If you’re a fan of white sneakers like I am, you know that keeping them clean and bright can be a real challenge. But don’t worry, with years of experience under my belt; I’m here to share my expertise on how to clean white sneakers effectively. From classic canvas Chuck Taylors to high-end leather designer kicks, I’ve tried and tested different methods for cleaning white sneakers to make them look fresh and new again.
As a self-professed sneakerhead and fashion enthusiast, I’ve learned countless tips and tricks for cleaning white sneakers, from basic soap and water to advanced techniques involving specialty products and tools. I’ve experimented with different cleaning solutions and materials, and I’ve discovered what works and what doesn’t.
In this article, I’ll share my tried-and-true methods for how to clean white sneakers, as well as some lesser-known tips that will leave your kicks looking like they just came out of the box. So, let’s dive in and restore your dirty sneakers to their former glory!
- 1 Why should you have white sneakers?
- 2 What do white shoes represent?
- 3 When should you wear white sneakers?
- 4 How to Clean White Sneakers
- 5 Cleaning kits you need and their functions
- 6 What else can I use to clean white shoes?
- 7 Which kits to use while cleaning each shoe part?
- 8 How to clean white sneakers
- 9 Do’s and don’ts
- 10 Shoe care
- 11 Conclusion
- 12 Frequently Ask Questions!
Why should you have white sneakers?
There are a lot of reasons why you should own white sneakers, at least one pair of them. In my opinion, white sneakers are among the most versatile type of shoes. They match almost every outfit, from casual to semi-formal ones.
Besides that, white sneakers are timeless and never go out of style. They also level up your outfit and make them look stunning. Whether they’re clean and crisp or a bit worn out, white sneakers are one of the most charming and popular footwear among people.
What do white shoes represent?
White shoes represent flexibility and versatility because they match almost every outfit and occasion. Not only that, but white shoes also represent a bold personality. This is because when someone is going out with a pair of white shoes, they are not afraid if the shoes get dirt and show visible stains on them.
I admit that wearing white sneakers on a certain muddy day would not be a good idea. Yet, if you choose to do it anyway and manage to get back home without too much stain, that’s an achievement in its own right! And if you fail, the satisfaction of cleaning your white sneakers is also a prized moment.
Check out the following recommendations from InStyle if you are looking for the best white sneakers to try!
When should you wear white sneakers?
All year round is a good time to wear white sneakers. As you might know, white sneakers are perfect for uplifting your dark and dreary outfits and letting them shine. I believe that people associate white sneakers with warm seasons, like summer, due to their brightness. Yet, there’s nothing wrong with wearing a pair of white sneakers in the fall or even winter. So it’s safe to say that you can wear white sneakers any day you want!
Owning a pair or more of white sneakers can be handy for your wardrobe. On the other hand, white sneakers need great maintenance and care because they catch dirt and stains easily. It’s important to take good care of white sneakers to keep their life longer and last for more years.
If you need a guide on how to clean white sneakers, keep reading this article to find some ways to do it without hassle.
How to Clean White Sneakers
You might often come across tens, even hundreds of tips and tricks about cleaning white sneakers. On the other hand, not all of those are proven safe and effective in getting rid of dirt and stains. If you’re still unsure about it, you’ve come to the right place! The following are some simple explanations of how to clean white sneakers and make them shine again.
Cleaning kits you need and their functions
#1 Shoe cleaner
As the name implies, it’s a special cleaning agent for shoes. These days, you can find shoe cleaners easily. However, if you do not have the budget to buy it, I can recommend that you use alternative cleaning agents like toothpaste, detergent, or baking soda.
You’ll need an apron to keep your clothes away from the mess while cleaning the shoes. While I don’t think this equipment is essential, it’s still preferable to put it on. It’ll be ironic if you stain your precious clothes while cleaning stains out of your shoes!
#3 Premium brush
The next kit is a premium brush for cleaning the upper shoes. I really recommend that you should invest in this tool, especially if you are a shoe enthusiast like me. The brush’s bristles are from soft animal hair that’s ideal for cleaning canvas, suede, leather, synthetic leather, mesh, knit, nubuck, and other upper shoe materials. A regular brush may scratch up your shoes.
#4 Medium brush
To clean the midsole from stubborn dirt, you’ll need a sturdy medium brush, also known as the all-purpose brush.
#5 Standard brush
Another kit required for cleaning is a standard brush, specialized for cleaning the outsole. The brush’s bristles are made from strong synthetic materials and are ideal for removing stubborn stains and dirt.
#6 Small brush or toothbrush
It’s necessary to clean the shoes thoroughly, including the inside. Use a small brush to reach the narrow crevice and nook of the shoe. Alternatively, use a toothbrush to do the job.
