning solution is ready.

Pro-tip: Always opt for a mild detergent to prevent harsh chemicals from harming your sneakers’ material.

Using a Soft-Bristled Brush or Cloth for Scrubbing

Once you’ve got your cleaning solution ready, it’s scrubbing time!

Soft-Bristled Brush: This tool is perfect for most sneaker materials. Dip the brush into your cleaning solution, shake off excess liquid, and gently scrub your sneakers in a circular motion. This method helps lift dirt and stains effectively.

Cloth: For those delicate areas or for materials that need a gentler touch, a damp cloth can be the right choice. Simply dip the cloth into the solution, wring out excess water, and gently wipe the shoe.

Pro-tip: Always work from the least dirty areas to the most stained parts. This ensures you don’t spread the dirt around.

Wiping Down and Rinsing

After giving your sneakers a good scrub, it’s essential to remove the soap residue:

  1. Get a clean cloth or sponge, dampen it with fresh water, and wipe down your sneakers to remove any soap.
  2. For those who want to be thorough, you can rinse the exterior of your sneakers under lukewarm running water, especially if they’re made of durable material like canvas or synthetic.
  3. Gently press your sneakers between clean towels to remove excess water, ensuring they’re not overly saturated.

And there you have it! With these basic cleaning steps, you’re well on your way to make those sneakers shine and turn heads wherever you go!

Material-Specific Cleaning Tips

So, now that we’ve covered the basics of “How to Clean Sneakers”, let’s get a tad more specific. Depending on the material of your sneakers, there are particular care and techniques that can make a world of difference. Let’s dive in!


Leather sneakers are classy, but they also require a touch of love to keep them looking dapper.

  1. Using Leather Cleaners or Saddle Soap: Specially designed leather cleaners or saddle soap can lift dirt and stains without damaging the leather. Apply a small amount to a cloth and work it into the shoe in circular motions.
  2. Conditioning: Leather can dry out over time. Use a leather conditioner after cleaning to keep the material soft, prevent cracks, and maintain that shiny look.
  3. Avoiding Excessive Water: Too much water can warp or stain leather. Always use a damp cloth instead of soaking the shoe and dry it slowly away from direct heat.


Suede is delicate, but with the right care, it can stay looking fresh and luxurious.

  1. Using a Suede Eraser: For those pesky scuffs and marks, a suede eraser can work wonders. Gently rub the eraser over the affected areas.
  2. Applying a Suede Brush: After erasing, use a suede brush to restore the nap and give it that classic velvety look.
  3. Avoiding Water: Suede and water aren’t best friends. Always use protective sprays, and if it gets wet, blot it gently and let it air dry.


Canvas sneakers are popular and versatile, but they need their own kind of TLC.

  1. Applying a Gentle Scrubbing Technique: With your mild detergent solution, use a soft brush and gently scrub away any dirt. The fabric is durable but still deserves a gentle touch.
  2. Air-Drying: After cleaning, it’s best to let canvas shoes air dry to maintain their shape. Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources.


Mesh sneakers are breathable and light, perfect for those athletic endeavors.

  1. Being Gentle: Mesh can stretch or deform easily. Use your fingers or a soft cloth to clean, avoiding aggressive scrubbing.
  2. Using Mild Detergents: Stick to our trusty mild detergent solution to ensure the mesh doesn’t get damaged or discolored.


Last but not least, synthetic sneakers combine the best of all worlds but need a special touch.

  1. Using a Mild Cleaning Solution: As always, our mild detergent solution is the go-to choice.
  2. Being Wary of Potential Discoloration: Always test a small, inconspicuous area first before cleaning the whole shoe. Synthetic materials can sometimes react unpredictably to cleaning agents.

Remember, every material is unique, and knowing these nuances can be the difference between sneakers that are “just clean” and those that truly shine!

