We love a diverse sneaker collection. But when it comes to cleaning ‘em, every sneaker fabric needs a little something different. From leather to knit, it’s hard to know what will clean your kicks and what will cause more harm than good - for your shoes and the environment.
With spring around the corner, it’s time to prep for puddles, slush, and sweet, sweet grass stains. That’s why we’re breaking down exactly how to clean your favourite sneaker fabrics safely (and sustainably).
Leather has been a sneaker staple since the beginning. It’s strong but flexible, which makes it a durable fabric option for the part of your body that is constantly moving. Leather also takes on the shape of your foot so it’ll fit like a glove. No wonder Jordan sprung for a patented leather for his classic AJ1s.
The downside? Leather can easily fall victim to water damage and discolouration. That’s why cleaning ingredients that have high amounts of alcohol or toxins can be harmful to your high tops (and the planet). Plus, leather production already contributes to animal cruelty, greenhouse gas emissions, and deforestation.
How to clean leather sneakers: Use an all-natural, foam-based shoe cleaning solution to avoid water damage and reduce your carbon footprint. Bonus points if the solution is free from synthetic preservatives and dyes. Brush off any excess dirt with a durable shoe brush first and then gently massage the cleaning formula into the leather. Wipe away with a reusable microfibre cloth to lift any last particles.
Designed to look and feel like real leather, vegan leather is made from a range of synthetic and plant-based materials. This makes it way easier to clean than animal leather. In fact, most vegan leathers can even be machine washed - on a cold cycle and in a delicates bag, of course.
That said, your sustainable kicks deserve more than a washing machine. Clean ‘em with care by choosing a gentle, plant-based cleaning solution that can still pick up tough stains.
How to clean vegan leather sneakers: For scuffs, a pearl microfibre cloth will act like a magic eraser. For dirt and stains, grab your shoe brush and cleaning solution and repeat the same cleaning steps as you would for real leather.
Let’s be honest. Premium suede is a b*tch to clean. It’s a type of leather, which means it’s already prone to water damage. But even a drop of liquid on premium suede can cause major discolouration, stains, and changes to the texture.
Still, no sneaker collection is complete without it. Exhibit A: Chunky Dunky’s harry suede cow print uppers. (We’ll never stop talking about this shoe).
How to clean premium suede sneakers: Keep this fabric far away from cleaning solutions that will make it wet. Instead, become BFFs with your shoe brush and cloth. Brush the premium suede on a regular basis to remove dirt and excess grime. Always brush in the same direction to avoid damaging the fabric quality. Then, gently wipe away scuffs or stains with a pearl microfibre cloth.
From Chucks to Vans, canvas is a pretty iconic textile. Known for being heavy-duty and durable, canvas is created from a mix of cotton and synthetic fibres. Canvas can be made water-resistant, but it’s also fairly easy to stain.
Vans canvas is especially hard to clean. Why? Because most Vans canvas shoes are treated with a rubber foxing and then lacquered to protect against damage that cracks when you move. Dirt accumulates in those cracks and lives under the coating, not on top of the shoe. Bummer!
Depending on the blend and coating, it’s always safest to be as gentle as possible with your canvas cleaning routine. That way, you can keep those well-worn Chucks out of the landfill.
How to clean canvas sneakers: Use a sturdy, sisal fibre shoe brush to remove excess dirt from the surface. Then use a microfibre cloth to magic erase any stains. To make the rubber soles sparkle, give ‘em a few pumps of foam-based cleaning solution and gently rub in with your cloth. Then, wash your cloth with a mix of water and cleaning formula, hang to dry, and reuse again and again (no disposable wipes necessary).
Ever since Sean Wotherspoon dropped his infamous Nike Air Max 1/97, cord has made a comeback in the sneaker community. Corduroy is a tough fabric, known for being durable but not flexible. It’s also a magnet for lint and fuzz.
The good news is that cord won’t get completely ruined when wet, so you can use your favourite all-natural cleaning formula to lift dirt and stubborn stains when needed.
How to clean corduroy sneakers: First, use a sisal fibre shoe brush to remove lint and dirt. If you need a more heavy-duty clean, apply a few pumps of foam-based cleaner to the surface and massage in a circular motion with your microfibre cloth. Let the fabric air-dry before wearing them out again.
Also known as the world’s first synthetic fibre, nylon is breathable and lightweight. In other words, it’s the perfect material for sneaker uppers and tongues. Over the decades, the OG nylon fibre has inspired countless innovative sneaker textiles, like Nike’s Flyknit.
But the best part about nylon? It’s durable and easy to clean. As more sustainable forms of nylon are created, we suggest keeping gentle and natural shoe care on hand for a versatile clean.
How to clean nylon sneakers: Repeat the same steps as you would for corduroy fabric. For a quick clean in between wears, simply use your pearl microfibre cloth to erase stains and scuffs.
Typically made from a blend of yarn and synthetics, knit fabric has made waves in the Yeezy era. Today, Primeknit is the top textile for some of adidas’ most sought-after silhouettes.
Knit feels soft and flexible, like a sock, but is woven to be just as strong as other textiles. That makes it easy to clean overall and durable when wet.
How to clean knit sneakers: Repeat the same cleaning steps as you would for corduroy and nylon. To avoid damaging the surface of the knit, be gentle with your brushing technique and try to always brush in the same direction.
Pro tip: our Shoe Laundry Cleaning Kit has everything you need to clean these sneaker fabric favs (and more).
Featuring a foam-based cleaning solution derived from coconuts, a biodegradable bamboo wood shoe brush with sisal fibre bristles, and a reusable pearl microfibre cloth, this kit isn’t just tough on stains and dirt. It’s gentle on fabrics, skin, and - most of all - the planet.
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