#7 Cleaning Tips Compilation
Update ( 4/27/08 ) / Original Version (10/25/02)
This is another update to my Cleaning Tips Compilation. I've noticed a couple of flaws causing some slight confusion. So I've tried my best to simplify the phrasing of some methods mentioned. I've also noticed that a lot of people are not reading the guide or thoroughly reading the guide before asking questions in the Cleaning/Restoring FAQ. Please read the guides in this forum. The basis of what you need to know lies within the Guides alone. Everything else is just commonsense.
Not many people can afford to beat up a pair and have a couple pairs of shoes to stash in their closet for future use. That is the major reason why this guide was compiled in the first place. Also this guide uses relatively cheap and effective items to keep your shoes clean and keep your wallet ready to purchase more shoes.
Someone asked whether I was keeping some cleaning/restoring secrets to myself, well the answer is yes, however its pretty much common sense that most people can figure it out for themselves. Ill gradually reveal a few here and there in future updates.
First off, try to prevent your shoes from getting dirty, scuffed, or even bled on by denim jeans in the first place. Do not intentionally beat up your kicks and expect to clean them and make them look like they just came out of the box. Something of that nature rarely happens, especially with the quality of most shoes today.
Usually when I acquire a new pair of kicks I spray at least 2 coats of waterproofer, top, bottom, and all over. (I'm crazy like that) but it slightly makes it easier to clean.
Be aware of your surroundings, if you see gum, mud, or anything unsafe for your shoes; walk around or over it. Also check the weather updates. If it looks like it's going to rain, don't wear the shoes you don't want to get messed up. Do what I did back in my high school days, and carry an extra pair or even a pair of beaters in your backpack or in the trunk of your car.
Here are some basic items that might come in handy.
Click to show pictures
Toothbrush, Medium-Large sized brush
(larger brushes make it easier to clean soles)
(Mr. Clean or 3M brand works fine, make sure you get the one with the grip since they hold up better)
-(tip) cut the sponges in half so that you use it more efficiently-
(examples are Joy, Ivory, and Ajax: go for the clearer translucent types)
(You can get them at shoe stores, also 3M Scotch Guard is said to work well as well)
Nubuck/Suede Brush Eraser Cleaning Kit
-(tip) pick up extra waterproofer and a Nubuck/Suede Brush Eraser Cleaning Kit whenever they have Friends & Family sales at shoe stores, that way you save some cash. Right now they retail for $5.99 at Footlocker.
Toothpicks or Eyeglass Screwdrivers
-(tip) these come in handy for removing rocks and pebbles in between the traction grooves on soles. Preferably Eyeglass Screwdrivers is the better purchase since they'll last longer than toothpicks.
On to my revised cleaning tips.
Let's start inside out.
Remove laces if needed.
Remember to use good judgment and common sense when cleaning your shoes.
This maybe the most annoying of all to clean, but its not all that bad. You can either buy a clothing fuzz/pilling remover or go the cheap and hard way. You can either pull them out with your fingers or use tweezers to pull them out. After doing that I usually use a dry toothbrush, tip the shoes sideways and brush out the pillings into a trash can or use a lint roller/ rip the sticky paper to pick up some of the fuzz/pillings.
(if your insoles are dirty)-
Either you use the original or replace with another to keep original DS, you choose.
If you just want to get the fuzz off either use a lint roller or use a brush to brush it off.
Depending on the type of insole most likely you can clean it with this method. In the past I bought a used pair of XI lows and the insole was dirty so what I did was take it out. Put it in the bath tub and soaked both of them using running water. Then I used dish washing liquid and scrubbed with a brush. During the cleaning process you should be able to see the dirt coming out through the water. Once done rinse as much as you can and then pat out the water using a dry towel. It's best that you air dry the insoles using an electric fan.
This is probably the most essential and versatile way to clean your shoes.
Some people have mentioned using a washing machine to clean their shoes but I am staying away from that. What I've heard is that you need to put the shoes in a pillow case then put them in the washer.
-Use a toothbrush/hand brush, Water and a Dry Towel
Basically start off with running cold water from the faucet and clean using a brush (dishwashing soap can be added if needed), then use a cloth/towel to wipe dry. If the dirt/stain is persistent, you might have to repeat the cleaning process.