Drying Your Sneakers

So, you’ve scrubbed, wiped, and rinsed your shoes till they sparkle. But wait! The journey in “How to Clean Sneakers” isn’t over yet. The drying process is just as crucial to ensure your sneakers stay in great condition and last for many adventures to come.

Importance of Air-Drying Versus Heat

Drying your sneakers is a game of patience. While it’s tempting to toss them in a dryer or place them near a heater for quick results, it’s not the best idea.

  1. Air-Drying: This method is the gentlest way to dry your shoes. It prevents materials like leather, suede, and canvas from shrinking or becoming misshapen.
  2. Avoiding Direct Heat: Heaters, radiators, or hairdryers can damage the integrity of the shoe material. Overheating can lead to the shoe losing its shape, the adhesive coming apart, or even the material getting brittle.

Techniques to Maintain Shape

Ever noticed that after washing, some shoes look a bit… deflated? Here’s how to keep them looking sharp and structured:

  1. Using Shoe Trees: These handy tools can help your sneakers maintain their original shape as they dry. If you don’t have shoe trees, fear not! There are alternatives.
  2. Stuffing with Paper: Grab some old newspapers or paper towels, crumple them up, and gently stuff your shoes. This method helps absorb moisture and keeps the shape intact. Just remember to change the paper if it gets too wet.

Avoiding Direct Sunlight to Prevent Color Fading

We all love the sun, but our sneakers? Not so much.

  1. Prevent Color Loss: Direct sunlight can cause the colors on your shoes to fade, especially if they’re bright or dark. To preserve those vibrant hues, always dry your sneakers in a shady, well-ventilated spot.
  2. Consistent Drying: The shade also ensures that your shoes dry consistently without one part getting drier than the other.

In conclusion, while cleaning is vital, how you dry your sneakers is the final touch in the art of sneaker maintenance. Treat them right, and they’ll keep looking and feeling fantastic for a long time!

Post-Cleaning Tips

The finish line in our “How to Clean Sneakers” marathon is in sight! But before you sprint off in your pristine kicks, there’s a final leg to this journey. These post-cleaning tips will not only ensure your sneakers look great but also stay protected for future wear.

Re-lacing Your Sneakers

It’s like the cherry on top! After all your cleaning efforts:

  1. Fresh Look: Properly re-lacing your sneakers gives them a fresh, just-out-of-the-box appearance. Ensure the laces aren’t twisted and that they’re laced uniformly.
  2. Try New Styles: Now might be the perfect time to experiment with different lacing techniques or even opt for new laces to add a touch of novelty.

Applying Protectants or Sprays

Protection is the key to longevity. Now that your sneakers are clean:

  1. Repel Future Stains: Consider using a protectant spray, especially for materials like suede or canvas. These sprays create a protective barrier against water, dirt, and other stains, making future cleaning sessions less frequent and more manageable.
  2. Follow Instructions: Always read the label of any protectant product. Apply in a well-ventilated area and allow the sneakers to dry thoroughly before wearing.

Storing in a Cool, Dry Place

Where you store your sneakers can make a significant difference in their lifespan.

  1. Prevent Mold and Mildew: A cool, dry place ensures that there’s no residual moisture, which can lead to mold or mildew. It also prevents the adhesive in the shoes from breaking down.
  2. Maintain Shape: Store sneakers so they’re not squished or bent out of shape. Using shoe trees or even the paper stuffing technique can be beneficial in between wears.

In wrapping up, remember that a clean sneaker is a happy sneaker. By following these post-cleaning tips, you’re not just ensuring they look good but also that they’re ready for many more miles and adventures to come. Happy stepping!

Regular Maintenance and Care

Consistency is key in many aspects of life, and the same holds true for sneaker care. “How to Clean Sneakers” is not just about deep cleaning sessions; it’s also about the small, regular steps we take to keep them looking their best. Here’s how to ensure your sneakers stay in top condition every day.

Routine Spot Cleaning

Life is messy, and our shoes bear the brunt of it. But a little spill doesn’t mean you need a full cleaning session every time.

