How to Clean White Sneakers (Each Type of Sneakers)

how to clean white sneakers

As a self-professed sneaker head and fashion enthusiast, I’ve learned countless tips and tricks of how to clean 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.

There are many types of sneakers in terms of materials. There are white sneakers made of leather, suede, mesh, knit, synthetic, nylon, and also rubber. In this article, I’ll share my tried-and-true methods for how to clean white sneakers for each type, 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!

I. Cleaning Kits You Need and Their Functions

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First and foremost, you need to prepare the cleaning kits, which are different for each type of sneakers. After countless trials and errors, I discovered the best tools and solutions that can make my sneakers shine like new. The cleaning kit includes the shoe cleaner agents of your choice, and also the tools or equipment. Now let’s go deeper into each of them.

II. Best Shoe Cleaning Agents to Clean White Sneakers

These are six of my most recommended agents to clean white sneakers.

  • Liquid Dish Soap: A mixture of water and liquid dish soap can remove dirt and stains from your white footwear. The active agents on dish soap can break down oily stains that get stuck in your shoes.
  • Liquid Detergent: A liquid detergent has the same functions as shoe cleaners, that is, for removing dirt and stains from any surface.
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda: A mixture of baking soda and vinegar has been known as a good solution to clean white shoes, including white sneakers made of canvas.
  • Diluted Bleach: Bleach is an agent that works to make your dirty or yellowing shoes will look white again, and bleach can also disinfect and sanitize your shoes.
  • Toothpaste: Toothpaste has gentle abrasive ingredients that can remove dirt and scuff marks on your white sneakers and make them look brand new.
  • Acetone: Nail polish remover, also known as acetone, is effective for wiping ink stains that are caught in the soles.

III. Tools and Equipment to Clean Your White Sneakers

  • Apron
  • Premium Brush
  • Medium Brush
  • Standard Brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Soft Cloth / Micro Fiber Cloth
  • Shoetree
  • Wash Bowl
  • Shoe Perfume

IV. General Steps : How to Clean White Sneakers

Step 1 : 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. Soak them in the solution and set them aside.

Step 2 : 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. You don’t have to remove the insole if it’s glued permanently, otherwise, your shoe can get seriously damaged.

Step 3 : 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.

Step 4 : 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.

Step 5 : 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. 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.

Step 6 : 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.

Step 7 : Detailing

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.

Step 8 : Drying

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 the shoes under direct sunlight because they might turn yellow and get discolored. 

Step 9 : Finishing  

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!

V. How to Clean Any Materials Of White Sneakers

Now that you have all the tools and agents to make your white sneakers look new again, it’s time to go deeper into the methods of cleaning them correctly. I own a lot of white sneakers, and it is a fact that it requires extra efforts to clean them. I also learned that different types of sneakers requires different cleaning methods, too.

But despite all that, trust me, as an expert in shoe cleaning stuff, if you know how to clean your white sneakers correctly, you can make your sneakers look as clean as new again. Plus, it will make sure you can still wear your sneakers for many years to come. So, it’s time to know the steps to start cleaning your white sneakers based on materials.

a. How to Clean White Canvas Sneakers

The best method to clean your white canvas sneakers is by a mixture of Vinegar and Baking Soda. After more than 8 years of experience in shoe cleaning, I think the best way to clean white canvas sneakers it by using a mix of baking soda and vinegar.

Follow these steps to make your white sneakers look fresh and spotless.

  • Step 1: Remove the laces and brush some loose dirt using a dry small brush or toothbrush.
  • Step 2: Mix baking soda and vinegar all together in a bowl, dip a toothbrush into the mixture and apply the paste all over the shoes, and scrub softly to remove dirt and stains
  • Step 3: Allow the mixture to harden on the shoes, and once it’s dry, brush off the larger bits and wipe of the remaining mixture using a micro fiber cloth.
  • Step 4: Scrub the rubber soles of the shoes using a medium brush
  • Step 5: Dampen a clean micro fiber cloth with water and wipe off the shoes.
  • Step 6: Let them air dry completely before wearing.

One thing to note, make sure you don’t put the shoes under direct sunlight since it can make the color turns dull easily.

b. How to Clean White Leather Sneakers

For leather sneakers, the best way to clean them is by using a liquid dish soap. I tied many agents already, and I found that a simple liquid dish soap is the best of all. So follow these steps below to give your white sneakers the glowing and fresh look back again.

