How To Clean White Sneakers So They Look (Almost) New Again

You don’t need to buy a new pair to get that sparkle back.
Clean, white sneakers with a black Nike Swoosh/Getty

There’s nothing quite like a pair of new white sneakers. Fresh from the box, they practically glow and everyone from celebrities to royalty have been known to wear them.

But the more you wear them, the more dirt builds up. The good news is that it’s simple to clean white sneakers and you may actually have everything you need to get started.

Benedetta Piccoli and Pierpaolo Piccioli attend The 2024 Met Gala wearing white sneakers.
White sneakers even made an appearance at the 2024 Met Gala, with fashion designer Pierpaolo Piccioli wearing a bright, white pair. (Credit:Getty)

5 Ways To Clean White Sneakers And Shoes At Home

There are a few different strategies you can use for cleaning shoes, but you’ll typically need a cleaning cloth or old toothbrush (great for those hard-to-get spots), water and somewhere to dry the shoes.

1. Soap and water

Warm soapy water is a good place to start for just about any home-cleaning project, including white sneakers. Mix soap, handwash or a gentle laundry liquid with warm water, making sure it soaps up. Then apply it to your shoes with a soft cleaning cloth or old toothbrush.

2. Toothpaste

Make sure it’s a plain, white toothpaste that doesn’t have any colour or gel parts to it. Then use your old toothbrush or cloth to apply it to your white sneakers, gently scrubbing any stubborn marks. You can also add some water to create a soapier consistency (like when you brush your teeth). Then, wipe off with a damp cloth.

3. Baking soda

Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 2 tablespoons of warm water to form a paste. Make as much as you need to apply to the shoes, leave it to dry and brush it off. For white canvas or fabric, you could replace 1 tablespoon of water with white vinegar. But if you’re cleaning white sneakers that have leather or a similar surface, it’s a good idea to do a spot-test first.

3. Diluted bleach

Bleach is very corrosive so you’ll need to make sure it’s extremely diluted before trying this option on your white sneakers. Try a mix of 1 part bleach with 5 parts water, using the tongue or another less visible part of the shoe to do a spot test. Apply the bleach solution, then rinse with water or wipe with a clean, wet cloth and leave to dry.

5. Magic erasers

Versions of this cleaning product are easy to buy at the supermarket or online. For example, you can get the Chux Magic Eraser Spot Cleaner from Woolworths or the White Magic Eraser Sponge Extra Power from Healthylife, both for under $10.

Just check the packet to make sure it’s OK to use on fabric, synthetics or leather, then follow the instructions. Usually, it’s as simple as adding water to a cube and applying it to the surface before rinsing it clean.

Tip: If in doubt, always do a spot-test before cleaning your shoes. This helps prevent damage to the material and ensures the white stays white.

Cleaning white sneakers takes them from drab to a statement piece for almost any outfit.

How Do You Clean Shoelaces On White Sneakers?

After you’ve decided how to clean your white sneakers, just remove your shoelaces and handwash them. Or, put them in a small delicates bag and wash them in the washing machine, on a cold cycle, when you do your next wash.

This also means the shoelaces won’t be in the way when you’re cleaning the rest of your shoes.

Can I Use Dish Soap To Clean White Sneakers?

Yes, you can use dish soap mixed with warm water to clean your sneakers. Just make sure it’s clear or a neutral colour that doesn’t change the shade of the water when you mix it in.

How Do I Clean The White Part Of My Shoes?

If you have sneakers or other shoes with just a bit of white on them, you can easily spot-clean the area using warm soapy water. If that doesn’t work, try toothpaste or one of the other methods here.

Is It Hard To Clean White Sneakers?

There are plenty of easy ways to clean white sneakers and other shoes, including all of the methods here. But you do need to factor in the drying time, which typically takes 1-2 days depending on the method and the shoes. Then again, that’s a small price to pay compared to buying new ones.

If you really don’t want to clean them, you could also take them to a professional shoe cleaner. But it might be worth trying it yourself first – that’s how one man in the UK started a business cleaning shoes for celebrities.

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