The saddest thing about sneakers is how fast they can deteriorate. What looked amazing out of the box can quickly, if you’re not careful, be reduced to a stained, discoloured, fraying hunk of white leather. Yeah, not great. There’s a fine line between ‘lovingly worn’ and ‘completely worn out’.
Cleaning sneakers is one of the best, and easiest, things you can do to prolong their lives. If you’re someone for whom ‘sneaker care’ means chucking your trainers into the washing machine once a year, this article’s definitely for you. We’re going to run through leather protectors, spot cleans, deep cleaning and sneaker storage. By the end, you’ll know exactly how to keep your sneakers clean.
Step 1: Protecting your new sneakers
Straight out of the box, you should look after your leather sneakers with some leather shoe spray. This works on white sneakers, too. It’s basically a non-toxic, water-based weather protector. Think of it as your sneaker forcefield. It’ll stop water and grit from working their way into your sneakers. Simply spray a light layer over the entire shoe (take the laces out, first) from about 10cm away. Repeat about once a year, as needed.
Step 2: Spot clean
Cleaning sneakers is really just staying on top of things. Through daily wear, your sneakers are bound to pick up dirt and grime that could, in the long run, deteriorate the leather and ruin the soles. Spot cleans can really help here. All you have to do is knock your soles together after each wear, to get rid of loose dirt particles, and use some shoe cleaning wipes to buff out any stains. If you’ve got white sneakers, a bit of sneaker restorer every week or two will also do wonders.
Step 3: Deep clean
Spot cleans will keep your sneakers looking white and shiny, but a deep clean every 2-3 months is also essential (even sooner, if you’ve just been stomping through a muddy music festival). For this, you’ll need to invest in a great set of cleaning tools, like a shoe brush, waterproofer spray and neutral polish cream.
To start, remove any excess dirt using a soft cloth. Make sure to clean the top and outsole of your shoe. Next, cover the entire sneaker with a generous amount of neutral polish, and use your soft-bristled brush to apply the cream. Polish the sneaker in a clockwise motion until all the cream is worked into the sneaker. Remember, if you’ve got white sneakers, you need a white or neutral leather cream. Sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed by how many people mess this up… To finish, take a clean cloth, and polish your sneaker until shiny, wiping off any excess cream. Leave for 10 - 15 minutes to dry. Finish with a light coat of leather shoe spray. You’re good to go!
Step 4: Change the laces
Cotton laces absorb dirt and stains even faster than leather. This sucks, in one way, but it also means new laces are the cheapest and easiest way to give your sneakers a new shot of life. The only thing we’d say is pay attention to colour: are your sneakers pure white, or off white? Or maybe more of a tan? You need to find laces that match the shade as close as possible, and this will change with wear and weathering. If your sneakers are a few years old, and the colour is starting to fade, threading in some blindingly white laces will probably clash. And not in a good way.
Step 5: Storing sneakers
It’s important to not just keep your sneakers (or shoes) lying around the house with no home or purpose. A great idea is to invest in dust bags for your shoes. Keep the dust and dirt off them, and away from direct sunlight. For those who wear their sneakers without socks, keep tumble dryer fabric sheets inside your shoes to draw out the moisture and deodorise them – you’ll thank us later. Even better, invest in some invisible socks, instead of going sneaker commando. This will keep sweat and moisture away from the leather (and also cut down on the smell).
Can you clean sneakers in a washing machine?
Short answer, no. Not if they’re leather sneakers. Traditional canvas sneakers can be washed in a washing machine, but there’s a right way to do it. First, take out the laces and insoles. Put your shoes in a cloth mesh bag. And make sure the washing machine is set to cold wash, no spin. If you’re in doubt, always check the care label on your sneakers before chucking them in a washing machine.