  • Step 1: Mix a few drops of liquid dish soap into a cup of warm water until it becomes soapy.
  • Step 2: Remove the laces and stuff a pair of shoetrees into the shoes to keep them in share during cleaning.
  • Step 3: Dip a toothbrush into the soapy water and gently scrub the shoes to remove dirt or stains.
  • Step 4: Once the stains are gone, wipe the shoes using a damp micro fiber cloth or paper towel.
  • Step 5: Let the shoes air dry and don’t put them under direct sunlight.

That’s all about it! Make sure the shoes are complete dry before wearing.

c. How to Clean White Suede Sneakers

Suede is a fabric that needs extra care. So if you have a pair of white suede sneakers, then you need to be careful in cleaning them since the fabric can be easily damaged if you don’t clean them properly. I have a few pair of suede sneakers and based on y experience, suede is a material that is a bit tricky to clean. But don’t worry, since I am sharing with you the expert steps on how to clean your white suede sneakers properly.

  • Step 1: Use a gentle brush (suede brush or toothbrush) to remove any excess dirt and grit from your shoes.
  • Step 2: Use a rubber to tackle stubborn or difficult stains on your suede sneakers. If you don’t have any shoe rubber at home, you can use a pencil case-version eraser to do this.
  • Step 3: Use vinegar to remove stubborn stains by dipping a cloth into a small bowl of vinegar and ring any excess liquid from it.
  • Step 4: Gently dab the damp corner against the stains on your sneakers, massaging it into the suede and let them air dry.
  • Step 5: Suede sneakers need some extra protection and you can do it by applying a suede protection spray after cleaning or whenever you feel like you need one.

Aside from proper way of cleaning, the best way to protect your white suede sneakers is by reserving them from dry weather and avoid spills and platters whenever possible.

d. How to Clean White Mesh Sneakers

To clean your white mesh sneakers, I have to say that the best way to do it is by using a laundry detergent. From years ago, I treat my mesh sneakers as items made of delicate fabric. And for such fabric, I choose laundry detergent since it can wipe off stubborn stains on my white mesh sneakers effectively.

  • Step 1: Prepare a soft-bristled dry brush or toothbrush and brush away any excess dirt on the outer part of the shoes.
  • Step 2: Mix a small amount of liquid detergent into a bowl of warm water to create a soapy cleaning solution.
  • Step 3: In circular motions, apply the cleaning solution to your white mesh sneakers using a soft cloth.
  • Step 4: Periodically rinse the cloth with warm water as you clean to make sure the dirt is not spreading to other part of the shoes.
  • Step 5: Rinse the shoes by using a clean damp micro fiber cloth to wipe down the exterior of the shoes.
  • Step 6: Let them air dry and make sure they are completely dry before wearing.

Mesh is a soft and delicate fabric, so do bear in mind that you need to be extra careful and use a softer touch to treat or clean your white mesh sneakers.

e. How to Clean White Knit Sneakers

how to clean white sneakers

I have to admit that cleaning white knit sneakers may need a certain level of patience. But I don’t mean to scare you off or anything. I just need to let you know that since knit fabric is pretty challenging to clean, some repeating some steps might be needed to make sure the shoes are clean as new. So, if you ask me, I always spare a time to clean my white knit sneakers.

  • Step 1: Put in a small amount of laundry detergent into a bowl of cool water.
  • Step 2: Remove your shoe laces and put in the shoetrees inside to keep them in shape during cleaning.
  • Step 3: Dip a clean fiber cloth into the detergent solution, wring it out well and start scrubbing gently at the soiled area of your white sneakers.
  • Step 4: Repeat the steps as needed until all dirt and stains are removed from the shoes.
  • Step 5: Once you believe that your shoes are dirt and stains-free, pat the shoes with a dry cloth and allow them to air dry.

f. How to Clean White Synthetic Sneakers

Cleaning your white synthetic sneakers is not that complicated. In fact, it’s pretty easy to be done in my opinion. Just like other sneakers, you can clean them by hand using a few simple household ingredients, in a few simple steps as below.

  • Step 1: Mix a tablespoon of natural laundry detergent with several cups of water.
  • Step 2: Moisten a micro fiber cloth with the detergent mixture, and then wipe the length of the shoes.
  • Step 3: Use a clean and dry micro fiber cloth to wipe away any excess moisture.
  • Step 4: Let the shoes air dry completely, not under direct sunlight.
  • Step 5: Dip a clean white cloth into a teaspoon of melted coconut oil and rub the shoes to condition the synthetic fabric.