#7 Microfiber cloth
You’ll need a microfiber cloth to wipe off the dirt from the shoes. Microfiber can do a better job because it has an excellent absorbance level and lasts longer than other ordinary clothes. It is also smoother. I honestly think you should get one. Even though a regular wipe cloth will do the job too, but this one is a level above it.
Shoetree is a device that usually comes in pairs with foot-like shapes. It’s usually put inside a shoe to prevent creases and keep its shape, leading to a longer shoe life.
A washbowl is another important kit you’ll need before cleaning shoes. It functions as a container for mixing water with the shoe cleaner.
#10 Shoe perfume
Last but not least, a shoe perfume. It’s not a must, but you can get one if you want to add some freshness and fragrance to the newly cleaned shoes.
What else can I use to clean white shoes?
There are many home ingredients you can use for cleaning white shoes if you don’t own a shoe cleaner. Below is the list of them.
1. Dish soap
Besides cleaning kitchen utensils, I recommend dish soap. They are also excellent for removing dirt and stains from your white footwear. The active agents on dish soap can break down oily stains that get stuck in your shoes.
To clean your shoes with this, mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water until the bubbles are formed. Gently rub the mixture on your shoes with the help of a toothbrush. Pat them dry with clean cloths or paper towels to reveal your shining white sneakers.
2. Liquid detergent
Liquid detergents have the same functions as shoe cleaners, that is, for removing dirt and stains from any surface, including your dirty white sneakers. In addition, this item is easy to find and comes at an affordable price.
To clean your white sneakers with this, dissolve the liquid detergent in the water and mix them well until it gets soapy. Dip a toothbrush and start scrubbing dirt and stains off the shoes. Wipe the suds with a clean cloth, and let them sit.
To ensure cleanliness, you can put the shoes inside a laundry bag and use the washer to do the job. Note that this only works for non-leather shoes. I do not recommend putting your expensive shoes inside a laundry machine. Manual deep washing is the preferable method for precious shoes!
3. Baking soda and vinegar mixture
This home ingredients combo is well-proven as an effective cleaning mixture for anything. Vinegar can remove dirt and stains. It can also eliminate bacteria that cause unpleasant odors. Meanwhile, baking soda does an excellent job of getting rid of dirt and stains without causing scratches.
To clean your white sneakers with these, first mix vinegar with baking soda and warm water (one part each) until a thick paste is formed. Dab a toothbrush into the paste and start scrubbing in a circular motion on the dirty or stained area. Leave the shoes to dry, then shake the shoes off to remove the excess paste. Now your sneakers are looking crisp like new!
4. Diluted bleach
Bleach might not be as safe as the other ingredients on this list. So use this method as a last resort. Nevertheless, if push comes to shove, I guarantee that your dirty or yellowing shoes will look white again.
Not only that, but bleach can also disinfect and sanitize your shoes. To start, mix one part of bleach with five parts of water. Dip a toothbrush into the mixture and start scrubbing. After that, rinse the shoes with warm water and let them air dry.
Again, bleach will only work on white sneakers. Never clean multicolored sneakers with bleach because it will destroy them. Plus, never dip the shoes, regardless of color, inside a bleach solution.
Toothpaste is another home ingredient you can use for cleaning shoes. It has gentle abrasive ingredients that can remove dirt and scuff marks on your shoes and make them look brand new. I like to recommend toothpaste as an alternative because it is affordable, and you can find it easily anywhere.
To clean your white sneakers, dampen them first before applying a layer of toothpaste over the dirty or scuffed part of the shoe. Scrub in a circular motion until the dirt and scuffs are fading, then wipe the excess with a clean cloth. Let the shoes dry, and now your white sneakers are ready to be shown off!
Nail polish remover, also known as acetone, is effective for wiping ink stains that are caught in the soles. It’s very easy and doesn’t take a long time to get the result. Dip a cotton ball into acetone, and start wiping the stained soles. Don’t use acetone for cleaning the fabric portion, or your shoes will get discolored. Repeat the process until the stains are gone.
Which kits to use while cleaning each shoe part?
- Upper shoe
As mentioned before, you’ll need a premium brush to clean the upper shoe without causing damage and scratches. A small brush also comes in handy for scrubbing dirt and stains off the upper shoe.
You can find the midsole on the shoe side. This part gets dirty, stained, and scuffed easily due to use. To clean the midsole, a medium brush is an excellent option to scrub the dirt and stains off.
The outsole is another important part and is located at the very bottom of the shoe. Thus outsole has direct contact with the earth and gets dirt stuck on it. It’s better to use a hard and sturdy standard brush to clean the outsole and remove small pebbles from it.
The insole is at the inside of the shoe and functions as cushioning that provides comfort in every step. Use a premium brush or toothbrush as an alternative to clean the narrow part up to the crevice and nook. If your shoe’s insole is removable, then take it off to clean them easily. Don’t yank the insole out if it’s glued permanently on the shoe.
