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How to wash trainers

A woman hand washing a pair of trainers

While it’s true that footwear doesn't need washing as frequently as items of clothing, regular wear can cause shoes to look dirty and smell bad. This is particularly true of trainers, as this type of footwear is used for sport and other sweaty activities. But is there a correct way to wash trainers safely?

In this guide, we look at how to wash trainers of all material types. We also look at whether or not trainers should be cleaned in a washing machine and how to dry them for optimum results.

How to wash trainers by hand

The easiest and safest way to clean dirty trainers is to wash them by hand. For traditional leather or canvas trainers, doing this is simple. Start by filling up a sink with warm water and mix in a scoop of regular laundry detergent. Next, leave your trainers submerged for up to 30 minutes. Finally, using an old toothbrush, scrub any stained areas of your shoes. If your trainers have removable insoles, clean these individually in soapy warm water.

Once your shoes look clean, place them on a towel and allow them 24 hours to air dry. It is a good idea to let them dry in the sun if possible as this can speed up the process and prevent odours from forming. It is also sensible to add some crumpled up newspaper inside your trainers as they dry. This helps with absorption and makes the process quicker.

If your trainers are still dirty or stained, you may need to repeat this process a couple of times.

How to clean white trainers

White trainers are versatile and always on trend. On the other hand, they also get dirty very easily. For this reason, the best way to clean this type of footwear is through regular spot cleaning. There are several ways to keep your white trainers looking and smelling fresh using spot cleans. These include:

  • Scraping off dirt and mud as soon as you get home
  • Using an absorbent paper towel to wipe them down after use
  • Storing them in a dry, warm environment, away from other dirty footwear
  • Rubbing a small amount of whitening toothpaste into stained areas
  • Using a stain stick or carefully applied stain remover for stubborn stains.

When a deep clean is required, the above hand washing process can be used. However, with white trainers, it can be a good idea to instead use the gentler baking soda and vinegar method. To do this, Mix equal parts baking soda and white vinegar in a small cup of warm water until a paste is formed. Work this paste into your canvas or leather trainers, specifically on stained areas. Once the paste has been sitting for two to three hours, wipe the residue away using a paper towel.

How to clean suede trainers

Suede trainers can be tricky to protect and clean. They are more prone to stains, weather damage and general wear and tear. Due to the delicate nature of the material, these types of trainers cannot be washed in the way outlined above. However, suede trainers can still be cleaned in four simple steps:

1. Brush

Using a suede brush or a toothbrush, remove any surface dirt from your shoes. It is important to use light strokes in the same direction as the grain of the suede.

2. Spot clean

Using a specialist suede eraser, rub out any small spots or stains. It is important to do this gently, ensuring you don’t scratch or damage the material.

3. Use white vinegar

For particularly stubborn stains, take a clean microfibre cloth, lightly dip it in white vinegar, and rub the stained area. Ensure you do not soak your trainers with vinegar – a small dab is enough

4. Apply a suede protector

Once the trainers are clean, it’s time to apply a suede protector. Specialist suede protectors help your trainers better resist stains and moisture, as well as protect against general wear and tear.

Can you put trainers in the washing machine?

Although some trainers made from materials like canvas, cotton and polyester are safe to wash in a washing machine, it’s important to always check care instructions. Some materials are durable and will not be damaged by laundry detergent. However, others – including mesh, suede and some leathers – can be damaged. For this reason, the washing machine is not always a suitable cleaning option for your trainers.

As many of our trainers are made from breathable mesh or stylish suede, here at Chums, we do not recommend putting our trainers in the washing machine. If you are unsure, always make sure you check product care instructions and company fair usage policies.

How to dry trainers after washing

Once washed, trainers should be allowed to air dry and never placed in a tumble dryer. Air drying can be done in two ways. As discussed above, wet trainers can be filled with absorbent newspaper and left to dry in a warm, dry place. The newspaper soaks up moisture and can be manoeuvred into all areas of your trainers.

Alternatively, you can use a desk fan to speed up the process. To do this, remove your trainers’ insoles and laces and allow these to air dry. Next, cut two small pieces of wire from a coat hanger and bend them into an ‘S’ shape. Hook these two pieces of wire to the grill of the fan and hang one trainer on each wire. Finally, run the fan for a few hours until both trainers are dry.

DISCLAIMER: It is important to always check product care instructions and company fair usage policies before deciding on the most appropriate way to wash your trainers. This is because, as mentioned above, some brands, including Chums, do not recommend putting our trainers in the washing machine, for example. Always read care instructions and company fair usage policies carefully, and if in any doubt, make sure you get in touch with the manufacturer or retailer for further advice.

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