How to Clean Your Kicks the Right Way – Shoe Washing Guide


Athletic wear is having a moment in the fashion world, so more and more people are starting to take an interest in athletic shoes.

While a pair of brand new tennis shoes can look great, most athletes know that the stylish effect quickly fades. When you are actually using you shoes frequently, they quickly start to get dirty.

Even if you are not running through mud puddles, daily dirt and dust settles into all the crevices on shoes quickly. Fortunately, most shoes are easy to clean if you follow a few basic rules.

Pay Attention to the Shoe Material


Take a look at your shoes to figure out what they are made out of. Most canvas shoes or shoes made from synthetic fibers can be cleaned with the basic shoe cleaning method shown in this article.

Keep in mind that there are a few brief exceptions though. If your shoes have a suede upper, you should avoid any moisture. Instead, they can be cleaned with a suede brush designed to remove particles. Shoes made of leather can be cleaned mostly normally, but they require an extra step.

You will need to put a leather conditioner on them after cleaning to add back the moisture removed by the sap. Generally, it is best to add leather conditioner after washing and before drying.

Get Rid of Dry Dirt First


Before dampening your shoes, try to brush off any dust or dirt that has dried onto the shoe. It is often easier to remove dry dirt instead of turning it to mud.

The ideal method of removing dirt is gently brushing it away with a soft bristled brush. You can get a brush specifically designed for shoes, or you can use an old toothbrush.

The main goal of this step is to remove excess grime without needing to scrub or otherwise stress the material of the shoe.

Remove Any Extra Parts

If your shoes have laces and insoles, now is the time to remove them. Washing these parts separately accomplishes a few different goals.

First of all, this allows you to clean underneath removable insoles and thick laces. It is the only way to truly get rid of all the dirt and odors built up on your shoes.

Shoe laces can also be washed in the washing machine, so it may cut down on shoe cleaning time if you can toss them in with a load of laundry. Drying these parts separately will ultimately cut down on the dry time for your shoes.

Hand Wash the Shoes


A washing machine tends to put extra stress on all the delicate components of shoes, and sometimes it does not actually even remove dirt. Your best bet is just to do it by hand.

Mix up a solution of warm water with teaspoon or two of basic laundry detergent. Dip a soft cloth or sponge in the water, and then pat it onto the dirty areas of your shoe. Allow the solution to sit for a minute or two and then scrub in a soft, circular motion to lift away grime.

Once the shoes are clean, get a clean cloth and dip it into clean water. Use this cloth to wipe away any soap and lingering dirt. Keep doing this until no soap remains.

Deodorize and Remove Stubborn Stains

The above cleaning method cleans most shoes, but you may have a few special circumstances that require extra cleaning. If your shoes are really stinky, you can soak the insoles for an hour or two in a mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water.

You can also enclose the shoes in a bag with baking powder to absorb more odors. Any deep set scuff marks may require more intensive methods. You can sometimes buff them out of the shoe sole with an eraser or a paste of baking soda and water.

Keep in mind that this will remove a thin layer of the rubber on the shoe. Other stubborn stains may be removable with nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol.

Always test these more extreme cleaning methods on a tiny portion of the shoe to make sure they do not alter the color before using them on the whole shoe.

Let Them Dry Slowly


One of the biggest ways that people damage their shoes while trying to clean them is during the drying process. According to Nike, you should never ever toss your shoes into the dryer.

The high heat tends to melt the glue holding the upper to the sole. Even if the shoe does not fall apart, its integrity will be weakened. If you have a really nice pair of running shoes, it is even more important to avoid the dryer because the heat wreaks havoc on the synthetic fibers and advanced polymers used in these shoes.

The best way to dry your shoes is to stuff the inside with newspaper or paper towels and set them in the sun. They will dry slowly over the course of the day.

Final Take

Hopefully you’ve gained more insight on how to properly wash your shoes. Taking good care of your possessions will not only make them last longer, but it will mold your mindset into what many millionaires call their secret to success, taking care of your things that is.


  1. Ironing the shoe laces after washing them??? Isn’t that a bit much? I mean a new pair of laces is what under $5? Under $10 for sure. Wouldn’t it be less time consuming and a nice way to make your cleaned sneakers really shine with a pair of new laces after cleaning them?


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