My kids’ shoes never smell quite as bad as they do in summer. It’s the downside to me telling them to get outside and get active everyday. Muddy, sweaty, grass-stained shoes aren’t easy to clean, but I’ll take it over bored and inside all day long.
In the meantime, here are some smart tips for keeping those shoes fresh and clean. With four kids of my own, who are all hard on their shoes, here are some tricks I’ve learned for cleaning kids’ sneakers in the summer and all year long.
Good luck, mamas. Because new shoes are expensive!
Top photo: Lefteris Kallergis on Unsplash
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Related: How to clean the 5 biggest kid messes, from Sharpie on the wall to Play-doh in the rug
DIY solutions for stinky insoles
Of course, you can spray your soles with a deodorizer meant just for shoes. But we’ve also seen some clever hacks you can DIY at home.
-Stuff tea bags inside the shoes, and the tea will absorb the smell.
-Tear a scented dryer sheet in half, and line the inside of the shoe with them overnight.
-For serious help, pull the insoles out and soak them in 2 cups of vinegar and 8 liters of water to really kill all that bad-smelling bacteria.
Soaking caked-on sneaker stains
Let’s say your kid comes home from camp with shoes caked in mud — they’re going to need a good soak. Fill a bucket with water, put something heavy in the shoe so they’ll stay submerged, and let them soak until you can wash the dirt off easily with a scrub brush.
If the shoes are covered in anything oily — maybe they’ve been splashing in dirty rain puddles near the sidewalk all afternoon — you can use some dish detergent in the water while they soak. Just like it cuts through oil on your dishes, it will help with oily stains on clothing and shoes too.
The best method for spot-washing sneakers
I had strictly used PineSol in my bathroom, until I noticed fabrics as a suggested use on their packaging. Ever since, I’ve been using it to remove stains on my kids’ gear and it’s brilliant! So if you just have a small stain on your kids’ shoes — hello, kids and markers! — PineSol plus a toothbrush will be your best friend. The stains come out almost every time, although they do smell like PineSol for a day or two.
Related: A new sports laundry detergent that really actually truly gets rid of all those sweaty smells.
How to get scuffed sneakers white again
Awww, I really loved my toddlers in their adorable Keds and Vans — but those larger-than-average white rubber soles and toes can scuff up so easily. Tip: Do not touch the bleach! That can turn those bright-white soles a yellowish color that is anything but cute.
Instead, pull out your Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. (Yes, it is actually magic.) Give them a quick wipe, and they’ll be back to brand-new in no time. Just be aware that it does have chemicals in it. so don’t hand it over to your toddler who loves helping with cleaning.
If you don’t have a Magic Eraser on hand or prefer to DIY, you can try a paste made from 1 tbsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp water, and 1/2 tsp hydrogen peroxide. (But, Magic Eraser is way easier…and honestly, more reliable.)
How to clean up bodily fluids on sneakers, because diaper blow-outs happen
Life with a little kid means you’re going to be dealing with your fair share of bloody noses, scraped up knees, and busted lips. Not to mention blow-out diapers and the like. But that shouldn’t ruin your kids’ day and their new shoes.
Take the shoe over to your kitchen sink and use your spray nozzle to power-wash that mess off of it with hot water. Then, come at it with some dish detergent, which is formulated to target proteins while they clean.
Another option: Simple Green. It’s even recommended by crime scene cleaners!
Can you throw dirty sneakers in the washer?
I’ve washed all my kids canvas sneakers in the washer with good results. Just place your sneakers in a lingerie bag first, and wash them on cold water, because one unfortunate load done in hot water came close to melting the soles of my daughter’s (inexpensive) tennis shoes.
Don’t throw sneakers in the dryer though. Instead, set them over an air vent to dry quickly or hang over a clothes line outside.
If your kids’ shoes are made mainly of leather or suede, skip the machine and use baby wipes or just a damp washcloth to clean. You can also use a suede eraser to spot clean suede shoes or suede-combination sneakers like from brands like Puma and New Balance.
Spray tea tree oil diluted with water totally gets rid of the stink from shoe soles.