Clean Your Sperry Top-Siders!

Sperry Top-Siders Are Awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I love high heels just as much as the next girl (or guy, or transgendered person, or whatever), but I also love me a good pair of flats. Having said that, your feet are bound to get wet, hot and sweaty not to mention your shoes scuffed and worn.  And this can become a particular concern if you’re wearing a pair of Sperry Top-Siders, the fashion mark of dockside style.

It’s universally agreed (trust me) that a pair of Sperry shoes is the way to go for dockside summer style.

These here are my husband’s Sperry Shoes.
The pair on the right are nubuck leather and on the left, they are canvas.

Alrighty, let’s clean your Sperry Top-Siders!

For starters, determine what kind of leather your Sperry Top-Siders are made out of:

Full Grain Leather, Suede, Nubuck?

Although they are all leather, they are processed and dyed differently so they’ll require different kinds of treatment.

  • Nubuck has a smooth, velvety feel that has been sanded down and scars easily.
  • Suede feels like high pile velvet and is more rugged than nubuck
  • Leather feels like, you know, leather. Touch your couch and you’ll get the idea.

Leather is very absorbent and relatively delicate so you have to keep on top of the stains to avoid messing up your shoes beyond repair.

* Some Sperry shoes come with embellishments like faux fur, metallic leather and sequins, so these need to be treated carefully as well.

Items You Will Need

Pick up a suede bar & leather brush (a cleaning toothbrush will also work).  They are between $5-$10.

I always get annoyed when shoe stores try to sell me the associated accoutrements with my shoes but in this case I’d say it’s worth it.   You can’t handle a stain on these shoes otherwise and they really do work.

You’ll also need:

  • Leather Protective Spray
  • Leather Cleaner
  • Toothbrush (if you don’t have a leather brush)
  • Baking Soda
  • A Clean Cloth

To avoid damaging your shoes, try using a quality microfiber towel from Maker’s Clean!

Cleaning Full Grain Leather Sperrys

Follow the directions of the product and remember to never use a detergent as it will dry out the leather and ruin the shoe. 

  • Apply leather cleaner to a soft cloth and wipe the grime off the surface. 
  • If you need to get any dirt of debris off the shoe, use a soft bristle brush to loosen the dirt. 
  • Once that’s done, massage a leather conditioner into the shoe to re-moisten the leather and let them dry for 24 hours. 
  • To clean the soles, use a cleaning toothbrush and a little bit of soapy water. 
  • Lay flat to dry for 24 hours.

Cleaning Suede Sperrys

Clean them once dirt or mud is dry. 

  • Start by gently brushing your shoes to remove any dust, debris or dirt.  Always brush in the same direction and do this gently, brush off the dirt but don’t scar the leather.  This goes for salt and water stains, scuff marks and caked-on dirt. 
  • Then, apply some steam (either using a steamer or a kettle) to further loosen any dirt of debris and raise the nap of the steam from about a foot away.
  • Re-brush the area with the suede brush to lift the nap. 
  • Use a suede bar to erase any stains or flattened areas and  finish that off by gently brushing the area to lift the nap. 
  • You can finish off by treating them with a protective spray and let dry for 24 hours.

Cleaning Nubuck Sperrys

Which is again, similar to suede with a finer nap, accept right off the bat that they will look dirtier than other types of leather; they are more susceptible to staining. 

  • Use the brush to loosen any dirt (and try to use a rubber bristled brush instead of a nylon brush because the nylon brush will show scarring). 
  • Then, use the suede bar to rub out any stains or marks, you can dampen it to further clean and condition the shoe. 
  • Re-brush the leather afterward to lift the nap. 
  • Treat with a leather protective spray.

Looking to Clean your Canvas Sperrys (or TOMS)? This Article Will Help!

After Use in Salt Water

Thoroughly rinse with fresh water to remove any remaining salt which will dry and damage the shoe, and leave salt stains.

Then, stuff shoes with newspaper and air dry before wearing again or storage to help keep the shape and absorb moisture.