You can also use a damp towel to clean shoes as well, that's if you want to deal with really dirty towels to be tossed in the washer. The damp towel method can be used on white leather uppers as well as midsoles for quick cleaning.
This will also work for the edges near the soles as well
Usually I prefer to pick out the little stones and pebbles first with an eyeglass screwdriver.
If you can, upgrade your old toothbrush for a medium to large sized brush. You will get better results.
Start off by cleaning the soles with water, dishwashing soap and a brush (toothbrushes usually aren't as effective as bigger brushes). Then wash off the soap residue and wipe the soles with a towel and let dry. Only use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser if you have to.
Its best to clean the soles as much as you can before you use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. This way you can actually tell what Magic Eraser can do.
For white based soles
(Air Jordan XII playoff, AJ II white/red/black mid)
Use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or the 3M brand version. If it's your first time using it, don't be worried if the sponge starts to crumble, it does that. Always start with light scrubbing then gradually increase. You don't want to over do it the first time that's why I suggest that method.
You can also use it for non-white based soles as well. But keep in mind to try it on a small area before proceeding with the rest of the shoe. It might remove coloring.
I had a dark stain that was on the heel part of my XI (black/red) that wouldn't go away. It was probably there for a little over 2 years. I tried toothpaste, scrubbing, etc. It was persistent. When I tried Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, it was gone in 30 seconds.
Cleaning Clear Soles (not restoring)
(AJ 5, 6, 11, 16 and other shoes with clear soles)
*Use the same method above for SOLES*
First off the best way to keep them clear is by taking care of them from Day 1. Always clean the soles every time after you wear your shoes. Keep in mind the clear soles will stay clear for a while, but will gradually dim and darken as you wear the shoes more and more. After cleaning, make sure they are dried, and put it back in the box or whatever you are using along with Silica packs to prolong the clearness of the soles. Never put Silica packs directly on the shoes.
-(UNCONFIRMED) Oven Cleaner and Crest White Strips.- This was mentioned in the past but apparently was never confirmed.
Treating Yellowed Soles
You can get it at
Take your time and use a freehand method to apply. Taping can rip the paint off of midsoles.
Sea Glow is not the sole cause of midsole separation. Keep in mind the heat factor plays a big part as well.
The heat absorbed by the carbon fiber plate causes the glue to melt and the end result is sole separation.
Visible Air Soles
(AJ 3, 4, 5, 6, 16, and other shoes like air max 90)
I use a Q-tip to clean that part. First I dampen one side with water to clean away the debris/dirt and use the other side to dry. Usually there are persistent dirt marks that are left on the area near and around the visible air. Lightly dabbing the Q-tip with either rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover should remove it; however use this as a last resort. It might remove the coloring of the surface.
(Air Jordan 6, 7, 18 and other shoes)
Use the Nubuck/Suede Eraser-Brush Cleaning kit
Suede has a nappier texture compared to Nubuck/Durabuck.
Nubuck/Durabuck has a smooth texture.
Use a dry flat head toothbrush or hand brush (if you dont have the brush kit) to clean off any debris, dust, and lint off of the Suede part of the shoes. If it still looks a little dusty use a couple drops of water on the area and brush it. If that doesn't work, use another used toothbrush.
Waterproofer will also bring back that darkish look to black shoes.
Also be careful with the Suede brush that comes with the kit. It can fray the stitching on the shoes.
After you are done cleaning and you don't plan to wear the shoes anytime soon. You might want to saran wrap your shoes to keep dust and lint away so that they'll be ready in a heartbeat when you decide to wear them.
Denim Jean Stains
If it's on white leather or nubuck/suede. Use a Nubuck/Suede Eraser on it. If it doesn't come out, try again the next day. Attempting to clean it the same day using an eraser will just frustrate you.
You can also use a warm damp towel on white (or some colored) leather (not suede/nubuck).
Magic Erasers and Nail Polish remover works as well, but use with caution if you do. Over scrubbing can remove the paint or damage the particular surface of the shoe you are cleaning.
My advice is to have extras just in case so you can alternate. I usually buy a bunch whenever there is a Friends and Family sale. Also I never use the white laces that come with the shoes; I always store the original laces in a Ziplocs and use look-alike laces instead. That way it saves me the trouble of having to clean the OG laces if they get dirty, and replacement laces cost around $1 anyway.
