The word on the street has long been that EMPIRE keeps the promises it makes. These days the products are also used by professional sneaker cleaners. One of these is Marcello, better known as “cleanmysneaker.de”. Marcello is 34 years old, has been passionate about sneakers since his childhood and has since developed that passion into a business idea. In an interview with EMPIRE, he told us precisely how his business model works.
Hi Marcello, you’re a sneaker cleaner, i.e. you take messed-up sneakers and restore them to an almost-new condition. How do you get into that?
I’m an absolute sneakerhead myself and clean sneakers are my passion. For years I’ve always made sure that my sneakers stay clean. When clubbing I would watch my shoes more closely than anything else around me. I’d had the idea for cleanmysneaker.de for a while, but other stuff always got in the way and the idea kept getting kicked into the long grass. In 2016 I first started cleaning my friends’ sneakers. And it was successful. All the feedback was positive. A little later I set up my own business where I cleaned sneakers by hand. I can say that I really enjoy the work – for me it’s always a new challenge making dirty sneakers look like new. Plus, I really like getting to see new models all the time. Each pair is different. I learn more about a shoe every time I clean it.
Is this your main job?
No. You could say it’s a hobby of mine. My main job is working in an office. After work I get cracking on cleaning in my little sneaker workshop. Only time will tell if I’ll ever end up doing this full-time.
Where do you see yourself and your sneaker cleaner workshop in five years? Where do you want this journey to go?
I definitely have plans for the future! I want to get cleanmysneaker.de properly established on the market, acquire even more customers in my surrounding area, keep hold of regular customers and of course keep finding new customers.
Why should we be cleaning sneakers by hand and not just chuck them in the washing machine?
I get asked this question a lot. Of course you can wash a shoe in the washing machine. However, that’s only fine once or twice, maybe three times at a push. By then at the latest you will start noticing damage to the shoe. The seams and soles are not suited to the spin cycle and the friction in the drum. Sneakers with leather parts are especially susceptible. Things don’t just get ugly on the outside. The good shock-absorption of the sole also loses performance. That’s why cleaning by hand is definitely recommended.
How do your customers and their sneakers get to you?
Customers have various ways of getting in touch with me. Via my homepage cleanmysneaker.de, Facebook, Instagram, by e-mail, by phone or WhatsApp. I try to answer as quickly as possible. A quick and smooth service is very important to me.
You use Empire cleaning products. Why did you opt for this brand?
Because the Dirt Blocker keeps the promises it makes and was totally convincing during testing. After impregnation I subjected it to the acid test by pouring ketchup over the sensitive material. It simply beaded off, like I’ve never seen with any other product. You can watch the video on my Facebook page.
How much time do you usually take over a clean and what’s the process?
For shoes with a regular amount of soiling I take approx. 30 to 45 min per pair. The cleaning procedure goes like this: when I get the shoes I inspect them closely for any existing damage and document this with photographs. Then I start the actual cleaning process: first I take the laces out of the shoes and put them in to soak. Then, depending on material, the outer sole is cleaned with special cleaners and brushes. I go over the whole material a total of three times. After it’s been cleaned and dried, the shoe is impregnated and deodorised. After every clean I again inspect the shoe very closely and when I’m totally satisfied, I take the final photos for my portfolio.
Have you ever had a really hard case that you couldn’t get clean?
To date I’ve only had one really hard case – motor oil. The sneakers had been worn in a car repair shop, and so were completely soiled with pitch-black motor oil. Although I was able to partly rescue the shoe, I couldn’t completely get rid of the oil stain. The customer was still really happy with the result, because I’d warned him that the stain probably couldn’t be fully removed. A quick follow-up treatment with the “Colour Refresher” then produced an almost perfect result.
For you, what are the benefits of Empire as compared to other products?
I have tested a lot of impregnating sprays. From no-name to branded products. What I expect an impregnating spray to do is to protect against soiling. I can confirm that that’s 100% the case with Dirt Blocker. Dirt just beads off the material. The durability of the protective layer is another great advantage of EMPIRE.
To finish: what’s your personal favourite sneaker?
The Kith x Adidas Ultra Boost Mid “Aspen” by Ronnie Fieg. Form, colour, material coupled with the Boost sole. Everything about this sneaker is just right! For me it’s one of Adidas’s most attractive models.