How to Clean Vans Without Damaging Their Sensitive Material

how to clean vans

Talking about sneakers, these big brands will pop into your mind: Nike, Adidas, and Converse. But for me, it is Vans. This brand has been stealing the sneaker game for a while now. I personally like them for their unique style, comfort, and versatility.

Plus, have you seen how much vintage and unique Vans are worth these days? These sneakers have become collectible items! You need to show your Vans shoes extra attention and love to keep them pristine.

So, buckle up, and let’s take a closer look at how to clean your Vans properly!

I. How I Clean My Vans

  • Prepare a pair of Vans that you want to clean:

A pair of dirty Vans that needs to be cleaned. 

  • Prepare the necessary tools and cleaning kits:

Prepare the Shoecleaner, apron, Premium Brush, Medium Brush, Standard Brush, Small Brush, Microfiber Cloth, 2 pieces of Shoe Tree, and a container to store water and ShoePerfume. 

  • Remove the laces from your Vans shoes:

It’s recommendable to remove the lace from your shoe. After you manage to separate them, you can soak the laces inside a water that has been mixed with Shoe Cleaner.

  • Insert the Shoe Tree inside each Vans:

You don’t want to miss this step when cleaning your Vans. A shoe tree will play a part in maintaining the shape of your shoes when they’re washed or cleaned. Therefore, you really need to insert it inside your shoe. Whenever possible, make sure to remove the insole first. 

  • Dry-clean your Vans:

Before washing the sneakers with water, we need to brush the upper part and midsole with a premium brush to wipe off debris and dirt that is often found on the shoes. 

  • Wash both the outsole and midsole of your Vans:

Two different brushes will be needed for this task: the Standard Brush to clean your outsole and the medium brush to clean the midsole section. 

To clean the midsole section, you really need to be extra careful and patient. Most dirt and stains on the midsole section might prove to be hard to be brushed off, so don’t lose your temper if it might take a while! After you’ve brushed off the whole section, you can wipe your shoes with a microfiber cloth. If the result is unsatisfactory, please repeat the steps again.

To clean the outsole section of your Vans, make sure to use all your strength when cleaning the outsole, as it’s naturally the dirtiest part of a shoe.

  • Wash the upper part of your Vans

Use the Premium Brush to wash the upper part of your Vans in order to prevent any damage to your shoe. It’s essential to use the Premium Brush, as it won’t damage Vans that are made from suede material which are known to be sensitive. Avoid using the services of a standard brush as it may damage your Vans. 

  • Wash the inner part of your Vans

Use a small brush to clean the inner part of your shoes, as it is definitely hard to reach. Then, wipe it with microfiber cloth. You can also use a Premium Brush, but bear in mind that it might be a little bit difficult to clean the narrow space inside. 

  • Detailing

Use a wet microfiber cloth to clean details on your Vans that are dirty, which are normally found on your midsole or outsole. As an alternative, you can also use wet tissue. However, you’ll notice that using a microfiber cloth will result in a more satisfying result. 

  • Drying Process

Leave your Vans in front of a fan for around 1-2 hours.

  • Finishing  

As soon as the Vans are dry, you can proceed to remove the shoe tree and put the laces (and also insole for some cases) back on. Now, you can wear them again!

II. Cleaning Every Type of Vans Shoe Material

1. How to Clean Leather Vans

Source: mrsiraphol on Freepik

This guide shows how to clean leather, vinyl, or patent leather Vans. It works for all three materials. But you need to skip the conditioning step to work with your Vinyl or Patent Leather Vans.

A. Cleaning kits you need:

  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Microfiber cloth or sponge
  • Leather cleaner
  • Leather conditioner
  • Warm water
  • A small bowl
  • Waterproofing spray
  • Old newspaper

B. Step-by-step cleaning guide:

Step #1: Preparation

Find a well-ventilated and clean area to work on your Vans. Lay down old newspapers to protect your workspace from any cleaning solutions that may drip.

Step #2: Remove Laces

Take off the laces from your Vans. Believe me, this will make it easier to clean the leather and prevent them from getting in the way.

Step #3: Brush Off Dirt and Debris

Use a soft-bristle brush to remove loose dirt and dust from the Vans gently. I will always pay attention to seams, creases, and any textured areas. So, you better too!

Step #4: Mix the Cleaner

Read the instructions on your leather cleaner. If it needs to be diluted with water, I strongly encourage you to mix it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Step #5: Test it in an Inconspicuous Area

Before applying the cleaner to the entire shoe, I always test it in a small, hidden area to ensure it doesn’t discolor or damage the leather.

Step #6: Start Cleaning!