-(Cleaning white colored laces)
Washing machine method works to some extent. Its best if you use a side loading washing machine so that theres less chances of fraying and destroying the laces. Just toss them in with your whites. Or get some laundry detergent put it in a big bowl mix it with some hot water then put your white laces in there. If you want to put some bleach go ahead.
Scrub the laces together, rinse and repeat. Then you can use a hair dryer or just hang them up to dry. Just make sure you squeeze out the water before you hang them, it might cause them to stretch.
You can also put your shoe laces in an empty water bottle, (Brian's Method)
. Add some laundry detergent and hot water. Shake the water bottle every now and then. You may have to drain the water out and repeat the steps over again for better results.
(Still being tested)
You can substitute laundry detergent for Bar Keepers Friend. It seems to remove more of the dirt stains than laundry detergent.
White shoes or white parts of shoes
The simplest way to clean is to use a clean damp towel.
It seems like if you brush too much on white shoes that they start to fade, chip, or peel away. Hot water gets deep stains out but after a while the white will fade out, so I stay with cold water.
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser comes in handy for this. But be careful not to over do it. Magic Clean Eraser can be abrasive enough to take off the layer of paint on shoes. You can also use the eraser from the Suede/Nubuck kit for quick touch ups while you are on the go.
You can use a damp towel or basic cleaning to clean white leather. If there are persistent smudge marks and dirt, you can clean it off with a wet Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Do not squeeze out the water. Just lightly go over the area with the wet Magic Eraser, that way you dont end up stripping the paint.
Use a toothbrush and some dish soap, dampen the stitching you want to clean and scrub. You may have to repeat this process a couple of times to see results. Then just rinse the area with water and dry with a towel.
If its really bad what you might want to do is use some shoe whitener and a paintbrush and carefully paint it on the stitching. Then get a damp towel and wipe it off. It might take several attempts before the stitching is whitened without becoming stiff. What you want it to do is to absorb the whitener, cleaning it off with a damp towel will make the stitching not as stiff. The only downside to this is that the white colors wont really match. Either the leather white or the stitching white is lighter than the other.
Scuffs on white shoes can be taken cared of by using the customizer's method. Clean area off with acetone or the one that Turtlefeathers.com sells, then paint over with Angelus paint. Refer to the Customs Sticky for how to properly prep and paint your shoes.
(White AF1s and others)
Probably one of the most annoying areas of a shoe is the white inner liner.
Lightly spray the liner with waterproofer or stain guard while the liner is still clean.
Always clean the liner after every wear or when you notice light dirt marks. You can clean it using a damp towel or using a damp toothbrush (and pat dry with a towel). A quick note, you might want to clean this area after every wear or if you notice light marks. This way it doesnt build up and become harder to remove later down the road.
If it's already there, proceed to using a damp towel to clean any stains. Keep in mind stains usually don't go away after one cleaning session, it usually takes several. Basic Cleaning can be incorporated, dishsoap + warm water + brush. Remember to stick a dry towel inside of the shoe to soak up any water that would get into the shoe otherwise.
(AJ XVII and others)
If you want to make it shiny or add luster, you can either get the creams intended for leather or use baby oil or hand lotion. Just apply then wipe the excess with a towel. The downside is it will attract dust and lint to the shoe. But if you just want to clean it, just wipe the leather down with a damp towel and dry.
-(Tire Shine/Polish attracts dirt and grime, baby oil attracts lint and dust)-
(AJ 11, 16 and other shoes)
Clean with a damp or moist towel, then wipe dry. If you want to make the patent shine and gloss, apply hand lotion and wipe off with a towel.
For quick touch ups carry a hand towel with a corner that is moisten with lotion.
For light scratch marks or white scratch marks, you can use a little bit of rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover on one end of a Q-tip and lightly go over the area with the scratch. Use this at your own discretion. If you are not sure, post a picture of your scratch in the corresponding sticky.
-(Windex is said to eventually crack the patent leather. Baby Oil is a bit too messy on patent leather. Car wax, I haven't tried it)-
(AJ XI and others)
First off, take out the insole if you wish and put a dry towel inside the shoe. Have another dry towel on hand just in case. After that, you want to dampen the area that is dirty. Then put a dab of dishwashing soap and dampen your toothbrush/brush before you start brushing the area. Brush lightly at first. Depending on your brush, you might fray the mesh, so use caution. As you brush, wash off the soap from the brush from time to time and continue brushing. I usually wipe the soap off of the shoe with a damp towel and press the dry part of the towel onto the mesh to absorb any water. Keep doing that until there is no more soap present. Then air dry with an electric fan to dry it more quickly. Do not put the shoes out in the sun or use a hair dryer, its possible that you might end up warping the shape or cause potential damage to the leather and materials.
