How To Clean Your Shoes
The Breakdown: How To Clean adidas Shoes
List of Materials:
A cleaning Tray or towelWarm waterWarm bleach water for your lacesMicrofiber towelsShoe cleaning solution or soapy waterNitrile GlovesSoft and hard bristle brushToothbrushDirt picking toolSocks or shoe form to keep shape while cleaning
We spent the morning at Deadstock Coffee with owner and sneaker enthusiast Ian Williams and Charlie Kirihara, an adidas color and material designer, to break down the shoe cleaning process and teach you how to clean white shoes at home. Check out the video below.
Once you have all your essentials gathered, it’s time to prep your shoe for cleaning.
Put on your gloves and place your dirty shoes in your tray or on top of a towel.Begin removing the laces from your shoe.Once you remove the laces, place them in the bowl of bleach water. Spend a minute massaging the bleach into the laces. Place them to the side and let them soak. We will come back to them later.Using your soft bristle brush, begin knocking any loose dirt you see off the upper of your shoe. Use your toothbrush to get into smaller areas of your shoe.Once the upper has been dusted off, pick up your hard bristle brush and begin knocking dirt off the rubber outsole of your shoe.After you knock all the debris off your shoe, stuff your socks or shoe form into your shoe to help it keep its shape while getting cleaned.
Hot Take from Charlie: “If you don’t have sneaker cleaning solution at home you can use dish soap and warm water instead. It works great with a few different materials.”
Washing The Outsole
The outsole is the part of the shoe that touches the ground when you walk. When learning how to clean shoes remember that you may need different tools to clean specific areas of your shoe. Use your hard bristle brush when cleaning the outsole.
Pick up your hard bristle brush and wet it with some warm water. Then add some cleaning solution to the brush.Begin scrubbing the outsole. Let the grooves of this part of the shoe guide you as you clean it.You can pick up your dirt pick and use it to get into the hard-to-reach areas of the outsole.Wipe your shoe down with the microfiber cloth as you go.Once you feel like the outsole is clean, move on to the upper.
Hot Take from Ian: “Avoid touching the collar of your shoe when cleaning your outsole, this will limit dirt transfer.”
Washing The Upper
The upper is the area of the shoe that covers the entire foot. Use your soft bristle brush to not wear away the material when cleaning this part of the shoe.
Wet the soft bristle brush with clean warm water and apply some cleaning solution or dish soap to it.Begin scrubbing the upper area of the shoe. You want to take your time and scrub gently when cleaning the upper to keep the material in good condition.Spend extra time scrubbing away any deep stains or smudges.Use the toothbrush to target specific stains in harder-to-reach areas on your shoe.Use your microfiber towel to wipe away the dirt as you clean.
Hot Take from Charlie: “Scrub don’t rub when cleaning the upper, this way you won’t wear away the fabric.”
Washing The Laces
Your laces allow your sneakers to fit snugly and securely—when clean—they are the cherry on top of a dazzling shoe.
Pick up your laces and wring them out. You’ll see all the dirt is now in the bleach water and not in your laces.Lay a microfiber cloth on your tray or base towel and place your laces on top.Fold the towel over the laces and press down to squeeze any excess water out of the laces.
Hot Take from Charlie: “Don’t underestimate how effective cleaning your laces or replacing them can be. Putting clean or new laces in can make your shoes look brand new.”
Let Them Air Dry
The final step in the shoe cleaning process is to let them dry!
Place your laces near your shoes and let them air dry at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. This process can take a while, but when your shoes feel dry to the touch inside and out, they’re ready to wear again!
Hot Take from Ian: “The mistake I see most often when people are cleaning their shoes at home is not letting them dry. If you don’t let your shoes dry, you’re going to go back out, and they are going to get re-muddy and pick up all that dirt again. Let them dry!”
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Whether you're a sneaker lover or someone new to the shoe world, understanding how to clean your sneakers is the key to enhancing their wearability and longevity. When cleaning white shoes or any color sneaker, release the need to be perfect.
“You’re going to think it needs to be perfect, and perfect isn’t necessarily it,” said Williams. “Every once in a while, your shoes may still look a little worn, but that’s the story, that’s part of the journey and perfectly fine.”
Lean into living in and wearing your sneakers and take solace in that fact that you now know how to properly clean them.
Need to clean canvas or suede shoes? Follow our guide here.