Maintaining fresh kicks is easier in the summer because you don’t have to do battle with the elements as frequently. But during the winter, the struggle for clean sneakers is very real.
Luckily, there’s Jason Markk. The owner of more than 150 pairs of sneakers himself, Markk created his eponymous line of cleaning products after tinkering with a variety of household products and finding all of them lacking.
“Since I was a young kid, I’d always clean my sneakers with a homemade mixture of household cleaners. Sometimes it worked. Other times, I wasn’t so lucky,” Markk says. “I thought, there’s got to be a better way to do this. I couldn’t find anything, so I made it!”
After testing various combinations, Markk created a custom cleaning solution without any chemicals or harsh abrasives. It was like manna for sneakerheads, who excitedly posted the transformative effects of the solution on Instagram. He has gone on to collaborate with brands like Diamond Supply Co. and Hello Kitty on limited edition kits and now has a flagship store in Los Angeles where you can drop off your shoes to have them cleaned. A New York City location is on the way.
If you don’t live in NY or LA, or if you just prefer to put in your own elbow grease, we spoke with Markk to find out the best way to keep your sneakers clean.
1. Preventive Care
When your shoes are new, Markk suggests using his Repel spray, which works on all surfaces. “This will help protect the shoes in case you step in a puddle or get something spilled on you,” Markk says.
2. Laces Out
Before you start to clean your shoes, remove the shoe laces. It’s a good bet that they could use a cleaning as well. Soak them in water and scrub them with soap. Then wring out the water by pinching the lace between your thumb and finger and pulling from one end to the other. Then let them air dry. Do not put them in the dryer.
Try to clean your shoes as soon as they get dirty. “The longer a stain or dirt sits on the shoe, the harder it is to clean,” Markk says. Take a brush and dip it into a bowl of water. Then apply the cleaning solution to the brush and dip it into the water again. Now it’s time to start scrubbing. As you move the brush around the solution will start to foam up.
4. Towel Off
After the cleaning solution has foamed up, wipe the shoes down with a towel. A microfiber one works best. Then let the shoes air dry. This should go without saying, but don’t put your shoes in the dryer unless you want them to shrink and/or change color.
5. Beware Of Suede
If your shoes are made of suede or nubuck, proceed with caution because the color can bleed easily when it comes in contact with water. Use a dry, soft brush to remove any dirt that’s sitting on top of the shoe. If you do use a cleaning solution, remove as much as water as possible from the brush before you start scrubbing, then when you’re finished dry the shoes with a towel as quickly as possible using a dab and twist motion. (Here’s a more detailed video on cleaning suede sneakers.)
6. Accept Compliments
Now that your kicks are clean, lace them up, and bask in the glow of having new-looking sneakers without having to actually buy new sneakers.