Cleaning Soccer Cleats – The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Cleats Looking Their Best!

Soccer cleats are an indispensable part of a soccer player’s getup. Their footwear are weapons in their arsenal that make a difference in their game, and caring for their boots is a regular part of the post-match routine. But some may be wondering how to go about this the right way.

Cleaning soccer cleats should be done correctly to avoid damage. You’ll need a tool to remove dirt from the soles, a washcloth or sponge, a soft-bristled brush, and detergent for cleaning the outer part. You can also machine-wash them for a more thorough cleanse, then let them air dry indoors.

In this article, I will go in-depth into all you need to know about how to care for your soccer cleats. I will also walk you through the steps you should follow to keep them clean and in the best condition. 

How Do You Wash Soccer Cleats?

Soccer cleats are bound to get dirty after a game, but they don’t have to stay that way until the next use. Cleaning should be a part of a soccer player’s post-match routine, and they can go about this by manually washing the cleats or using a washing machine. 

Each of these two methods will do the job of getting your soccer cleats clean. But in case you need help deciding which one to go with, let’s take a closer look at each.

Manually Washing Your Soccer Cleats

Dirty Soccer Cleats
Dirty Soccer Cleats

Cleaning shoes by hand is the most common way to get them done. Not everyone has quick access to a washing machine, and some of those who do may think twice about the electricity bill when it comes to machine-washing their soccer cleats on a regular basis.

A meticulous handwash is the cheaper alternative, and some people also consider it the more practical option. 

If you’re thinking of manually washing your soccer cleats, you will need to get the following items together before you begin:

  • Tool for removing dirt
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Washcloth
  • Detergent

Cleaning your soccer cleats should be a systematic process. Once you have everything in place and you’re ready to begin, follow these next steps:

  1. Clean the dry dirt from the soles. The first thing you need to do is clean the soles of your soccer cleats. They will typically have mud and grass wedged in after a game, and most players begin their cleaning process by trying to knock off the dirt when coming off the pitch. You can also use a popsicle stick, a knife, a screwdriver, or some other tool to pry out the more stubborn dirt sticking to the soles. 
  2. Wet clean the soles. Using a toothbrush with soapy water, clean the soles of your soccer cleats. Be sure to properly clean each stud and the areas in between studs. When the toothbrush has gotten rid of the dirt, use a paper towel soaked in the soapy solution to wipe the soles clean.
  3. Clean the shoe laces. Remove the laces from your soccer cleats and wash them separately. Give them an initial rinse, then soak them in soapy water for 10 minutes so that the dirt comes off more easily. You can then use a toothbrush to scrub off the dirt before rinsing the laces with water, wringing them, and hanging them to dry. 
  4. Clean the upper part of the cleats. Use a soft-bristled brush or sponge with soapy water to clean the upper part of your soccer cleats. You can brush off the tougher dirt stains for initial cleaning, then rub them off with a sponge. Remember to clean around the eyelets and the tongue. These areas are easily accessible once the laces have been removed. 
  5. Dry your soccer cleats. Wipe your cleats dry using a clean rug or paper towel. You can also stuff the insides with paper towels or newspapers to absorb any water that may have gotten inside while cleaning. 
  6. Re-lace your soccer cleats. When you’ve wiped the cleats dry, and the laces have dried, you can loosely re-lace the shoes and make the necessary adjustments when you put them on. 
  7. Store your soccer cleats. Keep your clean cleats away from direct sunlight. Place them on a shoe rack or store them in a breathable shoe bag where they’ll be waiting and ready for the next time you gear up in them.

Machine Washing Your Soccer Cleats

Machine washing your soccer cleats seems like the more convenient method at first glance. That is, until you consider that you must go through the same steps in manually washing your cleats before they are ready to go into the machine. 

Now it feels like double the work, doesn’t it? But on a positive note, going the extra mile will give your soccer cleats a thorough cleaning, including on the inside. 