Bar Keepers Friend (BFK)
Ive never personally used it, but the directions are:
Get a container such as a cup. Put some BFK and mix it with warm/hot water until it gets pasty, then brush it on to the mesh and lightly scrub. Dont let it sit too long. Finally wash it off.
From what Ive noticed in pictures, BFK seems to dull the shininess of the nylon mesh in XIs.
Also, there has been cases where black/blue spots appearing on the mesh. Im not quite sure what causes it, but it might be from the black liner from inside the shoe bleeding through the mesh. Thats the main reason why I havent personally tried it.
Variated Version of Mesh/Canvas Cleaning
You can substitute using a toothbrush/brush with a clean white towel. In most cases it might be safer to use a towel instead of a toothbrush since it can cause fraying depending on how you scrub or the type of toothbrush you use. This can be used in inner liners similar the Air Jordan XII (French Blue).
The purpose of these CASE STUDIES is to provide examples of cases where people would usually just give up on a shoe.
-CASE STUDY 1 (Air Jordan XI Cool Grey)
After careful inspection of my own pair, it seems to weaken the material after so many cleanings. I've only cleaned mine 3 times.
-CASE STUDY 2 (All Fogged Up)
Can cause the air units to weaken and pop/crack when worn /(unworn depending on age).
People who I had try the method, reported those instances occurring to their shoes ranging from OG's to 1999-2000 IV's and V's.
AJ VII (French Blue) & (Olympic) Yellowed Toe. Same as Playoff XII, AJ IX.
A quick fix is to use sandpaper (200 or more grit) and lightly sand off the yellowing. However doing so will cause the exposed layer to eventually yellow as well. So use at your own risk.
In certain cases Mr. Clean Magic Eraser may or may not remove the yellowing.
Sea Crystals (Nike Dunk High) and Stussy (Nike Dunk Low the pink area).
Apparently the suede part gets dirty really easily. I do not have a definite answer. The only thing I can suggest is to use a Nubuck/Suede Eraser. The main factor is the severity of dirt/stains on the suede.
AJ XIII Midsole Separation
(other shoes can be done in a similar fashion).
Use Shoe Goo or Goop. You can apply it using a toothpick for tricky areas. Make sure you clean off any excess glue. You need to clamp down the shoe for 24 hours so that the glue can properly cure.
AJ XI Scratched/Scuffed/Creased Patent.
First off theres nothing much you can do about creasing, just move on.
Most scratches/scuffs can be removed by using a small amount of nail polish remover on a Q-tip end. Just make sure to squeeze out excess nail polish remover. When cleaning the area make sure to lightly scrub a certain part first. Never over scrub because you can ruin the finish and the patent leather.
There are many options. Deodorizing Balls that they sell at most shoe stores. Disinfectant spray such as Lysol and Febreeze. In other cases you might have to clean the insole.
To prevent it:
Wear clean socks. If your feet sweat easily replace your socks throughout the day or use moisture-wicking socks.
After each wear, air dry the inside of the shoe and/or take out the insole and fan out with an electric fan for faster results.
For nasty cigarette odors, I used fabric softener sheets like Snuggle and left one inside per shoe for about a week or 2. Make sure its inside the shoe and not touching laces or anything. I havent fully tested it, so I dont know what the consequences of the method will do if the sheet is left in contact with leather or any other type of material. It did slightly over-masked the cigarette odor but not completely. Perhaps leaving it in the shoe longer might come out with better results.
I compiled this due to the mass amount of similar questions being asked.
Air Jordan I
85-94 editions with white nylon tongues
-use the mesh cleaning method. If its yellowed, theres not much you can do about it as of right now.
2003 Patent edition
-refer to the patent leather cleaning section
Midsoles and soles can be cleaned with basic cleaning.
Air Jordan II
-refrain from using Magic Eraser on the plastic parts because it can scratch the surface. Also refrain from using it on the colored midsole part.
Air Jordan III
-if the white midsole looks faded or has stubborn dirt stains that wont come off, its possible that the factory paint has faded. That means your only option is to just strip it all off with rubbing alcohol and repaint or just simply leave it alone.
