How to Clean Basketball Shoes

How to Clean Basketball Shoes

Basketball shoes, like most athletic footwear, see a lot of actions. Whether you’re shooting hoops in a pickup game on the playground or you’re racing up and down the courts during your high school rivalry game, your shoes are taking a beating.

Basketball shoes aren’t cheap either, so you must do whatever you can to make them last.

Between scuffs, scratches, dirt, and sweat, it takes some acute care and cleaning to keep your basketball shoes pristine and ready to support your top performance.

There are several ways that you can clean and maintain your favorite pair of basketball kicks, so read on to learn the best methods of how to clean basketball shoes.

How to Clean Basketball Shoes

When it comes to athletic wear, the big-name companies tend to have the best advice from the professionals. We turned to some pros in the industry to get some professional information on cleaning your basketball shoes. Before we dive into some DIY methods, let’s hear what the pros had to say.

Basic Cleaning

To begin, please note that professionals in the athletic shoe industry recommend that you do not put your shoes in the washer or dryer. Of course, there are many DIY sites and other professionals who say the opposite, but this comes from athletic companies and professionals.

The best way to clean your basketball shoes is to start with a soft-bristled brush to remove any excess dirt or residue. If you don’t have a brush like this, you can also use an old toothbrush; it will have the same effect and may even give you better control and reach.

Once you have removed the excess particles from the outside of your shoes, you should make a mixture of warm water and laundry detergent or a gentle liquid soap. Again, experts recommend using a specialty cleaner if your shoes contain leather or suede materials so as not to ruin them.

Use a sponge or a soft rag or cloth and dip it in the warm water and soap solution. Make sure the cloth is not dripping and use it to wipe and clean any dirty areas on your basketball shoes. Continue this step until you have reached all of the muddy areas of your shoe, including the sole. You may have to rise and ring out your cloth a few times during this process.

Once you have finished cleaning, take a clean, dry cloth and dry off your shoe as much as possible. Leave your shoe out at room temperature and let them air dry. In most cases, it’s best to leave them out overnight to ensure your shoes are completely dry.

Never leave your shoes out in direct sunlight. Doing so can cause the colors on your shoes to fade and may damage certain fabrics and materials. Additionally, you shouldn’t try to use direct heat to dry your shoes, either. Do not use a hairdryer or a machine dryer to try to dry them faster.

Cleaning the Insoles

It’s just as important to clean the inside of your shoes as it is to clean the outside. In fact, it’s probably more important to clean the inside, as that is the part of the shoe that comes into direct contact with your feet and collects sweat and odor.

Remember that deodorizing your shoe is not the same thing as cleaning the insole. Deodorizers do a great job of eliminating smells. However, you should still take the time to clean out sweat, bacteria, and skin particles to prevent buildup and mildew.

Removable insoles are the most accessible types of insoles to clean because you can physically take them out and work with them separate from the shoe.

The best way to clean removable insoles is with plain and simple soap and water. Remove the insoles from your shoes and find yourself a gentle scrub brush. Like with the outside of your shoe, if you don’t have a scrub brush of any kind, you can use an old toothbrush here too.

Keep the brush dry for this first step. Use it to brush off any loose debris, like dirt, sticks, rocks, leaves, and fuzz. Go over the entirety of the insole.

From here, go ahead and fill a container with hot water. Mix in a few drops of dish detergent or laundry detergent and stir it up to form a gentle cleaning solution.

Use your scrubbing brush to perform the rest of the cleaning. Dip the brush in the soap and water solution and scrub your insoles with a circular motion. Continue this motion across the top and bottom of your insole. Pay close attention to the toes and heels, as they typically collect the most bacteria and sweat and may have darker stains.

Your insoles are most likely made of synthetic foam material, so be cautious not to get them to wet. They definitely shouldn’t ever be saturated in water.

After you have generously cleaned both the top and bottom of your insole and worked out as much of the stains as possible, use a clean cloth or a sponge to remove any soap residue remaining.

When you’re finished cleaning, let your insoles air dry thoroughly. You can hang them on a clothesline or dry them in your dish rack. Wherever you leave them to dry, make sure that they are getting plenty of airflow. Leave them overnight to ensure that there is no moisture left, and do not throw them in the dryer.

When you’re working with insoles that are not removable, the best way to clean them is to use this same method, but work with a toothbrush. Doing so will allow you to reach to the back of your shoe. You’ll only be able to clean the top of the insole, but that’s certainly better than not cleaning them at all.


When something looks clean, you might think the job is done. However, a real clean involves disinfecting along with removing dirt and scuffs.

One great way to disinfect your basketball shoes is to use vinegar. Vinegar has been used to clean things for years and years. And, it’s a common household item, making it easy to get your hands on when you need it.

Vinegar will not only disinfect your basketball shoes, but it will also work to get rid of stubborn smells caused by bacteria and sweat – and it couldn’t be easier to use.

The only part of your shoe that you need to disinfect in the insole, since that is the part most likely to absorb your sweat and take on odor.

Start by mixing equal amounts of vinegar and water in a container or directly in your sink. Remove the insoles from your shoe and place them in the solution, completely submerged. You can leave them in there for about three hours.

You might find that your insoles float in the solution, so use something substantial to keep them weighed down that won’t be harmed by the vinegar. Something as simple as paperweights or heavy rocks can work.

After the three hours have passed, remove your insoles from the solution and empty the contents of the container or your sink. Rinse your insoles to completely remove the solution and leave them out to air dry. The best way to let them dry is somewhere that offers excellent airflow and circulation. You can leave them on your disk drainer or hang them on a clothesline.

Leaving them in the sun can also help kill any remaining bacteria that might be present.

