The Best Ways to Save Your Dirty Sneakers

If your sneakers are very dirty but you don’t want to replace them , there are ways to get them back in good shape, if perhaps not before their glory days. But with the right tools and materials, you can get close to it. These are the best ways to recover and spice up a couple of really rough shots.



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Use a corkscrew to get the dirt out of the crevices

Before getting into the smallest details, start with the big picture: remove as much dirt as possible. One of the best tools for removing dirt from sneakers is a corkscrew. Its thin tip allows you to really dig in and scrape caked-on dirt out of tight crevices, and its metal construction keeps it from snapping or breaking like a toothpick or other disposable item.

Use a melamine sponge with a rubber sole.

A melamine sponge (the same as the branded Magic Eraser) is denser than a regular sponge, with tiny pores that give it a sandpaper-like quality. For best results, start by wiping large chunks of dirt off with a paper towel or rag, then dampen a melamine sponge and gently rub it over any discolored spots on the rubber outsole. Try to avoid the fabric of your sneakers if possible to avoid scuffing. It’s also a good idea to work on the trash can to pick up debris from the crumbling sponge.

Wash or replace laces

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to spice up any pair of shoes is to replace the laces. You can toss your laces in the washer if you want (put them in a mesh bag first so they don’t get tangled), but avoid the dryer as the heat can melt the aiguillettes .

Be mindful of the material

Not all sneakers are the same. If you are going to deep clean, you should use products that work well with the material of your running shoes. ( Self Magazine has a detailed guide on what to use and when.)

For mesh sneakers: use a dry brush to remove excess dirt. Mix baking soda and vinegar, apply to stained area and leave for 15 minutes. Then rub gently for a few minutes with a soft brush, then wipe with a soft, damp cloth. Let the sneakers air dry.

For synthetic leather sneakers: dampen a cloth with warm water and a mild detergent and wipe the dirty areas. Then, gently scrub the area with the brush for a minute, working with the cleanser, before wiping the sneakers with a soft, damp cloth to remove any remaining cleanser. Let the sneakers air dry.

For knit sneakers: avoid brushing and washing powder (because the chemicals can be too harsh on the fabric). Instead, use a soft cloth and mild soap. Dampen a washcloth in cold water and gently rub the soap into the stains. Once the stains are removed, wipe off the soap residue with a damp towel and allow it to air dry.

For canvas sneakers: use a toothbrush and a cleaning paste made from baking soda and warm water. Dip your toothbrush into the mixture and scrub your sneakers until they are clean. Let the sneakers dry with the cleaning mixture. Once dry, wipe off any hardened baking soda with a damp cloth.

Sprinkle them with baby powder or baking soda at night.

Shake some baby powder or baking soda into each sneaker at night to help the product absorb the musty smell left by the accumulated moisture. (This is just one of the many uses for baby powder that isn’t related to your baby. ) Do this once in a while to keep your sneakers smelling fresher, even if they haven’t been covered in mud recently.


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