How To Clean Toms – The Comprehensive Guide to Cleaning Toms Without Damaging Them

I absolutely adore Toms shoes. Comfortable, breathable, lightweight, versatile, stylish, affordable…what’s not to fall in love with? Well…actually, if I’m being completely honest with myself, I do have one small gripe with the design — they get real dirty, real quick!

With such low-profile outsoles, dust, dirt, and debris kicked up from the ground can easily find anchorage on the fibrous canvas uppers. All of a sudden, our once stylish brand-name shoes look more like we just foraged them from a bush that also happened to contain a mangled Playboy mag from the 60s.

Don’t worry, though; I’ve got your back (and feet) with this comprehensive guide on how to clean your Toms shoes. Ready to witness a revival? Fantastic; let’s get to it!

There are two methods you can use to get those Toms back in tip-top shape, handwashing or machine washing. As it’s by far the safest of the two options, I’m going to address handwashing techniques first.

How To Clean Your Toms by Hand

Handwashing may be more time-consuming, but if you really care for your Toms, you won’t mind treating them to a spot of extra TLC, especially if it’s going to extend their service life.

For the handwashing method, you’re going to need…

  • A soft-bristle brush – And when I say soft, I mean it. Canvas may be lovely and breathable, but it’s not all that durable, so needless to say, going at it with steel wool or stiff bristles isn’t an option.
  • A sink or a large bowl.
  • Cold water – Enough to fill the aforementioned sink or bowl.
  • Gentle laundry detergent – Harsh chemicals can be just as damaging, if not more so, to the fabric of your Toms than rough materials, so be sure to pick up a mild detergent or perhaps even a natural soap.

1. Dry Cleaning

Before we introduce any moisture to our sloppy slip-ons, we need to give them a good ol’ scrub all over with our soft-bristle brush in order to dislodge the first layer of dust and debris.

If we go straight in, hell for leather canvas with our water, it’s only going to form a solution with that first layer of grime, allowing it to sink deeper into our beloved Toms, making our job more difficult later on in the process.

2. H2Oh Yeah!!!

Okay, now we can fill our receptacle with cold water. You don’t need to fill your bowl or sink all the way to the top – that’s a recipe for disaster – but you will need a decent amount in there to dip into.

Once you’re happy with your water level, go ahead and add in that mellow laundry detergent we were talking about earlier. Again, you don’t need loads, so take it nice and easy. A little, measured spill should be enough to get some bubbles a-risin’.

Side-Note – Dish soap is usually safe to use too if you don’t want to buy a whole bottle of detergent to wash a single pair of shoes, but make sure there are no super chemicals in it designed to melt through burnt-on food.

3. Wet Cleaning

Wait, wait, wait…before you straight-up dunk your Toms in the water, you should know that we’re just going to be wetting our soft-bristled brush and using that to scrub the canvas.

Make sure you give it a rinse with fresh water to clean off the residual dirt from the dry-cleaning, then give it a generous dip in your cold water cleaning solution. Once it’s good and sudsy, grab your Toms and gently brush the canvas with small circular motions.

Proceed until you’ve scrubbed the entire upper of both your Toms. If you’ve completed one round, but you can still see stains, repeat the process, but don’t press any harder with the brush. We’ll address the tough leftover stains in a bit.

Another important thing to bear in mind is that if you’re washing sequined Toms, you need to scrub with them rather than against them, otherwise, you’ll end up ripping some of them off, leaving your glam shoes resembling a semi-scaled fish — not a great look.

4. All-Natural Air Drying

I’m gonna level with you; dryers are completely out of the question. Even their mildest settings can be damaging to both the canvas and soles of your Toms. You’ve worked hard and walked tons of steps trying to get those footbeds to mold to your foot shape, and it only takes a few minutes in the dryer to pull everything out of whack.

If you’re in a rush, you may get away with speeding up the drying process with a mild hairdryer setting, but for the best results, I highly recommend leaving your Toms to air dry.

You can treat them to a spot of direct sunlight if you want, but keep in mind that the heat will tighten the fibers of the canvas, giving your Toms a snugger fit. You can use this to your advantage if your Toms are getting on a bit, and they’re feeling a little loose.

