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How To Care For Your Trainers: The Essential Guide

If you’ve just invested in a brand new pair of designer trainers, you’ll want them to stand the test of time, whether you’re curating a trainer collection or simply adding stylish options to your everyday footwear.

At Daniel Footwear, we’ve pulled together some tips and tricks to help you to keep your brand-new trainers looking their best.

From whether or not to wash them in a machine to how to remove stubborn stains from suede without causing damage, it’s never been easier to care for your new, beloved trainers.

Table of Contents: 

What is the best way to clean trainers?

How to clean leather trainers 

How to clean suede trainers

How to clean canvas trainers

How to clean mesh trainers

How to clean trainers in the washing machine

What is the best way to clean trainers?

Trainers sat on the top of a washing machine

To keep your trainers looking and smelling their absolute best, it’s good to get into the habit of some regular cleaning and maintenance. Here are some general tips on how to clean your trainers and what you’ll need to do so:

  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Washing up liquid or mild detergent 
  • Leather conditioner or a magic eraser (for leather trainers)
  • White vinegar (optional)
  • A soft-bristled shoe brush 
  • An old toothbrush
  • A suede brush (for suede trainers)
  • A clean, soft cloth 

As soon as your trainers are out of the box, they’re bound to encounter some mud, scuffs or stains, but with a little upkeep, there’s no reason why they can’t stay looking amazing forever! 

Whether you’re looking to clean your running shoes or touch up your everyday fashion favourites, they’ll look spick and span in no time with our shoe cleaning steps.

  1. Before you start your cleaning routine, stuff your trainers with old newspaper or a shoe tree to help them keep their shape whilst you’re cleaning them.
  2. Take your soft-bristle shoe brush or an old toothbrush and brush the surface of your trainers to remove any loose dirt from the uppers.
  3. Mix warm water with a mild detergent or washing-up liquid to clean your shoes. 
  4. Remove the laces, and work your mild detergent mix into them. Rinse and blot dry with a soft cloth, then leave to air dry. Alternatively, you could wash your laces in a laundry bag in the washing machine or completely replace them for an even fresher look.
  5. When cleaning your trainers, always start with the soles. Add some detergent mix to your soft-bristled brush or toothbrush and clean the whole sole. Once done, rinse, taking care not to wet the upper, and dry with a clean, soft cloth. If your insoles require some care, remove them, clean them with your solution, and then allow them to dry before putting them back into your trainers.
  6. Once your soles are clean, it’s time to clean the uppers. Take your soft-bristle brush and gently scrub your trainers’ uppers with your cleaning solution. Try not to scrub too hard, as doing so could permanently damage the surface. Once your trainers look clean, take your soft cloth or a microfibre towel and absorb and lift as much dirt and moisture as possible. Repeat if necessary and avoid rubbing the uppers dry, as this can add damage to the surface.
  7. Allow your trainers to dry at room temperature for at least eight hours, keeping them out of direct sunlight, which can fade colours and, in some cases, crack the uppers. 
  8. Avoid wearing your trainers until they’re fully dry.

How to clean leather trainers 

Leather trainers, particularly white leather trainers such as our eye-catching styles from Lauren By Ralph Lauren, can stain easily, requiring extra care and attention to keep them looking chic. 

White leather Lauren By Ralph Lauren trainers

Lauren By Ralph Lauren Angeline II

You can clean leather trainers using our trainer cleaning tips outlined above. However, you may need to make some adjustments to keep them at their best.

Opt for a soft cloth to clean your leather trainers, avoiding anything too harsh that could damage them. If using detergent, swap it out for diluted washing-up liquid as the chemicals from detergents could damage the leather’s surface. 

If any stains are left behind, use a Magic Eraser or leather conditioner to lift them for a flawless finish. 

Can you put leather shoes in the washing machine?

Putting any trainers made from animal products, including leather and suede, in the washing machine isn’t advisable, as these materials are prone to water damage. If in doubt, always check your trainers’ care label before cleaning. 

How to keep white trainers white 

white trainers against a red carpet

If you’ve followed all the above steps and your trainers still look dull, bicarbonate soda could be your best solution. If you’re cleaning white leather trainers, mix equal parts bicarbonate of soda with water to make a perfect cleaning solution to brighten up your shoes.

To keep your trainers white, spray them with a stain-proof, water-repellent spray once cleaned to protect them from future staining. 

How to clean suede trainers 

Many designer trainers and shoes are made from suede or have some suede finishing or embellishments. For example, if you’re a Veja lover, then the chances are that at least one pair of your trainers features suede. 

Suede Veja V-10 trainers

Suede Veja V-10s 

Loved for its texture and stylish finish, suede is a popular choice for many designer trainer brands, but it can be difficult to clean. Prone to watermarks; if your suede trainers look dirty, it’s time to give them a clean. 

Here are our top tips for cleaning suede effectively:

  1. Use a suede brush to remove any excess dirt from the surface of your trainers. An old toothbrush also works well if you don’t have a suede brush. Brush in the direction of the grain using light strokes. If stains are more stubborn, apply more pressure and work the brush back and forth to lift the suede fibres for an easier, more effective clean.
  2. For stubborn stains you can’t remove with the brush, use a suede rubber and apply pressure, rubbing back and forth on the stain. If you don’t have a suede rubber to hand, a regular pencil eraser will do, providing that you remove any stains from it first.
  3. White vinegar is good for more difficult marks. Apply a small amount to your soft, clean cloth and massage it into the suede. Avoid soaking the suede too much, as this could lead to further staining. 
  4. Once the stains are removed, use a suede protector to prevent further staining and to protect your trainers from weather damage. 