If possible, dry the removable insole separately.

To Clean the soles of the shoes

Simply clean with a toothbrush and some baking soda, rinse well and the stains should be gone.

Towel dry and be sure not to get any baking soda onto the leather.

Insoles & Smells

I am a huge proponent of foot powder to help eliminate moisture and bad smells, and this is a case where prevention is the best cure.

Want to make your own Food Powder? Watch this video!

Some Sperry shoes have removable insoles.  You can’t really wash your leather Topsiders, so take the insole out if you can and rinse under cool water adding a little bit of dish liquid, but vegetable soap or glycerine is preferable since it’s gentler on leather.

Rinse the soles out well and let them air dry, not exposed to any heat to avoid shrivelling.

Replace and make sure you deodorize them often.

These shoes are NOT designed to go into the washing machine, so take good care of them and you’ll have your Sperry shoes last you for years.

For more info on how to combat those nasty shoe smells check out our article How to Get Ride of Smelly Shoes!

If you’re looking to up your cleaning game check out our E-Book Bundle! It gives you three amazing e-books (The Complete Guide to Essential Oils, My 3-Wave Cleaning System, and 50 DIY Cleaning Recipes) and is the perfect gift for any cleaning fanatics out there!


Post your shoe pics on our Facebook page or tweet them to us, we love to see your before and after shots.

Don’t forget to share this on Twitter and Facebook if you found it helpful.

Leave us any comments you may have and thanks for reading!

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.


  1. I have white cotton sperrys with leather laces. Im guessing I have to remove them first before washing, or they may bleed?? Is there a trick to untying the knots??
    Thank you in advance!

  2. Hi Melissa! I just bough a top sider for my hubby and the shoes got some rust stains on the side sole….id there a chance that i can get the rust stain out of the side soles????

    let me know since it’s my first time to have a top sider since im in a hot country right now…thanks and more power!!!

  3. I have some Angelfish shoes made from sparkly leather and maybe linen (a woven fabric) ? What do you suggest please?

  4. My son spilled chocolate milk on his Sperry top sliders and now they have stains all on them. How can I remove these stains

  5. I often use peroxide to clean the insoles in Sperrys and it removes the horrendous smell of sweaty man feet. First the crud is scraped off with whatever you feel comfortable using,a pocket knife is my preference. Next, I pour peroxide over the insoles and allow to air dry. I work up the courage to perform a smell check and the smell bad disappears. Baking Soda and Peroxide mixed together solves many odor and cleaning issues as well. The Peroxide works without the Baking Soda while cleaning the insoles as well as the inside of the shoe. The above is based on my experiences. Pinterest ideas can be awesome and have assisted me many time.

  6. Have a pair of nubuck sperry. I washed it and it seems it faded. I let it dry direct from the sun. Is there a way it will return to its orig color?

  7. My daughter has a new pair of sperry canvas shoes. She wore them one time and since her playground is surfaced with ground up tires there are black marks all over them. Do you have any suggestions on what may work to get them clean? Once I get them clean do you recommend putting a protective coating spray on them or will that not help prevent the tire marks?


  8. My daughter has a pair of sperry topsider Laguna boat shoes in linen/oat and another in a brown/leopard color. The linen/oat are a very light color. They got stained from a new pair of blue jeans. We used mint instant sneaker cleaner, a towel, and a toothbrush for the leather/suede part. I sprayed the cleaner, rubbed with a towel, and then lightly brushed them to make sure the cleaner was rubbed in well enough. There was a spot that looked like it was going to leave a stain so I rubbed it out with the toothbrush. I then sprayed more cleaner onto the rubber on the bottom. I brushed it with the toothbrush and wiped it off with the towel. One of them air dried and the other I put in front of a fan. When it first dries you can sort of see where it was cleaned, but I just used my fingers to smooth them out. They look like new! We sprayed them with a protector so hopefully it doesn’t happen again. I almost thought we had ruined them, but you just need to gently rub in the cleaner. They won’t look clean at first and will appear wet, but they looked great after they dried.

