Ultimate Guide How to Clean Nike Sneakers

This guide will show you how to clean and de-crease your LEATHER sneakers. I use this technique on my Nike Air Force 1 trainers, but the same technique can be used on Nike Air Jordan, Nike Air Max, or any other brand of leather sneakers.


Nike Air Jordan 10 Retro
Nike Air Jordan 10 Retro

Nike Airmax Ultra Moire
Nike Airmax Ultra Moire


No matter how well you try and take care of your Nikes, you will eventually have to clean them, or want to remove the creases from them as they get older. I have built up my own guide using information from around the internet, from Nike themselves, and from my own practical experience.

The first thing to note is whatever you read elsewhere, DO NOT put your Nikes in a washing machine!!! Forget the articles which say put your Nikes in a pillow case which will protect them… IT WONT. IT WILL DESTROY THEM !!

Guide for how to clean and de-crease your Nikes –

What you need –

– A cup of WARM water (maybe a bit more, but you just dont want to soak them!)
– Steam iron with steam setting ON
– Persil, Ariel or any clothing detergent you normally use to wash your clothes
– Cloth or Sponge
– Toothbrush/Soft Brush (optional)
– Baking Powder (optional for laces)
– 3-4 pairs of socks
– Damp towel or cloth

Cleaning different parts of your sneakers –

Before you do anything, TAKE A FEW PHOTOS of your Nikes before cleaning them! It can take an hour or so to follow the instructions below and to clean them properly, and its always nice to see the improvements you have made after!

Generally there are 3 parts to your leather sneakers which require slightly different cleaning methods –

– Tongue
– Main leather
– Laces

I generally do the above in that sequence, so the tongue first, the main leather outer second, and the laces third. Ok so now you have everything you need here are the steps for each part in sequence.

Method for cleaning TONGUE of your sneakers –

1) Preparation

Stating the obvious I know, but you should REMOVE THE LACES from your Nikes before attempting to clean any part of them.

Mix 2 tablespoons of your clothing detergent with some water so you have a slightly soapy mixture. (You may need more, but I advise not to make too much in advance, it is better to clean your bowl and mix a fresh set if your water becomes dirty or cold)

2) Main cleaning

You do not want to completely soak the tongue, but as most tongues are made from material, then there is no problem to get them fairly moist.

Use a cloth or sponge dipped into your water/detergent mix and thoroughly scrub the tongue. Keep doing this until you are happy with the results, or until your water/detergent mix becomes dirty then make some more and continue until you are happy.

I often find it takes 1 first wash to get the main dirt from it, and then a second with clean water/detergent mix to finish the job on the tongue.

You can now continue to the next part to clean the leather outside of your Nikes or other sneakers. The tongue will try at room temperature after you have finished with doing the next part cleaning the leather outer.

Method for cleaning MAIN LEATHER of your sneakers –

1) Preparation

The first thing you want to do is to prepare your Nikes by rolling up 1-2 pairs of socks and stuffing them deep into the toe of your Nikes. Try to make sure the top is smooth (sometimes easier to do by rolling up the socks before you put them inside), however do not worry so much if the top bulges higher slightly. The key is to get the leather as flat as you can.

Mix a tablespoon of your clothing detergent with some water so you have a slightly soapy mixture. (You may need more, but I advise not to make too much in advance, it is better to clean your bowl and mix a fresh set if your water becomes dirty or cold)

2) Heavy Dirt Removal (Optional)

If your Nikes are particularly dirty with mud or dirt, then use a semi-soft brush or toothbrush with your water/detergent mixture to remove the worst of it.

Make sure the socks you have stuffed inside are as tight inside them as possible to keep the leather stretched and uncreased.

Try and use the minimum amount of water/detergent mix as possible. As I said earlier you do not want to soak your Nikes.

3) Make your sneakers White again

Now (if you did step 2 to remove heavy dirt/mud) you should make a CLEAN mixture of water/detergent.

Making sure the socks are still inside as tight as possible you can proceed with your damp cloth or sponge and work around your Nike to remove all of the remaining dirt, you can also clean the edge of the rubber sole to get it back to a pretty clean white (if that is what colour it should be).

4) Drying and removing creases

Remove Creases from Nikes
Remove Creases from Nikes

You can now turn on your iron. make sure there is plenty water and that the steam setting is on maximum. I normally set the temperature about 50% of the maximum (you dont want it on too high as it could burn your sneakers.

Now dampen your towel/cloth in the warm water/detergent mix (you may need to make a small amount of clean mix if what you already made is now dirty) and wrap it over the front of your Nike. If, like me, you have done the cleaning on a stool then wrap the towel under the sole to hold it in place, so it is tight and smooth.

Then you can now iron over the towel (the reason it was damp will prevent it from burning). Do not hold the iron on 1 spot for more than a second. Keep ironing over the whole of the front of the sneaker until towel is almost dry (this should take 5mins or so). If you then take off the towel you should see that any creases are now gone (or at least substantially reduced).

Leave your Nikes to then dry fully under normal room temperature. I normally leave the socks inside them to help keep the shape until they are fully dried.

Nike Air Jordan 1 KO High OG Black Shadow
Nike Air Jordan 1 KO High OG Black Shadow

Nike Air Jordan 1 High OG Image
Nike Air Jordan 1 High OG Image

Method for cleaning LACES of your sneakers –

1) Preparation

This is only really applicable for white laces (other colours dont need cleaned so much).

It may also sound like a repeat of the above steps, and thats because it is, with some small adjustments due to the nature of laces and the dirt they attract.

Prepare a bowl with 1/2 litre of hot water, and a teaspoon or 2 of same detergent as you have used for the tongue and main leather and mix thoroughly.

2) Cleaning the laces

How to Clean Nike Laces
How to Clean Nike Laces

You can now put the laces in the hot water/detergent mix. I use a fork or something to move the laces around in the mix.

Its a little bit boring though and I often get impatient after 10mins and not really seeing any progress…

What I then do is straighten out the laces on the draining board of your sink, and get a small nail brush or toothbrush to scrub the laces with. You want to keep dipping the brush you use in the soapy detergent mixture to get them as clean as possible.

TIP – My next tip is if there are still marks on the laces, then make another small mix of hot water and baking powder and scrub them with that. This tends to get them much more white.

Do not force dry the laces with an iron, hang them over a washing line or door so they hang down, and let them DRY NATURALLY at room temperature.

Method for DRYING your Nikes after cleaning them –

If you have followed all of the above steps you should already be able to see how clean they are, and want to wear them straight away… BUT DONT !!!

Leave your laces OUT of them while everything dries fully. The less movement of them the better, as the drying process will help to reduce creases appearing in them.

While your sneakers are still damp they are much more inclined to get creases back in them faster, so I advise to let them dry fully for at least 6 hours (I normally leave them to dry overnight).

Now it is time to lace them up again, and take a few more photos of them. Then you can compare the pictures you took before and after to see how much better they look now!

Share your Before and After pics on Instagram, Facebook and other social networks and link to this article so others can follow the same process!