How to Clean Those Stylish Knit Sneakers You Love So Much

Because it's way too easy to get 'em dirty.
IMAGE Sole Collector

A word of warning before we get into the details of how to clean your knit sneakers: The instructions don't convey the level of patience that's often required in this type of operation. That's not to scare you off! Because it truly is very straightforward. But time and repeat applications are often needed, and you should know that heading into things. Cleaning a pair of knit sneakers is a good task to take on while, say, watching baseball, what with all its downtime, or listening to a favorite podcast.

The tools you'll need:

  • A small bowl
  • Cool water
  • Mild soap, such as diluted liquid laundry detergent or dish soap, or sneaker cleaner
  • Two or more soft cloths, like washcloths or microfiber cloths
  • A soft brush, like an old toothbrush or a suede brush

What to do:

  • Start by diluting a small amount of detergent—about a teaspoon—in a small bowl of cool water. Fill the bowl no more than halfway up to leave enough room to dip your cleaning implements in the solution.

  • Remove the laces and stuff the shoe with a balled up cloth, which will absorb excess liquid and provide resistance as you work on the exterior of the shoe.

  • Dip a second soft cloth into the detergent solution, wring it out well and begin scrubbing at the soiled area of the sneaker. Use firm but gentle pressure, being careful not to abrade or snag the yarn.

  • Repeat as needed until the sneakers are dirt-free, then rinse the rag in clean water and go over the entire shoe a few times to remove sudsy residue.

  • If the shoes are badly soiled, use a soft brush, like an old toothbrush or a shoe brush designed for delicate materials like suede or patent leather, to work the detergent solution into the shoe, being careful not to snag the yarn or work the brush too hard, which will cause pilling and fraying.

  • Pat the shoes with a dry cloth and allow them to air dry, repeating the cleaning process a second time if the shoes still appear dingy.


Machine-Washing Your Sneakers

So look, I would prefer you not machine wash your knit sneaks. The problem with machine washing knit sneakers is that if anything catches on one of the yarns, the shoe could come unraveled. And obviously we don't want that!

However, if you do choose to machine wash—either for convenience, or because your knit sneaks just aren't that precious to you, which is fine!—here are the things to know:

  • Wash them alone. If there's nothing else in the load with them, the chances of a yarn catching on something won't be as high. The laces can go inside a mesh washing bag so they don't end up wound around the shoe.

  • Use cold water, the gentle cycle, and a small amount of gentle laundry detergent. Avoid the use of bleach and stain removing pretreatments.

  • Air dry. If necessary, reshape by stuffing the damp shoes with balled up towels (hand or dish towels and washcloths are a great size for this operation).

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Jolie Kerr
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