How To Clean & Take Care Of Your Bowling Shoes
Updated: Jan 7
Bowling shoes, as with anything, will begin to wear and tear over time, and is accelerated if you're an avid bowler. As they begin to pick up dirt, scuffs and tears, your performance on the alley is severely impacted, and this is why keeping your bowling shoes taken care of is of utmost importance. Here are some of the best ways to clean and hence, take care of your shoes!
Bowling shoes are to bowlers what tennis racquets are to tennis players. You can't play your best without one, and the right ones make the best shots. If you want to know more about why we wear bowling shoes in more detail, click on this article here!
How Do You Clean A Bowling Shoe?
Ignoring the sole, bowling shoes can be cleaned like any other shoes. You'll need some materials though, most not absolutely needed, but the results are definitely better.
You'll want to have:
# Organic Dish Washing Soap.
# A Brush. This can be something like a paintbrush (make sure it's clean!), old toothbrush or a worn out crepe brush. They'll all do the same job.
# Shoe Tree. It make's it so much easier when brushing the toe section. Stuffing newspapers can be done, but I wouldn't recommend it. Wet paper = Bleeding Ink = Disaster!
# Dry towel.
# Wire Brush.
Once you've got all the materials, the steps are quite straightforward:
1) You'll want to make a cleaning solution by mixing a small amount of organic dish washing soap and lukewarm water.
2) Start by washing the laces. The way I do it is, I remove the laces and put on a small amount of cleaning solution, then massage the laces. Rinse and repeat for about 3 times, then dry with a dry towel.
3) Wash the uppers. You'll want to do this by applying some cleaning solution, and taking your brush and gently clean the uppers. Then take a dry towel and press it down on the uppers to blot, and lift as much soapy residue as you can. Repeating this step 2-3 times will guarantee a near spotless shoe.
4) Air-dry the shoes by leaving them out in the sun, or in any other dry place.
The method above is completely safe and has a very low risks of damaging the shoes. What you definitely don't want to do, is place your bowling shoes into a dryer or washing machine (chance of damaging your machines are really high), or use really harsh cleaning products like bleach.
Now, I can speak from experience. Many moons ago, being lazy, I decided to throw an old pair of Dexter shoes into the washing machine. Let me tell you, I could not recognise them. They were bent, out of shape, and the soles were completely ruined. First and last time! It taught me that It is 100% worth it to sit down, take your time, and hand-clean your shoes.
How Do Clean Leather Bowling Shoes?
For leather bowling shoes, you really need to modify some of the cleaning steps.
To clean leather bowling shoes, like one of my favourites, the Dexter SST 8 Pro, you have to understand that the leather is always finished and painted. Zero pressure is key. I'd recommend using your soft brushes and a small bit of your cleaning solution. Brush in the direction of the stitching, carefully, back and forth.
Did I mention zero pressure? Add extra cleaning solution and elbow grease for the stubborn stain, don't stress, it'll come out if you have the willpower! After you've brushed the a few times with the lather, make sure to immediately and carefully wipe it down with a dry cloth, drying top to bottom while following the stitching.
Depending on the quality of the leather, brushing back and forth is something I would consider adjusting. For leather bowling shoes on the higher end like the Dexter SST 8 Pro, you're allowed to be a little bit rough (still keep the pressure low, don't go crazy). But for lower end like the Dexter Drew's, the quality of the leather is lower and, in most cases, thinner. For these shoes, you'll want to brush only in one direction in one smooth brush, reducing the chances stripping away specs of paint and leather.
How Do You Clean The Midsoles?
Congratulations! You have cleaned the upper bowling shoe and dried them, the hard part is done! Now it's time for the midsoles. Depending on the shoe, your midsole cleaning session may be hell or bliss. Some midsoles are completely flat, some have black painted boosts, some have nooks, some have cracks, some have ridges like the KR Strikeforce bowling shoes, but there's a way of cleaning them all that has generally worked for me.
Grab your brush and apply some cleaning solution. Brush left to right, all around the shoe, but be careful to not get too much soapy residue on the uppers. Once te entirety of the midsole has been wiped down, inspect for signs of surviving stains. Apply extra pressure, but use your best judgement here. If it's a painted surface, I recommend avoiding brushes, but rather opt for a small microfibre cloth, by wrapping around and scrubbing using a finger. When you're satisfied, simply leave dry the midsoles with a dry towel and leave to dry at room temperature.