I can’t say how long the drying process will take as it depends on how moist they got during the wet-clean, but I’d hazard a guess that they’ll be out of action for at least four hours, so make sure you’ve got an alternative to wear in the meantime.

5. Doubling Down on Tough Stains

It can be hard to tell how effective the cleaning process has been until the canvas is completely dry, but don’t worry if a few stubborn stains survived the scrubbing. All you have to do now is rinse off your brush, dunk it in your cleaning solution, and hit those residual stains directly with some wet spot cleaning.

How To Clean Your Toms Using a Washing Machine

Although I definitely recommend hand cleaning your Toms, machine washing them isn’t completely out of the question, but if you want them to live a long and happy life under your feet, you have to approach it in a very specific way.

Here’s what you’re going to need.

  • A washing machine – Only washing machines with very delicate cycles are suitable.
  • A towel or laundry bag – Just for a little bit of added protection when the barrel gets a-rollin’.
  • A soft-bristle brush – For some spot cleaning.

1. Dry Cleaning

I know you’re probably choosing to machine wash your Toms because you’re short on time, but if you can stretch it, I’d still suggest a preliminary dry spot clean with a soft-bristle brush. You don’t have to be quite as thorough; a quick once over will do fine.

2. Cycle Selection

You should always wash your Toms on the gentlest cycle available. It can be kind of hard identifying the soft cycle on some machines, but generally speaking, if you see anything labeled “Delicates”, “Slow”, or “Lingerie”, that’s the one you’re looking for.

3. Temperature Tantrums

We need to keep your Toms nice and cool during the cleaning cycle because when they get hot, they start misbehaving. The canvas draws inwards, and the soles start pulling some serious shapes.

While it’s true that slightly warm water isn’t always a threat to canvas, it’s always best to play it safe and choose the coldest temperature setting on your washing machine.

4. Damage Prevention (Optional)

So, we’ve discussed the risk of temperature damage, but even on a cold, delicate wash, your Toms are about to get a little roughed up, so I suggest wrapping them in an old towel or sealing them in a washing bag before committing them to the barrel.

5. Detergent Dilemma

Okay, you’ve bagged your Toms, put them in the barrel, and you’re ready to get the show on the road — great! But first, there’s the question of how much detergent to put in.

As you’re only washing a pair of shoes, you won’t need torrents of the stuff. Try to portion out roughly a quarter of the detergent you would typically use for a full load. If you’ve only got detergent pouches, you should be fine throwing one of those in, but remember, any detergent you use needs to be mild. Solutions that contain bleach are to be avoided.

6. Timing Troubles

Ideally, your Toms will be in the washing machine for as little time as possible, but we still need them to come out nice and clean. My advice is to start with a 30-40 minute wash.

7. Starting the Cycle

Right then, peeps, we’ve done all the prep we can. Now it’s time to bite the bullet and fire up the washing machine. Feel free to go about your day and get a few chores done, but try to make it back to the machine as the cycle wraps up. The longer you leave your Toms in there, the more likely they’ll develop that nasty wet laundry smell when they dry out.

8. All-Natural Air Drying (Again)

Once again, we need to let our Toms dry naturally, so we don’t warp the canvas or soles. It’s going to take much longer for machine-washed Toms to dry, as the insole as well as the canvas will be saturated.

You can place them in direct sunlight to speed things up a bit, but I wouldn’t leave them there for the whole drying process.

It might be worth scrunching up some paper towels and stuffing your Toms for an hour or so, letting the paper soak up excess moisture.

9. Wet Spot Cleaning

Now your Toms are dry as a bone, you’ll be able to see what the machine accomplished. If there are still some stains, mix the same cold water solution I mentioned in the handwashing guide, dip your soft-bristle brush, and use it to buff the marks away.

10. Once More with Feeling

For ultimate cleanliness, after the spot clean, wrap them up in your towel or laundry bag, give them another round in the machine with the same settings as before, then leave them to air dry again.

Summing Up

That’s all there is to it, team Toms. Hit your shoes with one of these methods, perhaps even both, and they’ll be looking slick as the day you bought them. Just remember to be gentle with them, and never, ever put them in a mechanical dryer.

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