A Sneaker Pro on Keeping Your White Shoes Clean | The_ONES
A Sneaker Pro on Keeping Your White Kicks So Fresh & So Clean
Classic, go-with-every-look white sneakers are wardrobe staples in practically every shoe lover’s closet. If you’re like us, you probably have more than a few pairs. And chances are, they’ve probably seen brighter, whiter days. We’re talking scuff marks, sole streaks, discoloring, grimy laces (that are also kinda crunchy)—you know how it goes. But it doesn’t mean your white kicks are ruined for good.
For some serious sneaker-maintenance schooling, we reached out to Johnny Fajardo, sneaker whiz over at innovative shoe-care company Sneaker LAB, to share some of his best insider tricks for cleaning white sneakers. The man personally sets aside an hour out of his weekend to tend to his shoe collection, so you know he knows what’s up. “It's actually quite a relaxing experience—it's my only time to de-stress, clear my mind, and disconnect from my phone, emails, and electronics,” he laughs.
His top pointers, below.
Protect Right Outta the Box
The key to keeping white kicks looking brand new, Fajardo says, is to apply a sneaker protector as soon as you unbox them. “The spray forms an invisible layer that protects them from dirt, stains, and liquids,” he says. Sneaker LAB makes a great one, but generally the rule is to look for a protector that repels liquids and is safe for your shoes’ material. Adds Fajardo: “And remember to reapply every other week.”
Store Them Properly
Any sneakerhead worth his or her salt stores off-duty kicks in shoe bags or boxes. “You may not notice it, but there's microscopic dust and dirt floating around everywhere, especially in enclosed spaces like closets,” says Fajardo. “Over time, shoe materials—especially knit, suede, and mesh—collect these dust particles, which eventually affect the overall look of your sneakers.”
Pick Up a Water-Based Cleaner...
They’re less harsh on fabrics than chemical-based cleaners, explains Fajardo, and they’re safe to use on all materials, including mesh and leather. Combined with lukewarm water, an all-purpose water-based cleaner should eliminate most stains.
...Or, In a Pinch, Use This Formula
A dab of baking soda, toothpaste, lukewarm water, and a toothbrush. “While I wouldn't recommend it for regular sneaker upkeep, it'll work if you're in a bind,” says Fajardo.
Brush, Don’t Scrub
Common misconception: The harder you brush your shoes, the cleaner they’ll get. According to Fajardo, brushing too hard may loosen fabrics and give your sneakers that worn-out look (especially true for knit, mesh, and canvas shoes.) Get a medium-bristle shoe brush or an old toothbrush and brush with light, soft, rapid strokes. It doesn’t damage fabric and helps work cleaning solutions deeper into the sneaker.
Deep Clean On the Regular
“It’s important to consistently tend to your sneakers with deep cleanings,” says Fajardo. “This ensures that dirt and stains don’t build up, which can make cleanings far more difficult. Assuming you're wearing your white kicks three-to-four times a week, I suggest a deep cleaning every two weeks.”
“Enjoy your sneakers, wear them without fear of scuffs, and have confidence that nearly any stain is treatable.”
- Johnny Fajardo, Sneaker LAB
Breaking it Down Even Further
Exactly how to clean common sneaker types from canvas to leather (plus soles and laces).
White Mesh Shoes
Since mesh is so delicate, avoid using bleach which can ruin the fabric. Instead, this is a job for a sneaker cleaner or a bit of mild dish soap cut with warm water. Gently brush the cleaner all over your dirty sneakers. Rinse your shoes under cold water when you’re done. If there’s still discoloring, try spraying the spot with white vinegar before letting it dry in the sun for about an hour.
White Running Sneaks
First, get rid of any dirt, mud, or gunk with a shoe brush or old toothbrush. Then, using a sponge, cloth, or brush, apply a small amount of sneaker cleaner (or gentle laundry detergent mixed with warm water) to the dirty parts. With tough stains, keep repeating until they’re gone.
White Canvas Kicks
Everyone’s got a pair of beat-up Chuck Taylors, right? Good thing they’re made of a cotton-canvas that’s super easy to clean. Just brush it with sneaker cleaner that’s mixed with lukewarm water and leave them out to dry. (They’ll look darker at first but give them an hour or so and they’ll look white as new.) Or, you can create a homemade cleaning paste with baking soda and an equal amount of half water and half hydrogen peroxide. Apply the mixture all over your shoes with a brush and let them sit for four hours. The mixture will have hardened and you can just shake off the hard bits and wipe off any remainder with a soft cloth or paper towel.
White Leather Sneakers
This is your opportunity to try that nifty toothpaste trick mentioned above. All you need is a toothbrush, some white toothpaste and warm water. Gently scrub away any stains and dirty spots. And yes, this seriously works. Trust.
To deal with scuff marks and any streaks of dirt or mud on white soles, swipe with sneaker wipes or a wet Magic Eraser. And for any specks of dirt and splotches that just won’t go away, try white nail polish as a little beauty touch-up.
And last but not least: the laces. Pull them out of your sneakers, then hand wash them in warm soapy water (gentle dish soap works great) letting them soak for a few hours before air drying. If your laces are extra grimy, trying covering them with the same cleaning paste we mentioned above for canvas shoes and let dry for a few hours in the sun. Then shake and wipe off the hardened bits.
And when you just can’t get them clean enough…
...maybe it’s time to spring for a new pair.
Written by Dickson Wong.
More of the good stuff—a celebration of the people who inspire us and the classic kicks in their closets. See All Stories
Who Is Stan Smith?
An exclusive interview with the man behind Adidas’ best-selling sneaker
See the Story
9 Sock Styles to Rock With Sneakers
These unexpected pairings give a fashion-forward turn to your below-the-knee game.
See the Story
Who Is Chuck Taylor?
Meet the man behind Converse’s iconic sneaker.
See the Story