How to clean Vans: Our top tips for spotless sneakers

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If you're trying to figure out how to clean Vans shoes, you've come to the right place.

Despite being designed to withstand the rigors of a skatepark, Vans still need a little bit of maintenance every now and then to keep them looking great each time you lace them up.

So with summer winding down, and new Spunge Authentics out now, which we believe are some of the best fall sneakers around, we feel there's never been a better time to learn this skill to complete your autumnal style.

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We've therefore put together a step-by-step guide to talk you through the cleaning process, highlighting a few top tips along the way to help ensure your shoes come away looking spotless.

So grab your best pair of Vans and follow along with our instructions right here.

How To Clean Vans

The following is what we believe to be the most effective way of cleaning a classic pair of Old Skool Vans as they are, arguably, the brand's most popular model.

Vans Old Skool product image of a black sneaker with white details, laces, and midsole.
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Credit: Vans

With Vans typically being made from canvas cotton and rubber, we'll be focusing specifically on how to clean these materials in this article.

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Stick around though as we'll be discussing our top tips for cleaning alternative fabrics such as leather a little later on.

Before we begin though, let's run through what items you'll need to achieve a pristine finish.

What You'll Need

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Step 1: Before you begin, remove your shoelaces and place them in a mixture of warm water and mild soap to soak.

Step 2: Next, brush off any loose dirt with a soft-bristled brush.

Step 3: Combine a small amount of shoe cleaner with warm water in another bowl. You can purchase dedicated shoe cleaners, like this Angelus Easy Cleaner, but a relatively mild cleaning agent should also work.

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

Step 4: Dip your microfibre cloth into the mixture and rub away any of the deeper stains across the canvas material. You can also use the cloth to clean the stains on your rubber midsoles.

Top Tip: Try not to apply too much water to the canvas in order to avoid damaging the material and to reduce the drying time.

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Vans product image of a pair of black sneakers covered in blue paint.
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Credit: Vans

Step 5: Once satisfied the stains are gone, remove the shoelaces from their soak and leave them to air dry, away from direct heat and sunlight, with your shoes.

Step 6: Once dry, you can then take the process a step further by restoring the midsoles to their usual white colour using white vinegar. To begin, apply some masking tape to cover the canvas section of your shoes to avoid staining.

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Vans product image of a pair of blue, unlaced sneakers next to a blue skateboard.
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Credit: Vans

Step 7: Take an old toothbrush, dip it into the vinegar, and gently buff the white rubber in small circular motions before wiping them clean.

Step 7: Re-lace your Vans, then we'd recommend applying a protective spray, like Crep Protect as featured in our list of the best sneaker protectors, to minimise how often you need to clean them. Make sure you use the formula as per the manufacturer's instructions.

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What About Other Materials?

Vans are typically made out of canvas and rubber; however, there are some iterations out there that utilise other materials.

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

Leather

Although not often, Vans, like these black Winston sneakers, can be made from leather.

Vans product image of a black leather Winston sneaker.
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Credit: Vans

Fortunately, the process remains almost identical to the aforementioned technique due to the durability of leather.

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Simply wipe away any dirt with a brush then use a damp cloth to clean the surface of your shoes until any remaining stains are gone.

For more information on this, check out our guide to cleaning leather shoes right here.

Suede

Again, suede is not a material commonly used in the construction of Vans; however, there are some, like these Range Exps, that come with suede panels.

Vans product image of a pair of black suede and mesh sneakers.
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Credit: Vans

As outlined in our guide to cleaning suede shoes, removing dirt and stains from suede is notoriously difficult, but not impossible.

We'd first recommend using a suede brush, like this Shacke 4-Way Suede Brush, to remove any dirt when whilst your shoes are dry.

You can then take this a step further by using a suede eraser, like this bit of kit from Kiwi featured in our list of the best suede shoe cleaners, to rub away any tough stains and smaller marks.

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Kiwi product image of a suede and nubuck stain eraser set.
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Credit: Kiwi

Then, to make sure your shoes stay clean, make sure you check out our list of the best suede protectors to keep your Vans looking fresh.

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Things To Avoid When Cleaning Vans

When it comes to cleaning your Vans, it's important to know the dos and don'ts so that one wrong move or product won't leave your Vans damaged permanently.

Firstly, Vans advise against putting your shoes in a washing machine or dryer, regardless of the material. The intensity of the spin, water, and heat can damage delicate materials, often leading them to crack and/or deform.

Vans also suggest you avoid using bleach to whiten the rubber midsoles because it may actually turn your shoes yellow.

Leading on from this, we'd suggest you avoid using any soap that contains harsh chemicals. In addition to removing some of the oil from your shoes, soap can also dry out the canvas and rubber, thus causing permanent damage.

We also suggest you avoid using direct heat to speed up the drying process. This heat can warp your shoes and even cause certain elements to crack.

Finally, and to something we mentioned in our guide to cleaning mesh shoes, avoid using wired brushes or rough sponges because they can pull apart the threaded fabric and leave permanent scratches on the surface of your sneakers.

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