How to look after sneakers so they last longer
Kids are tough on shoes, especially sneakers. Teaching them how to clean their sneakers so they last longer is a life skill. Not to mention, while everything is getting more expensive in leaps and bounds, you might be looking to stretch your money further.
Table of Contents
Tricks to make your sneakers last:
Before you wear your sneakers the first time, use a sneaker protector and let it fully dry before wearing them outside. This step is really for adults or very responsible teenagers because the sprays are often very smelly. Depending on the kind of sneaker protector, you might need two treatments to really protect them.
Once protected, your sneakers will be easier to clean. If they’re protected and the inevitable happens: you get some scuff marks, drop a coffee on them, or any other hazard, your shoes will be way easier to clean.
Protecting your sneakers from rain + snow
What do sneaker protectors do?
Sneaker protectors waterproof your sneakers and put a barrier between the outside world and the shoe. With a good protector you should be able to wipe off a lot of dirt and make spot cleaning a whole lot easier.
Types of sneaker protector sprays
There are three main types of sneaker protectors. There are the quick and easy ones that you spray on and wait for them to dry. Then there are waxes that are best for leather shoes. Then there is a new category called “super hydrophobic nanoprotectors” which actually create a glass-like, but breathable, layer over the sneaker to comprehensively protect them from rain, snow, and anything else that life throws at them!
Which sneaker protector is best?
Super hydrophobic nanoprotectors are really great but do take quite a bit of preparation and work to apply. The process involves two coats and using a brush to work the product into the shoe, then waiting 24 hours for the coating to cure.
The best protector sprays for your sneakers
How to properly clean your sneakers
Properly cleaning sneakers goes beyond simply wiping mud off them. It means protecting them before you wear them the first time and on a regular basis from then on.
Great, well-made sneakers like those you can buy from Vessi, Footlocker or Sportchek, should last at least a school term. They should last a lot longer if your kids have slowed down, or stopped growing as fast.
Several sites list different things to clean with, but all of them have these in common:
- Brushes. Soft, medium, and stiff for dirt. Old toothbrushes are great for cleaning nooks and crannies
- Soft cloths. Microfiber is great, but old t-shirts are good too.
- Cleaners. Liquid cleaners should be water-based without harsh chemicals. Mild dish soap works too.
- Baking soda. Not just for taking the stink out, but baking soda is an awesome, gentle cleaner.
Before trying out a new product on your best sneakers, it’s a good idea to spot-test the product first – ideally on a pair you don’t care as much about first. Better to mess up on your lawn mowing sneaks than your most special, limited-edition kicks that are your pride and joy!
Essential steps to deep cleaning sneakers
Cleaning your shoes requires a game plan. Have your work area ready with everything you need at hand and plenty of stuff to catch the mess (newspaper, rags, towels). You don’t want to be in the midst of getting a stain out and have your baking soda out of reach.
I like the steps from Kicks Guide to start with:
- Brush off dry dirt
- Remove the laces (and wash separately)
- Remove the insole
- Start at the top and work down
- Dry them slowly
For the inside scoop on how the pros do it, the people at Jason Markk take sneaker cleaning to a whole new level.
Great general cleaning kits to help care for your sneakers
Spot Cleaning Kits
So your sneakers got wet, muddy, and gross. While all the gunk is still wet is the time to start the cleaning process. Just like your clothes, the faster you can get to a stain, the better the chance you’ll get your sneakers clean. Letting a stain dry is asking for it to set and be there forever.
There is a fine line between letting your sneakers dry before trying to really clean them and getting ahead of stains fast. Get the worst of it off, treat the stains, and then see how things are going. You can always try to deep clean them later.
Stop shoes from smelling
Cleaning your shoes will get much of the smell out. However, you can keep stinky smells away with a clever choice of insoles + storing them properly.
Airplus Ultra Work Men's Insole
Crep Protect Pill Shoe Freshener Shoe Deodorizer, Odour Eliminator
Make sure you give sneakers time to dry
Don’t rush the drying. I’ve seen all kinds of rigs with hairdryers and pipes to dry boots and shoes. Those might be fine for your winter boots, rain boots, and regular sneakers, but not your sneakers. Some people stuff newspaper into shoes to help them dry faster by helping wick moisture out. If you choose to do this it’s important to change the newspaper a few times because soggy newspaper can cause mold and mildew which is hard to get out.
Avoid the washing machine except for your laces
Throwing sneakers in the washing machine (alone, not with clothes, of course) as a last resort.
It’s important to note that your canvas Chuck Taylor’s, Vans, Vessi’s, or Keds will probably turn out okay, but the washing machine should be avoided if your sneakers have leather, suede, and nylon.
Some washers come with a special sneaker shelf so the shoes don’t bounce around and just get gently soaped and rinsed. If you don’t have a fancy washing machine, a lingerie bag is good together with a few old towels to limit the bouncing and banging around.
Your cotton laces, on the other hand, you can wash with your clothes. Dmarge even mentions ironing them to keep them flat. If you want super flat, smooth laces—go for it. Remember: Don’t dry laces in the dryer because they will probably shrink.