If you have one of Nike’s most famous and stylishly coveted style of shoe, you might be worried about how exactly you might clean them.
The classic white-on-white style of Air Force Ones might be desirable, but cleaning them is no small feat, especially if you use them for athletics or everyday wear.
Like any white sneaker, part of the style is in the crisp white appearance, so ensuring they stay in good shape is ideal. How do you maintain Nike Air Force 1s, and if you already have a stain, how can you go about removing it?
Many specialized creams and buffs are sold to remedy this issue, but often they are too little too late, and are a high price when there are home remedies available. Read on to find out how to address cleaning the shoe and whether you need specialist help.
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What are Nike Air Force 1s?
Nike Air Force 1s are an iconic shoe among sneakerheads. Starting with the Air Force 1, they have moved all the way up to the Air Force XXV and the Air Force 09, and are designed for athletics.
The Nike Air Force 1s are the first basketball shoe that includes the patented Air technology by Nike, and comes in a range of different styles: low, mid, superlow, high, and super high.
In the mid style, there is a connected strap. The high-tops come with a Velcro strap that is movable and removable on many of the designs, whereas the mid-top strap is actually secured to the shoe.
Although there have been over 1,700 variations since the shoe’s introduction in 1982, the most common style is this classic white-on-white coloration. You may have heard them called Uptowns, from their popularity in Harlem, New York.
The name originates from the official air traffic control designation of the plane of the President of the United States, and was not originally part of an “Air Force” line.
Along with any of the extra styles, there is also an iconic medallion at the bottom of the laces in a silver-colored metal. It is engraved with “AF-1, 82”.
There have been many iconic redesigns of the shoe, including high-fashion pairs sold at an extremely high price with gold medallions and anaconda or crocodile leather material.
How to hand wash Air Force 1s?
Nike Air Force 1s are iconic, but being an all-white shoe with a matte finish, they are prone to scuffs, stains and other distracting damage to the shoe.
Many stains and changes are immediately obvious, and some can even risk long-term staining to the shoe if not cleaned off quick.
The first thing to bear in mind when cleaning your Air Force 1s is to wash or clean your laces separately. Being a different material along with the little medallion at the base of the laces, they will generally require different cleaning treatment than the shoe itself.
After you have removed the laces, then add some newspaper onto the inside of your shoe to maintain its structure and shape as you clean, as well as preventing transference of any dirt or staining to other parts of the shoe.
If you have a shoe tree, which is a more specialized piece of equipment for keeping structure and preventing shrinkage in your shoe when cleaning, this is excellent to add at this stage.
Then proceed to prepare some soapy water for cleaning the Air Force 1s.
Although you may find there are some all-purpose or specific sneaker cleaner solutions sold, these are not totally necessary to clean your own Air Force 1s and you may find you can make do with household replacements just fine.
Add a teaspoon of dish soap or dish washing liquid to 2 cups of water. You can also use laundry detergent instead of dish soap if you wish, but avoid fragrances and additives in both to prevent anything from interfering in your cleaning of the shoes.
Add your laces you removed earlier to the cleaning solution.
Neither the (likely pewter) medallion nor the laces will be damaged by the harmless soapy solution, and once you have completed cleaning the shoes you can remove the laces and allow them to soak up as you work.
If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves as you work with the solution, as sodium laureth sulfate (a key lathering ingredient in most soaps and cleaning agents) can dry out the skin and aggravate any psoriasis or atopic dermatitis.
Use a soft-bristled brush to gently absorb the solution and begin scrubbing your shoes. Avoid applying too much abrasive pressure, and try to find a brush with nice and soft bristles to avoid tearing at the leather as you clean it.
Hard bristles could result in tears to the white leather that cannot be repaired. Rub gently on the exterior leather, trying to gather a small lather on the material.
In particular, scrub more vigorously on the inside of the shoe to address any sweat in the lining and insole. The shoe should absorb the solution readily, so too much scrubbing should not be necessary, and should be avoided for the potential of damage.
After you have scrubbed the shoe entirely, try to scrub the shoe two more times to ensure all grime is cut through and lifted by the brush and solution. Pay gentle attention to the tongue and insole, but these won’t require thorough scrubbing: just apply the solution gently and thoroughly.
If you have completed these three cleaning and still find the shoe looks noticeably dirty, use a harder bristled brush and apply with more vigorous. Do be conscious of the shoes durability, and still be wary of tearing.
Rub back and forth to rub the cleaner into the lining, and if you find the hard bristled brush hard to work with, consider using a magic eraser.
Magic erasers are abrasive cleaners that can be great for applying light abrasion to materials to remove staining, but be wary this could remove any outer coatings on the textiles and leather.
At this stage, any tough stains or scuff marks can be addressed with a microfiber cloth or hand towel. Microfiber cloths have a unique composition that allows their fibers to cut through grease and grime, removing dust from surfaces as well using casual static.
