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How to keep your sneakers clean, according to shoe care experts

From stain repellant spray to sneaker wipes, here are the best sneaker care products to consider
White running shoes on concrete floor in dark room
Keep your shoes clean with these five shoe care products Oppdowngalon / Getty Images

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White sneaker owners know how hard it can be to keep them clean. Dirt and grime from the outdoors (or otherwise) can be more pronounced on white sneakers.

“I would recommend wearing white sneakers for the right weather and occasion,” said Steven Tran, co-founder of Sole Fresh, a Jersey City-based shop that specializes in shoe care and restoration, “so don't wear it in the rain or snow. But if you must, invest in a repel spray that can help keep them clean.” Along with sprays, Joe Rocco, owner and manager of Jim’s Shoe Repair, advised sneaker owners to consider brushes and wipes to maintain their shoes. Along with their favorite products, Tran and Rocco also recommended professional techniques worth considering. Both experts bucketed their process into three steps: pre-care, cleaning and routine maintenance. If owners are looking at more serious damage like discoloration, the experts recommend sneaker owners take or ship their shoes to a professional.

“Materials such as leather, suede, canvas can often be cleaned using retail products off the shelves, but if customers do not have the knowledge, they can ruin their shoes, sneakers,” said Rocco.

1. Pre-care: Stain Protector Spray

When you first buy your white sneakers, Rocco recommends also purchasing a stain protector spray to help shield the initial integrity of your shoes. By coating the shoe with an invisible seal, the spray repels water and prevents stains without compromising the breathability of the shoe’s material.

Apple Brand Gardé Rain & Stain Repellent

This option has earned a 4.6-star average from over 5,000 Amazon shoppers. Made by shoe care expert Apple Brand, the brand promises the product won’t alter the color of your shoe or leave any sticky residue. And unlike some other sprays that are only suitable for certain materials, this spray is safe to use on leather, suede and canvas, according to the brand. The product is not limited to white shoes but can be used on handbags, wallets, boots, accessories and even furniture.

The Art of Crep Protect Spray

Tran recommends the protectant spray from Crep, which is what they use at Sole Fresh. Garnering a 4.6-star average from almost 15,000 Amazon shoppers, the spray works on suede, canvas and nubuck fabrics. The spray creates an invisible protective barrier that allows shoes to repel water and stains. This protective barrier can last up to two weeks, according to the brand.

2. Cleaning: Sneaker Cleaning Kit

The first step in sneaker cleaning is brushing off the loose and excess dirt, experts noted. “Failure to do this and just going straight into using the solution for wet cleaning will further embed the dirt into the material, especially for canvas/prime knit materials,” explained Tran.

The second step, after you scrub off the dirt, is to remove the laces and hand wash them. “You can wash by hand over the sink using water and a little bit of dish soap,” said Tran. After applying soap, he recommended you rinse with water and pat dry with a microfiber towel.

Finally, move toward the undersole and midsole. Here, add a couple of drops of solution to the brush and gently scrub at the undersole. Once you have lathered the sneaker, wipe away the dirt and lather with a microfiber towel. Apply the same technique to the uppers, or the top of the sneaker. Tran also added that, if you are using a pre-packaged sneaker kit with solution included, you don’t need to rinse the solution with water. If you’re wearing your sneakers daily, Tran suggests cleaning sneakers once a month.

Reshoevn8r Essential Shoe Cleaning Kit

The process of sneaker cleaning is often multi-step, as Tran shared, so he recommends purchasing a kit that has all the materials you might need to upkeep your white sneakers. Tran likes the kit because it comes with three different brushes: hard, medium and soft bristle brushes. “If the sneaker is leather, use the medium brush,” he added. “If the sneaker is canvas, knit material or high end sneaker (the leather is usually softer) use the soft brush.” The Reshoevn8r kit also includes a microfiber towel, cleaning solution and cleaning bottle.

3. Maintenance: Sneaker Wipes

And once you’ve worn the shoes for a bit, a few scuffs or smudges may appear. In that case, Rocco recommends sneaker wipes that maintain the whiteness of the shoes by taking off the dirt. “If you leave dirt on too long, the soil mark can stain,” he elaborated. But Tran pointed out that sneaker wipes are ideal for leather sneakers and midsoles of sneakers, but you can’t really use them to maintain suede, nubuck or knit materials.

Jason Markk Quick Wipes

Tran also recommended Jason Markk’s individually wrapped sneaker wipes for routine sneaker maintenance. To apply, Tran recommends doing a quick rub in areas that have dirt spots at the end of the day, as soon as you take off your shoes. The wipes have two sides: a smooth side for applying the cleaning solution and a textured side to clean the tougher areas.

Windex Original Blue Glass Cleaner

If you can’t get wipes or are in a crunch to get your sneakers clean, Rocco suggested looking in your cabinet for Windex, which he said “is gentle and a good product and can be used sparingly to gently wipe off dirt as well.” The popular household product has amassed a 4.8-star average rating from over 9,000 Amazon shoppers.

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