A scuff on the first night out in a brand new pair of shoes is the worst possible scenario. Scuffed or dirty shoes are one of the quickest ways to ruin an otherwise impeccable ensemble. You can't possibly wear your favorite sneakers often and keep them in pristine condition. You can either treat them like collectibles and store them in a pressure-controlled vault, or you can give them the kind of consistent and thorough care they deserve.

We know what you're thinking, sneakerheads, but the truth is that keeping your best pair of shoes clean is essential if you want to always look your best. The good news is that it need not be a bother. Here, you'll find our tried-and-true advice for revitalizing knit, leather, suede, and canvas sneakers, as well as advice for identifying problems in the outsole, midsole, and tongue. Get out your suede brushes and magic erasers; we have some sneakers to clean.

Man with black gloves cleaning sneakers.

Cleaning Sneakers: Three Basic Steps

Here are some quick fixes before we get into our in-depth guides for cleaning various sneaker materials.  

First, clean up the mess that can be seen.

You can use a fresh towel, toothbrush, or even your hand if you're in a pinch. You can avoid a lot of trouble and stress if you wipe your shoes down every time you put them away.

Step 2: Wash the bottoms with soap and water.

You'd be surprised by the amount of dirt and dust that can adhere to the soles of your shoes, even when walking on a relatively clean surface. Finally, wash them with a hose or a damp towel. This need not be complicated, but it should be completed.  

Third, treat noticeable stains with a targeted cleaning.

A soap and water solution can be quickly blotted onto a large stain to remove it. Below, we'll discuss how to eliminate more stubborn stains, but first, a word on why preemptive spot cleaning is so important:

Cleaning Knit Sneakers

Knit sneakers, which have perforated uppers similar to mesh, are hip and trendy but easily stained. Knit materials are porous, unlike other types of fabrics, so mud, dirt, sweat, and grime are likely to seep into their micro-grooves, creating a mess that can seem impossible to remedy. Although knit shoes require more care and maintenance than other sneakers, they can still be restored to pristine condition with time and effort.

First, you'll need to fill a bowl halfway with hot water.

Step 2: Mix in a small amount of mild detergent or a shoe-specific cleaner (such as this fantastic elixir from Jason Markk)

Third, use a clean towel dipped into the bowl to apply the diluted solution generously to the stain on the shoe's exterior. And here you can really give it your all; you need to get as much of the stain rubbed out as possible.

Fourth, re-dip as many times as necessary to ensure the stain is completely removed in the cleaning solution.

Step 5: If the mess seems to be gone, take a new damp cloth (this time wet with only water) and apply it to the shoe's surface, making sure to remove all the remaining shoe cleaner. This ought to be sufficient, but if dirt still seems to be embedded in the knit, you can scrub the shoe with a soft toothbrush. After that, let the footwear dry naturally.

What to Do When Your Sneakers Get Dirty

Leather (or faux leather) is a great sneaker material for dudes going for an edgy look, but it can be difficult to maintain. In addition to being highly susceptible to staining, leather is also extremely vulnerable to abrasions, which can alter its original patina.

Spot cleaning stains as soon as possible after they are noticed is the most important thing you can do for your leather, according to Whitney Tinsley (director of leather education at Moore & Giles), who we have previously interviewed about caring for leather goods.

First, mix three parts Ivory dish soap with one part distilled water to make a solution.

Second, using the white cloth, apply the mixture to the stain and rub until the stain is gone.

The third step is to try applying leather conditioner to the entire surface area of the shoe to even out the tone if the stain is particularly stubborn. After a few minutes, remove the access with a clean cloth.

Taking Care of Your Suede Sneakers

Suede, like canvas, is a notoriously difficult fabric to care for, and it may be the toughest of all to keep looking brand new on a pair of sneakers. The lack of leather's protective outer layer results in a surface that is both velvety smooth and highly susceptible to damage.

Fortunately, everything is not bleak. As a first step, consider purchasing a suede brush from a reputable brand like Shacke. You shouldn't scrub too vigorously, but it will work wonders to remove grime from the fibers of your suede sneaker.