This makes them great for cleaning surfaces while remaining gentle, as they are unlikely to damage materials but can help lift grime from them.
Dip a microfiber cloth in the cleaning solution and rub it on any stains gentle, until the stain is removed. Be persistent, as the microfiber cloth can take up to five minutes to be effective.
However, some marks can appear to be scuffs but are actually a result of the leather being removed and the interior layers being exposed. These cannot be removed by scrubbing, as they are permanent damage to the shoe.
This will be easily detectable by running your finger over the mark, as it should feel distinctly different and “lower” to the touch. Wash off the soap in the shoe with a wet microfiber towel, rubbing gently across the entire shoe and removing all the soap you worked in.
If it is well-soaked into the shoe, blot it repeatedly with the towel, rinsing the towel repeatedly to remove soap as you go. Dry the shoe afterwards with a clean towel, shaking off excess water as necessary.
Don’t leave them to dry in the sun, as the sun is likely to yellow parts of the leather and rubber. Air drying works best: once the shoe is dry enough that it will not immediately soak a newspaper, newspaper can be stuffed into the shoe to ensure it maintains shape and does not crack or shrink as it dries.
If you own a shoe tree, this can be used immediately to mitigate this potential problem.
Once you are done, ring out your laces and then rinse them in some water. Gently squeeze the water from the laces, before submerging them in clean water again.
Hang them to dry with your shoes as well, ensuring they are hung to maintain a straight pattern and avoid any curling or shrinkage in the laces.
Can I put my Air Force 1s in the washing machine?
You can put your Air Force 1s in the washing machine, but it is a good idea to only do it occasionally and to avoid overdoing it as it may cause damage and wear to the shoe.
The shoe will repeatedly be hitting the sides of the machine and will be exposed to pressure and water as it is cleaned. There will be natural wear added as it is washed, so consider avoiding doing this regularly.
You should also avoid washing your Air Force 1s without a shoe tree, as the movement may distort the shape of the shoe.
If you understand that it may cause wear, you can wash your Nike Air Force 1s in the washing machine. You will require a laundry bag, or if you lack one, a pillowcase can work.
First, undo your laces and place them separately in the bag, tying them around each other if necessary. Place your Air Force 1s in the bag, with the shoe tree already inside.
Be aware that washing your shoe trees in this manner may cause rusting in the shoe tree over time.
Wash your white Air Force 1s with no other colored clothing or potential sources of dye or blacks. You should use a low cycle: if there is a delicate setting on your washing machine, or a “hand wash” setting, select this.
The lowest option will be safest for your Nike Air Force 1s. Add your laundry detergent, avoiding any fragrances, fabric conditioners or additives.
Although it may seem wisest to wash your Air Force 1s alone, actually adding other materials is healthiest for your shoe as it will soften the repeated impacts against the drum.
Old white towels, dish cloths or others may be ideal, as shoes tend to carry more dirt than clothes and so avoiding exposing your clothes to dirt can be avoided by washing these household materials instead.
Once completed, do not place your Air Force 1s in the drier as this opens an opportunity for a great deal of heat damage to your shoes. The leather will likely be damaged by the heat, causing cracking and shrinkage.
Although sun can help with bacteria in shoes, it is not ideal for leather shoes, especially Air Force 1s as it can cause shrinkage thanks to the heat exposure. Avoid exposing them to the sun, and allow them to air dry slowly.
A cold fan, open window, or shade outside is perfect for the shoes. They may take 24 hours or longer to dry, but avoid keeping them in an area with stagnant humid air as this may cause mold.
Try to keep movement in the air or avoid humidity.
How to remove stains on my Air Force 1s?
If you have stains on your Air Force 1s, this can appear daunting. However, you do not need any specialist equipment to remove these stains.
Apply non-gel toothpaste in a white color to your white Air Force 1s, squirting a pea-sized amount onto the stain. Rub this into the leather of your shoes with your finger to distribute it, and then use a wet toothbrush to thoroughly rub it into the stain.
White toothpastes that include baking soda, often sold for whitening, can be ideal for this as they provide the lightening and gentle abrasion necessary to lift stains on white shoes.
The stain should visibly lift as you work.
Once it is completely lifted, wipe it off with a paper towel and then rinse the material by wiping a few times with a wet cloth or towel, ideally microfiber to make sure there are no traces of toothpaste left.
Dry the material as thoroughly as possible and leave somewhere well-ventilated to dry.
If your insoles are dirty or odorous, you can also use baking soda or bicarbonate of soda to air them out. Sprinkle the baking soda on the insoles of the shoe and leave overnight.
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Shake out the next day, and the smell should be gone. If you find there is some smell remaining or you cannot get the baking soda out, wash them gently in a washing machine.
Last update on 2022-08-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API