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Cleaning

5 easy ways to clean white sneakers at home

From baking soda to micellar water, these household items brighten.

Two pairs of white sneakers. One pair is dirty while the other is clean. Credit: Getty Images / nastenkapeka

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After buying a pair of new white sneakers—Stan Smiths, anyone?—the last thing you want is to sully their pristine surface. Sadly, it’s inevitable that scuff marks, dirt, and the grime of daily life will eventually mar your spiffy new kicks, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay.

You may feel intimidated when approaching how to clean white sneakers, but we tapped some pros and laundry experts for some household tips and tricks that will help improve the quality of your shoes. Before cleaning any type of white shoes, it’s important to knock off any heavy dirt from the soles and exterior—and check the care instructions provided by the manufacturer to ensure the method you choose won't further mar your kicks.

Method 1: Use old-fashioned soap and water

Person washing shoes with soap and brush in the sink.
Credit: Getty Images / bee32

Time to wash your shoes.

Soap and water are usually within arms reach and therefore a great option when it comes to cleaning white sneakers. Dish soap is preferable, as it works to create foamy bubbles that break down dirt. This method works best on white canvas sneakers like Converse or Vans.

You’ll want to use a soft-brush bristle, like an old toothbrush, to scrub that grime away while prevent unwanted bristle scuffs or marks.

First, create a cleaning solution of dish soap and one cup of warm water. Next, dip your brush into the mixture and scrub your white sneakers, applying pressure to make sure you’re loosening up that dirt. Continue brushing in small circular motions over the shoe’s dirtiest areas until the dirt lifts off the surface.

When it comes to drying your shoes, paper towels are a must. “You can stuff your shoes with clean rags or paper towels to absorb excess moisture and help your shoes keep their shape as they dry," says Shawn Ashby, Whirlpool laundry brand manager. "If possible, place your shoes in a cool area where they’ll receive lots of sunlight. This can help speed up the drying process."

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Method 2: Use a Magic Eraser

Cleaning white sneakers with a magic eraser sponge.
Credit: Getty Images / NorGal

Absorb all of that filth!

Next time you’re shopping on Amazon or at the grocery store, add Mr. Clean’s Extra Durable Magic Eraser to your cart. This cleaning sponge made of melamine foam easily wipes away scuffs from surfaces.

To use, wet it with water, squeeze out the excess, and gently rub at the marks. The eraser works best if pressure is applied to firmer parts of the shoe—particularly the sole—so don’t be afraid to use some elbow grease to really work the dirt off.

Get the Mr. Clean’s Extra Durable Magic Eraser at Amazon for $11.47

Method 3: Use micellar water

Cleaning a pair of dirty white shoes using a brush and some micellar watter.
Credit: Getty Images / Svetlana-Cherruty

More than just a makeup remover.

This popular skincare product is traditionally used to remove makeup. However, micellar water can be a game changer in cleaning white sneakers.

Micellar water works to draw out impurities like dirt and oil and break them down to be wiped away—the process is the same on human skin as it is for shoes, particular those made of leather. One tweet from Scotland went viral when the writer showed before and after pictures of her white suede heels from using micellar water to clean them. Before you try it on your kicks, do a spot check in a hidden area to make sure the micellar water won't leave its own stains behind.

To do, pour some micellar water onto a clean cloth and gently rub on the upper of the shoe until the dirt has lifted. After a few minutes of scrubbing, you’ll begin to see the dirt lift off of your shoes and notice a difference in appearance. Allow to air-dry.

Get the Micellar Cleansing Water at Amazon for $6.99

Method 4: Use baking soda and laundry detergent

Disinfecting white sneakers in a bowl and using a detergent spray.
Credit: Getty Images / Antonio_Diaz

A sure way to deep-clean your sneakers.

This shoe-cleaning hack will remind you of an elementary school science experiment, and it’ll work to get rid of the grime that’s nestled deep in your white canvas sneakers in particular.

Fill a bucket with a gallon of warm water and one cup of baking soda, and then adding a drop of laundry detergent for a boost of cleaning power, recommends Vera Peterson, the president of Molly Maid, a franchise housecleaning service. “Remove the shoelaces and submerge your shoes in the solution for at least an hour before lifting the shoes out of the water and scrubbing them clean with a small brush, such as an old toothbrush,” she says.

Finally, you’ll want to rinse your shoes with clean water and let them air-dry before putting the laces back in.

You can also use the washing machine and laundry detergent to clean some shoes, depending on what they are made of. “Generally, canvas shoes and athletic shoes made with materials like nylon, cotton, and polyester are safe to wash in a washing machine," Ashby says. "These materials are durable and shouldn’t be damaged by laundry detergent.” Again, check the shoes' care instructions before you do it.

Method 5: Use toothpaste and a toothbrush

Cleaning dirty sneakers in a faucet with a toothbrush.
Credit: Getty Images / SERSOL

If it can clean the filthiest teeth, it will clean your sneakers.

This may sound odd, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Toothpaste is a mild abrasive, which is obvious if you think about it, as it’s intended to scrub food stains off your teeth. It’s also often made with baking soda, which can remove dental plaque and brighten the surface of teeth. This same abrasive action can remove dirt, scuffs, smears, and more from your shoes.

The key is to use a non-gel white toothpaste. Pair it with a toothbrush to scrub the rubber portions of the shoe to remove dirt and grime. Once you’ve scrubbed a bit, let the toothpaste sit on the sneakers for at least 10 minutes, then wipe away with a damp cloth. Repeat this process until your shoes return to the desired white color.

If it weirds you out to make your shoes minty-fresh, you could try The Pink Stuff’s Miracle Scrubber Kit to clean your white sneakers. It comes with a small electric cleaning brush and paste to do the same work.

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