The Proper Way to Clean Your White Sneakers

White sneakers are cool, but they require work.
by Clifford Olanday for   |  Sep 8, 2020
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White sneakers are here to tease and torment us. While they lend an air of cool to a range of outfits, the reality is, their benefits diminish with every step. In this dirty world, even the freshest kicks become tarnished, imperfect, or not all-the-way white. So, how do you keep white sneakers whiter, fresher, or just cleaner than yesterday?

The solution is obvious, of course. You have to clean them. You need to put in the work to maintain your white sneakers. Below, a few hacks to keep your fresh status.

Cleaner Sneakers Hack No. 1: The Hand

While this is not a hack, it is the most direct way to keep white sneakers clean. The hack is knowing how to do it right. We’re not talking about ourselves, but maybe someone used to soak white sneakers in bleach overnight and then throw ‘em in the washing machine. Poor sneakers.


That method is like using a hammer to crack a nut. And the lesson is to use a light touch. Based on experiments on several white sneakers (some are still alive) and the consensus of Internet experts, here’s how to clean your white sneakers by hand.

1 | Use a brush to remove loose dirt. Choose a soft brush.

2 | Create a cleaning solution with water and a tiny drop of detergent or dish soap. You can use gentler soaps like hand soap or shampoo.

3 | Apply the solution to laces (remove from shoes beforehand), soles, and uppers using a soft cloth. Be firm but gentle.

4 | Rinse the shoe with water or blot it with cloth until all the soapy water is gone.

5 | Air dry.

Cleaner Sneakers Hack No. 2: The Toilet Paper

Anonymous Sneaker Lover recently tried this Internet-famous toilet paper sneaker hack, where you wrap your shoe with wet toilet paper and leave it overnight to dry. It’s like mummification with the goal of unwrapping whiter sneakers. Alas, the mummy wasn’t happy because ASL did not clean the sneakers first. Duh. (Go back to Hack No. 1).

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We don’t know the exact mechanics of this method, which promises to prevent yellow stains from appearing on white canvas sneakers, but we can deduce it has something to do with drying your sneakers completely. Try this one with caution. (ASL reports he’ll try again. We will update you.)

Cleaner Sneakers Hack No. 3: The Spray

Think of sneakers as your willy. Before venturing into the dangerous world, you want to wrap them in an invisible shield. The wisest of sneakerheads, in fact, does this: After releasing new sneakers from the box, he sprays a veil of Crep Protect on his willy—uh, we mean, sneakers. The quick-drying solution repels water and prevents stains without affecting the integrity of canvas, suede, or nubuck kicks.ÂÂÂ


Crep Protect is one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas because the very specific brand has become integral to keeping things fresh, especially if your serious about cleaner sneakers. The company has expanded its range to include all sorts of gear for shoe care. This includes a pill that kills odor, an eraser for cleaning suede and nubuck, and wipes for easy cleaning.

Cleaner Sneakers Hack No. 4: The Wipe

Those wipes above are effective but they cost a pretty penny so here’s a big brain alternative: baby wipes. We’ve touched on this hack before but it’s worth repeating: Think of your sneakers as a baby’s butt. If your baby (the sneakers) makes a doo-doo (dirt or actual doo-doo), you want to wipe that stuff off immediately.

This works as well as a dedicated sneaker wipe—only less expensive and more available (you can get it at the supermarket). Stash a travel pack in your fanny pack so you’ll have a wipe on hand wherever you go. Better yet, spring for a big boy pack, keep it in your shoe wardrobe, and wipe down your sneakers before putting them to bed.


Cleaner Sneakers Hack No. 5: The Pen

If you are clumsier than a one-legged troll trying to escape a small room, spray protection and wipe remedy will not be enough. You’ll need magic like, say, a magic eraser in the form of the Tide to Go Stain Remover (get it at your favorite online retail hub).

This is muscle, really. Tide Pen uses hydrogen peroxide to break down the colors in stains, specifically food or drink stains like ketchup or coffee, making an offensive blotch vanish. The trick is to use this as soon as that drop of wine violates your sneakers. The format, a carry-anywhere pen, also makes accidents less stressful as you can save your designer sneakers with a few swipes.

Cleaner Sneakers Hack No. 6: The Phone

Hey, this is not cheating. It’s a legitimate hack because the hack is relieving yourself from the burden of cleaning your sneakers. If you’re not sure how to do it, if you’re sneakers have become a filth-ridden mess, or if you just don’t have the time, pick up the phone and contact your nearest professional sneaker cleaning service.


That is the amazing thing about keeping sneakers cleaner, whiter, and fresher. The concern has become so prevalent that a unique industry has risen to cater to it. In the city, there are plenty of sneaker services to choose from. Some pick up your dirty shoes. Others you have to visit.


Either way, you can apply this (dark) hack: Tell your friends that you did all the work. They’ll never know.

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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