How to Clean (And Dry) Your Cleats: Without Damaging Them

If your soccer cleats are dirty, you want to ensure they’re clean and ready to go the next time you need them. In this article, I’m going to give you a step-by-step guide on how to clean your cleats effectively without damaging them.

To clean soccer cleats, first, remove any thick pieces of mud from the surface of the cleats. Then dip a brush in warm soapy water and use the wet brush to gently clean the outside of the cleats. Next, brush off the dirt with small circular movements. Lastly, dry the cleats outside in the shade.

You need to be careful about the amount of cleaning product you add to the water and how you dry the cleats once they’re clean.

Keep reading, and I’ll show you how this is done step-by-step and the best way to make sure your cleats don’t crack as they dry.

how to clean and dry cleats featured image

Clean Your Soccer Cleats in 10 Simple Steps

In my recent article – How to Care for Your Cleats: From breaking them in to lacing them up – I included a section on how to clean your cleats.

However, in this article, I want to give you more tips on how to do this effectively.

Over the years, I’ve given many hours to cleaning my cleats.

This experience has taught me a few things about what works and what doesn’t.

Soccer cleats that are left dirty after a game suffer from not being looked after well.

  • They degrade quicker
  • They lose their flexibilty
  • and they are not as attractive to look at.

Spending time cleaning them as soon as you can after they get dirty will give you more use from your cleats in the long run.

It may seem like a chore to do it, but I promise you it’s worth it!

Let me explain how to do it.

1. Find a Soft Bristle Brush

Your choice of brush is important.

If the bristles are too soft, they won’t remove enough dirt. If the bristles are too hard, they may damage the surface of the cleats.

I use this one from Amazon, and it works great, but you may have the perfect brush for the job somewhere in your house.

You want to use something where the bristles are similar strength to the bristles on a toothbrush.

2. Fill Up a Bucket With Warm Water

Next, find a bucket or similar container that can hold around 5 liters/1 gallon of water.

The temperature of the water is important. Too cold and it won’t be effective at cleaning. Too hot and the water may cause unnecessary damage to your cleats.

Aim for a temperature where you can comfortably place your hand in the water, but you wouldn’t want to keep it submerged for too long.

3. Add Cleaning Product to the Water

Using only water can work for cleaning, but adding a small amount of cleaning product to the water will improve the results.

As I’m sure you know, the list of cleaning products available on the market is huge.

Personally, I would recommend using Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner Kit 8 Oz from Amazon.

Using a dedicated shoe cleaner means you have a product specifically designed for the job. But you may already have something else you prefer to use, and that’s OK.

I have even used a small amount of dish soap or laundry detergent added to the water in the past. This is also effective at cleaning your cleats.

Whatever you choose to use, add a small amount of your cleaning product to the water, mix it up, and you’re ready to go.

4. Remove Thick Pieces of Mud From the Cleats

Before using water on the cleats, you should remove all the bigger lumps of mud and dirt.

Find a sturdy tool that you can hold in your hand to perform this job.

Soccer cleats in mud
Mud on soccer cleats

You may want to consider using:

  • a blunt knife
  • a spoon
  • a scraper
  • or even a strong stick

Anything with a blunt edge, that is thin enough to get between the mud and the cleat, will work for this.

Dried mud is fairly brittle, so it should fall off easily.

5. Remove the Laces and Insole

Once the larger lumps of mud are off the cleats, remove the laces and insole (if it is removable).

These can both be washed separately in a washing machine. Just place them in a pillowcase to protect them while they are in the washing machine.

Just make sure you don’t wash your cleats in the washing machine!

You shouldn’t wash soccer cleats in a washing machine. Washing cleats in a washing machine can cause long-term damage to the cleats and the washing machine. The only part of a soccer shoe that can be cleaned in a washing machine is the laces and insole.

In fact, washing the insole and laces regularly is one little hack that I mentioned in my article on caring for your cleats that works great at preventing your cleats from smelling.

6. Place Your Hand Inside the Cleat

To give the best support while you clean your cleats, you should place one hand inside them with the back of your hand under the lace area.

This position allows you to move the shoes around easily and gives strength and support to them as you clean them.

7. Dip the Brush in the Water

Next, dip your brush in the water to get it wet and ready to clean.

The brush doesn’t need to be soaked, just carrying enough water to soak the mud on the cleats.

8. Brush the Outside of the Cleat Gently in a Circular Motion

Start gently brushing the outside of the dirty cleats in a small circular motion.

