Crisp, cool and (most importantly) clean! How to clean white trainers and shoes

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Learn how to clean white shoes and trainers with a few household items and some elbow grease!

Let’s be honest. All-white shoes are anything but a new concept in the footwear world, however, with the rise of crisper, cooler and cleaner aesthetics taking centre stage, it’s no surprise that white trainers are everywhere we look. The minimalism train is traveling at full speed ahead.

But, while these colourless kicks are great for summer wear and social media sharing, they don’t tend to stay dazzling for very long. So how do you whiten your go-to pair – and keep them that way?

Our white-shoe cleaning 101 takes a closer look at how to clean white trainers and shoes, featuring handy stain-removal hacks, top protection tips and a fabric lowdown to help you banish and brighten scruffy, lifeless creps for good.

Get prepping: prevention is key

Before you undergo ‘mission: white kicks’, it’s worth saying that prevention is better than cure. We’re not just talking about avoiding muddy festival rivers in your new pair either (that’s a given); instead, follow a few simple steps to avoid hardcore cleaning rituals and keep your white shoes white.

Granted, when a brand-new pair is delivered to your doorstep, it’s hard to ignore the initial excitement to show them off. But hold your horses (if you can). We’d recommend first spritzing them with a stain and water repellent, then repeating this process every month to ensure your all-white beauties are protected against accidental spills and British weather beatings.

When it comes to putting white trainers in the washing machine to restore them to their former glory, our advice? Don’t! Even on a gentle cycle, machines can cause irreparable damage, from fabric breakdowns and melted glue disasters to faded logo fiascos and even nightmare colour transfers (darker linings can stain the shoe’s exterior). Stick to hand-treating your footwear instead.

How to clean white fabric shoes in seven steps

A few handy tools such as washing-up liquid, a brush and towel will help clean white fabric shoes.

If your fabric shoes (like these classic canvases from Converse) are in dire need of a new lease of life, follow these simple steps to transform them back into your box-fresh favourites. There are a million and one home cleaning hacks out there that use all sorts of crazy ingredients, but here are a couple of our trusty favourites.

Step 1: Prep the shoe

First, make sure that you’ve untied and removed the laces from your shoes. Set them to one side (we’ll come back to these later!).

Step 2: Banish surface grime

We get it, muddy mishaps happen. But it’s important to remove any loose surface dirt with a soft-bristled brush before you roll up your sleeves for the main scrubbing extravaganza. Make sure to focus on the soles – especially when any patterned grooves are concerned – as well as the tongue and rubber edges.

Step 3: Tools on standby

Mix a generous squeeze of washing up liquid (a teaspoon will work nicely) into a bowl of warm water.

*Optional method: combine one tablespoon of baking soda with white vinegar and warm water to form a thick paste. Add another tablespoon of baking soda if your mixture is too runny.

Step 4: Get scrubbing the soles & sides

Dip a clean cloth or a stiff brush into the warm, soapy water, before scrubbing rubber and plastic sections in short back and forth motions to remove excess dirt and stains.

Step 5: Clean the body of the shoe

Take a soft cloth or a toothbrush, submerge in the soapy solution and gently rub the fabric in circular motions, focusing on any discoloured or stained areas.

*Optional method: if you’re giving the baking soda a try, follow the same technique of rubbing the paste into your shoes using a stiff-bristled toothbrush, before leaving them to dry for a few hours in a well-ventilated room, or outside.

Step 6: Rinse and remove

Grab a clean, damp cloth and pat the shoes to rinse the suds and remove any leftover dirt. If your kicks need more attention, repeat this step.

Step 7: It’s air-dry time

Pat away any excess moisture with a dry towel, before letting your shoes air dry at room temperature and in a well-ventilated area for a few hours. Stuffing your sneakers with paper towels is a great way to help speed up the drying process and maintain their shape.

How to clean white leather shoes

Knowing how to clean white leather shoes is easy if you remember to treat them gently.

You might shudder at the thought of your lovely leather trainers being ruined forever by ungodly stains, but cleaning this supple fabric is easy and just like cleaning regular material.

Step 1: Prep the shoe

Follow the same steps by first removing the laces from your shoes. Stuffing your trainers with newspaper or shoe trees will help to smooth out creases in the leather, allowing you to clean dirt from any sneaky, hard-to-reach places.

Step 2: Remove excess dirt

Then, brush off loose dirt by knocking together their soles and using a soft-bristled brush. The soles and tongues will likely be the biggest dirt-harbouring culprits, so make sure to give them a rigorous dust-off.

Step 3: Tools on standby

Invest in a bottle of specialist leather cleaning solution for some extra TLC, but if that’s off the menu, a teaspoon of mild washing up liquid and some warm water will do the job.

