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4 proven methods for washing tennis shoes

For many, there is nothing better than a pair of clean and fresh shoes, and nothing worse than a pair of smelly kicks. Tennis shoes make a statement through a variety of shapes and colors, with styles crafted for both fitness and fashion. Wearing them is half the fun, but it also means unavoidable contact with dirt, grime, and sometimes even a little sweat. Keeping your shoes pristine doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore, as long as you know the right way to go about it. Let’s take a look at how to wash and dry tennis shoes effectively so you can step out looking your best. There are four common ways to restore a filthy shoe, as you’ll see below.

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The classic toothbrush method

For this option, all you’ll need is warm water, baking soda, and a toothbrush you don’t plan to use in your mouth later. Lay out some towels or paper under your shoes on a flat surface. Mix equal parts warm water and baking soda. A good place to start would be about half a cup of each, and make sure you mix this until the baking soda is fairly dissolved. Now, simply dip your cleaning toothbrush into the mixture and scrub your canvas until it is clean. When you’re done, wipe away any excess or dried baking soda and let the shoes dry. This method works for typical tennis shoe textiles, but if you have a specialty pair made of leather or some other luxury material, refer to a more specialized cleaning method.

Yes, you can use a washing machine

If you don’t have the time to sit and scrub, then the washing machine will do just fine for your average sneakers. First, you need to take out both the laces and the soles, if the soles are removable. Then, place them in a mesh laundry bag. This will further protect them while the machine is in cycle. It is very important to wash them in cold water, although you can use whatever laundry soap you’d typically add. If you can adjust the spin speed, keep it at medium. Allow your tennis shoes to air dry when the cycle is over. Once dry, you can put your soles and laces back in.

A hand method using bleach

For white shoes especially, washing by hand with bleach is a great choice. You can start this process similarly to the baking soda method, with a protective, flat surface below your shoes. Create a solution of one part bleach to four parts water. A toothbrush is preferred, unless you have a scrub brush. Dip your brush in the bleach solution and clean the entire surface of the shoe. You’ll want to keep the brush wet, so dip it often. This method normally removes stains quickly. Since bleach is the chemical ingredient, you do want to be mindful of the colors and materials you apply this method to.

Use a shoe care kit

If you shop around, you can find kits made especially for cleaning tennis shoes. They include a cleaning solution with a small brush and range in price from about $8 to $30, depending on brand and ingredients. There are even kits out there for specialty tennis shoes, providing the right cleaning agents for a range of textiles and colors. You can even purchase polishes and brightening solutions to really get your shoes to pop. The best-selling point of a shoe kit over most at-home methods is the ability to have a cleaner made specifically for your shoes.

Stepping out in style


They say it’s good to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but it’s nice to walk a mile in a clean pair of your own, as well. Learning how to wash tennis shoes is a simple task that is worth the effort. You can scrub with bleach, baking soda, or a kit cleanser by hand. You can also use a mesh bag and your own laundry machine to get the job done. Always be mindful of the textiles and colors of your tennis shoes to minimize accidental damage. Materials like leather can’t be treated the same as your typical canvas shoe. Step by step, you can keep your kicks clean and comfortable so they last a long time.

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