There’s nothing quite like a fresh pair of sneakers, right? The problem is that all it takes is one wear to dull their new-shoe shine, especially if your kicks are white. After a few runs or treks to the gym, or, heaven forbid, some unexpected rain, it’s pretty much all over.
But as far as I’m concerned, sneakers are an investment worth taking care of. That goes not just for running sneakers or the pair you only wear to fitness classes. I'm talking any sneakers you have in your rotation, whether you wear them with jeans or a pair of leggings. That’s why I’m excited to share some effective ways to keep your new sneakers looking new without damaging the material or functionality.
While the techniques for cleaning sneakers don’t differ that much from fabric to fabric, there are some specific methods that work better depending on the material. Here, we break down exactly how to clean sneakers depending on what they’re made from.
First, an important note: You should avoid putting your sneakers in the washing machine.
Putting sneakers in the washing machine will likely affect the structure and the integrity of the foam, which can negatively impact the shoe’s ability in provide consistent cushioning or a responsive feel. That's especially an issue when it comes to running shoes.
Some foams are more sensitive than others to water and high temperatures. (Most shoe brands list the materials the midsoles are made from in the product description on their website.) Generally, any shoe made with EVA, a rubbery elastic material that's used to create soft and flexible foam, should always be handwashed. The material is prone to absorbing water, which can mess with how the sneaker’s cushioning works. Foams constructed from TPU, a springy plastic that's known to be more durable, may hold up better in the machine and shouldn’t absorb water, but spot cleaning is always the least risky way to clean sneakers. Doing so will extend the life of your sneakers.
If you must wash your shoes—say, an unfortunate run-in with muddy terrain makes it your only option to salvage them—avoid agitators. Agitators can be a little rough and if they thrash your shoes around too much, it can affect the shape of the shoe as a whole. Washing machines without agitators are gentler and allow more room for shoes to move freely.
Wipe off as much mud as you can before putting sneaks in a washing machine. Also, wash the laces separately from the shoes. You can put them in a pillowcase or mesh laundry bag to prevent tangling. Use a small amount of mild detergent, throw a few towels in the machine with your shoes, and set the washer to the delicate cycle (which should always mean cold water and a gentle spin cycle). Once the cycle is complete, let the shoes air dry. Never ever put them in the dryer; the high temperatures will break down most materials.