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How to Clean Your Shoes in 6 Easy Steps

Product Care

Periodic cleanings will keep your shoes looking (and smelling) their best. Here’s how to clean your shoes without damaging them.

Last updated: January 5, 2022
4 min read
How to Clean Your Shoes in 6 Easy Steps
Time Required
30 min
Estimated Cost


  • Dish Soap
  • Baking Soda
  • Magic Eraser (Optional)
  • Leather Conditioner (Optional)
  • White Vinegar (Optional)


  • Shoe Brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Soft Clean Cloth
  • Suede Brush (Optional)

It’s tough to keep your shoes pristine without cleaning them regularly. The minute those new sneakers come out of the box, you’ll want to wear them outside — where they’ll pick up dirt, mud, scuffs, and stains.

To ensure peak performance of your sneakers over time, we recommend proper care and maintenance, including cleaning. Before you get started, place your shoes in a shoe tree or fill them with crumpled newspapers to help retain their shape during cleaning. Then, get to work.

These tips will help you keep any sneakers and running shoes fresh and clean in just a few easy steps.

How to Clean Your Shoes Step by Step

  1. 1.Use a Dry Brush

    Remove loose dirt from the outsole, midsole, and uppers using a dry, soft-bristled shoe brush. No shoe brush? No problem, an old toothbrush works fine.

  2. 2.Make a Mild Cleaning Solution

    Mix warm water with a small amount of mild laundry detergent or dish soap.

    For white and lighter colored shoes, you can also make an effective cleaning paste by mixing equal parts baking soda and water.

  3. 3.Hand Wash the Laces

    Remove the shoelaces and apply a small amount of the mild cleaning solution to them. Massage the laces with your hands, rinse, then dab dry with a soft cloth.

  4. 4.Wash the Soles

    Apply the mild solution to a soft-bristled brush, toothbrush or a wash cloth. Clean the outsole and midsole thoroughly, taking your time to clean every part of the soles. Dry with a soft cloth.

    Note: If you need to wash your insoles, remove them first and clean with your solution, making sure to give them time to dry before putting them back into your shoes.

  5. 5.Wash and Blot the Uppers

    Use the mild solution and a soft-bristled brush, toothbrush, or a soft damp cloth to clean the uppers. Take your time and don't scrub too hard.

    When you're satisfied with the look, use a dry microfiber towel or soft cloth to blot and lift as much soapy moisture and dirt as possible. Repeat if necessary. Try to avoid drying by rubbing as it can wear down the shoe fabric or spread any remaining small bits of dirt.

  6. 6.Air Dry

    Air dry your sneakers at room temperature. Always allow your shoes to dry completely before wearing them for your next workout or activity. For most shoes, it should take at least 8 hours to fully dry.

How to Clean Your Shoes in 6 Easy Steps

Be sure to brush off loose dirt with a shoe brush or toothbrush before you wash the shoe with a cleaning solution.

Special Considerations for Different Materials

Following these basic cleaning steps will ensure clean sneakers, but certain fabrics and materials may need a little extra TLC. Here’s what you need to know about using cleaner for different types of shoes.

How to Clean Leather Shoes

Leather shoes stain easily, so it’s important to clean them regularly. In addition to using a dry brush and mild dish soap solution, you may want to use a Magic Eraser or leather conditioner to remove stains. Don’t scrub the shoes too hard, or you could damage the leather.

How to Clean Suede Shoes

Suede is notoriously difficult to clean. If you notice water marks, scuff marks, dirt or stains, it’s probably time to give your suede shoes a proper cleaning. Use these recommended tricks and special tools to get the job done. Here’s how.

  • Use a suede brush or towel to wipe away surface debris, working in the same direction as the material rather than going against the grain.
  • Use suede rubber (or a pencil eraser) to rub away any marks on the surface of the shoe.
  • For stubborn stains, use a cloth dipped in white vinegar to scrub the fabric in alternating directions.
How to Clean Knit Shoes

Nike Flyknit shoes provide flexible support where you need it most, but the fabric is delicate and requires care when using cleaner. Create a mild, soapy water solution with soap that doesn’t contain chemicals. Never use bleach or other harsh cleaning products, since they can damage the material. Take a clean cloth and rub the solution in the same direction as the knit.

Shoe Cleaning FAQs

Can I Wash My Shoes in a Washing Machine?

Most shoes should not be put in a washing machine or dryer. The delicate materials may get beat up in the wash cycle, and heat can deform your shoes.

How Do I Clean My Insoles to Reduce Shoe Odor?

From time to time, it may also be necessary to clean your insoles. To do so, remove the insoles and use the same cleaning steps for the outside of your shoes. Be sure to air dry them completely before putting them back in your shoes. If odor persists, you may want to replace the insoles. Replacement insoles are available at most sporting goods and shoe stores.

What if My Shoes Are Still Dirty After Cleaning?

If you’ve followed and repeated the cleaning steps above and your shoes still look dirty, they may have taken too many trips up the court, cuts across the field, or laps around the track. It might be time for a new pair of sneakers.

How Often Should I Clean My Shoes?

Your cleaning schedule depends on how often you wear your shoes and where your feet take you. Aim to clean your shoes every two weeks or whenever they start to look dirty. Regular maintenance reduces cleaning time.

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