How to clean Sperry Top-siders

I love my sperrys. I mean really, I have worn them almost everyday for the past two years through Eugene rainstorms, woodland wanderings, 14-hour drives. And, as I should, I go sock-less. But all of this love results in discolored, dirty, and frankly smelly sperrys. So I began to search the internet for a way to clean them–sperrys pose an interesting dilemma, they are both leather and made to handle water, they are boat shoes–there had to be a way. Luckily my first link toted an unorthodox but effective method.

You can do this in thirty minutes and with ingridients you have in your house (or your girlfriend’s). All you need is:

  • A rag or two
  • Dish soap
  • Nail polish remover
  • Cotton balls
  • An old pillowcase
  • Washing machine

Like I said, it sounds a little weird, but I’ve done it a couple times and it really helps.

First, wet your shoes inside and out. Then dampen and pour a healthy amount of dish soap on your rag (the site suggest a tablespoon, but I used an amount that I felt was appropriate, which was probably less. Now scrub, rinse, and continue to scrub. Make sure to get the inside of the shoe because that is where the smell lives. If your insole is removable take it out and wash seperately.

Once you are satisfied with step one–it won’t get rid of everything–and rinsed, then put some nail polish remover on a cotton ball and use this to spot clean. I used it particularly on the distinct water lines that too many rainy days have left on my toes. I’ll warn you now that you will see color/dirt come off onto the cotton ball and be prepared with a few for each shoe. This especially helps fade dark spots.

Now put your shoes in an old pillowcase and tie it shut. Throw it in a cold wash cycle. Hint: add some other heavy laundry, like towels, to balance out the machine; trust me on this one. You can spot clean again if you feel the need (I did spot cleaning last, my first time around). And leave them in a warm place to dry, preferably outside on a lovely day.

Sperrys take awhile to dry, as you know if you have warn them through a rainstorm as well. Shoe repair shops can also touch up some faded spots; I’m taking mine there this time to sew where the sole is pulling away. When you’re done you will have clean, but still rugged and worn boat shoes, with at least less smell. Happy Sperry-ing.

*I would be cautious about using this process for other leather shoes, after all they are boat shoes and made for water exposure.


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