Okay, are we all wasting our time wondering how to clean fabric shoes when there are brands purposefully making them dirty (we’re looking at you, Golden Goose)?
Don’t sweat that you’re getting your new kicks dirtier each time you go out – there are ways you can look fun and fresh without sacrificing your favorite fabric sneakers. Depending on what your sneakers are made of, you can totally DIY the same results you get from a shoe-cleaning service.
Right off the bat, you’d be surprised at how fabric shoes respond to some soap and water. Rather than getting annoyed at the fact that your Converse or Vans look like you found them at the side of the road, make your cleaning solution, roll up your sleeves, and get to scrubbing.
We’re here to walk you through the simple steps of getting rid of dirt and debris from the surface of your sneaks, keeping the yellow hues off your white kicks, and refreshing stinky soles. Read on!
How often do you need to clean your fabric shoes?
Now, there’s no reason you shouldn’t clean your fabric shoes whenever you want to. When you get them wet because you thought recreating The Notebook scenes was a great Sunday activity, when you wear them to Coachella, or when you notice they’re getting a little musty – clean them.
Other than that, make your decision based on how often you wear them, how grimy and grubby they get, and how you want them to be on a certain occasion (your dress shoes need to be spotless for a wedding, right?)
Frequency doesn’t have to be determined by the type of fabric your shoes are made of, but fabric shoes do tend to be more difficult to clean. Dirt and debris stick to fabric much more than leather or rubber. Because of that, you should refresh your fabric shoes once a month to ensure they’re up to par.
On the other hand, fabric shoes you wear now and then can be cleaned on an as-needed basis. Of course, fabric shoes that get wet, muddy, and destroyed need to be cleaned right away. Okay, how do you clean fabric shoes, then? What should you consider before cleaning them?
What to consider before cleaning your fabric shoes
When you’re faced with mucky, musty sneakers, you might think “I’m just gonna throw them in the washing machine and hope for the best!” While some sneakers are machine washable and aren’t going to break apart (right away), we don’t recommend doing that for a few reasons.
First off, when you wash your sneakers that way, you might damage them with rough handling or loosen the glue that holds them together with hours-long soaking.
Furthermore, machine-washing your fabric sneakers doesn’t guarantee they’re going to be perfectly clean – heavily stained fabrics need scrubbing and rubbing.
But, on the chance that you have to machine-wash your sneakers, make sure to follow a few simple steps. Remove the laces and wash them separately from your sneakers. Wipe off as much mud and dirt as you can before you proceed with washing.
Opt for a little bit of mild detergent, choose a delicate cycle, and add a few towels to protect the sneakers from tumbling around too much. When they’re done, air-dry them and you’re good to go.
We suggest trying one of the methods below before you subject your sneakers to torture, though.
How to clean fabric shoes
Whether you’re struggling with sneakers, strappy sandals, espadrilles, pumps, or flats, figuring out how to clean fabric shoes has never been easier. We suggest keeping your washing machine at bay and opting for one of the DIY methods that promise to keep your kicks looking cute and smelling fresh.
1. Remove any excess dirt and debris
Right, so you’ve gotten your fabric sneaks super dirty. What do you do now?
Number one, get your supplies ready to go. An old toothbrush, a damp cloth, a dry cloth, paper towels, some mild soap, dishwashing detergent, white vinegar, baking soda, and bleach (you read that right!) are some of the things you may need.
Now, remove the laces before you start scrubbing and rubbing. Dust off the upper and the sole, remove any mud, dirt, and debris that might make things messier, and go over the entire surface area of the shoe with a dry brush or a dry cloth.
2. Get your supplies and make a cleaning solution
We mentioned a few of the supplies you might need during the process of saving your shoes. Whether you opt for a homemade cleaning solution, a mild soap, or a gentle detergent, make sure you combine everything before you start washing your shoes.
Warm water is your friend, whichever method you go with. Combine 2 cups of warm water with 1 teaspoon of detergent to get a foamy, soapy solution. Dampen your cloth with the solution and start wiping your shoes down. You can do the same thing with mild soap.
But, when you need something stronger, you might want to scrub the fabric with a concoction made of baking soda, vinegar, and warm water. Make sure you make the blend chunky and gritty rather than liquid – you’re going to get much better results that way.
3. Scrub your shoes clean
Oh, you thought you could get your fabric sneakers clean without hard work? Think again!
When you’re done getting your supplies and cleaning solutions ready, you can get to scrubbing. Depending on the condition of the fabric, you might want to start wiping down the surface with a damp cloth, rubbing any stains with a sponge, and cleaning the rubber parts with a toothbrush or a soft-bristle brush.
Work section-by-section to ensure you don’t overlook any of the dirty spots. Remember to clean the cloth, sponge, or brush each time you finish a section, but don’t overwet the fabric. Work with the grain of the fabric to prevent streaks and spots once they’re done drying.
4. Remove the cleaning solution from your shoes
Don’t forget to remove the cleaning solution from your shoes!
You’d be surprised at the number of shoes that get damaged and destroyed because they’re left to dry with layers and layers of baking soda, vinegar, and even bleach. You need to go over the surface with a clean cloth a couple of times to ensure there’s nothing left – dampen the cloth a couple of times, too.
But, before you go over the shoes with a damp cloth, you might need to remove excess baking soda with a brush. Whatever you do, make sure there’s nothing on the surface of your shoes before you put them out to dry.
5. Dry your shoes
Always air-dry your shoes!
Before you leave them out to dry, though, blot them with a paper towel or a dry cloth to remove excess moisture and speed up the process. Stuff your fabric sneakers and espadrilles with paper towels to secure the shape and keep them away from direct heat and sunlight.
Now that you’re done cleaning the outside of your shoes, you can tackle the laces by machine-washing them with the rest of your laundry. You can tie them around something or put them in one of those mesh laundry bags to prevent them from getting tangled. You’re done!
6. And don’t forget, the insides of your shoes need cleaning, too!
Sure, you might not remember to clean the insides of your shoes because they’re not on display and they don’t ruin your outfits. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pamper them every so often.
Use the same supplies you would for the outside of your shoes and scrub them clean. Warm water and detergent should do the trick, and you can always try baking soda, too. Wipe them down when you’re done, and leave them out to dry.
How to clean white fabric shoes
White fabrics get dirty quicker and can be quite tough to clean. While you might not be able to restore your sneakers’ old glory with mild soap and a toothbrush, you can refresh them and make them appear whiter and cleaner, nonetheless.
1. Start by cleaning your shoes (as above)
Removing excess mud, wiping them down with a damp cloth, and scrubbing them clean should be a must, whether you’re working with white or colored fabric. But, when you notice a few marks, spots, and stains even after you’ve done everything, you might need to resort to the “big guns.”
2. Remove stubborn stains with a bleach pen, a magic eraser, or baking soda and vinegar
Bleach pens, magic erasers, and other products appropriate for spot cleaning are available on the market these days. Before you give up on your white fabric kicks, you might want to give them a go. But, DIY cleaning solutions such as baking soda and vinegar might do the trick, too.
Not everyone’s a fan of Golden Goose sneakers, and that’s okay. With a few simple steps, you’re guaranteed to wonder whether you accidentally switched your dirty sneakers with someone’s brand-new ones. Whatever you do, though, don’t machine wash them!