How to Clean Sneakers

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There are probably hundreds of online guides at this point on how to take care of leather shoes, but few that effectively address what to do with sneakers. Over the years, I’ve tried everything – from washing machines to repurposed suede erasers to stiff-bristled brushes dipped in various mixtures. Although they’ve all been effective to some degree or another, none have been anywhere near as good as Jason Markk. Comprised of a simple brush and some cleaning solution, their basic kit takes care of everything from suede to leather to canvas. 

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The process is simple. You’ll need: Jason Markk’s cleaning kit, a small bowl of water (although here, I just used a cup), and some paper towels.

Begin by dipping your brush in the water and then shaking it out. Then apply just a few drops of the cleaning solution directly on the bristles (you don’t need much) and scrub away. Pay special attention to the toe area of the midsole, as that’s usually the most scuffed, but hardest to clean. 

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Now repeat with the other shoe. It might take a few rounds to really get everything clean, but the whole process should only take a few minutes. 

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Once done, wipe your shoes down with paper towels. If you still feel there’s some cleaning solution left, you can rinse the brush off and scrub your shoes down one or two more times. 

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Although not necessary, I like the stuff my sneakers at this point with tissue paper, so the uppers retain their shape while drying. 

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Then just leave them outside. Like with leather shoes, you’ll want to give your sneakers a day of rest before wearing them again. Although your shoes shouldn’t be soaked, any moisture that’s left in the uppers can break down the material as you flex your shoes back and forth (think about what happens with wet cardboard). 

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Here are some before and after shots. With the dirt and dust removed, notice how the leather doesn’t look nearly as wrinkled. 

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Similarly, the suede looks less haggard as well. 

Jason Markk sells other cleaning products. They have disposable quick wipes for when you’re traveling and microfiber towels if you want to use something fancier than paper towels. There’s also this softer, hog-bristle brush, which they recommend for suede and nubuck. I haven’t had a problem using their basic, standard brush on my suede sneakers, but you might want to consider it for more sensitive materials (perhaps the knitted uppers on Nike’s Flyknits). Generally speaking though, the standard kit should take care of most of your sneaker cleaning needs – which is much appreciated around this time of year. 

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