There’s nothing more heartbreaking than splurging on a pair of Nikes on payday, just to get your new babies dirty that same weekend. If you’ve just splashed out majorly on a pair of Air Forces, Jordans, or Dunks, you’re probably wondering how to clean and maintain your sneakers to keep them looking brand-new.
I’ll start off by saying this: Nike does not recommend putting any of their shoes in the washing machine, and always advises cleaning by hand only.
But… if you’re in a rush or just not feeling all the scrubbing work, you technically can put them in the washing machine (trust me, I’ve done both). So with that disclaimer in mind, here’s your guide on how to clean Nike shoes, both the official way and the lazy way.
Good to know
Time: 1–2 hours
Difficulty: Easy/intermediate, depending on which method you use
Helpful hints: Lots of Nike’s most popular styles are made using multiple materials, and each has a specific way to best clean and treat it. If you aren’t sure what the composition of your shoes is, Nike’s website should have all the information you need to know which set of stain removal instructions to follow.
Here’s what you’ll need
- Washing machine, sink, and/or mixing bowl, depending your shoes
- Mild laundry detergent or dish soap, I’m obsessed with this one from Method (you can buy it on Amazon) (opens in new tab)
- Laundry disinfectant or sanitizer (optional)
- A mesh zip-up laundry bag, like these from Amazon (opens in new tab), or a dark or patterned pillowcase
- A soft cleaning brush or toothbrush, preferably one made especially for shoes — This brush from Amazon is ideal (opens in new tab)
- 2–3 cleaning cloths (Amazon Basic’s microfiber set (opens in new tab) is perfect)
- A melamine sponge, like the highly-rated Mr. Clean one from Amazon (opens in new tab)
- Cleaning paste, like The Pink Stuff, which you can get from Amazon (opens in new tab)
- An oxi stain remover, like this one from Amazon (opens in new tab) (also optional, and make sure you have the right type for the color of your shoes!)
- Baking soda (we always use Arm & Hammer from Amazon (opens in new tab))
- A pencil eraser (if you have suede on your shoes)
How to clean Nike shoes in the washing machine
Step 1: Check your shoe type
Although Nike doesn’t recommend putting *any* of your shoes in the washing machine, there are a couple of material types that are an absolute no-go, even for this certified lazy girl. If your shoe has leather or suede in any aspect, you should immediately scroll down to the officially approved method.
However, if you’re working with canvas, fabric, and rubber, you should be good to go.
Step 2: Prep and pre-clean
If you have removable laces, start by pulling those out. Then, quickly rinse your shoes to get rid of any major mud or dirt. Using your brush and cleaning paste, clean the bottoms of your shoes, taking care to dislodge any dirt or pebbles that could damage your washing machine.
If there are any extra-scary stains, now is the time to hit them with an oxi stain remover or a small amount of laundry detergent or dish soap mixed with warm water. Use your eraser sponge, cleaned brush, or microfiber cloth to do this.
Tip: If you’re cleaning a pair of Nike FlyKnit shoes, I personally recommend using a toothbrush and a soapy solution.
Step 3: Check your washing machine settings
Make sure your washing machine is set to the most delicate or gentle setting (this will be the one you use for your lingerie) and the coolest water temperature. Most Nike shoes are put together with an adhesive, and hot water will cause that to disintegrate, leaving you with serious damage to your favorite pair of shoes.
Step 4: Bag up the shoes and wash in the machine
Place your pre-cleaned sneakers and removed laces in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase, and securely zip or tie it shut. Add some mild detergent and optional oxi stain remover or baking soda, and run your washing machine on its gentle, cold cycle.
Tip: If you’re on a late-night cleaning kick and worried about your Nikes making noise thumping around your washing machine, pad out the drum with some towels or throw blankets that also need a clean. Be sure you use baking soda or disinfectant/sanitizer if you do this!
