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How to Clean Your Sneakers: An Expert Guide

The aficionado behind Jason Markk gives his pro tips on keeping your kicks fresh.

A salesperson prepares sneakers for cleaning at Jason Markk's London store. Jason Markk

In the world of fashion, sneaker collecting is serious business. Limited-edition kicks routinely sell for five figures, even more for those with extraordinary provenance. Not surprisingly, sneakerheads count on sneaker cleaning experts to keep their footwear looking perennially box fresh. It’s no easy task given that these particular shoes are meant to worn, played in and pounded on.

For a primer on how to keep those sneaks at the top of their game, we spoke to Jason Angsuvarn, founder of Jason Markk, a premium shoe care company regarded by many to be the best sneaker cleaner in the business. (His fans are known as “Markkers.”) Founded 14 years ago, the brand has brick-and-mortar stores in both Los Angeles and London and counts as its clients some of the world’s most high-profile collectors, including Justin Bieber and Houston Rockets star P.J. Tucker, who is considered the Malcolm Forbes of sneakerheads.

Here are his tips about how to keep your sneakers looking their absolute best.

The cleaning process at Jason Markk's London store.

Jason Markk

How often should you clean your sneakers?

Like anything else, regular maintenance will keep your sneakers in tip-top shape. The longer you neglect them, the more difficult they’ll be to clean once you get around to it. A lot of sneakerheads go through their rotation all week and then on Sundays do a big session and clean all their kicks. They use #jmsundayrituals on Instagram.

Is there one shoe that’s just a total nightmare to clean?

One pair that comes to mind are the Kobe 9 Elite Low Beethovens. There is a purple plate hidden underneath the upper that bleeds when wet. 

What are the most expensive sneakers you’ve ever worked on?

Probably a pair of Jordan 4 Eminem size 14. I’m not certain what the value is today, but probably somewhere upwards of $40,000. That said, we see a lot of high-value shoes in-and-out of here on the regular.

A pair of Air Jordans getting a scrub.

Jason Markk

What is the hardest type of sneaker to clean?

The most difficult material to clean without a doubt is canvas. The cotton fibers hold onto stains making it incredibly difficult to clean.

What are the steps for cleaning a standard pair of canvas sneakers?

  1. If there is a stain, the quicker you can tend to it, the better. Treat the stain by blotting it with a microfiber towel dampened with cold water.
  2. Next, dry brush the entire shoe with a soft bristle brush to remove any top layer dust and dirt.\
  3. Then apply our solution to the brush and dip the bristles into a bowl of clean water. Start scrubbing the entire upper of the shoe with extra attention to the stained areas. It is important to brush the entire area to help avoid creating any water stains. Repeat this step until the stains have lifted.
  4. Finally, take a few microfiber towels and continuously dab and twist to soak up and help lift any remaining stain. Allow to fully air dry in a well-ventilated area.
Suede Air Jordan Futures getting a brush.

Jason Markk

What about suede sneakers?

  1. As always, start by dry brushing the entire shoe with a soft bristle brush.  For suede, I recommend using our RTU Foam with a soft bristle brush.
  2. Scrub the entire area of the shoe and repeat as needed. Once the suede has been cleaned, the next steps are the most important. Using a couple of clean microfiber towels, dab and twist the suede, soaking up as much water/solution as possible. Continue this step for several minutes. The suede will gradually evenly dry, and the nap of the suede will begin to lift.
  3. I’d recommend using a dry soft-bristle brush at this point to work the nap back and forth. The drying process is a time-consuming step, but very necessary. If you leave the shoe to air dry and skip this step, the nap of the suede will mat down and will be extremely difficult to bring back.
A salesperson in Jason Markk's LA store

Jason Markk

And leather kicks?

Leather is the easiest material to clean. The majority of leather sneakers are made of sealed leather, essentially making it difficult for water and stains to penetrate deep.

Begin by dry brushing the entire upper with a soft bristle brush. Then apply solution to our standard brush and start scrubbing. Wipe down with a microfiber towel and you’re done.

Beware, some high-end sneakers are made with raw, unsealed leather. If you wet unsealed leather, it will permanently significantly darken the material. For unsealed leather, the best tip I can give is to simply wipe down with a slightly dampened microfiber towel.

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