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How to Clean Vans: Your Step-By-Step Guide

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Vans

In the realm of Sneakerdom, no shoes have managed to come so far yet stay so true to their spirit as Vans. In the past 50 years, the thick-soled kicks have gone from the signature shoe of California skaters to the preference of every guitarist in a pop-punk band to the perfect high-low staple of street style stars rocking them front row at Fashion Week. But through all their iterations and hypebeast-approved designer collabs, the coveted sneakers have always maintained their cool kid status and sense of rebelliousness. We mean, when a shoe’s motto is literally “Off The Wall,” they’re practically begging to see some excitement, whether you’re wearing them to kick-flip or kickback. 

 

Unfortunately, with getting down comes getting dirty. When your favorite pair of Vans has gone from worn-in to straight-up scruffy, here’s how to get them looking good as new (so you can start to get them dirty all over again).

 

DOs & DONTs

 

DO take into consideration what material your Vans are made of before attempting to scrub them clean - canvas, leather, and suede all require slightly different methods and materials!

 

DON’T just throw them in the washing machine. Even in a mesh delicates bag or pillowcase, the shoes risk getting damaged and/or losing their shape during a spin cycle, so we recommend rolling up your sleeves and always deep-cleaning by hand.

Canvas

vans canvas
Vans

Let’s start with the classic canvas material, which spans Vans’ signature Old Skool, Authentic, Checkerboard Slip-On styles (and beyond!).

Step 1: Prepping the kicks

Remove insoles and shoelaces (if the sneaker style has them) and place those aside.

Step 2: Dust off

Brush off any loose dirt or dust from the canvas upper, rubber strip, and bottoms using a shoe brush.

Step 3: Spot treatment

Spot treat any stubborn stains with a stain remover (such as the one included in Vans’ very own care kit). Apply directly onto the stain and leave on for 15 minutes. 

Step 4: Hand wash

Hand wash with warm water and a small amount of mild detergent. You can also use a toothbrush to gently clean within seams or the grooves of the waffle outsole.

Step 5: Drying off

Wrap damp shoes in a towel to remove any excess water. Leave to air dry away from heat and sunlight.

Step 6: Cleaning the laces

Wash laces in a bowl of warm water with mild detergent. Leave to dry on a towel.

Step 7: Cleaning the insoles

Using a toothbrush, scrub insoles with a mixture of baking soda and mild detergent. Leave for 15 minutes before rinsing and air drying.

Step 8: Post-cleaning care

After each cleaning, spray shoes with a water and stain-proofing spray, like the KIWI Sneaker and Shoe Waterproofer, which will protect your kicks and help them last longer.

White Canvas

vans white canvas
Vans

When it comes to getting your white canvas Vans looking as pure as snow again, you do have to switch things up slightly.

See Steps 1 and 2 above.

Step 3: Creating your bleach

Combine one tablespoon of baking soda and ½ tablespoon each of hydrogen peroxide and warm water. Mix into a thin paste.

Step 4: Scrubbing

Dip a toothbrush into the paste and use it to scrub your shoes gently.

Step 5: Rinsing off

Wipe with a clean wet cloth to rinse off the solution—Air dry in a cool place.

See Steps 6 through 8 above.

Suede

vans suede
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If your go-to Sk8-His or other favorite Vans silhouettes feature suede uppers, all hope is not lost. Despite requiring a slightly higher degree of delicacy, along with a few specialty products, suede can be cleaned up like new.

Step 1: Prepping your kicks

Remove insoles and shoelaces and place those aside.

Step 2: Dust off

Use a soft suede brush to remove any loose dirt on the surface of shoes.

Step 3: Spot treatment

Spot treat stains using a small amount of specialty suede cleaner and working it in gently with a toothbrush.

Step 4: Scrubbing

Scrub the rubber strip and bottom of soles with warm soapy water using a toothbrush - careful not to wet or soak the suede.

Step 5: Let 'em dry

Leave to air dry.

Step 6: Cleaning your laces

Wash laces in a bowl of warm water with mild detergent. Leave to dry on a towel.

Step 7: Scrub and finish up

Using a toothbrush, scrub insoles with a mixture of baking soda and mild detergent. Leave for 15 minutes before rinsing and air drying.

Leather

vans leather
Vans

Love the leather sport styles or slip-on shoes? Even after a little wear and tear, they can look sleek and shiny once again. 

See Step 1 above.

Step 2: Dust off

Brush off any loose dirt or grime from the leather upper, rubber strip, and bottoms using a shoe brush.

Step 3: Scrubbing

The experts at Vans recommend using Nikewax Footwear Cleaning Gel and a synthetic brush for leather to scrub.

Step 4: Waterproofing

After the leather is clean, use Nikewax waterproofing spray (available in a duo pack with the cleaning gel) and work into leather and stitching.

Step 5: Drying

Let air dry for 24 hours.

See Steps 6 and 7 above.

Bleaching The White Rubber Strip

vans white stripe
Vans

Most Vans styles boast that famous white rubber strip surrounding the sole. If yours is looking particularly dingy, here’s how to return it to its former glory.

Step 1: Protecting the shoe

Cover the fabric of the rest of the shoe with masking tape to avoid damage from the cleaning product.

Step 2: Getting your cleaning solution

Rather than reaching for bleach (which will turn the rubber yellow), fill a small bowl with one of Vans’ recommended cleaners: white vinegar, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, or acetone.

Step 3: Scrubbing

Use a toothbrush to dip into the solution and gently buff the rubber strip in small circular motions.

Step 4: Finishing up

Once clean, wipe with a damp cloth, and voila!

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