How to Clean Your Old Sneakers

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Your old sneakers could use some work. It’s a sign you’ve gotten some real use out of them. And while you might think it’s time for a new pair, it’s easy to clean them up with a little expert advice.

That’s why we went to someone who knows a thing or two about how to keep old sneakers looking fresh. Jordan Michael Geller, owner and curator of the ShoeZeum, was featured in the 2013 book of Guinness World Records for the World’s Largest Sneaker Collection with 2,388 pairs. Geller owns the first Nike Waffle ever to cross a finish line (worn by Mark Covert in the 1972 Olympic Trials). Other notable pairs including Air Jordan 1’s, four pairs of Steve Prefontaine’s Track Spikes, and two pairs of Air Jordan 11s that Tinker Hatfield customized for his wife and him for their wedding.


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“As a kid I remember cleaning my sneakers with my little brother in our laundry room almost every time I wore them,” Geller says. “The old fashioned way — with toothbrushes and household cleaning products like laundry detergent and soft scrub (for white midsoles).” Whether you’ve got a new white pair, or you’re preserving the glory of sneakers you purchased in the past, here’s how to get them looking like you just brought them home.

Don’t throw them in like a load of laundry.
Maybe you’ve tried this before, and it seems to have worked out just fine. But putting your dirty sneakers in the washing machine will change the shape of them and sometimes even make them fall apart. If you are going to use household cleaners to clean your dirty sneakers, it is best to dilute the products with water and apply them sparingly with a soft brush. For example, you can fill a bucket with warm water, add a little bit of detergent, and use a soft brush to clean your shoes. Remember that a little bit of detergent goes a long way.

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Try dedicated cleaning products.
If you don’t want to use detergent, consider Jason Markk, Reshoevn8r, or Crep Protect. These popular companies sell kits to clean your shoes. “There are also different cleaners and brushes for the different surfaces and materials of the shoes,” Geller says. “You wouldn’t use the same cleaner and brush on nubuck or suede that you would on leather.”

Keep them clean from the beginning.
If preventative care is more of your vibe, there are also companies that make products to protect your shoes. Try Sole Protector which makes a clear protective coating for the outsole of your shoes to prevent wear and tear. To prevent creasing and cracks, Sneaker Shields makes inserts that go inside your shoes where your toes are and prevents creasing before it’s even an issue. “Above all, you want to keep your shoes in a cool, dry place, and not in the sunlight,” Geller says. “I still keep all of my shoes in their original boxes.”

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