There are just a couple of things you need to keep in mind when opting to put this footwear in the washing machine.

  1. Give your soccer cleats an initial cleaning. Follow steps one through five of the procedure in manually washing your soccer cleats to prepare them for machine wash.
  2. Place your soccer cleats in a bag. Once your soccer cleats have been initially cleaned, put them in a mesh laundry washing bag. If you do not have one, you can use a pillowcase instead. But be sure to secure it, so your cleats stay inside throughout the wash cycle. You may also choose to include your shoelaces here.
  3. Put your soccer cleats in the washing machine. Once your soccer cleats are in a laundry washing bag or a pillowcase, place them in the washing machine and put the settings to cold/delicate using a mild laundry detergent. 
  4. Let your soccer cleats air dry. When the washing machine is done, take out your soccer cleats. The spin cycle will have gotten rid of the excess water. So, although they will still be wet, you won’t have to worry about them dripping. Place them somewhere they can air dry and away from direct sunlight. If there are insoles, take them out to dry separately. 
  5. Store your soccer cleats. When your soccer cleats are completely dry, return the insoles, re-lace them, and put them away. You can keep them on a shoe rack or place them in a breathable shoe bag so you can just pick them up and go on your next matchday.

How Do You Dry Soccer Cleats?

The next practical step after washing your soccer cleats is to dry them. There are several ways to do this, but the correct one is to wipe dry the soles and upper part of the footwear with a dry, clean rug or paper towel. If you also washed the inside of the cleats, leave them somewhere, they can air dry indoors. 

If it sounds like it will take time, you’re right. It will. This will suffice for those who only play occasionally, perhaps on weekends. However, some people are more active and use their cleats more often throughout the week. They understandably want to speed up the drying process.

Some of the common faster methods include:

  • Putting soccer cleats in a clothes dryer.
  • Drying soccer cleats using a blow dryer. 
  • Drying soccer cleats in the sun.

Each of these methods can effectively dry your soccer cleats faster because of one thing they have in common: heat. However, it’s very important to note that using these means will cause damage to your footwear, and here’s how:

  • Heat damages leather. Modern soccer cleats are made using either kangaroo leather (K-Leather), calfskin/full-grain leather, Pittard’s leather, or synthetic leather. Each one of these is easily damaged by high heat. When repeatedly exposed to these temperatures, any type of leather will begin to crack or become distorted. 
  • Heat melts glue. Soccer cleats are held together by more than just intricate stitches. Some parts are glued together, and this glue can be melted by high heat. Your cleats may be well-dried through one of the above-mentioned methods, but they will begin to come apart.
  • Heat fades out colors. Using heat, particularly sun-drying will fade out the colors of your soccer cleats, from the leather itself to the laces. 

If the idea of cleaning your soccer cleats is to keep them in good condition, using heat to dry them effectively defeats that purpose. When you weigh the pros and cons, it just isn’t worth it to speed up the drying at the expense of causing damage to your cleats. 

The surest way to have soccer cleats that are clean and remain in good condition is to air dry them after washing. Yes, it may take longer. But your cleats will also last longer this way. 

Simply put them somewhere away from direct sunlight and allow them to air dry. Ideally, the area should be well-ventilated. 

You can also make use of the following tips to slightly speed up the drying:

  • Stuff your wet soccer cleats with absorbents. The inside of your soccer cleats will take the longest to dry. You can stuff them with newspapers or paper towels to absorb the water from the fabric lining the inside of the shoes and thus help them to dry faster. Change the newspapers and paper towels occasionally so the new, dry ones can absorb more water.
  • Put your wet soccer cleats in front of a fan. You can use an electric fan to dry your wet soccer cleats. Lean them against a wall with their tongues out and face the electric fan directly at them. This will take significantly longer than a dryer, but the cool air will not damage your cleats and will be faster than drying without an electric fan. 

Why Do My Soccer Cleats Smell?

