adidas / October 2023

How to Clean Your Canvas and Leather Sneakers

Get that “fresh out the box” look and feel. Dive into our guide on how to clean your leather and canvas shoes the right way.

From the pregame to the event, from the event to the bodega, your sneakers are up for every trip. No matter their fabric, adidas sneakers are made to go the distance, and going the distance can lead to your sneakers needing a good cleaning. Keeping up with your sneakers helps extend their life, save money, and reduce environmental waste. So, in the name of saving the planet and your money, we're going to break down how you can clean your leather and canvas sneakers at home.
In this editorial, we’re highlighting suede, which is the underside of leather. To learn more about how to clean leather sneakers check out our guide.
Whether you’re cleaning suede or canvas sneakers, the six steps are as follows:

  1. Gather your supplies
  2. Make a cleaning solution
  3. Remove and soak your laces
  4. Remove excess dirt and debris with a brush
  5. Hand-wash or spot clean
  6. Air dry

1. Gather Your Supplies

Let’s gather all the goods you’ll need to whip your sneakers into tip top shape. 
Cleaning Tools for Canvas Sneakers:
  • Shoe form, large container or sink, small bowl, non-bleach laundry detergent, terry cloth towel, hard bristle brush, soft bristle brush, bleach (for white shoelaces), dish soap.
Cleaning Tools for Suede Sneakers:
  • Shoe form, two small bowls, suede cleaner or rubbing alcohol, soft cloth, suede brush, hard bristle brush, suede eraser, towel, waste basket, bleach (for white shoe laces), dish soap.

2. Make The Cleaning Solution

It wouldn’t be a shoe cleaning party without the solution.
Canvas Sneakers:
  • Fill a small bowl with warm water and a teaspoon of laundry detergent.

Suede Sneakers:
  • You don’t want to wet your suede sneakers so instead you'll grab a dry soft cloth and wet it by putting the suede cleaner on it.

3. Remove And Soak Your Laces

Always show your laces the same love and care as the body of your sneakers.
  • For both canvas and suede sneakers, you’ll want to remove the laces and put them in a bowl filled with warm water and bleach. If the laces are black or pigmented, place them in a bowl with warm water and dish soap.
  • Using your hands massage the solution into the laces and allow them to sit in the bowl until you are done washing your sneakers.

4. Remove Excess Dirt And Debris With A Brush

Let’s wipe away all that gunk before we get into the soapy work.
Canvas Sneakers:
  • Put the shoe forms in your sneakers.
  • Place shoes in a container or sink. Use the soft bristle brush to remove dirt from the shoes' upper and the hard bristle brush to target dirt or debris on the outsole.
  • Wipe away any dirt from your container after knocking debris off your shoe, and then place your sneakers back in the container.
Suede Sneakers:
  • Put the shoe forms in your sneakers.
  • Lay your towel down and place your shoes on top of them. Grab your suede brush and begin knocking any dirt or debris off your shoe.
  • Use your hard-bristle brush to knock dirt off the outsole of the shoe.
  • Shake your towel out over a wastebasket to remove any dirt before laying your shoes back on it.

5. Hand-Wash Or Spot Clean

Cleaning suede sneakers requires a different approach compared to cleaning canvas ones. To keep your suede and canvas sneakers in supreme shape without causing any damage, follow these essential steps.
Canvas Sneakers:
When learning how to clean canvas sneakers, don’t scrub too hard, as it may cause fraying or fading. Instead, use a soft brush or cloth to clean the surface gently.
  • Pre-treat stains: Apply detergent to the stain and work the detergent into the stain using your fingers or a soft bristle brush. Allow the solution to sit for 10-15 minutes before washing the entire shoe.
  • Dip the brush into the cleaning solution and begin scrubbing away the soil on the inside and outside of your shoe.
  • Pour out the solution and refill the bowl with warm water; dip your brush into this fresh water to wipe away any soapy residue on your shoe.
  • Use your microfiber towel to wipe any excess water off your shoe.

Suede Sneakers:
When learning how to clean suede sneakers, your shoes must be dry. Suede is almost always spot cleaned because water can harm the material.
  • Pre-treat Stains: For stubborn stains, you may need a suede cleaning solution. Put a small amount of cleaning solution on a towel and dab it into the stain. Scrub with a rapid side-to-side motion, then allow the spot to dry.
  • Use a suede brush to gently brush away stains. Brush in one direction so your shoe keeps its smooth appearance.
  • Run the suede eraser over deep stains; don’t be afraid to apply pressure.
  • After using your eraser, grab your suede brush and begin to use it to smooth out and bring the color back into your shoe.

6. Air It Out

The easiest part of the shoe cleaning process is here. Let’s air dry your sneakers. This process can take a while, but when your shoes and laces feel dry to the touch inside and out, they’re ready to wear again!
Canvas Sneakers:
  • After you clean your canvas shoes, place them on a towel away from direct sunlight and allow them to air dry.
  • Grab your laces, wring them out, and lay them next to your shoes.

Suede Sneakers:
  • Because we urge against completely wetting your suede sneakers, they won't need to air dry like other shoes.
  • Place them on a towel away from direct sunlight to allow the cleaning product solution to dry thoroughly.
  • Grab your laces, wring them out, and lay them next to your shoes. Because the laces were fully wet, they will need to dry longer than your suede shoes.

Back And Better Than Ever

With your shoes back to brand new status, remember to keep up with them regularly so they can look and feel fresh no matter where you step. Now that you know how to clean canvas and leather sneakers at home, get after it. Happy cleaning!
Illustrations by Lauren Martin 
adidas / October 2023