Step 4: Get scrubbing the soles and sides

Dip a clean cloth or a stiff brush into warm water before applying your leather cleaner generously onto the soles and sides of your shoes. Scrub lightly back and forth until the rubber or plastic is clean.

If you’re using a soap solution, dunk your cloth or brush before following the same rubbing motion.

Step 5: Clean the leather upper

Use the brush and leather cleaner (or soapy water) to gently clean the entire upper of your shoes. An old toothbrush works well when rubbing in small circular motions.

Step 6: Rinse and remove

Using a clean towel, wipe over to remove excess soap suds, before assessing whether your kicks need some extra attention. If that’s a yes, repeat this step.

Step 7: It’s air-dry time

If the leather still feels slightly damp, let your shoes air dry at room temperature in a well-ventilated area for a short while.

Step 8: Condition, condition, condition

Finish by applying a leather conditioner or polish to moisturise the shoes and keep them soft and supple. We love the Cherry Blossom Renovating Cream, which revitalises tired-looking leather and prevents drying out.

How to get stains out of white shoes

You probably already own stain-busting ingredients such as baking soda and bleach!

After completing the above steps, your shoes should be significantly whiter and gleaming from afar. But, if stubborn stains are still refusing to budge even after some serious elbow grease, it’s time to bring in the big guns.

There are a whole host of household ingredients that are great for banishing stains:

  • Baking soda: yep, this handy cake ingredient is back again at the top of our list. Dip a wet cloth or toothbrush in baking soda and rub gently onto stained areas. Leave the paste on your shoes for a few minutes to allow the mixture to latch onto the stain, before wiping with a clean, wet cloth and leaving to air dry.
  • Laundry detergent (non-biological) or mild shampoo: as soon as you get home, dilute your gentlest shampoo or a small amount of laundry detergent with warm water and rub gently into oily stains using a cloth or toothbrush. Use a clean, damp cloth to remove leftover suds before air drying.
  • Bleach: in a well-ventilated area, mix one-part bleach (avoid using chlorine bleach which may yellow your shoes) with at least five parts water. Dip an old toothbrush in the solution and scrub stains gently. Rinse with warm water and air dry overnight. 
  • Hydrogen peroxide: for tricky stains on white fabric shoes, dip a small brush in hydrogen peroxide (try your local chemist or supermarket) and rub. Wipe with a clean, wet cloth and leave to air dry.

How to clean white laces

Nine times out of ten, simply cleaning your grubby laces can take your shoes from unclean to gleam. After removing them, create a simple soap-and-water solution before dunking your grimy laces and leaving them to soak. Rinse them in clean water and lay them flat to dry before re-lacing.

If there’s no saving your super-dirty laces, or you just fancy a colour switch-up, treat yourself to a new pair here.

Keeping white shoes white

Keeping your kicks away from sources of light and heat will help them stay white.

So, how do you keep your sparkling white shoes in their new, clean state long-term? Try following our top tips below:

Tip 1: Store them in a dry, dark and cool place

Exposing your all-white kicks to direct sunlight will accelerate the oxidation process and cause white trainers to fade yellow over time, so make sure to store them somewhere dark to prevent them losing their sparkle.

Avoid placing your beloveds next to any sources of heat or humidity too, which can weaken the fabrics. Storing them in the box or dust bags they came in is the best way to make them last longer.

Tip 2: Make regular spot-cleaning a habit

While it may seem like a tedious pain in the neck to clean your shoes regularly, spot-cleaning will seriously aid in keeping your trainers white. Try to wipe off any stains or dirt as soon as possible to avoid them soaking into the fabric and making it a cleaning nightmare for your future self.

Tip 3: Switch it up on the daily

While this tip depends on how many pairs of shoes you have (for us, it’s a lot!), but alternating them for another pair or two every now and again means that they’re likely to last a lot longer.

If you’re storing your trainers for a longer period, remember to give them a quick clean (and some nourishment to leather styles) to keep them looking their best.

Tip 3: Make scuffs invisible

We’ve all been there; the tiniest black scuff on your new pure-white trainers is enough to make your blood boil. But you can make annoying marks much less noticeable with easy dab-on whiteners that disguise scratches with a thin layer of pigment. If you’re in an on-the-go pickle though, some white nail polish and sleight of hand will work touch-up wonders.

We hope you feel like a true shoe-cleaning master after reading our 101 guide, but if you have any other burning questions on how to wash white shoes, get in touch with our team of friendly experts on Facebook. If you’re unable to salvage your beaten-up kicks though, we’ve got you covered with the latest styles for the whole family.

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