Best Way To Clean Shoes of Different Materials And Colors



by Lydia


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If you take a look at the shoes neatly arranged on your floor or in your closet, then you’ll notice that, like most of us, you have shoes that come in different finishes, materials, and colors. So, how do you keep them looking as good as the day you bought them or last a little longer? The good news is that with the best way to clean shoes and a few supplies, you can literally clean every type of shoe. Yes, even slippers!

Imagine getting a new pair of white shoes only for them to get stained, dirty, or stained in less than a week of wear. As annoying as it can be, you need to enjoy wearing your sneakers and find the best way to keep them looking clean and fresh at the same time. You can either treat them as collectibles and keep them in a pressure-controlled vault or practice some regular and intensive care and maintenance.

Yes, this definitely applies to you too, sneaker-heads. It’s important to consistently clean your kicks if they’re going to look on point at all times. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be a life-draining chore. Here are some tips that you can use to spruce up the different sneaker materials (leather, knit, suede, or canvas).

So let’s get that suede brush, old toothbrush, and shoe brush to work as we learn the correct way to clean those sneakers.

General Tips On A Quick Clean

Before diving deep into how to clean the different sneaker and shoe materials, here are some basic tricks to spruce up those kicks in a jiffy:

a) Wipe off or gently scrub to remove dirt

You can use a clean towel, damp cloth, paper towel, toothbrush, or shoe brush. Wiping dirt off every time you put the shoes away will help prevent dirt build-up and help save you lots of cleaning time.

b) Rinse off the soles

You can rinse them off using a wet towel or hose.

c) Spot clean those huge stains

You should be able to remove that stain by quickly scrubbing it with soap or laundry detergent with cold water.

1. Cleaning Different Sneaker Materials

A) Clean Fabric and Canvas Sneakers

Fabric and canvas sneakers will definitely get dirty, and although you may think it’s difficult to get that grime off your white canvas sneakers, it’s actually pretty simple. You can easily clean your white shoes using baking soda and some white vinegar.

Some hacks online may recommend tossing your fabric sneakers in the machine washer, which is a horrible idea since some have leather linings. As you might know by now, almost all soles assembled with glue won’t stand up to all that excessive laundry water. So instead, consider cleaning the fabric shoe surface using your hands, some laundry detergent, warm water, a toothbrush/ shoe brush, and paper towels.

  1. Using a dry paper towel, wipe the fabric to remove any loose dirt on the surface.
  2. In a bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of dishwashing/laundry detergent in 2 cups of warm water.
  3. Work in small sections at a time, dip the toothbrush/shoe brush in the solution and gently scrub the upper of your sneakers. Be careful not to over-wet it. Work as you move all around the shoe to keep the colors consistent and prevent it from spotting.
  4. To remove the soapy residue, wipe the sneakers with a damp cloth to ‘rinse’ the entire sneaker.
  5. You can further blot out the extra wetness using a dry paper towel and hang your shoes outside to air dry. Also, make sure not to hang them under direct sunlight or heat. To hold the shape of some sneakers, you can stuff dry papers into the sneaker until they are completely dry.

Note: Don’t use the wet cleaning method on velvet sneakers. Instead, gently brush it off using a soft-bristled shoe brush and spot clean the stains using a dry cleaning solvent.

How to Clean White Shoes

  1. Grab some baking soda and white vinegar from your pantry to clean white canvas shoes
  2. Combine your stain remover solution: 1 tablespoon baking soda + 2 tablespoons white vinegar + 1 cup of warm water
  3. Gently scrub your white sneakers using a damp cloth or clean toothbrush dipped in the mixture. The baking soda and white vinegar dries up pretty quickly, so once you’re done, wipe away the dried debris.
  4. Let your white sneakers air dry.

B) Leather, Patent Leather, and Faux Leather Shoe

Any form of leather is one of the easiest materials and surfaces to clean since it doesn’t absorb water like the other fabrics. However, white leather sneakers may need a more thorough cleaning:

Patent leather or faux leather sneakers will need you to start by wiping off any dirt with a wet cloth that is dipped in a mixture of equal parts cold water and white vinegar. This stain remover solution works particularly well in removing those stubborn winter salt stains. Then allow your sneakers to air dry outside completely.

For real leather shoes, the best way to clean shoes is to use a commercial polish and simply follow its directions. If you don’t have shoe polish for your white shoes, alternatively, you can use a wet soft cloth dipped in some baking soda. Gently rub the stain away and then wipe the residue off using a clean cloth, then hang them out to dry.