Dip a clean microfiber cloth or sponge into the cleaning solution. Here’s my tips: wipe the leather surface in a circular motion, working on one section at a time. Avoid excessive rubbing or scrubbing. You may need to repeat the process for stubborn stains.

Step #7: Rinse It Away

Dampen a clean cloth with warm water. Then, wipe down the Vans to remove any remaining cleaning solution residue. I recommend clean paper towels as an alternative to cloths.

Step #8: Dry Your Shoes

Allow your Vans to air dry at room temperature. Do not use direct heat like a hairdryer, as it can damage the leather. Instead, you can try my tips to use a fan, knowing the blowing air is cool.

Step #9: Condition the Leather

This is an additional step, but I never skip it! Once your Vans are completely dry, apply a leather conditioner according to the product’s instructions. This will help keep the leather soft and supple.

Step #10: Waterproofing

In case you are like me and want to go the extra mile, consider using a leather protector or waterproofing spray to add an extra layer of protection.

2. How to Clean Suede Vans

Source: Instagram/noobfrommnl

A. Materials you’ll need:

  • A suede eraser or soft suede brush
  • Suede cleaner designed for suede material
  • White vinegar
  • Clean, soft microfiber cloth
  • Suede protector spray

B. Step-by-step guide to cleaning suede vans:

#Step 1: Remove dirt and debris

Take your suede brush or suede eraser. Gently brush or rub the surface of the suede to remove any loose dirt, dust, or debris. For me, I love to brush in one direction to prevent damage to the suede fibers.

#Step 2: Treat stains

If you have stains on your suede Vans, use a suede cleaner. Apply a small amount of the suede cleaner to a clean microfiber cloth. Rub the stained area in a circular motion. Avoid applying too much pressure. I usually add some of white vinegar (diluted with water) with the suede cleaner to tackle stubborn stains.

#Step 3: Clean the entire shoes

Once you’ve treated any stains, use the suede cleaner to clean the entire shoe. Apply a small amount of the cleaner to a clean cloth or suede brush. Then, rub the suede in a circular motion, working your way around the entire shoe. Pay extra attention to areas that tend to get dirty, such as the toe cap and sole edges.

#Step 4: Allow to dry

After cleaning, let your suede Vans air dry at room temperature. Don’t expose them to direct sunlight, radiators, or hairdryers. You can use a fan instead if you wish to speed up the drying process.

#Step 5: Restore suede texture

When the shoes are already dry, use the suede brush to restore the texture. Brush the suede in one direction to lift the nap and bring back its soft texture.

#Step 6: Apply the suede protector

To protect your suede Vans from future stains and damage, I generally consider applying a suede protector spray. Follow the instructions on the spray can carefully, as application methods may vary.

3. How to Clean Mesh and Rubber Vans

While it works great for Mesh Vans, you can also try this step-by-step guide to clean the mess of your Rubber Vans! Let’s have a try!

A. Items you need:

  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Mild soap or detergent
  • Warm water
  • Microfiber cloth or sponge
  • Old toothbrush
  • Paper towels or shoe trees
  • White vinegar (optional)

B. Step-by-step to cleaning mesh and rubber vans:

Step #1: Remove the laces

To allow easy access and cleaning of the entire shoe, I will always start the cleaning process by removing the laces from my Vans. You can follow this approach to thoroughly clean your shoes.

Step #2: Knock off loose dirt

Hold your mesh Vans upside down and gently tap them together or use a soft-bristled brush to remove loose dirt, dust, and debris. Trust me, it works!

Step #3: Prepare the cleaning solution

In a small bowl, mix a small amount of mild detergent with lukewarm water. You can also add a teaspoon of white vinegar if needed. Create a soapy solution.

Step #4: Scrub the mesh

Dip your soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush into the soapy solution and gently scrub the mesh surface. Work in circular motions gently.

Step #5: Rinse the soapy residue

Using a clean sponge or microfiber cloth, dampened with clean water, wipe away the soapy residue from the mesh. Make sure to thoroughly rinse to avoid leaving detergent residue.

Step #6: Address the stains

For stubborn stains, I usually mix a small amount of detergent with water, apply it directly to the stain, and gently scrub with a soft brush. Repeat as necessary.

Step #7: Dry the shoes

Stuff your cleaned mesh Vans with paper towels or shoe trees to help them retain their shape while drying. Place them in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight or heat sources, which can cause the mesh to warp or shrink.

4. How to Clean Wool, Corduroy, and Denim Vans

Source: Instagram/oi.second888

In addition to Wool Vans, you can also follow this guide to clean your Corduroy Vans and Denim Vans. Just skip the wool-friendly stain remover from the cleaning kit items. 

For Denim Vans, you can replace the lukewarm water with the cold one to avoid shrinking material. And your’re all set! 

Check it out!