  1. Quick Action: As soon as you notice a smudge or spot, quickly wipe it off using a damp cloth. Immediate action can prevent many stains from setting in.
  2. Mild Solutions: For stubborn spots, a dab of your mild detergent solution can work wonders. Remember to spot-test first!

Rotating Wear to Prolong Sneaker Lifespan

Your sneakers need breaks just like you do!

  1. Even Wear: Rotating between different pairs prevents excessive wear and tear on any single pair. It allows materials to breathe, recover, and ensures the sneakers’ longevity.
  2. Rest Periods: Just like resting muscles after a workout, shoes benefit from downtime. This is especially true for athletic shoes, which need to recover from the impact.

Investing in Quality Sneaker Cleaning Products

Sometimes, it’s worth spending a bit more for the right tools and products.

  1. Effective Cleaning: High-quality products are often more effective at cleaning and can be gentler on your sneakers’ materials. This means less effort for better results.
  2. Long-Term Savings: Investing in good cleaning products now can save you money in the long run. It can mean fewer deep cleans, less damage to your shoes, and ultimately fewer replacements needed.

In conclusion, regular maintenance is the secret sauce to keeping sneakers in tip-top shape. It’s less about grand gestures and more about the small, consistent acts of care. With these habits in place, not only will your sneakers thank you, but they’ll also look as good as new for a long, long time.

Conclusion: The Art of Sneaker Care

From identifying materials to the final touches of routine maintenance, we’ve journeyed through the comprehensive guide on “How to Clean Sneakers”. But, like any art form, sneaker care is about more than just the techniques. It’s about the pride in each step, the satisfaction of witnessing a transformation, and the joy of giving life back to something we often take for granted.

In today’s fast-paced world, where everything is disposable, taking the time to care for our belongings, like our trusty sneakers, stands as a testament to appreciation and sustainability. Every clean sneaker is a step towards a mindset of valuing what we have, of making things last, and of walking through life with intention and attention to detail.

Whether you’re a sneakerhead with a collection to rival any museum or someone who owns just a couple of pairs for practicality, the lessons in care, patience, and consistency are universal. And as you lace up your freshly cleaned sneakers and step out into the world, remember that it’s not just about cleanliness; it’s about the respect we show to the things that carry us forward. Happy walking!


This largely depends on how frequently you wear them and the conditions they’re exposed to. However, a general rule of thumb is to do a spot clean whenever you notice dirt or stains and a deep clean every month if you wear them regularly.

While some sneakers, especially those made of canvas or synthetic materials, can be machine washed, it’s essential to check the manufacturer’s care instructions. Keep in mind that the washing machine can be harsh on some shoes, leading to a reduced lifespan or damage.

A mild solution of water and a few drops of gentle detergent works for most sneakers. Remember always to spot-test an inconspicuous area first.

While sunlight can speed up the drying process, it can also cause colors to fade and materials to warp. It’s best to dry sneakers in a cool, shaded area with good airflow.

Good hygiene helps, but also removing insoles and letting them air out, using moisture-absorbing shoe inserts, and storing sneakers in a dry place can mitigate odors.

No, different materials require different care. Leather, suede, canvas, mesh, and synthetic materials each have specific cleaning recommendations, as highlighted in the material-specific cleaning tips section.

This can be due to a reaction between the sneaker material and certain cleaning agents. It can also be caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight. Always use mild detergents and dry sneakers in a shaded area.

Using shoe trees or stuffing them with crumpled paper when not in use can help maintain their shape. Also, avoid storing them under heavy objects or in cramped spaces.

For materials like suede or those prone to stains, protectant sprays can be beneficial. They provide a barrier against moisture and stains, prolonging the time between deep cleans.

It’s best to wait until your sneakers are completely dry before wearing them. Wearing damp shoes can lead to discomfort, odors, and potential damage.