Last updated on August 29th, 2023 at 07:00 pm

Restore Old Sneakers: How to Clean and Restore Your Kicks - The Shoe Rig
restore old sneakers

Restore Old Sneakers: How to Clean and Restore Your Kicks

We’ve all been there. You open your closet and spot that old pair of sneakers you can’t bear to part with. They’re worn out but hold so many memories that letting them go is impossible. They’ve been there with you through thick and thin, long walks, and countless adventures. But what if you could restore old sneakers and breathe new life into them? 

Cleaning and restoring old sneakers involves. 

  1. Removing dirt with a soft brush and soapy water. 
  2. Using a gentle cleanser for deeper stains, and 
  3. Letting them air dry. 

Restoration may require repainting or re-dyeing faded areas, replacing worn outsoles, and using a deodorizer for freshness.

Restoring and cleaning old sneakers can make them look fresh and significantly extend their lifespan.

The Basics of Sneaker Care

Before we jump into the how-tos of cleaning and restoration, let’s discuss some fundamental aspects of sneaker care.

1. Understanding the Material of Your Sneakers

The first step in proper sneaker maintenance is understanding the material of your shoes. Fabrics like canvas, leather, suede, or synthetic require other care methods. For instance, suede and canvas need gentle cleaning, while leather can withstand more rigor. 

Knowing your sneaker material can ensure you choose the right cleaning and restoration techniques.

2. Why Regular Cleaning is Necessary

Keeping your sneakers clean isn’t just about aesthetics. Regular cleaning removes dirt and grime that can degrade the material over time. Moreover, it helps you keep them smelling fresh, ensuring that you can confidently wear your favorite pair wherever you go. It’s also a fundamental step if you aim to restore old sneakers and renew their original charm.

How to Clean Old Sneakers

Ready to dive into the cleaning process? Here are the basic steps you need to follow.

1. Identifying the Problem Areas

Begin by examining your sneakers carefully. Look for dirt, stains, or areas where the material is wearing thin. This step helps you understand the severity of the cleaning required and lets you focus your efforts more efficiently.

2. The Basic Cleaning Process

Start the cleaning process by removing any loose dirt using a soft brush. Then, prepare a mixture of warm water and a gentle detergent. Use a soft cloth or a brush to clean the sneakers gently. 

Pay special attention to the soles and any stained areas. Remember, the aim is to clean old sneakers without damaging them further.

2. Drying Techniques to Avoid Damaging the Sneakers

Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned your sneakers, it’s crucial to let them dry correctly. Avoid leaving them in direct sunlight or near a heat source; it can warp the shoe shape and fade the color. Instead, let them air dry in a well-ventilated area. 

Paper towels inside the shoes can help absorb moisture and maintain their shape during drying. Following these steps not only cleans your sneakers but also primes them for any restoration work that might be needed.

Cleaning old Sneakers

Pair of old Air Jordans on dark background

Now that you understand how to clean your sneakers let’s look at some specific methods for different materials. Remember, each type of sneaker material requires a slightly different approach to ensure optimal cleaning and minimize potential damage.

You might also like: How to Clean White Shoes? {4 Proven Methods}

1. Cleaning Canvas Sneakers

Canvas is a durable, lightweight material that can withstand thorough cleaning. Start by removing excess dirt, then apply warm water and mild detergent with a soft brush. Rinse with cold water and let the sneakers air dry away from direct sunlight.

2. Cleaning Leather Sneakers

Leather sneakers need a more delicate touch. Use a damp cloth to wipe off the dirt, then apply a leather cleaner with a soft cloth. Once dry, consider using a leather conditioner to restore the shoe’s softness and shine.

3. Cleaning Suede Sneakers

Suede is the trickiest material to clean. A soft-bristle brush should be used to remove dry dirt gently. For more stubborn stains, use a special suede cleaning product. Always remember to brush the suede in one direction to maintain its texture.

4. Cleaning Synthetic Sneakers

Synthetic materials are often used in sports shoes and are fairly easy to clean. A gentle scrub with warm water and a mild detergent usually does the trick. Rinse and air dry, keeping them away from high-heat sources.

Advanced Cleaning Techniques

It’s time to use advanced cleaning techniques when standard cleaning doesn’t work.

1. Dealing with Stubborn Stains

For particularly stubborn stains, consider using a stain remover. Apply a small amount to the stained area and gently rub with a soft brush or cloth. Always remember to test the product on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t damage the color or material of the sneakers.

2. Using Sneaker Cleaning Kits

Various sneaker cleaning kits in the market contain specialized cleaning solutions and brushes designed to clean old sneakers thoroughly. They can be particularly helpful for more complex cleaning tasks and provide professional-grade results at home.

Also Read: Can You Put Shoes In Dryer?