And you’re all set, and ready to wear your fresh and clean white synthetic sneakers again!

g. How to Clean White Nylon Sneakers

White nylon sneakers are a great choice for sneaker heads who are looking for comfort and style. Also, since nylon sneakers are relatively easy to clean, and able to be machine-washed, too.

But still, I recommend hand-wash for this kind of sneakers, because it is more friendly to the shoes and won’t affect the shoes’ shapes. Here are some detailed steps on how to clean your white nylon sneakers.

  • Step 1: As always, never forget to remove any dirt of debris from the surface of the shoes with a soft brush.
  • Step 2: Pour in a small amount of laundry detergent into a bowl of warm water.
  • Step 3: Gently agitate the shoes in the water to loosen any dirt and grime.
  • Step 4: Rinse the shoes with clean water to remove all the remaines and traces of detergent.
  • Step 5: Let the shoes air dry and make sure they dry completely before you wear them again.

It is pretty easy to be done, since nylon is a material that is not that difficult to clean. However, when you dry them, I don’t recommend you to put them in the dryer, since it can damage the fabric.

h. How to Clean White Rubber Sneakers

how to clean white sneakers

Rubber sneakers tend to get dirty easily, especially white rubber sneakers. But when it comes to cleaning them, I found that there are several ways to take using several agents that include a laundry detergent, baking soda or an acetone.

Now I will share with you the steps of cleaning white rubber sneakers using a laundry detergent and baking soda.

  • Step 1: Get a bristle brush and remove any remaining dirt from your shoes.
  • Step 2: Mix a tablespoon of laundry detergent into a bowl or warm water.
  • Step 3: Allow your rubber sneakers to soak in the water for about 5 or so minutes.
  • Step 4: Take the bristle brush again, and scrub down the whole areas of your shoes, inside and out.
  • Step 5: To remove stubborn stains, grab a bowl of baking soda and dip a toothbrush in the baking soda to brush those stubborn stains.
  • Step 6: Rinse the shoes and let them air dry completely.

Also, never forget to remove your laces before you start with the cleaning steps.

VI. Do’s and don’ts

– Do’s

  • 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’ts

  • 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.

VII. How to Care for Your White Sneakers Properly

Just like other shoes, your white sneakers also need to have proper care in order to make them look at their best for a long period of time. I created this article since I believe that after years of experience in shoe cleaning methods, I am able to help you with a details steps on how to make your white sneakers clean and fresh all the time.

Now that you have figured out the best ways to clean them, I think that it will be wise for me to let you know how to properly take care of your white sneakers.

how to clean white sneakers
Shoe Care-StepsReasons
Don’t store your shoes in a humid environmentThe water vapor in the air can potentially damage your shoes by causing mold that leads to material damage and glue loosening
Store Your shoes in a room with good air circulationPut your shoes in a well-ventilated room and open the windows regularly to let the air change. Stuffy rooms are not perfect for keeping your shoes, especially for a long time.
Wear white shoes regularly to avoid yellowing from a long period of storageKeeping 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.

Avoid wearing white shoes for outdoor activities
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.
Mind the weather: Don’t wear white shoes on rainy days!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 shoesStacking white shoes is considered a very bad idea because of many reasons. One, the upper shape and structure might be affected by the pressing.
Clean your shoes once every month to remove the dirt easilyWhite shoes need to be cleaned regularly to maintain their crispness and look.

VIII. Conclusion

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!

IX. Frequently Asked Questions!

1. 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.

  1. Prepare high-quality, non-fading white paint, a 6 mm brush, a paint palette, acetone, cotton balls, and a heat gun or hair blow.
  2. Dip the cotton ball into acetone, and start wiping them onto the shoes to open the pores, which helps the paint stick better.
  3. Pour the white paint on the palette.
  4. Dab the 6 mm brush to the paint and spread the paint evenly and smoothly onto the shoes
  5. After the first layer is done, turn the heat gun or hair blow, then dry the paint.
  6. Repeat painting for the second layer.
  7. Dry the second layer again with a heat gun or hair blow.
  8. Repeat the process until the stain is covered smoothly; if needed, you can add the third layer.
  9. Turn the heat gun or hair dryer on, then dry the final layer and let the shoes sit for 24 hours.
  10. Your freshly-painted shoes look great and are ready to wear.

2. 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.

3. 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!