How To Clean Air Force 1s: Step By Step Guide

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It's not easy to figure out how to clean Air Force 1s, which is why this is one of the most commonly asked questions surrounding the typically all-white Nike sneakers.

Fortunately, we've put together a step-by-step guide to talk you through the process, highlighting a few of our top tips along the way to ensure your Air Force 1s stay fresh.

So, without further delay, let's dive in...

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How To Clean Air Force 1s

The following method is what we believe to be one of the most effective ways of cleaning Air Force 1s.

As mentioned, these Nike lifestyle shoes are typically made from white leather, as seen by these highly popular triple-white Air Force 1s, thus making them a touch harder to keep spotless than a regular pair of sneakers.

Air Jordan 1 "Triple-White" product image of a pair of all-white Air Force 1s.
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Credit: Nike

That said, we've included a few top tips to help keep your Air Force 1s looking fresh, a few of which we previously mentioned in our guide to cleaning leather shoes.

What You'll Need:

  • Soft-bristled Brush
  • Microfibre Cloth
  • Neutral Soap
  • Baking Soda
  • Shoe Cleaner
  • Shoe Protector
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Step 1: The first thing you'll need to do to clean your Air Force 1s is to remove the laces and soak them in a mixture of warm water and soap while you continue with the rest of the cleaning.

Air Jordan 1 product image of an unlaced, brown, GORE-TEX sneaker.
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Credit: The Sole Supplier

Top Tip: You can add a small amount of baking powder to the mixture if your sneakers come with white laces to remove stubborn stains.

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Step 2: Bang the soles of your sneakers together to remove the excess dirt, then work away what's left with a soft-bristled brush.

Step 3: Combine a small amount of shoe cleaner into a container of warm water. We say shoe cleaner, like this Angelus Easy Cleaner, as it shouldn't damage the leather in any way. You can, however, use a neutral cleaning agent instead.

Step 4: Dip your microfibre cloth into the mixture, wring out any excess water, and begin to rub the exterior of your shoes in circular motions to get rid of any stains.

Top Tip: If the stains are proving particularly challenging, you may find that using a brush works best instead.

Step 5: Wipe off the excess foam and leave your shoes to dry. At this point, you can also cover your Air Force 1s in a protective shoe spray like Crep Protect. This is only an optional step though to help minimise how often you need to clean your sneakers.

Crep Protect product image of a purple and black can with yellow details.
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Credit: Crep Protect

Step 7: Remove your laces and leave them to dry with your shoes naturally, away from direct sunlight, if sprayed with a protector. Once dry, re-lace your sneakers so they're ready to wear.

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What About Other Materials?

Air Force 1s are usually made from leather; however, Nike occasionally adds alternative materials into the mix which can affect the cleaning process.

Don't worry though, here are some of our top tips for when you encounter an alternative material to what you're used to.

Suede

Perhaps the next most common material used to construct a pair of Air Force 1s is suede, as seen on these upcoming "Berlin" mid-tops.

Nike Air Force 1 Mid "Berlin" product image of a black suede and brown leather sneaker with white details.
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Credit: Nike

The most effective method, in our opinion, to clean suede is to use a suede brush to remove excess dirt, and a suede eraser to remove tougher stains. A similar method can also be applied to nubuck leather.

To find out more, check out our guide to cleaning suede shoes right here.

Canvas

If you happen to own a pair of canvas Air Force 1s, like these "Dip Dye" low-tops, then we'd recommend using a similar technique to leather, except applying a little less water to the surfaces.

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Nike Air Force 1 "Dip Dye" product image of a light blue dyed sneaker.
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Credit: Nike

We'd also advise leaving the canvas to dry naturally rather than wiping them down after initially applying the shoe cleaner.

Denim

Denim is a material rarely found on a pair of Air Force 1s; however, the upcoming Who Decides War x Nike sneakers are almost exclusively made from it.

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Who Decides War x Nike Air Force 1 image of the denim blue colourway.
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Credit: @murderbravado

If you do encounter denim, you can essentially use a similar method to canvas, being careful not to apply too much water to the material.

For particularly stubborn stains, you can also try applying a white vinegar and water solution, and working the area with a soft-bristled brush like previously mentioned.

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Things To Avoid When Cleaning Air Force 1s

It's important to treat your Air Force 1s carefully when cleaning them as one wrong move or product could result in irreversible damage.

One of the main things we'd recommend is to avoid using a washing machine or tumble dryer. The intensity of the spin, water, and heat can damage delicate materials, often leading them to crack and deform.

Similarly, we'd also suggest avoiding any direct heat to dry your Air Force 1s once you've finished cleaning them. Again, this can cause the leather to lose its shape and crack.

Next, avoid using rough sponges or wired brushes. Both of these can create permanent small scratches in the leather which can ruin the material permanently.

Our final tip is to avoid any cleaning products or dish soap containing harsh chemicals, particularly bleach. Not only is dish soap a degreaser that could end up removing the oil from the leather, but the chemicals can also dry out the leather material.

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