How Do You Clean The Bottom Of The Bowling Shoes + The Slide Strip?
I get a lot of questions regarding how I keep the bottom of my bowling shoes looking clean and pristine, that allow me to effortlessly slide 24.7. While it may sound like a pain to deal with, cleaning the bottom and slide strip of a bowling shoe is rather simple.
For the rubber portion of you soles, all you need to do is apply some cleaning solution and brush those suckers up. Side to side, top to bottom, it doesn't matter, just be careful to not go too crazy and apply too much pressure, you could potentially damage your soles. Just dry them off with a dry towel once you're satisfied, and prepare for the slide strip. Here you approach cleaning with a new weapon, the wire brush.
Wire brushes are cheap and reliable little guys, essential in a bowlers arsenal. Before you use the wire brush, it is imperative that the slides are dry. Any residual moisture should be wiped immediately! Once dry, you'll want to take the wire brush and delicately brush either top to bottom or side to side.
How do you know which way? In my experience, I've found that if I brush the slides side to side with the wire brush, I slide less on the approach. I also saw that If you want to slide more, simply brush the slides top to bottom. Delicate is the key here, don't rush it and push too hard, you'll ruin your slides. Scotch brite pads can also be used if you do not have wire brushes. You'll hear sometimes of people using their fingernails instead of wire brushes, I would not recommend that, unless it was a last resort.
There comes a certain point in your shoe's life where brushing won't help your slides anymore and replacing, or buying a new shoe is the only option. Remember safety > cost, concerning slides. You'll remember that when you faceplant a few times because of old, dirty slides.
Bowling Shoe Accessories
If you want to take the extra step (pun intended) and really take care of your shoes, you may want to invest in these accessories:
# Bowling Shoe Cover
# Slip On Bowling Shoe Slides
# 10 Seconds Shoe Disinfectant and Deodorizer
Bowling Shoe covers are as the name implies, are covers for the shoe which you place over the soles (most variations go over the toes too) of the bowling shoes to protect them. They are absolutely essential if you don't plan on hauling an extra pair of shoes to the alley. Every time you walk around the bowling centre in your bowling shoes, you're going to be stepping on dirt, French fry grease, and god forbid, piss and toilet water in the bathroom. Like me, I know you guys definitely won't want that on your precious bowling shoes, not to mention the obvious impact to your performance on the alley. I guarantee you, for only a $10-$20 dollar investment, you won't find a better way of protecting your bowling shoes. Prevention is better than a cure!
Slip on bowling shoe slides are similar to shoe covers, except they have an in-built slide. Do not mistake this for protection as stepping on dirt and piss will ruin them. Think of this accessory as a kind of...noble sacrifice. Instead of risking damage to the actual slides on your bowling shoes, these will charge head on and soak up potential
dirtiness. What do I mean by this? Well some alleys are built differently than others, and hence the levels of dirtiness varies. If you know the approach is going to be dirty (or can see it), wouldn't it be smarter to slip on these replaceable slip on slides. and bowl using them instead of your maybe more expensive shoe slides? For this reason, I strongly advise investing in at least one for when this situation meets you. It has saved me more than once!
If you find yourself spending hours a time at a bowling alley, I would highly recommend some sort of shoe spray to keep your shoes clean, and smelling good. Personally, I use the 10 Seconds Shoe Disinfectant and Deodorizer. It is a cheap, convenient and great spray that not only keeps your shoe smelling fresh, but disinfects it as well (athlete's foot sucks). I highly recommend using any spray, which is able to clean your shoe as well as disinfect it. Your nose, friends and feet will thank you for it!
Taking the time to sit down, pull out some water and soap, and clean your shoes may be boring for some, but to ensure the longevity of your bowling shoes it is a necessary activity. I hope this guide gives you bowlers some tips and tricks about taking care of your shoes, especially in the areas of cleaning techniques, and accessory options. What experience has taught me, is that If you do take the time to take care of your shoes, your shoe may reward you back by giving back your time, by giving you fun and fun in the years to come.
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