A. Cleaning items you need:

  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Mild detergent or Shoe Cleaner
  • Lukewarm water
  • White vinegar
  • Clean, dry microfiber cloth
  • Wool-friendly stain remover

B. Step-by-step guide:

Step #1: Take off the laces

Before cleaning your wool Vans, remove the laces from the shoes. This will make it easier to clean the entire surface.

Step #2: Brush off debris and dirt

Take your soft-bristle brush and gently brush off any loose dirt, dust, or debris from the surface of the wool Vans. Be gentle to avoid damaging the wool fibers.

Step #3: Create a cleaning solution

Mix a small amount of mild detergent (about a teaspoon) with warm water in a bowl. Ensure the water is not too hot, as heat can damage wool. Since you want a slightly soapy solution, you can try my tips to shake your hand inside the solution lightly.

Step #4: Tes a small area

Before applying the cleaning solution to the entire shoe, test it on a small area to ensure it doesn’t discolor or damage the wool.

Step #5: Clean the shoes

Next, dip the soft-bristle brush into the cleaning solution and gently scrub the entire surface of the wool Vans. I always focus on areas with stains or dirt buildup. Avoid saturating the wool; use a light touch and work circularly.

Step #6: Spot clean stubborn stains (optional)

If there are stubborn stains that the detergent solution couldn’t remove, you can use a wool-friendly stain remover. Follow the product instructions and apply it sparingly to the stained area. Gently blot the stain with a clean, damp cloth.

Step #7: Rinse with clean water

Dampen a clean cloth with clean, lukewarm water and wipe down the entire shoe to remove any soap residue. Make sure you don’t saturate the wool.

Step #8: Remove excess moisture

Use a dry, clean cloth to blot away excess moisture from the wool Vans. Avoid wringing or twisting the wool, as it can misshape the shoe.

Step #9: Allow them to air dry

Allow your wool Vans to air dry naturally. Stuff the shoes with newspaper or shoe trees to help them maintain their shape as they dry. You can also put them in front of a fan to accelerate the drying process. However, opting for heaters or hair dryers is NOT recommended, as they can damage the wool.

III. Alternative Ways to Clean Vans Shoes

If you have been paying close attention, you’ll notice that I have mentioned some household ingredients that can help in your quest to make your Vans stay fresh. 

But in case you’ve missed it, I shall make a recap of the household ingredients that you can use (plus some more!). But, prepare this simple Vans cleaning kit first that contains the following tools:

  • Toothbrush and a small brush
  • Cotton
  • Cloth or rag
  • Bowl

You can find all of those tools in your household easily. Make sure that the tools are clean.

And here are the homemade ingredients that you can use to clean your precious Vans:

A. Using Mild Dish Detergent

  1. When you’re using a mild dish detergent to clean your Vans, make sure to prepare a bowl of warm water as well.
  2. Put a small amount of dish detergent inside the bowl.
  3. Use a rag or cloth and dip it inside the mixture. 
  4. Wipe your Vans using the cloth in a circular motion. 
  5. You can also use the cloth to clean the bottom part of your Vans.

Please take note that a mild dish detergent might damage suede or leather. You better use other alternatives if your Vans incorporate those two materials.

B. Using Bleach

  1. Prepare a small amount of bleach and drop them inside a bowl of water.
  2. Use your brush or toothbrush and dip it inside the mixture. 
  3. Scrub the mixture across the Vans and especially the stains. Make sure that you avoid any non-white part of the Vans. Then, wait for some time.
  4. After waiting for around a minute or two, rinse the Vans with water. 
  5. If the result is still unsatisfactory, you might want to repeat the process once more. 

Bleach is effective when it comes to cleaning your white shoes that are really dirty. However, it is not advisable to use it when you’re cleaning non-white Vans. 

It’s recommended to use dye-free bleach, as it will prevent any yellowing from happening on your Vans. 

C. Using Baking Soda and Vinegar

  1. Prepare baking soda and vinegar
  2. Mix them together
  3. Use the mixture and rub them across your Vans. 
  4. Wait for some time in order to let the mixture eliminate dirt and stain. 
  5. You’ll notice that it will make your Vans white again. 

However, you shouldn’t use this method to clean non-white Vans. You may ruin your checkered Vans, for example, because the cleaning solution may react badly with the dye on your shoes.

IV. Expert Tips on How to Clean Vans

It turns out that expert shoe cleaners agree with Vans’ own instructions to clean their products, albeit with a little bit of modification. 

First, you need to start by wiping clean mud and dirt that sticks on your Vans. After you have removed the loose dirt and stains, you can start cleaning your shoes thoroughly (and carefully) by using a mixture of warm water and mild dish detergent. 

