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Keep Them Fresh: How to Clean Football Cleats Easily

How to clean football cleats

We keep all shoes outside at our house, and for good reason. However, after you learn my method for how to clean football cleats, you will have no trouble storing the cleats inside for the off-season. Football cleats can get caked on mud, excess dirt, and that pungent smell that only comes from a hard-earned win. My process will take care of all of the above. 

Important Tips Before You Begin Cleaning 

Football cleats are made of a variety of materials, including rubber (mostly on the soles), leather, synthetic, and even a mesh material. 

  • Leather football cleats can be damaged by excess water, don’t submerge the leather; it could change the overall fit and durability of the shoe
  • Synthetic materials handle water a little better but stay away from bleach that can break down or damage the shoe
  • Rubber areas of the shoe can handle the most abrasive cleaning, but it’s still best to stay away from sharp brushes so as not to damage or scuff up the rubber 
  • If the cleats are removable, remove them before you begin the cleaning process
  • Always try and remove excess dirt from the bottom of the shoe directly after your football game; it makes the process of removing the remaining dirt considerably easier 

Supplies and Tools Needed To Clean Football Cleats 

  • Sink basin
  • Running water
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Cleaning brush
  • Mild dish soap or laundry detergent
  • Drying towels or newspaper
  • Deodorizing spray

How To Clean Football Cleats 

This method for how to clean football cleats will work for leather cleats, synthetic, and even mesh materials of the shoe. Read through the entire process before you start to clean your cleats.


Before introducing any water into the process, all loose dirt needs to be removed. Tap the cleats together or use a soft bristled brush to remove any of the loose dirt that is still on the shoe. Take the laces and the insoles out of the shoes.

Step-By-Step Process To Clean Cleats

  1. Wipe away any excess dirt on your football cleats using warm water and a cloth; this process lets us see how much work it’s going to take to get the cleats clean
  2. Remove the shoe laces from the cleats
  3. Fill a sink with about an inch of soapy water; use Dawn dish soap. Keep the amount of water to a minimum so you do not soak the shoe and instead focus on cleaning the cleats
  4. Let the cleats sit in the soap and water solution for approximately 20 minutes so the caked-on mud and dirt can release
  5. Take the shoe out of the cleaning solution and hold it with the bottom up under running water
  6. Take a soft bristled brush and clean the bottom of the football cleats as well as all other areas of the shoe; use the dish soap and water solution to dip the brush in as you clean 
  7. Rinse one more time before setting cleats to dry
  8. Use newspaper or a dry cloth to stuff the football cleats and allow them to air dry out of the direct sunlight
  9. With laces out of the shoe, hold one end in your hand and a damp cloth in the other, and wipe laces clean. Then spray the insoles of the shoe with a deodorizer like Rocket Pure Deodorizing Spray before putting it back inside the dry football cleats

Precautions To Ensure Cleats Do Not Get Damaged During Cleaning 

Most football cleats are made well and can handle a good clean. If you play football, you know that most products must be durable to make it through a game. However, using the wrong methods can leave you having to purchase a new pair of shoes. 

  • Always let cleats dry completely before putting laces and insoles back on the shoe, don’t use a hair dryer or heater as the high heat is bad for the leather cleats
  • Don’t put smelly cleats in the washing machine; you can damage the shoe and your washing machine
  • Cleaning cleats is a good process to do outside or in a garage, but don’t let the clean cleats sit out in the sun; the leather can crack

Post Cleaning Tips 

Once your cleats are clean, you can then add the laces back to the shoe. Wait until both the laces and the shoes are dry so that the shoe fits properly. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on your cleats and see if a leather conditioning is recommended; this would be the time to do that.

Alternative Methods for Cleaning Your Football Cleats 

Mild soap and water is our favorite way to clean football cleats (although you can also use it to clean soccer cleats); however, if you want to use specialized cleaning products or a slightly more abrasive method after a rough day of playing football, these are some options to try. 

Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner

The Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner has been around for more than 30 years. It works on all hard surfaces of the shoe and even comes with a stiff brush to help you work on stubborn dirt. 

  1. Wipe the outside of the football cleats with a damp cloth and remove any excess dirt before soaking
  2. Fill the sink with about an inch of water and add a few drops of Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner; this is a concentrated cleaner, so read the directions carefully about how much to use 
  3. Let the cleats soak (in about an inch of cleaner) for about a half hour
  4. Remove the cleats and use an old toothbrush or the included cleaning brush to gently scrub away any excess dirt
  5. Dip the brush into the cleaning solution to use it to remove all the dirt around the shoe 
  6. Rinse the bottom of the cleats with cold water 
  7. Let the shoe go through an air drying process, dry the outside with a paper towel first and then place a dry cloth inside to soak up additional water 
  8. Spray with Hex Performance Deodorizing Spray before storing shoes indoors  

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar have become one of our favorite cleaning methods. It’s a mild cleaning solution with just enough grit and acidic value to break down dirt and debris left after your football or flag football game. 

