How to Clean Basketball Shoes in 5 Easy Steps!

Ah, basketball season. The time of year when there are practices and games day after day after day.

With so much time spent on the court, those new indoor basketball shoes you started the season with take an absolute beating.

Basketball shoes are designed to provide traction, support, stability, and cushioning for your feet and legs, allowing you to play with your head above the rim(from time to time).

However, with frequent use, your basketball shoes might trap dust, dirt, sweat, and grime, which not only affects their appearance but also their functionality.

That all-too-nice traction you had at the beginning of your shoe’s life slowly deteriorates with dust accumulation. The beautiful squeak no longer exists, and you begin to slip and slide all over the court.

Another thing to prevent is that tear-producing smell after a number of days in a row on the court. Believe me. They smell. I’ve learned this the hard way.

Luckily I’ll talk about a few things to prevent your mom or dad (or wife or husband or whoever) from yelling at you about how stinky your shoes are.

Now let me guide you through some tips and tricks on how to clean basketball shoes so you can always be ready for your next game.

How To Clean Basketball Shoes And Take Care Of Them So They Last Longer

I’ll go over a few different techniques on how to clean your basketball shoes if they have gotten to an overall bad state. These same tips can be used for regular care so those puppies don’t bark too loud.

These tips are simple. It’s not rocket science.

Of course, if you don’t do them correctly, you could damage the new shoes you bought and have to go get another pair, so be vigilant.

Reasons You Need To Know How To Clean Basketball Shoes

Improper shoe care can result in dirty, nasty, stinky shoes. A pair of unkept basketball sneakers can result in foot problems, including blisters, foot fungus, warts, and feet that look like Shaq’s (viewer discretion advised).

These tips will help you develop a regular cleaning routine so you can avoid a trip to the podiatrist and stay on the court. Some of these tips are needed more than others, but the reasons to implement them are tenfold.

Step-by-Step Instructions For Cleaning Basketball Shoes

1. Good Ol’ Soap & Water

This is the most tried and true trick to cleaning basketball shoes.

Grab a soft brush, a toothbrush, or even a shoe brush if you have one, a soft cloth, a shoe cleaner, and some mild soap. (A shoe brush works, but in my opinion, you don’t need to go out and buy one for this. I use a toothbrush myself.) I usually take the laces out for easier cleaning.

Put the laces in a bowl full of gentle soap and warm water and clean those separately. You do not need a special cleaning solution for them. (Baking soda can be used for a bit more oomph to clean white laces.)

Go ahead and scrub the outside of the shoe with the shoe cleaner, the same gentle cleaning solution mentioned earlier, in circular motions, which should be mixed with warm water per the shoe cleaner’s instructions. This will get rid of a large amount of surface debris. If you have suede shoes, make sure to use a suede brush.

Every part, including the tongue, midsole (the top of the shoe), outsole (the bottom of the shoe), and other shoe components are full of surface debris and, in some cases, stubborn stains and should be cleaned with a brush or a damp cloth of warm water.

The outsole is especially important because washing this portion will restore some of the lost traction that occurs through dust accumulation. It’s important to know how to make basketball shoes more grippy if they lose their traction.

Grab a soft cloth and gently wipe the shoes down to help them dry a bit quicker. Grab some newspaper (or paper towels since nobody buys the newspaper anymore) and stuff them into the shoes for faster drying. Make sure they dry completely before wearing them again.

2. Washing Machine

You may be thinking, can I just wash basketball shoes?

Well, yes and no.

Great… Thanks, Mark.

Now hold on. Hear me out.

This is a bit more risky. If I were to recommend the best way to clean basketball shoes it would most definitely be the first step listed.

While this is a bit more risky, it is more efficient, and there are many cases of it working. Just be warned that this method can destroy some of the fabric in the shoes if done incorrectly which will definitely shorten the life of the sneakers.

First, take the laces out. Look at the step above for cleaning these. Again, baking soda works well for white laces.

To wash basketball shoes, go ahead and put the shoes in the washer, add laundry detergent (I would recommend staying away from scented laundry detergent), and put the cycle on delicate. Press go.

Again this is a bit more risky cleaning process, and not all sneakers will survive it. Manufacturers do not construct basketball shoes to be put in the washing machine at all, let alone regularly.

If your shoes are suede, DO NOT put them in the washing machine. They will be destroyed. For all other materials, use caution.

3. Let Those Things Breathe!

Your shoes take a beating day after day. Some of you (I won’t name names) get done with practice or a game, throw them into your duffle bag or backpack, and leave them in that dark, damp place until the next practice.

If no one has told you by this point, I’ll be the one to do it.

That’s gross.

You need to keep your shoes in the open air to let them dry off. When they stay sweaty and moist for too long, moisture builds up, and there’s even a chance for mold. This most definitely shortens your shoe’s lifespan (RIP shoes).