  9. Scuffs and scrapes in the nubuck leather disappear with a little hand lotion rubbed on the area. It can also be used to polish up and freshen the look of your nubuck.

    • Not sure if it works for leather but for anything else place a piece of brown paper bag over wax and rub with an iron. The melted wax is absorbed by the paper

  10. My Sperry’s are white leather. I took shoe lace out, and can’t get it back in (to wash) now I am in trouble. I also put white shoe polish on them from SAS (good quality)…now what do I do. I think now white are touch me nots!

  11. Hi, Melissa, I love your site, I can spend hours looking at your u-tube videos. I got a question. My bathroom wall got dye stains black color in white wall. I don’t know which product will erase them, I am going to move to another house. so please help me at your earlist

    Thank you very much

  12. I wish I could copy the instructions but don’t see where it’s possible thus I’ll just have to look this up again. Many thanks for a through set of instructions!

  13. HI Melissa,

    I just bought a pair of (Gold Cup Authentic Original 2-Eye Boat Shoe) White Ivory Leather Sperry’s and within the 1st 10 mins of wearing them cooking breakfast before I left for work, I must have accidentally spilled some of the white egg yolk on the tip of them before I separated it from the yolk and threw it in the trash can!! Grrrr!

    Then i quickly Google’d how to clean them and it said take a toothbrush and toothpaste to them. Well now after they have dried, the toe of my right shoe where the stain was is now an off white color 🙁

    Is there any hope? Should I toss them into the washing machine.. idk what to do, I am a 31 yr old male who lives alone. Is there any way i can get the toe clean again ot match the white leather to the rest of the shoe?

  14. My sperrys have leather around the edge and white fabric on the rest of it, I accidentally got the leather wet when I was cleaning them and the leather bled onto the white part of my shoe and made them all brown, what do I do!? Please help

  15. OK, I just have to teach my way to clean Sperry Nubuck Top-Sides. First I’ll explain what happened that led me to this.

    I had an old light brown pair that I used to work in while my husband and I were building our house. They got dirty a lot and I never had to go through all of this trouble to clean them. I splattered some oil on them and grabbed the first thing available, to wipe what I could off.

    Later that night, I had time to evaluate how much damage the oil splatters did. What I saw was, the Members Mark household wipes had removed most of the oil and left the condition of the Nubuck in pristine condition. I then used the wipes again and concentrated on the remaining spots while also cleaning the entire leather area to avoid spotting. The leather dried within 15 minutes and the result was a spotless shoe with the Nubuck finish undamaged I have since then, over several years, used the same method on the rest of my Sperry Nubuck Top-Sider shoes, regardless of what I get on them.

    • Sandra, I read your reply and then had to go to Sam’s. I happened to see the Maker’s Mark wipes, and bought them. The suede stick and brush weren’t very effective. The wipes were WONDERFUL! The shoes that I was afraid I’d have to relegate to the pile used for yard work look good as new. Thanks so much for your suggestion!

  16. HELP! My Beloved Sperry insoles are not leather and neither is it removable (aka it’s glued) but due to wearing it sans socks it’s green color is now a disgusting black. Should I remove it and brush then just glue it back? Any ideas how to clean it without removing the insole?

  17. my son has a pair of cream colored leather topsiders that are blood stained. when i applied leather cleaner, eventually the stain faded but the shoe instantly turned a grayish color. how do I restore the original cream color? also, how do i get blood out of the shoe completely? also-i used cold water and a damp sponge when i applied the liquid leather cleaner, but the sponge had a pink tint to it which looks like some of the reddish pink color has transferred slightly onto the shoe.

  18. Hey Melissa! I just wanted to know that I absolutely adore your website and YouTube channel! You have an error in this post that links the DIY Foot Powder Video. It says “Want to make your own Food Powder? Watch this video!”. I was looking forward to a FOOD powder! Lol, keep up the good work.


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