Don’t push really hard or scrub as if you’re cleaning the floor. Your cleats are far more delicate than many things you will clean.

They need treating with respect.

Cleaning in a circular motion will help the soap lather up more and work the soap deeper into the cleats.

Cleaning cleats in a circular motion
Cleaning cleats in a circular motion

Top Tip: If you are struggling to remove all the dirt from the sole of the shoe, you may want to try making a baking soda paste from equal parts water and baking soda. Use a toothbrush to rub this paste into the bottom of the cleats to get into the small gaps if necessary.

It’s really important to ensure you remove as much dirt and mud as possible, even if you’re using metal cleats.

The truth is that even little pieces of mud can have a detrimental effect on the integrity of your cleats.

This is especially true with leather cleats.

As the mud dries, it will absorb the moisture out of the leather. As a result, it may not take long for dry cleats to start to crack in the affected areas.

Even if you don’t own leather cleats, removing all the dirt can prolong the life of your cleats.

9. Take Extra Care Over the Joints and Stitching

One area to be really careful over is the joints and stitching of the cleats.

Small particles of mud can end up in these areas and cause damage.

I’ve listed this as an individual step as it can make a significant difference to your cleats in the long run.

If your main brush is too big, then try cleaning these parts with a toothbrush. Use the same circular motion as before to get deep into the stitching.

10. Rinse the Soapy Water off the Cleats

Finally, you’ll need to rinse off your cleats to remove the soapy water.

Don’t submerge your cleats in water to do this. There’s no need to soak the insides of the cleats in this way, and they will take much longer to dry.

Just run the cleats under some water, either from a tap or a pitcher.

Use the minimal amount of water necessary.

Now you have clean cleats, it’s time to make sure you dry them safely.

If you’re thinking of buying some new cleats soon, make sure you check out my – How to Choose the Perfect Soccer Cleats (in 4 Simple Steps)

Steps to clean your soccer cleats
Steps to clean your soccer cleats

How to Dry Your Soccer Cleats

Having cleaned your cleats, the next step is to dry them.

To dry your soccer cleats, wipe any excess water off them with a dry cloth, stuff them with paper towels and then place the cleats outside in the shade. Replace the towels every hour until the cleats are dry.

Drying your cleats is almost as important as cleaning your cleats.

If you don’t dry your cleats effectively, they will begin to smell, and the materials the cleats are made of may begin to degrade and go moldy.

One thing I want to stress is not to use a hairdryer on your cleats. Even if you’re in a hurry to dry them, using a hairdryer will only damage the integrity of the cleats.

Cleats need to be dried at a lower temperature than a hairdryer emits.

Exposing your cleats to a high level of heat will weaken the material and potentially damage any glue or stitching used in the manufacture of the cleats.

The best way to dry cleats is:

  1. Wipe off any excess water with a dry cloth
  2. Stuff the cleats with paper towels
  3. Place the cleats outside in the shade
Adding paper towel to cleat
Adding paper towel to cleat

If you don’t have access to paper towels, then newspaper or any other absorbent material will work.

Just make sure that whatever you place in the cleats is touching as much of the surface of the cleats as possible to allow it to soak up the moisture.

Where to Dry Your Cleats

One mistake people often make when drying their cleats is to put them outside in direct sunlight.

Although this may seem like a great way to dry your cleats quickly, it can actually damage your shoes.

As I mentioned regarding the hairdryer, submitting your cleats to high temperatures can degrade the cleats and weaken the shoe’s structure.

You may not notice much difference if you do this once or twice, but over time the negative effect of the heat will shorten the lifespan of the cleats.

The best location for drying your cleats is outside in the shade.

shade vs sunlight
Keep cleats in shade and not the direct sunlight

Being outside provides plenty of airflow around the cleats to dry them, and avoiding the sunlight protects the cleats from damage.

If you have no other option than to dry your cleats indoors, I recommend placing them in a well-ventilated room. If possible, put them in front of a fan to help with air circulation.

This will speed up the drying process and reduce the risk of them smelling from being wet for too long.

If you do end up with smelly cleats, I recommend using FunkAway Aerospray, 13.5 oz, Extreme Odor Eliminator on Amazon. It can work wonders!

If you’re looking for some new cleats, check out my article – 11 Reasons why Expensive Cleats are Worth It.

Or if you play football, flag football, or lacrosse, you may be surprised to know you can use your soccer cleats for either sport:

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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