How to Clean Leather Sneakers – 5 Easy Steps

Leather sneakers are a wardrobe staple these days. They offer a classic, timeless look that goes with just about anything. However, leather is prone to stains, scuffs, and other marks that can quickly make your shoes look dirty and worn out. Cleaning your leather sneakers regularly and properly is key to keeping them looking pristine.

Supplies Needed

  • A soft bristle brush or old toothbrush
  • Mild dish soap or leather cleaner
  • A soft cloth or microfiber towel
  • A small bowl of warm water
  • Old toothbrush
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Leather conditioner

5 steps to Clean Leather Sneakers

Step 1: Remove Laces and Loose Dirt

Start by removing the laces from your sneakers. This allows you to clean the tongue and underside of the laces. Use a soft bristle brush to gently brush off any loose dirt or debris on the surface of the shoes. Avoid using anything too stiff or abrasive as that could scratch the leather.

Step 2: Create a Cleaning Solution

In a small bowl, mix warm water and a small amount of mild dish soap or leather cleaner. The soap helps cut through dirt and oils. Dip your toothbrush in the solution and work it into any stained or dirty areas using gentle circular motions. Focus on the edges, seams, and textured areas where grime loves to hide.

Step 3: Wipe Down the Sneakers

Dip your cloth or towel in the soapy solution. Thoroughly wipe down the entire surface of the sneakers, including the sides, tongue, and back heel. This lifts dirt from the pores of the leather. Rinse the cloth frequently as you clean. Use a clean section of the towel to buff the shoes dry.

Step 4: Treat Stubborn Stains

For tougher stains, make a paste with baking soda and just a splash of water. Gently rub the paste onto stained spots using the toothbrush. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing. The baking soda will help lift deep-set dirt. You can also try dabbing a bit of white vinegar on any remaining stains using a cotton swab.

Step 5: Condition the Leather

Once your sneakers are clean, it’s important to rehydrate and condition the leather. Use a small amount of leather conditioner and work it into the surface with a clean cloth. This preserves flexibility and prevents cracking. Allow the conditioner to fully absorb before wearing it again.

Things to Avoid

There are a few things you should avoid when cleaning leather sneakers:

  • Don’t submerge them in water or use excessive amounts of liquid. This can damage the leather over time.
  • Avoid using harsh cleaners like bleach, alcohol or ammonia. Stick to mild soap and gentle techniques.
  • Don’t put them in the washing machine or dryer. The heat and agitation will wreck the shoes.
  • Don’t use stiff brushes that could cause scuff marks. Soft bristles are best.
  • Don’t scrub too aggressively on stains. Take a gentle approach.


With the proper supplies and techniques, keeping your leather sneakers clean doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Follow these easy steps regularly to remove dirt, stains, and grime.

Be sure to also condition them afterward to maintain that buttery soft leather feel. With a little TLC, your leather kicks will stay looking fresh for many years to come.

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