Use toothpaste or a soft brush to clean it. Make sure that you are thorough and scrub every surface. Finally, rinse them with water and let your Vans dry in the air!

V. Vans Cleaning Do’s and Don’ts

Search your feelings when cleaning the sensitive parts of your Vans.Don’t brush your shoes intensely. Vans are made from suede, which is very sensitive to scratches.
Wash and clean your Vans for at least once a month, especially if you’re using them regularly.Never leave your shoes under direct contact with the sunlight, as it can destroy them and make the color fade away.

VI. Vans Shoes Care Post-Cleaning Tips

  • Never store them in a moist area
  • Don’t store them if they’re wet and not dried up yet
  • Don’t stack them with other shoes
  • Never store your Vans inside a shoe wrapping box or in a dirty state
  • Use a shoe box if you’re going to stack them in order to make them look presentable and neat

VII. How Often Should You Wash Your Vans

I can’t really set a precise period of time in which you should wash your Vans. The most important thing is to take a look at the condition of your shoes. 

Never let them get too dirty, as they will surely collect hardened dirt and stains that will prove to be challenging to wipe away. 

If you’re using them regularly, I recommend that you clean them around once every two weeks. Avoid washing them every day as well, as it can accelerate the shoes’ wear and tear, as well as weaken the glue. 

And even if you rarely use them, you can still try to clean them at least once a month.

VIII. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1.  How do you clean your Vans without them fading?

To clean your Vans without causing fading, use a gentle, non-abrasive soap or a specialized shoe cleaner. Avoid harsh chemicals or bleach. Scrub gently with a soft-bristle brush, rinse thoroughly, and let them air dry naturally. Prevent prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, as it can fade the material. Additionally, avoid excessive moisture, as it can damage the color.

2. Does washing your vans ruin them?

There’s a chance that washing your Vans won’t ruin it. However, some shoe fanatics prefer to let the Vans look dirty, as it will look good on the shoes. Again, this is a matter of preference, so do as you will!

3. How to Clean vans with baking soda?

The method of cleaning Vans with baking soda is only viable for shoes with a white surface, like the midsole (or if the upper section is white as well). Using a baking soda for non-white material will increase the chance of damaging the color of your shoes

To clean it, you just need to mix the baking soda with vinegar. Then, wipe them across the shoes to eliminate dirt and stains.

4. How do I clean checkered Vans?

Cleaning checkered Vans require a gentler process and a softer cleaning agent, like weak soap. First, remove any excess dirt or debris from the surface of the shoe using a soft-bristled brush. Next, mix a solution of mild soap and warm water, and dip a clean cloth into the solution. 

Gently rub the cloth over the surface, paying particular attention to any stained or dirty areas. Rinse the cloth and use it to remove any remaining soap residue. Finally, air-dry it in a well-ventilated area.

5. How to clean suede Vans without suede cleaner?

Use a clean, damp cloth to blot any stained areas gently. Be careful not to rub too hard and cause further damage to the suede. 

For tougher stains, mix a small amount of white vinegar with water and apply the solution to the affected area using a clean cloth. 

Vans also recommend using a magic eraser. Once the shoes are clean, use a dry cloth or towel to buff the suede and restore its texture gently. Allow the shoes to air dry away from direct sunlight.

6. How to clean white Vans without hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is a strong ingredient that may cause damage to the shoe material. For your white Vans, you can make it pure again by using the white vinegar or baking soda method that I’ve explained above!

7. Can you put Vans in the dryer?

You cannot put your Vans shoes in the dryer. The heat will absolutely destroy your precious pair because the glue will weaken, and the shape will warp. I recommend that you let them dry over time in a well-ventilated room away from direct sunlight.

8. How to wash Vans in the dishwasher?

While the dishwasher can effectively clean the shoes, the high heat and water pressure can damage the materials and structure of your favorite Vans. It’s best to follow the manual method that I have explained above. Vans, especially the ones with suede, are extremely delicate. Only use mild soap for regular cleaning.

9.  How to wash Vans in a washing machine?

First, remove any excess dirt or debris from the Vans shoes using a soft-bristled brush or a clean cloth. Next, place the shoes in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase to protect them from getting damaged in the machine. 

Use a mild detergent and set the washing machine to a gentle cycle with cold water. Once the cycle is complete, remove the shoes from the mesh bag or pillowcase and allow them to air dry naturally. 

Do not use the dryer. I myself prefer to clean Vans manually and only use the washing machine in a pinch.

IX. Conclusion

Vans are highly collectible and sought-after shoes. However, they are made with sensitive materials. Therefore, you should learn to take care of and clean them carefully. 

After all, you wouldn’t want your valuable items to get damaged, right? All you need is patience and attention to detail, along with the knowledge that we’ve passed on before!