Step 5: Air dry
Don’t get me wrong. Hot water is bad for shoe glue, but dryer heat is waaaay worse. Make sure you keep your shoes and laces damage-free by air drying both in a location away from direct sunlight to prevent discoloration. Give your Nikes at least 12 hours to dry, and they’ll be weekend-ready when you wake up in the morning.
How clean Nike shoes by hand
Step 1: Mix a cleaning solution
Using warm to hot water and a small amount of mild laundry detergent or dish soap (Nike’s own website uses Method (opens in new tab), just like I do), create a cleaning solution in your mixing bowl.
You might need to do this a few times throughout the cleaning process — I personally had to refresh my solution three to four times when cleaning my Nike shoes. No shame!
Step 2: Remove, soak, and clean the laces
Take the laces out from your shoes and soak them in your mixing bowl for five to 10 minutes. Squeeze and massage the laces with your fingers to work any dirt and stains out and then lay the laces out to air dry. Refresh your cleaning solution and set the bowl aside while you do the dry work on your shoes.
Step 3: Dry brush the shoes
Give your Jordans a much-needed spa day by dry brushing. Using a dry toothbrush or soft cleaning brush, dislodge any dirt stuck in the suede and stitching of your shoes, as well as on the bottoms. Make sure you work in the same direction the grain of the suede goes in, and be sure you check that your brush is 100% dry before you start this step.
Step 4: Spot-treat specific stains
If there are any standout stains, this is your chance to treat them. Using your brush, gently buff the cleaning paste into any scuffs on your shoe’s rubber soles, and remove stains on leather sections with a melamine sponge and your cleaning solution.
If you’re working with a pair of FlyKnit shoes, spray stains with an oxi treatment and follow up by dabbing the spots with a microfiber cloth soaked in your cleaning solution.
Step 5: Scrub the shoes and soles
This is where the hard work comes in. Clean off your brush and dip it into some fresh cleaning solution, then scrub the upper surface of your shoes. Once you’re happy with how they’re looking, swap the cleaning solution out for some cleaning paste combined with the solution to tackle the soles, making sure to get into the grooves of the rubber with your brush.
Step 6: Blot with cleaning solution and repeat
Blot away any leftover suds with a dry microfiber cloth, and have a look at your results. If you’re feeling good, you can move on to the next step, but if your shoes need some extra care, you can repeat these steps as many times as you need and wipe your shoes down with the cleaning solution until you’re happy with the results.
Step 7: Air dry
Just like you would after machine washing, you’ll finish off by leaving your Nikes in a spot outside just away from direct sunlight to dry for at least 12 hours, preferably overnight. Once they’re fully dry, you can re-thread the laces and wear your favorite shoes out again.
How do you get stains out of Nike shoes?
Depending on the material, there are a few different stain-removal methods to use on your Nike shoes.
For suede and rubber, grab a pencil eraser and gently rub away at the stains, making sure to brush off any excess frequently and ensuring you’re not wearing away the material.
For leather and faux leather, grab an eraser sponge and dip it into your cleaning solution to gently wipe away stains and scuffs.
For fabric and FlyKnit, you can use an oxi stain remover to pre-treat, then blot your cleaning solution into the stain.
Can you clean Nikes with dish soap?
Along with mild laundry detergent, dish soap is one of the go-to products for cleaning Nike shoes. However, dish soap is super concentrated, so make sure to create a cleaning solution with warm water that dilutes the strength of the soap rather than applying it to your sneakers directly. This cleaning solution is perfect to use on any material, aside from suede.
Can Nike shoes be cleaned?
Yes, 100%. Regularly cleaning your Nike shoes is key to making sure they last for years to come (and ensuring your OOTDs are always top-tier). Though Nike doesn’t recommend cleaning its shoes in the washing machine, its sneakers can — and should — be cleaned by hand using dish soap or detergent, warm water, a shoe brush or toothbrush, cleaning paste (either store-bought or DIY), and a microfiber cloth.