How to Restore Old Sneakers

Close up picture of black old sneakers

Cleaning is only half the battle. Restoration becomes necessary if you’re dealing with worn-out sneakers needing TLC. Here’s how you can restore old sneakers and give them a new lease of life.

1. Analyzing the Damage

Firstly, take a good look at your sneakers. Are the soles worn out? Is the material faded or discolored? Understanding your shoes’ issues will allow you to tailor your restoration techniques appropriately.

2. Restoring Color and Material

Faded colors can often be revived with specially designed shoe paints or dyes. Just remember to clean your shoes thoroughly before you start painting. A conditioner might be enough for materials like leather or suede to return the original luster.

3. How to Repair Soles

Worn-out soles can be tricky to deal with. Depending on the severity of the wear, you may be able to use a shoe adhesive to fix minor issues. For more significant damage, a professional cobbler may be necessary.

4. Sneaker Deodorization Techniques

Lastly, don’t forget the inside of your shoes! Baking soda is a simple and effective solution for eliminating odors. Just sprinkle some inside your shoes and let them sit overnight. Shake out the excess in the morning and enjoy your fresh, clean sneakers.

Restore Old Sneakers Based on Material

Your sneakers have been cleaned but need extra care to restore their former glory. The restoration process varies depending on your sneakers’ material, so let’s break down the best techniques for each.

1. Restoring Canvas Sneakers

Canvas sneakers often lose their color over time. Luckily, fabric dye or pens can bring your canvas kicks back to life. Always test the color on a small hidden section first to ensure you’re happy with the result.

2. Restoring Leather Sneakers

Leather can lose its shine and become cracked over time. You can restore old sneakers made from leather by applying a high-quality leather conditioner after cleaning. It nourishes the leather and prevents cracking. Leather paint or dye can also be used to touch up faded colors.

3. Restoring Suede Sneakers

Suede can be one of the most challenging materials to restore because of its delicate nature. A suede eraser can be used to remove stubborn stains. Then, a specialized suede brush will help restore the nap of the suede. A suede dye or renovator can be applied if the color is faded.

4. Restoring Synthetic Sneakers

Like those often found in athletic shoes, synthetic materials are easy to clean and restore. A simple wash and dry may be all you need. For scuffs or scratches, find a matching paint or dye to touch up the areas.

Preventative Measures for Sneaker Care

photo of old brown sneakers that need restoration

The best sneaker care routine includes cleaning, restoration, and prevention. Here are some ways to protect your sneakers to prevent damage.

1. Regular Maintenance Tips

Regular cleaning is a must. Try to clean your sneakers every couple of weeks or immediately after they get particularly dirty. Conditioning materials like leather and suede can also help them resist damage.

2. Storage Techniques to Prolong Sneaker Life

Proper storage can significantly extend the life of your sneakers. Always store your sneakers in a cool, dry place. Use shoe trees or paper to help your sneakers maintain their shape when not wearing them.

3. Protective Gear for Sneakers

Consider using a sneaker protector spray, which protects against water and dirt. Shoe inserts can also help to keep the interior of your shoes dry and fresh.


Sneakers carry more than just our weight; they hold memories and often have a sentimental value that’s hard to replace. That’s why sneaker restoration and care are so important. It allows us to prolong the life of our cherished shoes, ensuring we can continue creating memories in them.

In this article, we walked you through the entire process of cleaning and restoring sneakers. We covered everything from the basic cleaning process, advanced techniques, restoring based on the material, and preventative measures to when it’s time to call a professional. 

Remember, every sneaker is unique and deserves the right care to ensure it stays with you for as long as possible.


1. Can I put my sneakers in the washing machine?

While some sneakers can be washed in a washing machine, it’s generally not recommended. Intense agitation can cause damage to both the shoes and the washing machine. Instead, opt for the hand-cleaning techniques we’ve outlined.

2. How often should I clean my sneakers?

The frequency of cleaning depends on how often you wear your sneakers and the conditions in which you wear them. As a rule, you should clean your sneakers every two weeks or immediately after they get particularly dirty.

3. How long does sneaker restoration take?

The duration of a sneaker restoration project can vary based on the extent of the damage and the restoration process required. Simple clean-ups might only take an hour or two, whereas extensive restorations can take a few days to allow for drying times between steps.

4. Can all sneakers be restored?

Most sneakers can be restored to some degree. However, the restoration’s success depends on the damage’s extent, the shoe’s materials, and the restorer’s skill level. In some cases, professional repair may be necessary.

5. What are the best sneaker restoration kits in the market?

The best sneaker restoration kit depends on your specific needs. However, some highly recommended kits include Jason Markk Essential Kit, Crep Protect Cure Shoe Cleaning Travel Kit, and Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner Kit. Always remember to choose a kit suitable for your sneakers’ material.

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