How to Clean Your Sneakers Without Damaging Them

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Sneakers are popular footwear for many people due to their comfort and style. However, they can accumulate dirt, stains, and odor over time, making them look worn out. Cleaning your shoes regularly helps maintain your sneakers’ appearance and extends their lifespan.

To ensure you clean your sneakers effectively without causing any damage, it’s essential to consider the fabric or material they’re made of. Whether you have suede, canvas, leather, or other sneakers, this article will provide useful tips and cleaning techniques.

Universal Cleaning Tips to Start

Before diving into specific cleaning methods, some general cleaning tips apply to all shoes regardless of what needs to be cleaned. These recommendations will ensure that you don’t damage your sneakers.

Cleaning Sneakers General Tips
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  • Read the Manufacturer’s Instructions: Sneakers often come with care labels that provide guidelines for cleaning them. Refer to these instructions first to avoid any potential damage. This is especially important if you’ve purchased rare sneakers online because you want to protect that investment.
  • Spot Test: Before applying any cleaning solution or method to the entire shoe, perform a spot test on a small, inconspicuous area. This step ensures the cleaner doesn’t cause discoloration or damage to the material.
  • Avoid Excessive Water: While water is generally used in cleaning sneakers, too much water can harm certain materials. Always use minimal water and dry your sneakers thoroughly after cleaning.
  • Remove Laces and Insoles: Take out the laces and insoles from your sneakers before cleaning them. This allows for a more thorough cleaning and prevents the laces from tangling or damaging.

Cleaning Suede Sneakers

Suede sneakers require extra care to avoid ruining their delicate texture. With the right touch, you can wipe off dirt, remove stains, and enjoy clean suede tennis shoes again.

Cleaning Sneakers Suede
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Before you begin, you will need a suede cleaning brush or toothbrush, a suede eraser or a pencil eraser, and a soft cloth. You may also want suede cleaner, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, corn starch, and a protectant spray. Then, follow the steps below to clean your suede sneakers.

Note: If you have boots, make sure you check out our care guide for suede boots.

1. Brush Away Dirt

Use a soft-bristle or suede brush to gently remove dirt and dust from the surface of your suede sneakers. Brush in one direction to prevent damage. Also, avoid using water or soap, as these can make a bigger mess with dirt.

2. Treat Stains

For stubborn stains, lightly rub them with a suede eraser or a white pencil eraser. Be gentle and avoid excessive pressure. Use a back-and-forth motion to rub away stains. You can move on to the next step if this doesn’t work.

3. Remove Stubborn Stains

If you can’t wipe or rub away the stains on your suede sneakers, you can use suede cleaner, rubbing alcohol, or white vinegar to remove stubborn stains. Just wet a corner on a dry cloth and rub the part of the shoe with the stain. Do not use too much or get the sneaker too damp. Otherwise, you may damage the suede.

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For grease or oil stains, sprinkle cornstarch on the stain. Then, after it sits for a few hours, gently wipe away everything with a cloth. You can use cotton balls and hydrogen peroxide to dab away the blood gently if it’s blood stains.

4. Revive the Nap

After cleaning, restore the suede’s soft texture by gently brushing it with the suede brush. Brush in back-and-forth motions to lift the nap.

5. Waterproofing

Consider applying a suede protector spray to repel dirt and water. This will keep your suede sneakers nice and damage-free the more you wear them. Follow the product instructions for the best results.

Cleaning Canvas Sneakers

Canvas sneakers are known for their durability and versatility. However, these shoes can also get dirty very easily, and the fabric is highly absorbent to stains and mud. Luckily, you can clean them fairly easily without worry as long as you have the right supplies.

Cleaning Sneakers Canvas
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To clean canvas sneakers, you need several supplies. Gather up a cloth or sponge, a soft-bristled brush, and liquid detergent. You’ll also need a bucket or sink filled with warm water. When you’re ready, follow the steps below.

1. Remove Loose Dirt

Start by using a soft brush or cloth to remove any loose dirt or debris from the surface of your canvas sneakers. If the shoes are excessively muddy, you can rinse them off with a hose.

2. Pretreat Any Stains

If the shoes have stains on the canvas, you can pretreat these with a bit of detergent. Use a soft-bristled brush to work in the detergent. Let the shoes sit for 15 minutes before moving to the next step.

3. Hand Washing

Fill a basin with warm water and add a small amount of mild detergent. Dip a soft cloth or brush into the soapy water and gently scrub the canvas in circular motions. Pay extra attention to any stained areas.

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Note: Do not fully submerge canvas sneakers that have any sort of rope-covered soles or trim. Also, do not submerge canvas shoes with suede or leather trim.

4. Rinse and Dry

Rinse off the soap residue with clean water and use a dry cloth to absorb excess moisture. Allow your canvas sneakers to air dry in a well-ventilated area. Avoid using direct heat sources, as they can damage the canvas. Also, do not put them in a dryer.

Cleaning Leather Sneakers

Leather sneakers are cool. However, they require careful cleaning to preserve their natural beauty. For these shoes, you’ll need a leather cleaner, a cloth, and a conditioner. You can also use polish. If you don’t have leather cleaner, you can mix together a paste of baking soda, toothpaste, and warm water.

Cleaning Sneakers Leather
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1. Wipe Down

Start using a damp cloth to wipe off any dirt or stains from your leather sneakers. Use gentle, circular motions to avoid scratching the leather.

2. Leather Cleaner

Apply a small amount of leather cleaner onto a clean cloth and gently rub it onto the leather in circular motions. Follow the product instructions for the best results.

3. Conditioning

After cleaning, apply a leather conditioner to keep the leather soft and prevent it from drying out. Use a clean cloth to apply the conditioner and buff it to the leather.

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4. Polish

For added shine, you can polish your leather sneakers using high-quality leather polish. Apply a small amount of polish onto a soft cloth and gently buff the leather in circular motions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can sneakers be washed in the washing machine?

Although some canvas sneakers can go in the washing machine, most other shoes shouldn’t be cleaned that way. Machine-washing sneakers can damage rubber or synthetic parts. destroy suede or leather, and shrink the shoes.

How often should I clean my sneakers?

The frequency of washing your shoes depends on how often you wear them and where you go with them. However, a general rule is to wash your shoes when they look dirty, but no more than once every two weeks.

How can I prevent or reduce odor in my sneakers?

If your shoes smell, try removing the insoles, clean them, and let them air dry. If the odor continues, consider replacing your insoles.

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Megan Glosson

Megan Glosson is a passionate writer based in Nashville, TN. She enjoys writing about topics related to health, wellness, and everyday life, especially when the topic has a personal connection to her own life. Megan is currently published on over a dozen websites, including YourTango, Feel & Thrive,, and The Mighty. Megan also serves as a content editor for Unwritten, a digital publication focused on millennial lifestyles.