Photo: Dickens Sikazwe (Unsplash)
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? [Email her.](mailto:joliekerr@gmail.com)  

Spring is springing and sporting a new pair of colorful sneakers is a fun way to transition from winter boots to summer slides, sandals and flip flops. But colorful sneakers really lose their good looks when they get dingy or stained, because then, duh, they’re not so colorful anymore! But keeping them clean, or cleaning them when they’ve gotten dirty, is a pretty simple endeavor.


Ask a Clean Person and Style Girlfriend are teaming up this month to bring you the latest on what to wear for spring and summer...and how to care for your new wardrobe acquisitions. This week: colorful sneakers.


Cleaning Midsoles

Midsoles tend to bear the brunt of road grime and scuffs that happen in the course of regular wear. The easiest way to clean midsoles, provided they’re smooth (rather than pebbled, or otherwise textured in some way) is with a Magic Eraser. To use a Magic Eraser, get a section of it wet — you probably won’t need an entire Eraser to clean sneakers — squeeze out excess water and rub it on the midsole just like you would a pencil eraser. And, just like a pencil eraser, the Magic Eraser will disintegrate as does its thing.

However, the Magic Eraser isn’t great on textured midsoles — it just can’t really get into those nooks and crannies — and so a toothbrush dipped in a solution of diluted dish soap, or combined with an all-purpose cleaner like Formula 409 is a better choice. Just be sure, if you go the all-purpose cleaner route, not to use anything that contains bleach, since it can cause color loss. Which would very much defeat the purpose of your colorful sneakers!

Cleaning Leather Uppers

Speaking of that dish soap and Formula 409! Both are really all you need to clean leather uppers. Now, you could certainly buy one of those fancy sneaker cleaners, like Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner or Reshoevn8r Shoe & Sneaker Cleaner, but you truly do not need to pay a premium for sneaker cleaner when literally dish soap+an old toothbrush works just as well!

Sneaker wipes are another option for doing quicker cleaning jobs, and can be really helpful when traveling, if you’re the sort of person who obsesses over their sneakers to the extent that you want to make sure they look great when you’re on the road. But here, also, you can save yourself a few pennies by using a product like Clorox Wipes with Micro-Scrubbers (note that Clorox Wipes do not contain bleach and are safe to use on colorful shoes!).

Cleaning Canvas Uppers

Okay first things first: Please, I am begging you, please please please use a protective spray like Scotchgard Fabric Protector on canvas sneakers! This will help to repel dirt and stains, or at least make them much, much easier to get out if/when they do happen.

To make up for telling you to use a shoe protector spray, which for reasons I will never understand, is one of those easy tasks that everyone (including yours truly, truth time!) treats like having to take the SATs all over again, I’ve got some welcome news regarding the cleaning of canvas sneakers: The best way to clean canvas sneakers is actually in the washing machine. Yup! It’s that simple. Remove the laces before you toss the sneakers in the wash; don’t overdo it with detergent, as lingering detergent residue can leave sneakers with a dingy appearance; and use cold water. Sneakers shouldn’t go in the dryer, however; opt for air drying by placing sneakers near a fan or open window, and pulling the tongue over the toe box of the shoe to allow air to circulate through the interior.

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If the sneakers have significant staining from dirt or grass, both of which are protein stains, give the shoe a liberal spray with a laundry pretreatment product like Zout or Krud Kutter Sports Stain Remover before washing.

Cleaning Stitching and Eyelets

Two words: Tide Pen.

Cleaning Laces

Bag ’em up and throw ’em in the wash! Or just buy new ones — laces are so inexpensive and a fresh pair goes a long, long way in making your colorful sneakers look brand new, even if they aren’t.

If you have an especially dingy pair of laces that you don’t feel like replacing, soaking them for an hour prior to laundering in a solution of an oxygen bleach like OxiClean will help to brighten them right up. A note on using oxygen bleach: It should be dissolved in hot water to activate it.

One Last Thing

One blight that tends to afflict leather sneakers is creasing; the best way to avoid the dreaded creasing is to use shoe trees.