When the brush isn't enough, a suede eraser can be used to remove the stain. To remove a stain, press the eraser firmly against it and work the eraser around until the stain is gone. After you're done, take a clean cloth and wipe the stain to remove any lingering residue.

Is there still dirt on the shoe? A bottle of white vinegar is in order. Spread a small amount on a clean cloth and work it into the stain gently. You probably won't need very much, so go easy when applying. Wipe with a towel dampened in water once the stain is gone, then dry.

What to Do with Soiled Canvas Sneakers

Now that we've dealt with the challenging tasks, we can focus on sprucing up the canvas, a material that requires little effort to maintain. Canvas sneakers can be washed in the washing machine (on the gentle cycle, with bleach if they are white), but hand washing is recommended.

Cleaning knit sneaker requires nothing more than a thorough soaking in a solution of water and detergent. Use an old toothbrush to go over the entire surface and scrub until the stains disappear. If you give the shoes a few hours to dry, they should be as good as new.

Components of Sneakers Need to Be Cleaned

Care for the Outsole

In terms of grime buildup, the outsole, or bottom, of your sneaker will take the biggest hit. Why Because it is the first point of contact with whatever is beyond the walls, be it water, air, mud, cement, grass, dirt, sand, or something else entirely. There isn't much you can do to make this place spotless (unless you want to live in plastic bags), but regular upkeep should help a lot.

Clean the bottom of your sneakers once a week with a brush. After removing the dirt, use a clean cloth to apply a generous coating of the warm water and detergent solution we discussed above, and then wipe everything dry.

The Ins and Outs of Cleaning the Midsole

Although neglecting the outsole is acceptable, neglecting the midsole is not. Regular cleaning of this highly visible area is essential as it is typically intended to be a bright white color. If your midsole is yellowed, it doesn't matter how clean the rest of your shoe is; it will ruin the aesthetic of the shoe.

The problem can be easily fixed by using a traditional Magic Eraser. It's not the classiest move, but it does help bring out the color of a rubber sole and get rid of grime around the edges.

Tips for Tongue Hygiene

Never neglect cleaning the tongue of your shoes because doing so can dramatically improve their overall presentation. You can use the same brush or soap on a suede tongue or a canvas one, depending on the material used to make them.

Cleaning the Inside

Getting rid of offensive odors on the inside is just as important as cleaning the outside. There are a variety of methods for this, but our personal preference is to care for the inside of the shoe in much the same way that we do the outside. To clean the insole, take it out of the shoe if possible, and soak it in a solution of water and detergent or white vinegar. Detergent or a shoe cleaner works better for a broad range of cleaning tasks, while vinegar is useful for removing unpleasant odors.

Make sure to let the shoe's interior air dry for a few hours after cleaning it with a sponge or towel, before putting it back on. For expedited drying, you can either leave them upright or invert them.

Tips for Spot-Free Sneaker Laces

Lastly, pay attention to your lace-up shoes. Remove them from your shoes and wash them in the normal cycle with the rest of your laundry. They will function as well as new after that. You could also just buy new ones because they're inexpensive and can be used for a variety of purposes, but we're too lazy for that.

Cleaning Your Sneakers

Let's wrap up this guide by going over some tips for maintaining clean sneakers once you've learned how to clean them.  

One, inspect each pair of shoes individually each time you return home. I get that this is an annoyance, but if you check the condition of your kicks before putting them away, you can maintain the good energy.  

Second, it's crucial to deal with spills as soon as they occur. Attempt to clean your sneakers as soon as possible after they become dirty; this can be as simple as a quick rinse in the bar's restroom sink with some soap and water.  

Step 3: Protective coatings should be applied as needed. Not all sneaker materials require such maintenance, but leather and suede, for example, greatly profit from sprays and rubs like these.

Now, if you'll excuse me, this manual is complete. Browse some of the best no-show socks currently available if you need a pair of socks to match your new pair of kicks.

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