How to Clean Your Jordans, According to Toronto's Shoe Laundry

Amir Alam, founder of Shoe Laundry, a premium, plant-based shoe cleaning kit designed to keep new sneakers looking new, gives a step-by-step guide.


Image via Publicist


One of the most tortuous decisions every sneakerhead has to make is whether to risk wearing his or her shoes out of the house. On the one hand, that’s the point of having a fire pair of grails—you want to show them off, especially if they’re the product of a hard-won raffle or an over-inflated resale price tag. On the other hand, it’s a dirty, dangerous world out there, and there’s nothing worse than stepping out in an immaculate pair of shoes only to sulk back home with them half-ruined. 

That’s why Amir Alam—a former scientist and DJ from Toronto—created Shoe Laundry, a premium, plant-based shoe cleaning kit designed to keep new sneakers looking new and restore old sneakers back to their former glory. A standard kit from Shoe Laundry comes with a microfiber cloth, a proprietary (non-chemical) cleaning solution, and an agave-bristle brush, and used correctly, this is all it takes to completely repair and overhaul the look of a pair of beaters. For shoes that are looking ragged, scuffed, or just plain beaten up, there’s no better fix.

We caught up with Alam over the phone recently to walk through the process of how to restore a messed up pair of Air Jordans, just to see how the whole thing really works. If you’ve got a pair of Jordans in your closet that could use some love and attention, look no further than this complete guide.

Remove the shoelaces. Grab a bowl of warm or hot water and add a few pumps of the Shoe Laundry cleaning solution. Add the laces to the water and swish them around a little bit; leave them in the water to soak while you continue cleaning the shoe. 

“At the end of the day, laces are fabric too,” Amir explains. “They pick up dirt and grime and stains and so forth.” Even if you don’t think your laces need much of a wash, check the results. “When you take the laces out you’ll see how dirty and muddy the water is. It’s actually kind of shocking.”

Brush the sneakers. Take the brush—the Shoe Laundry one is made of ethically source agave plant rather than the traditional mohair or horse hair, since it was impossible for Amir to be sure the animals weren’t mistreated in the sourcing—and give the shoes a thorough brushing top to bottom. Try to loosen up and dirt and pebbles from the sole and remove debris from around the leather. 

If you’re dealing with most Jordan 1s, you’re most likely dealing with leather, or even patent leather. That’s safe material to get wet. If you’re dealing with suede—as on the Jordan 1 High Turbo Green, for instance—avoid the next step or be careful when approaching it. 

Pump three squirts of the cleaning solution on either side of the sneakers. Use the same bowl of water that the laces are soaking in to wet the bristles of the brush, then start scrubbing. You’ll work up a thick lather that you can spread around the sneaker. Dunk the brush back in the water if it starts to dry out in the process. “A little goes a long way here,” Amir says of the solution. “A lot of the feedback I get from customers is that it’s going to take them a long time to run out of this stuff. That’s the point. I’m not trying to rip anyone off. It’s a good bang for your buck.”

Go over the sneakers with the microfiber towel. The first thing you’ll notice? A bit of much-improved shine. “The soap is derived from coconut and that actually conditions the leather,” Amir explains. “People are always telling me that they see a new shine on the shoe—it’s because the leather is going to be nicely conditioned.” 

After rubbing the foamy solution off the shoe, the microfiber cloth will be damp. That’s when the real transformation happens. “This is the part that’s mind-blowing for most people,” he says. Wrap the damp towel around your index finger and start to rub out any scruffs left on the leather. “It literally erases them like a magic eraser,” he says. “That’s my favourite part. It’s like the serious deep-clean.”

Relace the shoes. Dump out the water. Rinse the cloth if it’s dirty, or toss it in with your machine-wash laundry. Reuse at your discretion. 

Try the same cleaning solution on any fitted caps you have that haven’t been looking their best lately—Amir swears by the ability of this stuff to make hats look good as new. “You be the judge,” he laughs. “Try it. You’ll be like, no way.”