Tips on How to Clean White Sneakers and Maintain Their Whiteness

Anyone's closet should have a pair of classic white trainers. Whether it's chunky New Balance and Alexander McQueen versions, sporty Nike and Adidas options, or sleek Veja and Converse shoes, wearing a pair with a silk midi dress, vintage jeans and a t-shirt, or a floral mini lends a laid-back vibe to any outfit.

While scuffed-up white sneakers can look great (hello, Converse All Stars), dazzling, box fresh white sneakers are truly chic.

Unfortunately, because they are primarily worn on your feet, white trainers do not retain their gleaming box-fresh white for long, with scuffs and stains quickly ruining them.

However, just because they have smashed-up kicks does not mean they should be thrown out. Instead, you can breathe new life into your trainers and restore them to their former glory.

We spoke with Bart Kaniuk, Head of Operations and Restoration Specialist at ShoeSpa, and Thas Cipolletta, co-founder of The Restory, to learn how to clean white trainers at home.

how to clean white trainers

Edward Berthelot Image courtesy of Getty Images

What Causes White Trainers to Get Dirty?

'Anything 'It could be dust, mud, food spills, sun damage, or scratches,' says Cipolletta. Some materials are more resistant to surface dirt than others (for example, leather versus canvas), but a light-colored shoe will require some regular maintenance. '

Frequent and prolonged direct sunlight exposure can cause white trainers to fade over time, so keep them away from any direct light (artificial or otherwise) when storing them to keep the dazzling white color from becoming dull.

The more you wear your trainers, the more likely they will accumulate stains and dirt, so take care to avoid particularly messy situations.

However, don't overclean your trainers, as this can also cause white color fading, so professional color restoration may be required at some point to restore the dazzling white.

Cleaning White Trainers

Remove the laces from your shoes and soak them in water, water with a small amount of baking soda added, or a water and soap solution, making sure to do so on a clear countertop that can be easily wiped down.

If they are made of canvas:

  1. If it's a plain canvas with no embellishments, use a dry brush to remove any surface dirt while making sure it doesn't penetrate deeper into the fabric.
  2. Apply soap to a clean, damp cloth and/or toothbrush - not directly to the trainer - and gently rub the trainer's surface in circular motions.
  3. If there are any stains, gently rub them away with a solution of water and baking soda or water and washing powder.
  4. Allow the solution to adhere to the stain on the trainers for a few minutes.
  5. Remove the stain with a clean, damp cloth. If the stain is particularly stubborn, simply repeat Step 3. until the stain is removed
  6. Allow the canvas trainers to dry completely before wearing them.

If they are made of leather, then:

Follow the steps above, but use professional leather cleaning milk instead.

If you don't have leather cleaning milk on hand, you can use very diluted bleach or white vinegar (excessive use of any chemical can rub the dye out of the trainers) or very diluted hair shampoo.

A toothbrush works especially well on leather, but remember to be gentle - treat leather as you would your skin.

After cleaning, apply a leather balm to nourish the leather and keep it properly moisturised.

And what about the growing popularity of vegan leather styles? 'Vegan leather could refer to either a plastic-based or an organic material, such as mushroom leather,' explains Cipolletta. 'Be extra cautious when dealing with organic materials, and always follow the brand's recommendations.' Send them to a specialist if in doubt. '

how to clean white trainers

Mr. Jeremy Moeller Getty Images

Cleaning shoelaces, midsoles, and insoles:

Shoelaces can be cleaned in a small bowl with fabric soap or stain remover, but if they are frayed or heavily soiled, they may be beyond repair. In that case, The Restory provides a lace replacement service for £10, sourcing laces that are as close to the original as possible.

Midsoles, on the other hand, can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth or a trainer cleaning solution. If the insoles are attached to the shoe, wipe with a damp cloth and air dry. If they are removable, you can clean the upper and lower parts before drying, reshaping, and reinserting them.

Cleaning the soles of shoes:

Cleaning soles on a regular basis is a good idea because it improves hygiene, especially if you're wearing them around the house, and improves grip because they won't have a film of dirt and debris on them.

  1. Mix half water and half baking soda until a soft paste forms.
  2. Dip a toothbrush in the paste and 'paint' it on the soles of your shoes, gently rubbing the bristles against the soles in a circular motion or following the markings on the soles. The baking soda particles will aid in the gentle removal of dirt and debris without leaving any residue.
  3. When finished, wipe it down with a wet cloth.

What are the best products to use?

The best products for cleaning trainers are professional cleaning milk and professional leather balm. Buy cotton cleaning sheets and brushes as recommended by cleaning product manufacturers for best results. Cipolletta also suggests using horseshoe brushes to remove normal buildup.

How frequently should you clean your sneakers?

The frequency with which you clean your trainers is determined by their use and condition. Excessive cleaning can cause leather and fabric deterioration, so it's best not to clean them too frequently. Visible stains, on the other hand, should be removed the same day, ideally before they dry and stick to the surface.

Should you put your sneakers in the washer?

It may appear to be the quickest, easiest, and most hands-off solution, but do not put them in the washing machine as this can cause long-term damage to both the washing machine and the trainers.

Putting trainers in the washing machine can cause the glue to melt, any logo to fade, the structure of the shoe to be damaged, and in some cases, color transfer (dark internal linings can stain the outer layers), so it is strongly discouraged.

However, some performance trainers for running and sports will recommend washing machine clean on their instructions - so check the label!

how to clean white trainers

Jeremy Moeller Image courtesy of Getty Images

Where can I get my trainers cleaned professionally?

If all of this seems like too much work, or if you suspect your trainers require special care, ShoeSpa offers free pickup and delivery for their shoe restoration service. The Restory also provides a comprehensive cleaning and repair menu to restore your trainers to like-new condition, including specialized restoration for high-end designer trainers.

When not in use, how should you store your trainers?

When not in use, use cedar shoetrees to keep them in good shape and reduce wrinkles. They are long-lasting, provide a clean, fresh scent, and draw out any moisture to extend the life of your trainers. Alternatively, stuff your trainers with a kitchen towel to keep their shape.

Keep them dry, away from sources of humidity or heat, and away from direct sunlight, which speeds up the oxidation process.

how to clean white trainers

Vierig, Christian Image courtesy of Getty Images

When possible, use the dust bags provided by the manufacturer, or any cotton bag, or store trainers in cardboard shoe boxes.

If you're storing your trainers for an extended period of time, clean and nourish the leather before storing them to prevent the material from drying out and stains from setting in.

Also, while you may be tempted to wear your trainers every day, give them a break by alternating your shoes so they can all rest.

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