The Ultimate Guide to Washing Sneakers: Keeping Your Footwear Fresh and Clean

The Ultimate Guide to Washing Sneakers: Keeping Your Footwear Fresh and Clean


Introduction Sneakers have become a staple in our wardrobes, providing comfort and style for all occasions. However, with frequent wear, sneakers can quickly accumulate dirt, stains, and odors. Knowing how to properly clean and maintain your sneakers is essential to keep them looking fresh and prolong their lifespan. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the best practices and methods for washing sneakers, whether you have leather, canvas, or synthetic materials. Get ready to give your sneakers the TLC they deserve!

1. Preparing Your Sneakers for Washing

1.1 Removing Surface Dirt

Before diving into the washing process, it's important to remove any surface dirt or debris from your sneakers. Start by using a soft brush or cloth to gently brush off loose dirt and mud. Pay special attention to the soles and crevices where dirt tends to accumulate. This step will prevent unnecessary grime from entering the washing machine or spreading during handwashing.

1.2 Taking Out Insoles and Laces

To ensure a thorough cleaning, it's recommended to remove the insoles and sneakers laces.. Insoles can be hand washed separately, and laces can either be soaked in a cleaning solution or washed in a mesh laundry bag. By removing these components, you'll have better access to all areas of your sneakers, resulting in a more effective cleaning process.

2. Washing Sneakers in the Washing Machine

2.1 Checking Laundry Symbols and Manufacturer Recommendations

While many sneakers can be safely washed in a washing machine, it's crucial to check the laundry symbols and any manufacturer recommendations before proceeding. Some materials, such as rubber, suede, or vinyl, may not react well to the harshness of a washing machine. On the other hand, sneakers made from nylon, cotton, or polyester are usually more durable and can withstand machine washing.

2.2 Preparing Your Sneakers for Machine Washing

Before placing your sneakers in the washing machine, take a few additional steps to protect both the shoes and the machine. Firstly, remove the laces and place them in a mesh laundry bag or wash them separately. This will prevent tangling and potential damage. Secondly, consider adding other items, such as old towels or clothing, to provide cushioning and reduce the impact on your sneakers and the washing machine drum.

2.3 Selecting the Right Washing Machine Settings

When it comes to machine washing your sneakers, selecting the appropriate settings is crucial. Opt for a gentle or delicate cycle with cold water to prevent color fading, shrinking, or distortion of the shoes. It's also recommended to use a liquid detergent instead of powder, as it dissolves more effectively and avoids residue buildup in the crevices of your sneakers.

2.4 Washing Your Sneakers

Once you've prepared your sneakers and selected the right settings, it's time to start the washing process. Place your sneakers, along with the mesh laundry bag containing the laces, into the washing machine. To ensure a balanced load, consider adding other laundry items of similar weight. Start the machine and let it work its magic, gently agitating and cleaning your sneakers.

2.5 Air Drying Your Sneakers

After the washing cycle is complete, resist the temptation to speed up the drying process by using a dryer. High heat can damage the structure of your sneakers and compromise their integrity. Instead, remove the sneakers from the washing machine and allow them to air dry naturally. Find a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or heat sources, and let your sneakers dry completely before wearing them again.

3. Handwashing Sneakers

3.1 When to Choose Handwashing

While machine washing is convenient, there are instances where handwashing is the safer option. If your sneakers have leather parts or are made from delicate materials, it's best to avoid machine washing. Handwashing allows for more control and reduces the risk of damage to your sneakers.

3.2 Handwashing Techniques for Different Materials

When it comes to handwashing sneakers, the approach may vary depending on the materials involved. For synthetic or fabric sneakers, start by removing the laces and brushing off any loose dirt. Prepare a solution of warm water and a gentle liquid detergent. Dip a soft brush or cloth into the solution and gently scrub the surface of the sneakers. Pay attention to stains or stubborn dirt and use a melamine eraser or specialized stain remover if necessary. Rinse the sneakers with clean water and let them air dry.

3.3 Cleaning Leather and Suede Sneakers by Hand

Leather and suede sneakers require extra care during the cleaning process. Avoid submerging them in water or using harsh chemicals. Instead, use a soft cloth or brush to apply a mild detergent solution to the surface. Gently scrub in circular motions, focusing on stained areas. For scuff marks on rubber parts, try using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. After cleaning, wipe away excess moisture and let the sneakers air dry. To maintain the texture of suede, brush it in one direction after the cleaning sneakers.

4. Targeting Specific Stains and Odors

4.1 Removing Oil and Grease Stains

Oil and grease stains can be particularly stubborn to remove from sneakers. To tackle these stains, use an enzyme-based laundry detergent or a specialized stain remover designed to dissolve oil and grease. Apply the detergent directly to the stain and gently scrub with a soft brush or cloth. Rinse thoroughly with water and repeat the process if necessary. Always check the care instructions for your sneakers before using any chemical products.

4.2 Dealing with Yellow Stains

Yellow stains that develop over time can be frustrating, especially on white sneakers. To minimize yellowing, soak your sneakers in a solution of warm water and non-bleach laundry disinfectant. You can also try using a paste of baking soda and water, applying it to the affected areas and gently scrubbing. Rinse the sneakers thoroughly and let them air dry. For stubborn yellow stains, consult a professional shoe cleaner or restoration service.

4.3 Eliminating Odors

Sneakers can develop unpleasant odors over time, especially if they are frequently worn during physical activities. To tackle odors, sprinkle baking soda inside the sneakers and let it sit overnight. Baking soda helps absorb moisture and neutralize odors. In the morning, simply shake out the excess baking soda. You can also use specialized shoe deodorizers or place dryer sheets inside your sneakers to keep them smelling fresh.

5. General Maintenance and Care Tips

5.1 Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Prevention is key to keeping your sneakers in top condition. Regularly clean your sneakers to prevent dirt and stains from building up. Brush off any loose dirt after each wear and wipe down the surface with a damp cloth. By establishing a cleaning routine, you can maintain the appearance and longevity of your sneakers.

5.2 Proper Storage

When your sneakers are not in use, proper storage is essential to prevent damage and maintain their shape. Keep your sneakers in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Avoid storing them in plastic bags or airtight containers, as this can lead to a buildup of moisture and promote the growth of mold or mildew. Instead, use shoe boxes or breathable fabric shoe bags to protect your sneakers.

5.3 Rotation and Rest

To prolong the lifespan of your sneakers, it's beneficial to rotate them and allow them to rest between wears. By alternating between different pairs of sneakers, you give them time to air out and prevent excessive wear and tear. This practice also helps prevent odor buildup and allows you to enjoy your sneakers for a longer period.

5.4 Professional Cleaning and Restoration

If your sneakers require deep cleaning or have significant damage, it may be worth considering professional cleaning or restoration services. Professional shoe cleaners have the expertise and specialized products to tackle tough stains and restore your sneakers to their former glory. Research reputable shoe cleaning services in your area or seek recommendations from fellow sneaker enthusiasts.


With the knowledge and techniques shared in this ultimate guide, you are now equipped to tackle the task of washing sneakers with confidence. Remember to always check the care instructions for your specific sneakers and adapt the cleaning methods accordingly. By maintaining a regular cleaning routine and following proper care tips, you can keep your sneakers looking fresh, clean, and ready for any adventure.

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This article was written by Muhammad Saleem Shahzad, Managing Editor of Fashion and Manufacturing. With more than a decade of experience in the Fashion industry, Muhammad reports on breaking news and provides analysis and commentary on all things related to fashion, clothing and manufacturing.