How to clean white sneakers
– Prepare your white sneakers
The first thing to do is prepare a pair of white shoes in dirty and stained condition for cleaning.
– Prepare the cleaning kits
Prepare the cleaning kits I have mentioned above and make sure you have them all ready. The kits are a shoe cleaner, an apron, a set of brushes (premium, medium, standard, and small/toothbrush), microfiber cloth, two pieces of shoe tree, a washbowl, and shoe perfume. Pour some shoe cleaners into the washbowl filled with water, then mix them to create the cleaning solution.
– Take the shoelaces off
Take the shoelaces off each shoe. In a small separate bowl, mix the water with the shoe cleaner until it creates soapy water. I recommend that you soak them in the solution and set them aside. That way the lace will be super clean by the time you are finished with the shoes.
– Put a shoe tree inside each shoe
Next, remove the insole and put a shoe tree inside each shoe to maintain its shape and prevent creasing. Again, as I’ve said, you don’t have to remove the insole if it’s glued permanently. Otherwise, your shoe can get seriously damaged.
– Dry cleaning
After that, scrub the upper shoe with a dry premium brush to remove the dirt and dust from the shoe surface. Brush it gently, so you don’t leave any scratches.
– Clean the outsole and midsole
Now let’s get to the real cleaning. Take two brushes, the standard brush for the outsole and the medium one for the midsole. Dip the brush into the water and shoe cleaner solution, and start scrubbing each part gently. You’ll need to pay extra attention to this step, especially while cleaning the dirt and stains on the midsole. After the dirt comes off, wipe it with a microfiber cloth.
– Clean the upper shoe
Do the same as the previous process, this time using a premium brush (previously dipped into the cleaning solution) to scrub the dirt from the upper shoe. I’d like to stress the importance of using a soft brush. You do not want to scratch your white sneakers! When you’re done, wipe them off from the surface with a microfiber cloth. Repeat the cleaning process if the dirt or yellowing stain remains.
– Clean the inside of the shoe
After cleaning the upper shoe, now it’s the inside’s turn. Dip a small brush or toothbrush into the water and shoe cleaner solution, then start scrubbing the narrow part. As an alternative, you can use a premium brush to clean the shoe’s inside, but don’t push too hard if the brush can’t reach the inside. Wipe off the dirt from the inside with a microfiber cloth.
Use a dampened microfiber cloth to clean the dirt from the detailed part of the shoe, like aglets. You can wipe the shoe with a wet tissue, but using a microfiber cloth has a better result since the cloth is excellent in absorbing water and dirt. Another way for the detailing step is putting some sheets of wet tissues around the upper shoe. Let them sit until the dirt is transferred to the tissue. Don’t forget to rinse the shoelaces as well.
Laundry detergent makes a great alternative cleaning ingredient if you don’t have a shoe cleaner. Before start cleaning the white shoes, make sure that the detergent isn’t abrasive and causing damage to the shoe material. Pour the detergent into the water, and mix them until some bubbles were formed. Next, apply the solution to the shoe’s surface and set them aside.
Let the shoes and their shoelaces sit to air dry for about one to two hours. You can use a fan to help them dry faster. It’s not ideal to dry shoes under direct sunlight because they might turn yellow and get discolored.
The final step is finishing. After your shoes are dry and clean now, remove the shoetree and put the shoelaces back. Now your white shoes look crisp and clean, ready for another show-off!
Do’s and don’ts
- Clean the shoes thoroughly, and don’t miss any dirty, stained, or yellowing spots.
- Scrub the shoes gently while cleaning to avoid leaving any scratch marks behind.
- Don’t use a washer to clean white shoes, especially the ones made from synthetic leather, because it can leave scratches and damage the material.
- Don’t dry the shoes under direct sunlight because they’ll get damaged and discolored.
Don’t store your shoes in a humid environment
Humid environments are not ideal for storing any of your belongings, including white shoes. The water vapor in the air can potentially damage your shoes by causing mold that leads to material damage and glue loosening. Always store your shoes in a dry environment to extend their lifetime.
In humid seasons, throw in some silica gel packs inside the shoes to absorb the water vapor and eliminate odors. Based on my experience, silica gel can significantly reduce the chance of mold contamination due to humidity.
Store your shoes in a room with good air circulation
Now that you understand humidity is the enemy of shoes, make sure that you store them in a room with good circulation. Stuffy rooms are not perfect for keeping your shoes, especially for a long time.
This is because bacterias proliferate in such a poor environment and might cause your shoes to odor. Put your shoes in a well-ventilated room and open the windows regularly to let the air change.
Even if you do not plan to use your shoes, I suggest taking them out occasionally and airing them out.
Wear white shoes regularly to avoid yellowing from a long period of storage
Keeping your shoes unworn for a long time, especially the white ones, are not ideal either.