Using Magic Erasers Stain Remover

  1. You’ll need Ivory soap, paper towels, a cotton rug (an old T-shirt would work great), and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers that are used to clean leather shoes.
  2. First, tackle the surface dirt. You can use the wet paper towel to gently wipe down the outside of your shoes to help remove any loose dirt that may be caught up on the different parts of the shoe. After this, let your shoes dry for roughly 10 minutes.
  3. The next step is to clean the sole. Soak the Magic Eraser and squeeze out any excess water. Run the Magic Eraser on the sole of your sneakers multiple times until the dirt or stains are gone. Check to make sure that your Magic Eraser is just damp but not dripping all over the shoes.
  4. After this, scrub using a clean cloth and soap. Wet the cotton rag and lather it up with some Ivory soap. In small gentle motions, wipe to clean white shoe until it returns to its original white color. Wipe the excess soap using the rag.
  5. After the last step, let the shoes dry again for another 10 minutes.

C) Suede Shoes

The key to keeping suede shoes or any of the napped surface shoes looking good is careful and regular care. The suede material surface should be kept as dry as possible and regularly cleaned with a soft-bristled brush after every wear to remove the loose dirt and treat the stains as quickly as possible. 

  1. For dirty marks and scuffs, you can gently rub them off using a soft pencil eraser and then brush to restore its nap.
  2. For oily stains, sprinkle the area with some baby powder or cornstarch, which will absorb that oil. Let the powder sit on the oil patch stain for roughly an hour, and then brush it away. Repeat this until all of the oil is absorbed, and the oil stain has come off. Then brush it to lift the nap.
  3. For wet stains, blot using a paper towel or dry cloth to absorb the moisture. Allow the shoes to air dry completely, outside away from direct heat. Brush to smooth the nap.

Cleaning your suede shoes can be a little tricky, especially since suede is a delicate fabric that stains very easily. Because of this, most suede shoes won’t come in a true white shade, and here’s how to clean your suede shoes effectively.

D) Athletic Shoes

Most athletic shoes are mesh shoes that can simply be tossed into the washing machine and cleaned using a good, heavy-duty laundry detergent. First, remove the inner sole and wash them separately. Before tossing them in, wipe the loose dirt and pretreat any of the heavy stains using a stain remover.

Always make sure the mesh shoes air dry and NEVER expose these athletic mesh shoes to the excess high heat of a dryer. To control fungus and odor, wipe the inner soles with a disinfectant laundry cleaner before putting them back in the shoes, or alternatively, you can replace them with new liners. 

2. Cleaning the Tongue

Washing the tongue of your canvas shoes can really amp up the overall appearance of your shoes, so make sure never to skip washing the dirty tongue while on your maintenance. To clean the tongue, simply apply the fabric-specific stain remover techniques as discussed: A suede material tongue gets the gentle brush method using a brush while the canvas shoes tongue material gets the wipe method using water and soap.

3. Cleaning the Interior

Cleaning the interior of your shoe is just as important as cleaning the exterior. This is especially important in knocking out those noxious odors from a dirty shoe interior. Therefore, the best way to clean shoes includes cleaning the interior.

You can do this in so many different ways, but basically, you want to treat the inside of your shoe as much as you’d like to treat its outside. If possible, remove the insole and gently wash it using either a mixture of water and laundry detergent or a mixture of water and vinegar. Water and detergent or shoe cleaner are best used for general cleaning, while vinegar helps deal with the odors.

Once the interior has had a thorough cleanup using a soft cloth, make sure to take it outside and let it air dry for a couple of hours before wearing your sneakers.

4. The Best Way to Clean Your Sneaker Laces

Finally, never neglect the laces! To clean, simply remove the laces off your shoes and toss them in the washing machine with your regular laundry load. They’ll be as good as new. But if you’re a little lazy, you can always just buy new ones because they’re inexpensive and the old ones have endless uses around the house.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Best Way To Clean Shoes

1. How can I keep my sneakers clean?

Since we know how to clean sneakers, here are a few tricks to keep them clean:

a) You can spot-check the shoes when you get home, which helps you take stock of how your sneakers are doing before putting them away, which helps you keep track of how much cleaning they might need.

b) That said, it’s important to clean those stains at the moment. Gunk, dirt, and debris are easy to clean immediately they come in contact with your shoes, so you can try and clean them with a little soap and water whenever you can. 

c) Apply a protective coating where appropriate. Of course, not all sneaker materials require these kinds of protective rubs and sprays, but certain ones like suede and leather will certainly benefit a lot from them.

2. Can I put shoes in my washing machine?

You can use liquid laundry detergent, run your machine washer on a delicate cold cycle. Depending on the machine washer you have, the wash time could vary from 30-40 minutes.

Remove the shoes from the machine washer and hang them outside to air dry. NEVER put your shoes in the dryer since the heat from the dryer may warp or damage the glue that holds them together.

3. What is the best thing to use to clean my shoes with?

a) Mix:

1 tablespoon baking soda + 2 tablespoons of white vinegar + 1 cup of water


1 tablespoon baking soda + 1/2 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and water solution

b) Use a damp cloth or an old toothbrush to scrub the sneakers until they are clean. This works on both leather and canvas


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