Once your insoles have completely dried, you can place them back in your shoes. You should leave them out to dry at least overnight, if not longer, to ensure there is no moisture left in them.

Not only can you use this method to get rid of bacteria and odors, but you can also use it as an opportunity to make your shoes smell better. Add a few drops of essential oil to your vinegar and water mixture. Essential oils come in a large variety of smells, from lavender and mint to tea tree and pine.

Soaking your insoles in this water will remove bacteria and infuse a great smell in your insoles as if you just washed them with fresh-smelling laundry detergent.

Read Also: How to Clean Running Shoes

Other Tips to Clean Basketball Shoes

Aside from cleaning your basketball shoes on a regular basis using safe methods, there are a few other things you can do to make sure your best athletic gear stays in tip-top shape for the season.

Proper Use

These days, it’s not uncommon for individuals to rock athletic footwear as a sign of their fashion sense. In fact, there’s a name for the style that encompasses athletic clothing. It’s called athleisure.

The athleisure style draws on the idea that athletic clothing can be worn during times when you’re not participating in a sport. Popular within younger generations and celebrities alike, individuals can be seen wearing full outfits of athletic brands like Adidas, Nike, Puma, etc.

Thought these people are not on their way to basketball practice, you might see them in an athletic jacket, basketball shorts, and basketball shoes. Celebrities and others even like to add some bling like chains, jewelry, and accessories to dress up the outfit a little more.

Of course, wearing basketball shoes as a style choice rather than for performance is not the best thing to do if you also intend to sport them on the court. Experts recommend that you use your basketball shoes only for their intended purpose: to play basketball.

This purpose can depend on you, the individual wearing them. You might be on the school’s basketball team and have a serious investment in your team’s record. If that’s the case, then you should definitely save your shoes for the court – nothing else.

But perhaps you don’t play on a team, you just like to play recreationally or with your friends during your free time. If after school and on the weekends you can be seen at the playground or local outdoor basketball court, then you might want to save your basketball shoes for that.

The latter option is less serious, so it would be okay to wear these same shoes at other events. However, if you do both, definitely get yourself a second pair of shoes to wear at the park. Your indoor court basketball shoes should stay indoors, as an outdoor court’s texture could ruin them, destroying their grip and color.

Finally, even though your new basketball shoes look fantastic and you’re proud to wear them, you should avoid wearing them during social situations. You never know when something might get spilled on them, they might get wet, or someone might step on them.

Your best option is to keep them in your gym locker, your car or tucked away in your gym bag until practice or game day.


The way your store your basketball shoes can have a big impact on how long they last and how long you can keep them looking new. Your gym back is perfect for transporting your shoes to and from your games, but it isn’t the ideal place to keep them stored.

If you take the time to empty your gym back, you’re more likely to keep your shoes in good shape for longer.

Keeping your shoes in your gym bag can misshape them. Among all of the other things you have in there, your shoes can get crushed under various items. When left for too long, they can lose their shape or get bent the wrong way.

At the same time, leaving your shoes in your gym bag after a long practice or an intense game can lead to some unpleasant odors. Your shoes, along with all of your clothing and other gear, are sweaty and smelly post-dribbling action. You should never leave your basketball shoes jam-packed in with damp, musty clothing.

Improper storage can lead to an immense buildup of odor, and the moisture in your bag can lead to mildew and overall damage.

Rather than keeping your shoes in your bag, take the time to remove them and keep them either in an open room or a decent sized closet with plenty of airflow. It’s crucial that you let your shoes air out and dry before taking them elsewhere.

Many people like to store their basketball shoes in the original box that they came in. Once you have let your shoes dry and air out after your game or practice, try keeping them in the box that they came in. Doing so keeps them away from harm, like getting accidentally kicked on your bedroom floor.

Plus, keeping them in the same place every day will ensure that you never wind up late because you’re looking for your shoes!

Use a Deodorizer

Whether you’re using a store-bought deodorizer made for shoes or you’re trying a DIY method, a deodorizer is a great way to keep your basketball shoes in top shape. Cleaning your shoes is one thing, but taking care of the smell is another.

Use a deodorizer to freshen up your shoes. After several games and practices, there’s a good chance that they smell awful. Don’t be embarrassed by how your shoes smell – match the inside to the clean outside by keeping them fresh.

One effective DIY method of deodorizing your shoes is to use baking soda. It’s easy and simple, and there’s a good chance there’s already some baking soda in your kitchen cabinets.

Sprinkle some baking soda directly inside of your shoes and let it sit overnight. In the morning, simply tap your shoes out over a trash can, and you’re good to go. The baking soda will have absorbed the bad smells in your shoes.

You can also use baking soda to deodorize your removable insoles. Place a few tablespoons of baking soda in a large Ziploc bag or a plastic container with a lid. Take your insoles out of your shoes and put them in the bag or container with the baking soda.

Make sure the baking soda completely covers the tops of your insoles. Seal the bag or place the lid on the container and let them sit overnight.

The next day, remove your insoles from the baking soda and shake off any excess powder. Let them air out for a few minutes before placing them back in your shoes.

Read Also: Best Cleaners for Your Shoes and Shoe Deodorizer.

Buy More Than One Pair

If it’s in your financial capacity, you can also consider owning more than one pair of basketball shoes to use throughout your season. It’s not uncommon for athletes to have one pair of shoes for practices and another pair for game days.

Rotating your shoes in and out can help each pair last longer because they’re taking on at least half the wear and tear as they would if they were your only pair.

When you rotate your basketball shoes, you also give each pair more time off to air out, dry, and deodorize, making them all around better for your performance and uniformed look.

Cleaning your basketball shoes doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. As an athlete, it’s important to take the best care of your gear to make sure it lasts for a long time. Use these tips to keep your basketball shoes fresh, clean, and ready for game time.