I can tell you that white shoes are more susceptible to yellowing because of oxidation. And how to avoid this from happening? Of course, by wearing them regularly! Take your white shoes out from the storage and show them off once in a while.
Avoid wearing white shoes for outdoor activities
Showing off a pair of crisp and perfectly clean white shoes can boost someone’s confidence. On the other hand, white shoes are easier to catch dirt and stain compared to other shoe colors.
To prevent this, wear your white shoes just for indoor occasions to keep them clean and avoid catching dirt. If you insist on heading out with white shoes, make sure to spray them with a layer of stain protectors. Yep, I believe that such products are widely available nowadays.
Mind the weather: Don’t wear white shoes on rainy days!
Rainy days are often associated with muddy dirt and puddles, a bad combination for white shoes. Your shoes might get dirty easily, and not to mention the water can cause damage, especially on white leather shoes.
On rainy days, you might need a pair of rubber boots and ditch the white shoes for the next sunny days.
Don’t stack white shoes with others to avoid getting dirty upper shoes
Stacking white shoes is considered a very bad idea because of many reasons. One, the upper shape and structure might be affected by the pressing.
And two, think about the dirt and stains that are transferred to other shoes! To avoid this issue, I recommend that you put your shoes in a row.
Clean your shoes once every month to remove the dirt easily
White shoes need to be cleaned regularly to maintain their crispness and look. On the contrary, overwashing might not be ideal for the shoe’s life either. What you can do is clean your white shoes once every month to prevent the dirt from sticking too hard and harder to remove.
White sneakers require more care. I believe that they are quite delicate and not easy to keep pristine. You will need to follow my tips and trick on how to deep clean the white shoes for a better result!
I highly recommend that you invest in some specialized tools like a premium brush for your white sneakers. But if you want to save some money, you can also try my alternative methods that will allow you to DIY your own cleaning solution.
I know that it can be quite a hassle to maintain white sneakers pure. But at the end of the day, your effort will be well worth it!
Frequently Ask Questions!
How do I get my sneakers white again?
There are various methods to get your white shoes clean again, but you’ll need a different treatment for stubborn and unremovable stains. The only way to get rid of those is by applying a layer of paint over the stain. You may follow my tutorial below on how to paint your white shoes.
- Prepare high-quality, non-fading white paint, a 6 mm brush, a paint palette, acetone, cotton balls, and a heat gun or hair blow.
- Dip the cotton ball into acetone, and start wiping them onto the shoes to open the pores, which helps the paint stick better.
- Pour the white paint on the palette.
- Dab the 6 mm brush to the paint and spread the paint evenly and smoothly onto the shoes
- After the first layer is done, turn the heat gun or hair blow, then dry the paint.
- Repeat painting for the second layer.
- Dry the second layer again with a heat gun or hair blow.
- Repeat the process until the stain is covered smoothly; if needed, you can add the third layer.
- Turn the heat gun or hair dryer on, then dry the final layer and let the shoes sit for 24 hours.
- Your freshly-painted shoes look great and are ready to wear.
How do I clean white sneakers with micellar water?
To clean white sneakers with micellar water, here are some steps. Prepare a pair of dirty white sneakers, a bottle of micellar water, and a clean cloth. You just need to pour the micellar water onto the clean cloth, then wipe the dirt off from the shoe surface. As simple as it seems, micellar water can’t remove oil or ink stains from your white shoes.
How to clean sneakers with the magic eraser?
To clean sneakers with the magic eraser, take a piece of the eraser and start rubbing the dirty part of your sneakers. Voila, your shoes are looking clean and great again!
How do I clean sneakers with lemon and Sunlight?
To clean sneakers with lemon and Sunlight (cleaning agent), mix warm water with lemon squeeze and Sunlight until they dissolve. Dip the brush inside the mixture and start cleaning the upper and sole. Let the sneakers air dry. You can also use these ingredients to clean your sneakers if you don’t have a shoe cleaner at home.
It is okay to clean your white sneakers using Sunlight (the brand), but I do not recommend that you put them under the actual direct sun!
Does dish soap damage shoes?
Yes, dish soap can damage shoes. Some ingredients in the dish soap might not be suitable for sensitive materials such as leather. Dish soap can be an excellent alternative for cleaning shoes, but it’s better to use cleaning agents specialized for shoes, like a shoe cleaner.
Should I get white canvas sneakers or white leather?
Whether you should get white canvas sneakers or white leather depends on your fashion preference. Canvas sneakers are more affordable, popular, and animal-free. The downside of canvas sneakers is their short durability and harder in removing the stain.
On the other hand, leather sneakers are more costly, but they have good water and dirt resistance, plus longer life. Moreover, it’s also easier to remove dirt from leather sneakers.