The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Dirty Sneakers

Here’s how to make your kicks look brand new again.

(Photo: Getty)

(Photo: Getty)

Dirty sneakers happen. With normal wear, shoes can get seriously grimy and caked with dirt and mud and stained with anything and everything on the street.

That’s why it’s important to know how to restore your kicks to their day one glory, and if you need some guidance with that, we’re here to help.

But just FYI — this is only for leather and canvas sneakers. Suede and other delicate materials need more specialized treatment.

Here are the materials you need to get your shoes sparkling clean again:

  • Washcloths
  • A brush (toothbrush or nail brush)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dish soap
  • Whitening toothpaste
  • Hot water
  • Baking soda
  • Borax

Step 1: Clean dirt and dust

Once you have your materials ready to go, remove the laces and shake off loose dirt and dust by banging the soles of your shoes together over a trash can, then brush off remaining dirt with a brush or damp towel.

Step 2: Spot or deep clean the upper

If your shoes have a dirty spot or two, a quick rubdown with a wet washcloth soaked in water and laundry detergent should do the trick. Just wipe the stains, rinse the washcloth and wipe again to really get the stain out.

If your shoes are really dirty, brush the the uppers with detergent on a soft brush — like a nail or toothbrush — and then wipe off with a washcloth.

Step 3: Rinse

Either rinse out your washcloth or grab a new one and wipe over your shoes once more to get the soap out. If your shoes are still dirty, repeat step two.

Step 4: Brush with whitening toothpaste (only for canvas sneakers)

For canvas sneakers, give the upper a brush with whitening toothpaste to get them blindingly white. Just put a bit of toothpaste on your brush and brush all over, then wipe off with a wet washcloth.

Step 5: Clean the laces

When it comes to dirty laces, either toss them in the washing machine with your laundry, or scrub them with detergent by hand while you’re cleaning your sneakers. 

Step 6: Take care of insole odor

Are your sneakers smelling a little funky? No worries. If airing them out doesn’t take care of the stank, take them out of the shoe, sprinkle them heavily with baking soda, and leave them to neutralize overnight. Slap them together over a trash can the next day or throw them in the wash on gentle cycle with baking soda and borax to eliminate any and all odors.

Step 7: Outsole

Mix some dish soap with a little bit of water, dip a toothbrush in the solution, and scrub away at the outsole. Wipe down and repeat until clean. 

Step 8: Dry

Once your kicks are sufficiently clean and you’re satisfied with how spic and span they look, tilt them with the nose of the shoe down and the heel against a wall and leave them until dry.