Plus, the smell. Oh, the humanity.

Take it from someone who has been there (and whose teammates have been there) and take your shoes out of your gym bag when you get home. Thank me later.

4. The Dreaded Stink and How To Prevent It

This step sort of piggybacks on the last one but whatever. My blog, my rules. Plus, my basketball friend, it’s a lesson you need to learn.

To prevent smelly shoes and complaints from teammates and family about your smelly shoes, you need to air them out after practices and games, per the last step.

I also highly recommend using an odor eater spray or trinkets to keep those little doggies smelling relatively okay.

In my experience, you’re never going to totally get rid of the smell (just the nature of the beast), but you can reduce it drastically with some good shoe-smelling gadgets that are pretty damn inexpensive.

5. Preventive Care

Last, but not least. Investing in preventative shoe care is the best way to keep your basketball shoes from getting raggedy too soon.

Applying a protective coating such as weatherproofing sprays or silicone sprays to your shoes can help protect them from rainwater and other stains.

I obviously don’t recommend wearing your shoes outside in the first place, but if you have a tendency to do so or you’re wearing old shoes for your casual footwear, then these sprays and creams will help keep them from becoming weathered.

Regular cleanings, taking your shoes out of your gym bag, and using odor eaters are all preventive measures as well.

Key Considerations On How To Clean Basketball Shoes

Have a rotation of basketball shoes. Pick up a couple of pairs of basketball shoes before the season starts and rotate them every other day or every other week or wear one pair for games and another pair for practices. It doesn’t really matter.

If the wallet is a bit light, pick up a couple of pairs of cheap shoes you can find that are maybe last year’s edition of a signature shoe or even check out eBay for a pair of relatively new shoes that don’t look too beaten up.

Make sure you don’t wear your shoes outside. Rocks can get into the bottom grooves easily. You’ll have to clean your shoes on a much more regular basis and the outsole can even get so worn down that the traction can never be returned.

Also, DO NOT use heaters, a hair dryer, or heat lamps, or place your shoes next to a furnace to quicken the drying process. This will warp the shoes beyond repair.

Taking it to the Next Level: How to Make Your Shoes Grippy Again

If you’ve lost considerable grip in your shoes and noticed that they no longer squeak on the court, clean the outsole to get rid of dust and make sure to scoop out any pebbles that may have made their way into the grooves if you walked outside with them on at all.

One thing I do and have done for my career when I play on a slippery court that hasn’t been cleaned is rub the bottom of my shoes during a break in play. This will eradicate a layer of dust and give you some more traction.

Pro tip: Lick your fingers before for extra extra traction. Not after!

Know When To Throw Them Away

Out with the old, in with the new. Sometimes, unfortunately, there isn’t much more you can do to bring your basketball shoes back to life. You need to know when to put them out to pasture to save yourself from injury and foot fungus.

If there are tears where the outsole connects with the midsole, throw them out.

If the grooves on the bottom of your shoes no longer exist, throw them out.

If the smell of your shoe causes your dog Rocco to throw up after a quick whiff, throw them out.

Don’t tape them back together, don’t keep them “just in case”, just throw those things out.

I understand it’s difficult to throw out a pair of basketball shoes, especially if they’re ones that you have enjoyed playing in. I’ve been there. But your shoes will not last forever. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Check out my post on the best basketball shoes this year if you’re having trouble finding a new pair.

Wrapping Up and My Experience In Keeping Basketball Shoes Clean

Learning how to clean basketball shoes may seem like a simple task. Years of playing basketball have taught me how important the little things are.

I’ve had basketball shoes completely destroyed due to negligence resulting in more money spent on shoes, as well as injuries from trying to play in old, worn-out shoes that had no business being on the court.

These tips are meant to help you maintain your basketball shoes to prevent the need to buy new ones. I realize how difficult it is to worry about maintaining your shoes after a hard practice or a tough few games.

Sometimes these simple things slip our minds when things aren’t going our way.

It’s a relatively simple thing to do, and I hope that these tips help you keep your shoes clean and help you produce top-notch games on the court!


Can basketball shoes be put in washing machine?

It is generally not recommended by shoe manufacturers to put your basketball shoes in the washing machine.

Machine washing can damage or discolor the materials of the shoes. Instead, it is best to hand wash your basketball shoes to ensure their longevity.

How often should I wash my basketball shoes?

The general recommendation is to clean them after every game or whenever they get visibly dirty.

Regular cleaning helps to remove dirt, sweat, and odor, keeping your shoes in good condition.

However, the frequency of washing may vary depending on your usage, playing conditions, and personal preference.

Can you wash basketball shoes?

Yes, you can wash basketball shoes, but it is generally not recommended to put them in a washing machine or dryer.

Machine washing can cause damage to the shoes.

Instead, it is best to hand wash basketball shoes to ensure their longevity.

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