Can you put suede trainers in the washing machine?

Suede is a delicate fabric that can easily damage from too much exposure to water. To avoid this, it isn’t advisable to put suede trainers in the washing machine. Clean your trainers by hand using the above steps, or for more tips, visit your local specialist dry cleaner, who will be able to advise you on how to remove stubborn marks.

How to clean canvas trainers 

Canvas trainers are generally less delicate than those made from leather or suede, so you can be a little more robust with your cleaning methods. 

If your trainers are wet from mud and stains, allow them to dry out. Then follow our steps above to clean your canvas trainers, wash the laces, and scrub the soles. 

Once you’ve done this, some stubborn stains may be left behind, which can be removed easily with bleach for white canvas trainers or with bleach-free fabric stain remover for your coloured pairs. 

Bleaching white canvas trainers 

  1. Always wear protective equipment such as rubber gloves and goggles when dealing with bleach.
  2. Start by watering down the bleach; you’ll want around six parts water to one part bleach for cleaning canvas trainers.
  3. Pour a tiny amount of the bleach solution over the stain and allow it to soak for a few minutes.
  4. Take your old toothbrush and dip it into the solution, then use the brush to work it into the stain, placing your other hand in the shoe to support it whilst you work.
  5. Rinse off the solution and repeat for more stubborn stains.

Cleaning coloured canvas trainers

  1. Choose a bleach-free fabric stain remover to clean your coloured canvas trainers, as products containing bleach can cause the shoes to fade.
  2. Apply the stain remover directly onto it and allow it to sit for a few minutes.
  3. Take a clean, white, soft cloth and dab the stain to transfer it to the towel. Try to avoid rubbing too much, as this could cause the stain to spread.
  4. Once the stain has lifted, rinse the area under running water to remove the stain remover.

Drying your canvas trainers 

Canvas trainers may take a few days to dry completely. To speed up the drying process, use a towel to blot as much water out of the shoes as possible. Then, stuff each shoe with paper towels to absorb the water, replacing those once wet. 

White canvas trainers can be left in direct sunlight to dry, but for coloured uppers, opt for a shady spot to prevent fading. A pedestal fan or a hairdryer used on low heat settings can also help with drying.

How to clean mesh trainers 

Most sports shoes, such as those in our On Running collection, have breathable mesh uppers for optimum performance and comfort. 

Mint Green On Running Cloud trainers

 On Running – Cloud 5 Surf Cobble Trainers

However, mesh uppers provide challenges, as they absorb dirt and water easily, making them difficult to clean. 

The good news is that you can clean most mesh uppers by following our general trainer cleaning steps (above). You may want to use a clean cloth instead of a brush when cleaning the mesh to prevent the fibres from fraying.

Sports trainers are often exposed to the elements, so their soles can easily become scuffed, stained and scraped. In this case, use antibacterial cleaners on the soles to freshen them up and remove any unwanted germs, but be mindful of contacting the uppers, as strong cleaners could bleach the colour. 

How to clean trainers in the washing machine 

White trainers in a mesh laundry bag being put into the washing machine

Although it’s advisable to avoid cleaning leather and suede trainers in the washing machine, the good news is that you can clean most mesh trainers this way. 

Trainers suitable for the washing machine are usually those made from synthetic fibres such as nylon and polyester. Fabrics like these are more hard-wearing, so they can withstand multiple washes. If you’re unsure whether your trainers are suitable for the machine, check the care label and follow its instructions, as some trainers will advise against using the machine as it can worsen their performance.

For those trainers that you can clean in the machine, follow these simple steps:

  1. Remove the laces from your trainers, and use a soft brush to remove any excess dirt from your shoes for a more effective machine clean.
  2. Put your trainers and laces in a laundry bag before placing them in the machine to prevent damage. A cotton pillowcase can be just as effective if you don’t have a laundry bag.
  3. To lower the impact of the trainers colliding with the drum, place a couple of towels alongside them to reduce the noise levels.
  4. Wash your shoes in a cold water temperature no higher than the suggested temperature on the care label. Use a high-quality colour detergent to prevent colour fade.
  5. Once finished, allow your trainers to air-dry in a well-ventilated room. 

How to care for your trainers: The takeaways 

Whichever pair of designer trainers you opt for, whether for fashion or play, it’s easy to keep them looking at their best with some easy maintenance.

Most trainers can be hand washed at home, using warm water, washing-up liquid and a soft-bristled brush. For more stubborn stains, canvas trainers can be bleached or spot-treated with fabric cleaner for the best results.

Leather and suede trainers can easily damage if exposed to too much water or harsh chemicals, so it’s important to take extra care when cleaning these and never wash them in a washing machine.

Most sports shoes, however, or trainers with mesh uppers can be machine-cleaned. Follow the instructions on the care label and wash below 30•C with a good, high-quality detergent. 

However you choose to clean your trainers, by recognising when they need some care and applying the correct steps, each pair should provide you with years of wear.

From the latest designs from Veja and Lauren By Ralph Lauren to crushing your 5K goals with OnRunning, there’s never been a better time to upgrade your trainer collection. Explore our full range today for both men and women

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