How to Clean Sneakers

Keeping your sneakers clean will help them look great – and smell great! Pay special attention to sneakers you work out in since more sweat will have accumulated.

What You’ll Need:

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Paper towels
  • Baking soda

How to Clean Those Sneakers

  1. Remove shoelaces and any inserts from the sneakers. You can clean the laces with a load of regular laundry and then let them air dry.
  2. Mix a solution of mild soap and water (dishwashing liquid works well). You may also use commercial cleaner designed for sneakers, but make sure it is compatible with whatever your sneakers are made from (i.e. canvas, rubber, leather).
  3. Clean the inside and outside of your sneakers and inserts with the soapy water and a soft bristle brush. Rinse everything with clean water and use a paper towel to soak up any excess moisture.
    • WARNING: Do not clean your sneakers in the washing machine unless they are designed as “washable.” The heat and moisture could possibly ruin your shoes—particularly if they are leather.
    • It has been rumored that all NIKE sneakers are made to be washed in the washing machine—so go ahead and try!
  4. Stuff the sneakers with paper towels. This helps them keep their shape as they dry. You may also use a shoe tree to keep their shape, but it may take them longer to dry since nothing will be soaking up moisture from the inside.
  5. Let the sneakers and inserts air dry in a well-ventilated area. Make sure to replace the paper towels as they become soaked with water.
    • WARNING: Do not dry your sneakers in the dryer—this could cause damage to the rubber soles and linings.
  6. Once everything is dry, replace the shoelaces and inserts. If your sneakers have any scuffs, use a commercial shoe dye product (available in many colors).
  7. Sprinkle some baking soda into your sneakers to soak up any odor that might have lingered.

How to Keep your Sneakers Fresh

Keep your shoes smelling fresh by allowing enough time for them to dry completely between uses and keeping them in a well-ventilated area. If you workout a lot, it is a good idea to buy two pairs of sneakers and alternate to give each pair enough time to dry. You can also buy special inserts that kill bacteria, which cause bad odor. If you have a pair of really smelly shoes and you don’t have the time or energy to clean them with soap and water, throw them into a zip-lock bag and then into the freezer overnight. The cold temperature is likely to kill most odor-causing bacteria.


  1. Cleaning sneakers is easy; I just throw them in the washing machine with the rest of the whites. When they are done, I set them out in the sun to dry or on the dryer. They come out like new. Hard stains? Spray ’em with prewash like any thing else.

  2. Here’s a tip for getting shoes dry overnight: place them on the floor about 6 inches in front of your refrigerator vent. Turn them on their sides with the tops facing the fridge. Go to bed. In the morning, VOILA!! Your shoes will be dry. The steady, warm air does a wonderful job!

  3. If your sneakers are looking bad and you don’t have time to wash and dry, try hand sanitizer. You can apply it with your fingers, brush with an old toothbrush (one of mankind’s best cleaning tools) and wipe with paper towels or rag. You can also clean your shoe laces the same way. This will work for both regular and leather sneakers for a quick clean and go job. Deodorizes too!

  4. White Sneakers Only – need 2.5 gallon Ziploc bags, 1 box of baking soda, 2 capfuls of bleach.

    1. Fill your kitchen sink up with water, and add 2 capfuls of bleach.

    2. Remove the shoe laces from the sneakers.

    3. Place the sneakers and shoe laces into the sink; turn the sneakers a couple of times to get air out. Place a plate or heavy object on the sneakers to keep them submerged.

    4. Let the sneakers soak for 2 hours.

    5. Remove the first sneaker from sink, let the water drain for 30 seconds, then place the wet sneaker in a freezer bag and seal it. Do the same with the opposite sneaker.

    6. Place the sneakers in the freezer for 10-12 hours.

    7. Remove the sneakers from Freezer, remove them from the bags, place the sneakers in the sink, and let hot water run inside the sneakers for 2-3 minutes to thaw out the ice particles in shoe.

    8. Wring out water from the foam areas of the sneaker, such as the tongue, and the ankle padding.

    9. If the ambient temp. is over 60 degrees, let the sneakers open air dry. If the temp. is colder, you can use a hair dryer on warm settings to aid in drying, or toss your sneakers in the dryer with a bunch of towels for 10-15 minutes, then let them air dry.

    10. After the shoes are thoroughly dry, and no moisture is present, sprinkle baking soda in the sneakers generously and let it sit overnight. Dump the excess baking soda from the shoes in the morning, and your shoes are ready to go.

    This method will ensure optimum freshness, by killing the bacteria that created the smell, and then deodorizing the sneaker for a fresh scent.

  5. Wow! My sneakers are always white and have no bad smell. I take the laces out and soak them in the sink with Dawn dishwashing soap and bleach while I wipe the sneakers down with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Touch up any scuffs or scratches with white shoe polish using a small brush. Buff with a soft cloth. Spray the inside with vinegar and water. Rinse and squeeze laces in a towel to get most of the water out. Hang laces and place shoes with the tongue pulled out in the sunshine to dry and/or air out. Sprinkle a little baking soda on the inside and shake around prior to the first wearing and periodically after that. NOTE: Always wear socks and change socks daily.

  6. Whatever idiot said you can clean Nikes in the washing machine is wrong. You will ruin them. Nike even says on their website to never put their shoes in the washing machine.

  7. Actually, throwing shoes in the washing machine produces shoes that are not clean at all. So, if you want that brand new look once again, prepare to be amazed…Get down on your knees by the bath tub, take out the shoe laces, and hand wash them with some liquid laundry soap. Then, if they’re white, put a little bleach in a tall glass with some water and a little more soap, and soak them while you wash the shoes. You’ll want a couple of brushes: a firm brush for the bottoms, a toothbrush for the inside seams and uppers, and a soft brush for the outside so no threads come unraveled. Also, a toothpick works great for picking out rocks and gunk from the bottoms, and Lava soap works great around the rubber trim and on the bottom. Don’t use Lava on any shiny parts of the shoe as it does have abrasive. Put a little water in the bottom of the tub and clean the outside and bottoms…You might want to change the water after both shoes are clean on the bottom. Then, put a little soap inside the shoe and if you have stinky and/or athlete’s feet, add just a capful of bleach and proceed to scrub the inside of the shoes. (Hint: using the other end of the toothbrush to push dirt out works fantastic.) Rinse them wall and finish with them outside. Remember, if the shoe is a colored material, the bleach will damage the color, so use bleach for colored fabrics, not chlorine. Rinse them well in hot water and re-shape the shoe by bending the shoe into shape gently. When you are sure the soap is out, grab some hand towels and stuff the toe, under the tongue and heel areas inside the shoe. Then, wrap a bigger towel round the entire shoe and gently step on the top to absorb excess water…step on the sides as safely as possible. Remove the towels and re-shape the shoes again. Now, place them in an all-day-sunny window with the tongue up until they are dry, and take a whiff…Voila! You will love the brand new shoes once again…and let me tell you, if you spent that kind of money for shoes, by golly, they should at least stand up to a little hand scrubbing or the manufacturer has some explaining to do, right?

  8. Actually Ilo, I have washed all kinds of Nikes in the washer and they have held up quite well. As a matter of fact, I wash mine and my husband’s Nikes in washing machine. Never had an issue with them being ruined, as you say.

  9. I’ve washed Huaraches’, Jordan’s, and even KD’s and never have I had a problem with washing my sneakers. I have used foam and a brush to clean my sneakers and never have I had a problem with the method.

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