  1. Wipe down the outside of the football cleats to remove grass stains, excess dirt, and debris
  2. Turn the cleat upside down so that you can see the bottom of the shoe, and lay it on a towel
  3. Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the cleat 
  4. Pour about a ¼ cup of vinegar onto the baking soda and let the baking soda and vinegar solution sizzle
  5. Use your old toothbrush or mild shoe cleaning brush to scrub the shoes using this vinegar and baking soda solution
  6. Rinse the cleats with cool running water and allow to dry in a well-ventilated area for several hours 
  7. When dry, you can then spray with Hex Performance Deodorizing Spray and return the laces to the cleats

Deep Cleaning Method  

Some football players are great about cleaning cleats after each game and trying to keep them smelling fresh. Others do this once a season. I would avoid putting this process off because it makes the cleaning process that much more difficult.

The method for deep cleaning is the same as our standard method. However, you will likely have to repeat the process several times.

I also find myself having to dip the cleaning brush into the soapy solution more often to work on the tough dirt.

Use a circular motion when breaking up larger clumps of mud and getting into those hard to reach areas.

Tips and Special Considerations for Each Material

Check the shoe that you purchased before cleaning your cleats to make sure you are aware of the material type. You can easily ruin your favorite pair of football cleats by ignoring these suggestions and special considerations. 


Stay away from harsh cleaners like bleach, apply a mild detergent only, and use warm or cool water over hot water. Allow leather cleats to air dry naturally out of direct sunlight, and make sure to provide plenty of air circulation throughout the drying process. Use a leather conditioner like Bick 4 Leather Conditioner to keep the cleats in great shape. 


Synthetic cleats don’t hold on to excess moisture the way that leather cleats do, but you should still allow them to completely dry before using. Harsh chemicals like ammonia and bleach can damage your synthetic cleats, and a mild brush like the one included in the YoungJoy Shoe Cleaning Brush Set is the best choice. 

White Cleats

Stains happen quickly on white cleats. Be sure to wash them on game day and get off any excess dirt as soon as possible. Use baking soda when working with white shoes, as it helps to whiten.

Mesh Material

For any mesh areas on your football cleats, only use a rag, soap, and water, do not use the brush as it can pull at the mesh material.

Mistakes To Avoid 

When I first started cleaning sports shoes for golf (I used to golf professionally), court sports, soccer, baseball, and football, I researched the process thoroughly before I began. These cleats are not cheap, and I didn’t want to make a mistake and have to replace them! Here is what I discovered along the way. 

  • Never use a hair dryer, heater, or the sun to speed up the drying process 
  • Don’t put the cleats in a washing machine; they are washed separately outside the washing machine 
  • You can use newspaper and dry towels inside the shoes to soak up moisture, but paper towels can make a mess
  • The brush you use should be a soft bristle like the Lomee Professional Cleaning Brush

Regular Maintenance of Football Cleats 

Staying on top of cleaning your football cleats will make it easier if you want to avoid a deep cleaning or being unprepared for the next game. Here are a few tips to always keep in mind. 

  • A leather conditioner like Bick 4 should be put on the shoes after each cleaning 
  • Always shake cleats after a game to remove any excess dirt from the lower and upper portion of the shoe
  • Clean cleats at least once per month when in season, more if you have the time
  • Keep a shoe cleaning wipe like the CleanKicks Wipes in your sports bag for an on-the-go cleaning
  • Store football cleats with a shoe tree like the HoundsBay Shoe Trees to ensure their shape
  • Let shoes air dry completely, even outside of your regular cleaning; if your feet were sweaty during the game, let the cleats sit with proper ventilation 
  • Baking soda works well for odor control in the shoes; just sprinkle a small amount in the shoe

The Importance of Cleaning Football Cleats

It’s important to clean your football cleats so that they look clean and you have a fresh look for your game, but there is more to it than that. Regular cleaning will preserve the lifespan of the cleats and ensure that the cleats themselves give you grip and traction on the turf.

In addition, regular cleaning can prevent bad odor and bacterial and fungal infections that can occur from wearing dirty cleats.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I Machine Wash My Football Cleats?

Machine washing can lead to cleats falling apart, and damage the adhesive holding them together. Instead, clean them by hand with mild soap and water, and air dry. Cleaning them regularly will also help to preserve their performance and durability.

Is It Okay To Dry My Cleats in the Sun or Use a Hairdryer?

Do not dry cleats in direct sunlight or use a hairdryer, because doing so can damage the materials. Instead, place newspaper or a dry towel inside the cleats to absorb moisture and allow them to air dry naturally. This is the best way to preserve the cleats’ integrity.

Can I Use Bleach To Clean My Football Cleats?

Bleach is a harsh cleaner, and not recommended for use on a cleat. It can discolor, weaken the materials, and potentially damage the cleats. Instead, use a mild dishwashing soap or laundry detergent to clean your cleats. 

What Can I Do To Remove Stubborn Stains on My Cleats?

To remove stubborn stains on cleats, use a mixture of vinegar and baking soda that will help to break down tough stains and get the cleats back to their original coloring. 

How Can I Get Rid of the Bad Smell From My Cleats?

Put baking soda in your cleats and let it sit for 24 hours in a well-ventilated area. Dump the baking soda out and dispose of it; repeat this process on a regular basis to keep the cleats from smelling bad. We also have an article on the best shoe deodorizers.


Britt Olizarowicz