-Nubuck Elephant Print gets dirty. Just clean it with a nubuck/suede eraser.
-once the heel tab goes yellow its permanent unless you want to paint it.
-the grey sole starts to get dark. No solution as of right now.
Air Jordan IV
-midsole issue similar to IIIs.
-grey sole problem similar to IIIs.
-netting yellows. Only option is to carefully paint over it.
Air Jordan V
-Clear soles/plastic netting: only answer is Sea Glow at the moment.
-3M Scotch Lite material is dirty. First off determine whether it's "scuffed" or "dirty." I've noticed many people asking this question since the Retro 5's were released again. The safest way to go is to clean it with a nubuck/suede eraser or a damp clean white towel. This should wipe off any residue that might be on the material, however it might not clean off any bad stains.
Air Jordan VI
-Clear soles: only answer is Sea Glow at the moment.
Air Jordan VII
-black/red (or citrus) toe is faded or grayish. Thats because the nubuck material is supposed to give off a charcoal effect. Its not supposed to entirely be black.
Avoid contact with water and foam nubuck/suede cleaners to begin with. It seems that this particular material on AJ VII's seem to be sensitive to cleaners. So avoid getting that part of the shoe dirty. If you have to clean it, use a dry brush.
Air Jordan VIII
-plastic panels yellow. Cant do anything about it.
-soles yellow. Sandpaper if you want, but it will yellow again.
-straps frayed. You can trim off any loose frays.
Air Jordan IX
-midsole paint cracks. Cant really do anything about it other than to prep and repaint it. Chances are the paint wont hold up very long after so many wears.
Air Jordan X
-Squeeking. So far baby powder under the insole works. Puncturing the Air Sole is quite an unintelligent thing to do to an Air Jordan. Doing so kills the purpose of the shoe being called "Air" Jordan.
Air Jordan XI
Let me differentiate. Many people jump to using Bar Keepers Friend to solve a simple dirt stain. Keep in mind BFK ruins the luster of the nylon mesh and gives it a pasty flat dull look.
-nylon mesh is dirty. Clean it with the mesh cleaning method.
-nylon mesh is yellowed. You have the option of using Bar Keepers Friend, but use it at your own discretion. That stuff is toxic.
-yellowed lace loops. This you can pretty much fix with Bar Keepers Friend without much worry. Just make sure to cover up any exposed areas with a dry white towel to prevent any accidental BFK overflow.
-yellowed clear soles: only answer is Sea Glow at the moment.
Air Jordan XII
-yellowed white soles. You can use sandpaper or leave it alone. Sandpaper exposes rubber from underneath the yellowing, which will yellow after a while anyway.
Air Jordan XIII
-dirty pods: You can use basic cleaning or a magic eraser.
-yellowed pods: Cant really do anything. You can lightly paint over it but the paint probably wont hold up that long.
-clouded hologram: Hair Dryer. However be aware that prolonged exposure to heat can cause the foil to dent up. Also the hologram will cloud up again in a couple of weeks.
Air Jordan XIV
-teeth parts creased. Honestly you cant really do anything about that.
-faded suede toe
Air Jordan XV
Air Jordan XVI
-creased patent leather. Another thing you cant do anything about.
Air Jordan XVII
-the clear part of the midsoles get scuffed up. You can use Rubbing Alcohol or Nail Polish Remover and lightly go over the scuffs.
Air Jordan XVIII
-leather is creased. Well what can I say is the leather is much softer than most so itll probably end up looking worn a hundred times after just wearing it a few times.
-when I wear them they squeak.
That's usually due to the insole or sockliner being loose. However, what I did was fold a paper towel in half lengthwise and stuck it under the insole. The squeaking was drastically reduced to almost no sound.
Air Jordan XIX
-to prevent the spandex material in the back from fraying, just simply use you fingers to stretch out the material, cover it with your fingers while you safely guide the strap in to minimize fraying.
Air Jordan XX
-my Velcro strap doesn't stick well anymore. Clean the Velcro with a dry brush. Otherwise you can purchase Velcro that can be cut to any size and stick them on top of the existing one to keep the straps in place when worn.
Air Jordan XXI
-possible yellowing on white soles.
Air Jordan XXII
Air Jordan XXIII
** info from dalyte1