Jan 02, 2024

How to Clean White Sneakers, According to Sneakerheads

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The easy way to keep your kicks pearly white.

WHITE SNEAKERS are eternally stylish footwear that go with just about every casual outfit. Whether you’re wearing a blazer or swim trunks, crisp white shoes provide a clean foundation. Speaking of clean though, there is one glaring flaw to these sartorial work horses. Anything white getting shuffled around at ground level—day after day—will end up dirty, scuffed, and stained with who knows what.

Fortunately, there are some quick and easy ways to bring back that fresh-out-the-box look again and again. We reached out to a man with fresh style to get a few tips on the matter. Los Angeles based content creator Steven Fingar is a noted fan of white sneakers, and he has a talent for keeping them looking brand new.

Turns out, all you will need are a couple of cheap things that you can pick up online, or supplies you probably already have in your home. Fingar recommends using an old toothbrush and something you've probably only used to clean your bathroom. "For any scuffs or dark marks, I always try to use a Mr Clean Magic Eraser which usually does the trick on smooth surfaces," he says.

This process works for all kinds of canvas sneakers and running shoes. Leather sneakers are covered as well, with a couple variations at the end.


There are two routes to go here, you can buy an all-in-one sneaker cleaning product. The cleaning solution comes out through a course sponge that is used to scrub the fabric. Or you can use laundry detergent or Dawn soap mixed with water, applied with a toothbrush or shoe brush.

Using Sneaker Cleaner

Using soap and water solution

Fingar noted that he prefers leather sneakers because they are easier to clean, since, "Sometimes all you need is a damp rag to do the trick." For more stubborn stains, you can use the same shoe cleaner mentioned above or buy a specialty leather cleaner like saddle soap. Believe it or not, toothpaste is just as effective for cleaning white leather sneakers as is for cleaning your teeth. Make sure it is a white toothpaste, ideally with baking soda and peroxide in it.

It is also very important to condition the leather after it has been cleaned so you will need a leather conditioner for the final step. Conditioning not only protects the look of the shoe, but it adds water and stain resistance as well.

Saddle soap


To clean your leather shoes with toothpaste, use the same steps as listed above, but skip step 3 and simply place a dime sized amount of toothpaste on your brush. Use the water bowl to add lather as you would when brushing your teeth.


Apply a generous amount of the conditioner to a cleaning cloth. Rub the leather surface of the shoe with the cloth until completely covered. Apply more conditioner to the cloth as needed. You can tell the conditioner has been applied to an area when the leather looks slightly darker and has a shine to it. Let the shoes sit overnight until the conditioner has set in. You can tell the process is finished when the darker color and shine have gone away.

Regardless of what material the upper is made out of, pretty much all sneakers have the same rubber sole. Rubber can be cleaned with a shoe cleaner or toothpaste. In both cases, using a hard bristled toothbrush is the most effective method for cleaning. Wipe them down with a damp cloth first then scrub vigorously. However, if there are especially persistent stains on the soles of your shoes, then a Magic Eraser will get the job done.

Remember when you took the laces out of your sneakers at the beginning? Well now is the time to get them clean. Place 1 tbs of laundry detergent or Dawn soap in a medium size bowl then fill with warm water (if you did this already then use the same mixture you already have), then simply place the laces in the bowl for half an hour. Once the laces have soaked, scrub them with a toothbrush or shoe brush until they look fresh. Then rinse them under running water until all the soap is gone. Lay them out flat to dry over night.

Thats it! A few simple ingredients and a little elbow grease got your fine white kicks looking good as new.

Read more: Best Cleaning Products

Brad is a contributing style commerce editor. After a decade working for menswear brands including J.Crew and Ralph Lauren, Brad switched from selling fashion to writing about it. His words have appeared in Huckberry, Heddels, and The Manual.

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WHITE SNEAKERS removing the laces shoe trees medium bristled brush old toothbrush Using Sneaker Cleaner Using soap and water solution OxiClean saddle soap toothpaste leather conditioner Saddle soap Toothpaste Conditioning Magic Eraser Read more: Best Cleaning Products