Outdoor Soccer Cleat
Outdoor Soccer Cleat

It’s an eventuality. That heavenly smell of brand new soccer cleats will ultimately turn into a stink even you can scarcely tolerate. 

Your soccer cleats smell because of bacteria overgrowth, just like any other shoe. You wear them over long periods of activity, and they absorb the sweat from your feet. If you don’t regularly clean your soccer cleats, this will translate into an unpleasant stench over time.

While sweat is the short-answer-culprit, it’s really bacteria responsible for that nauseating odor emanating from your soccer cleats. In particular, the Kyetococcus sedentarius produces organic acids and volatile sulfur compounds with a terrible smell. 

These bacteria multiply in dark, damp places like the inside of uncleaned soccer cleats. The more of them there are, the more organic acids and volatile sulfur compounds are produced, and naturally, the more overpowering the smell becomes.

This is better illustrated if you’ve ever had wet or damp soccer cleats stored away in a bag. When you opened it, Schrödinger’s cat was not only alive and well but thriving.

This was because your soccer cleats’ already dark and damp environment was compounded by the bag they were put in, allowing the bacteria to multiply even more.

While the smell of soccer cleats is primarily from the insoles and fabric lining the inside of your soccer cleats that are directly in contact with your sweating feet, the shoe laces also contribute to the smell from the dirt and moisture they absorb. This makes them breeding grounds for bacteria as well.

Why Do My Soccer Cleats Smell Like Cat Pee?

Soccer Cleat
Soccer Cleat

Soccer cleats that have gone far too long without cleaning will naturally smell. But there are times when the odor is oddly specific. Many people have complained about their soccer shoes smelling like cat pee; often, the finger is pointed at an innocent resident tomcat. 

Your soccer cleats could smell like cat pee because of the materials used in manufacturing them. Their soles could be made of polyurethane that breaks down and releases ammonia when they are wet, or they have Teijin microfibers that start to rot when wet and produce an odor like that of cat pee.

Late into the first decade of the 2000s, Nike recalled thousands of pairs of soccer cleats across Britain because they smelled of cat pee. This was traced to the lining design, which let in air but did not let it back out. 

Nike gave customers a refund or a replacement, but the brand continues to be the most commonly associated with this malodorous phenomenon. 

However, wearers of different shoe brands have also complained of having this problem with their soccer cleats. If you want to know the specific reason for yours, find out the materials they’re made of and see if polyurethane or Teijin microfibers are on the list.

If you have a cat or there is one living around your area, keep your soccer cleats out of their reach as an extra precaution.

How to Remove Odor from Soccer Cleats

As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. But if your infrequently-washed soccer cleats are now emanating a foul smell, it isn’t the end of the world. There is still something you can do about it.

You can remove the odor from your soccer cleats by first cleaning them and letting them dry completely. Then you can use a store-bought deodorizing spray or more natural options, including vinegar, baking soda solution, and essential oils. 

Most athletes’ go-to is a deodorizing spray. I personally recommend the HEX Performance Deodorizing Spray from It’s specifically formulated for sports shoes and other athletic gear and equipment. You can spray it liberally in your soccer cleats.

But if you prefer something less expensive or organic, spraying essential oils, particularly tea tree oil and cedarwood oil, diluted in coconut oil, can get the job done. 

Alternatively, you can sprinkle baking soda on your soccer cleats. Baking soda has long been synonymous with odor removal in the kitchen and household, and you can harness its magic for your shoes. Simply sprinkle half a tablespoon in each shoe and leave it overnight to do its work. 

If none of these do the trick, you can try stuffing your soccer cleats with something to absorb the odor. The following are great options because their antibacterial and antifungal properties and pleasant scents are effective at removing odor from footwear.

  • Citrus peels
  • Cloves
  • Tea bags
  • Antibacterial soap

If you don’t have any of the items to spray on or stuff your soccer cleats with, there is still one more thing you can do that doesn’t require you to have anything except a freezer. 

Yes, you read that right. 

