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How To Clean Tennis Shoes: A Step By Step Guide

It can be difficult keeping your tennis shoes clean, especially if you don't know how, but fortunately, we're here to help guide you through the process.

Following our simple steps, we believe you'll be able to get your favourite set of sneakers clean again in just a matter of moments so they're ready for your next outing.

Moreover, with their lightness and breathability putting tennis shoes in the mix with some of the best sneakers for summer, we'd argue there's never been a better time to learn how to clean them as temperatures being to soar.

So whether you own a pair of the new NikeCourt Zoom Lite 3s, or you're still rocking a classic pair of adidas Stan Smiths, we've got you covered right here.

How To Clean Tennis Shoes

The following technique is what we believe to be the most effective way of cleaning a regular pair of leather or synthetic tennis shoes.

However, the trouble with tennis shoes is that they are often made from an array of different materials. Don't worry though because we'll get to some of the alternatives a little later on.

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

What You'll Need:

  • Soft-bristled Brush or Toothbrush
  • Large Bowl
  • Mild Soap
  • Cloth
  • Shoe Cleaner
  • Newspaper
  • Baking Soda
  • Shoe Protector

Step 1: Remove the shoelaces, wipe them down, then leave them to soak in a mixture of warm water and mild detergent.

Top Tip: Adding equal parts of baking soda can help make white laces bright again.

Laces being removed from a pair of grey Nike tennis shoes.
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Credit: My Glamorista

Step 2: Use a dry, soft-bristled brush to remove surface debris, including any on the soles. We'd recommend using an old toothbrush if you're struggling to reach all the nooks and crannies.

Step 3: Make a mild cleaning solution by mixing a shoe cleaner such as Angelus Easy Cleaner with warm water. Use as per the manufacturer's instructions.

Angelus Easy Cleaner product image of a clear bottle containing light green shoe cleaner.
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Credit: Angelus

Step 4: Take your brush or a cloth, dampen in the mixture, then begin to lightly scrub away any remaining stains across every inch of your sneakers. Make sure you also remove all the dirt from the soles.

Step 5: Use a new microfibre cloth to gently remove any excess liquid, then leave your shoes to dry naturally with the shoelaces.

Wiping a red sneaker dry with a cloth.
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Credit: Better Homes And Gardens

Top Tip: We'd suggest filling your shoes with old newspaper first to help them maintain their shape.

Step 6: At this point, we'd recommend applying a protective shoe spray to minimise how often you'll need to clean them. Check out our list of the best sneaker protectors for some inspiration.

Step 7: After applying a protective spray, leave them to dry once again before relacing them so they're ready to be worn.

What About Other Materials?

While most tennis shoes are made from either leather or synthetic materials, you can encounter some sneakers made from alternative fabrics.

Here are our top tips for when you run into unexpected materials.

Knitted Fabric

More modern tennis shoes tend to utilise elements of knitted fabric to improve lightness like with these NikeCourt Zoom NXTs.

NikeCourt Zoom NXT product image of a white pair of sneakers with cream grey and blue accents.
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Credit: Nike

In this instance, Nike recommends avoiding any detergents containing harsh chemicals, as well as scrubbing the material in the same direction as the knit.

We'd also recommend minimising how much water you apply to your shoes as soaking the mesh will only increase drying time.


As touched on in our guide to cleaning suede shoes, suede is a notoriously difficult material to clean if you don't know the best approach.

We'd suggest using a suede brush or towel to remove any surface debris, working with the material rather than going against the grain.

You can also use a suede rubber, like this Kiwi eraser, to work away at any stubborn marks on the surface of your shoes.

Kiwi Suede & Nubuck Eraser product image of the kit within black and red packaging.
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Credit: Kiwi

Things To Avoid Doing When Cleaning Tennis Shoes

Our number one recommendation is to avoid using a washing machine or tumble dryer to speed up the cleaning process.

The intensity of the spin, water, and heat can damage the adhesives which can lead to cracking, deformation of their shape, and, on occasion, your sneakers falling apart.

We'd also advise against placing your shoes under any sort of direct heat, including hair dryers. High heat can warp rubber, much like leaving your sneakers to dry in the sun can.

We touched on it earlier, but it's also advised you stay clear of harsh cleaning products, namely bleach, because not diluting the solution correctly can cause permanent damage.

Finally, avoid using wired brushes or rough sponges because they can leave permanent scratches on the surface of your shoes.

Read More: Best Places To Buy Sneakers - Our Top Picks

For more articles like this, take a look at our RealKit page.