Are you an avid runner who occasionally steps in that infamous mud puddle? Maybe you are just an extremely active outdoors person and your shoes are bound to get dirty. Perhaps you just bought a new pair of sneakers and on the third day of wearing them, you spilled your breakfast smoothie on your shoes. Do not worry, we have your back. Here is how you can clean sneakers.

Why Clean Sneakers?

First of all, maybe you are wondering why you even need to clean your sneakers.

If you regularly clean your sneakers, there is less chance that an odor will build up. Nobody likes smelly feet, and luckily, stinky shoes can be avoided.

Your shoes will actually last longer if you conduct regular maintenance on them. Regular maintenance includes cleaning, which you can do by following just a few simple steps.

How to Clean Sneakers

The first thing you need to do when you go to clean your sneakers is remove any dirt. Look for dirt that exists on the outsole, midsole, and uppers. You can remove any dirt by using a soft-bristled shoe brush. Just make sure that the brush is dry.

If you do not have a shoe brush, you can use an old toothbrush. It might be time to swap out your toothbrush anyway.

Once you brush off the dirt, you need to make a mild cleaning solution. You can do this by mixing warm water with a little bit of laundry detergent. You need just enough detergent to where the scrubbing will result in suds. Once you have made your cleaning solution, you are going to wash your laces.

First, you need to remove the laces. Then, gather the laces in your hands with some cleaning solution, and massage the laces. Once they are lathered up, simply rinse them out and then dry as best you can with a cloth. You can leave them out to dry in the sun or hang them from a drying rack.

Next, you will need to wash the soles of your shoes. Once again, take your cleaning solution and put it on your cleaning brush. Then, brush the outsole and midsole until a lather has formed. No need to rinse it off. In fact, you should just pat it dry with a clean cloth. Repeat this step if your soles are still dirty.

Now you need to clean the uppers. Take your mild cleaning solution again and your shoe brush. Once you have cleaned the uppers, you should use a microfiber towel (a dry one), or a soft cloth if you do not have a microfiber towel, to pat the uppers dry. You want to try to lift off as much dirt and soapy moisture as you can. If the uppers are still dirty, feel free to scrub them again.

Now that your shoes are clean, you need to allow them to dry. If you do not let them dry, they run the risk of smelly mildewy. That would almost defeat the purpose of cleaning them. You should let them dry at room temperature. If you want, you can stuff your shoes with newspaper, which will help absorb any moisture that has collected inside your shoes.

The Do’s and Do-Not’s of Cleaning Shoes

Just as with anything, there are some things you should and should not do when it comes to how to clean sneakers.


  • use a soft bristle brush on delicate areas, and a stiff bristle brush on the soles
  • clean your shoes regularly

Do Not

  • toss your shoes in the washing machine. If you put your shoes in the washing machine, you run a high risk of messing up the integrity of your shoes. The washing machine is known to mess up the structure of the foam, and these foams are important for giving you a responsive feel and consistent cushioning. Some foams are more resilient than others, but it is never a good idea to toss your shoes in the wash. Your shoelaces can go in the washing machine just fine.
  • toss your shoes in the dryer. The dryer is effective at drying clothes because of its extremely high temperatures. These high temperatures can cause serious damage to your shoes, especially to the foam. It can also mess up the shape of your shoes. Your shoelaces can go in the dryer though.

Cleaning Solutions

Depending on the type of dirt or stain you are dealing with, you will want to use a specific type of cleaning solution:

  • mud: soft-bristle brush and simple cleaning solution (water and detergent)
  • coffee: cold water and microfiber towel – apply the water, then draw out the stain and water using the microfiber towel
  • dirt and dust: soft-bristle brush, baking soda, and vinegar – one part baking soda and one part vinegar. Apply it on the dirty area for about fifteen minutes, then clean up your shoe with your regular mild cleaning solution and microfiber towel
  • grass stains: one part vinegar and two parts water – allow it to sit for about 15 minutes, and repeat as necessary.
  • bad stain: depending on the color of your shoes, you can apply a mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water. Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleach, however, so while you may get the stain out, you may also change the color of your shoes.


As you can see, cleaning your sneakers is a simple process, but you must do it by hand in order to take good care of your shoes. Tossing your shoes into the washing machine or dryer could end up damaging your shoes beyond repair. This would defeat the purpose of cleaning your shoes. The more regularly you clean your shoes, the longer they will last. And after all, who does not like a clean pair of shoes?