Because the odor-causing bacteria thrive in warmer temperatures, some people have taken to sticking their footwear in the freezer overnight to kill off the bacteria and eliminate the smell from their shoes. 

Simply put your soccer cleats in a large enough plastic bag and place them in the freezer. Of course, this will be more effective if you give them a good cleaning first to rid them of as much bacteria as possible before sentencing the rest to a frigid death.

To make all the above-mentioned methods more effective, you can replace your shoe laces and insoles with brand-new, bacteria-free ones. This would instantly rid your shoes of a considerable number of these bacteria. 

How Do You Keep Soccer Cleats from Smelling?

Soccer Cleat Use
Soccer Cleat Use

The most effective way to keep your soccer cleats from smelling is by regularly cleaning them and drying them thoroughly after each wash. You can also take other measures, such as using foot powder and deodorizing sprays.

Soccer cleats start to smell because dirt and moisture make them suitable environments for odor-producing bacteria. If you regularly wash your pair and ensure they are well-dried, these conditions will not encourage bacterial growth.

As an added measure, you can liberally spray your washed and dried soccer cleats with a deodorizing spray formulated for sports shoes. These products usually deodorize as well as prevent shoes from smelling. Be sure the one you choose includes the latter benefit.

Additionally, you can use foot powder to lessen the sweat from your feet and the overall moisture in your soccer cleats.

Can You Put Soccer Cleats in the Washing Machine?

Clean Soccer Cleat
Clean Soccer Cleat

One way of thoroughly cleaning your soccer cleats is by putting them in a washing machine. Machine-washing soccer shoes are safe. However, you will need to do an initial manual cleaning before loading them into the washer. 

It’s especially important to remove the mud and grass from the soles of your soccer cleats beforehand. Using a toothbrush and sponge to remove the dirt from the upper portion of the shoes is also recommended. 

When this has been done, place your soccer cleats in a mesh laundry washing bag or a pillowcase before committing them to the swirling vortex of water with a cold/delicate setting and mild laundry detergent for that cleansing.

Can You Put Soccer Boots in the Dryer?

You can technically put your soccer boots in the dryer. This will effectively dry them out faster. However, this is not recommended as the high heat will damage the material of the upper shoe and melt the glue used to hold the different parts together. 

If the situation calls for it and you choose to put your shoes in the dryer, tie together the laces of both boots or place them in a mesh laundry washing bag to minimize the tumbling and impact of the boot against the boot during the drying cycle.

What Happens If I Put My Cleats in the Dryer?

Putting your cleats in the dryer is the fastest and most efficient way of drying them completely, but it comes at a cost. The dryer’s high heat will damage the material of the shoes’ upper portion and melt the glue used to hold together some of the cleats’ different parts.

Most soccer cleats are made of some leather, and high heat will damage any type of leather, including synthetic leather. It can cause this material to crack or become distorted.

Additionally, the glue melting will weaken the bonds holding together parts of the shoes, and they may come apart altogether.

Can Adidas Soccer Cleats Be Washed?

Your Adidas soccer cleats can be washed. It is perfectly safe to do so. In fact, Adidas provides a guide on the best way to go about this. If you follow it, you should have a nice clean pair of cleats without any damage from the washing.

Can Nike Soccer Cleats Be Washed?

Nike Soccer Cleats
Nike Soccer Cleats

Nike soccer cleats can be washed, just like any other soccer cleat. It’s safe to clean this footwear with soap and water, either by manually brushing and wiping them clean or by putting them through a wash cycle in a washing machine. 

While there is absolutely no problem cleaning Nike soccer cleats, the company is concerned about how you dry them and provides instructions on the safe ways to do it.

Final Thoughts

Brand new cleats are always a source of pride and joy, but eventually, we must come to terms with the inevitable wear and tear. Regular cleaning is one way to keep your footwear in good condition for longer, and knowing the right way to go about this can be just as important as knowing the offside rule.


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