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A Guide To Cleaning & Keeping Your Sneakers Fresh


Josyula Sanshray
June 17, 2022

Whether new or old, your sneakers deserve to be looked after. Learn how to clean and care for your sneakers, to keep your kicks as good as new.

If you have decided that you will wear the sneakers you collect out, there is really nothing like the excitement you get from matching them with the perfect outfit and the satisfaction of people noticing your fly new kicks. But wearing your sneakers out is also a commitment, it means cleaning them regularly to keep them in good condition to make sure they last as long as possible. Not to mention being exposed to the elements means possibly getting rain, mud, food, and dirt on them. So how does one go about protecting and cleaning their sneakers? Ox Street makes this easy with our beginner’s guide to cleaning and keeping your sneakers fresh for your next day out. 

How To Take Care of Your Sneakers

Know which material you’re dealing with

Before you start doing anything to your sneakers, it is important to know what materials you are dealing with or you might end up accidentally doing more harm than good to them. Some materials require special solutions or tools, while others can’t touch any water. 

Shop the Puma Suede on Ox Street
Shop the Puma Suede on Ox Street

Leather or synthetic

If your sneakers are made of real premium leather, they do need some level of care and attention as it is made of natural materials. Besides being more gentle when cleaning them, some leather products can be used to maintain them. Synthetic leather on the other hand is much more forgiving and low maintenance. 

Suede sneakers

Suede sneakers are notorious for being harder to maintain because of how soft the material is, which makes them more fragile and harder to clean. It also should not be washed with water, and only through dry methods. 

Cleaning your sneakers

For the sake of appearance, preservation, and the smell, you have to wash sneakers that you wear out just like with any other apparel (though not as often). Especially so if you have unfortunately dirtied them and do not want them to stain permanently or ruin the shoes. 

By hand

It is generally recommended to not risk it and hand wash your precious sneakers, especially if you spent quite a bit on them. Just dish soap and an all-purpose cleaner (that doesn’t contain bleach to prevent color loss) usually do the trick, but feel free to splurge a little on specialty cleaners when it comes to detailing sneakers. 

For leather uppers, midsoles, and outsoles, a soft-bristled toothbrush or a small washcloth can be used to gently clean your beloved kicks. Just remove the laces, stick your hand in the toebox and scrub away at the stains. These tools however should not be used on more fussy materials like suede or knit uppers, as they do not go well with liquid or bristles. The best way to clean these is to use a suede brush and eraser for the former, and gently wash the latter without pulling or snagging the strands with tools. 

Washing machine

Can you wash your sneakers using a washing machine is a common question that pops up, especially on days when we are feeling extra lazy. Luckily most athletic shoes can be machine-washed if they are made from synthetics or canvas but do not wash sneakers made from hides like leather and suede.

A few things to note before you toss your shoes into the washer would be to remove the laces (to be washed separately in a small laundry bag) so as to was the dirt collected around the eyelets, pretreat badly soiled sneakers with dirt and mud, use cold water, and don’t overdo it with the detergent. When you are done, flip the tongue over the toe box and air-dry them to make sure it doesn’t end up with a moist smell, and stuff a balled-up towel in the toebox to absorb moisture inside. 

Keeping them smell fresh

One of the reasons why we wash sneakers is to make sure they do not smell because foot odor happens and feet sweat. To eliminate that, add a bit of white vinegar, odour eliminators, or sports detergents on suitable sneakers when washing them. Also remember to remove and wash the insoles, because it can get real nasty if you forget to do so for some time. 

If you want to prevent odor from building up, odor-eliminating sprays are a quick fix. Baby powder and baking soda also work but might be messy to apply and its white coloring might show so deal at your risk. Finally, rotate your sneakers by leaving at least a day between wearings and use sneaker balls to keep them fresh when you are not wearing them. 

Protecting your sneakers

Protective sprays like Crep Protect can be used before your sneakers get dirtied, especially if they are not the type that looks better a little worn out like Chuck Taylors. We strongly recommend using protective sprays for suede or nubuck leather shoes because of how difficult it is to clean them without damaging the soft material. Remember to read the instructions and hold the spray six to eight inches away from the shoes during application, and to reapply every 6 to 12 months or as directed (not every day). 

You can also protect your sneakers in the way you store them, by keeping them in a shoe box with dryer sheets instead of tossing them in a pile as they might become soiled or misshapen under the weight of other shoes. A pro-tip when it comes to storing your sneakers is to stuff them with newspapers after wear to absorb moisture and prevent creases.  You can also use crease protectors that go in the toebox before wearing them out. 

A special note for white sneakers

Shop the OFF-WHITE x Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG 'White' 2018 on Ox Street
Shop the OFF-WHITE x Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG 'White' 2018 on Ox Street

White sneakers are a nightmare to keep clean but also we love how it matches easily with any outfit. If you follow the tips above they should work for most white sneakers as well with the use of baking soda. A quick note for white suede sneakers as the material stains easily, use a dry paper towel to blot the stain first then use a soft cloth dipped in a bit of white vinegar to gently remove the stain. Then use a suede brush when dry to get the texture back.  

Buy a fresh pair of sneakers on Ox Street

When all else fails and your shoes have been ruined because you did something wrong or simply because they are too old as nothing lasts forever, you can always turn to Ox Street to get a fresh pair of your favorite sneakers. 

Josyula is a Singapore based bedroom DJ, Photographer, and Sneaker Collector. He loves all things culture and music, and writes in-depth articles on sneaker culture in Asia