How to Clean White Sneakers So They Stay Bright and Fresh

Keep your kicks crisp for longer.

How to Clean White Sneakers Veja


There's something so fresh and clean about a crisp pair of white sneakers. They can be a wardrobe staple for just about anyone. You can wear them with your favorite white denim, a mini or midi skirt, cargo pants, a suit, a sundress, athleisure... the list goes on. If there's one thing for sure, it's that white sneakers are a must-have. The one bummer is that they tend to get dirty and can get scuffed pretty easily, so they require a bit more care than a darker pair of sneakers would. It's best to try to avoid wearing them during downpours, and you'll also want to know how to clean your white sneakers in the event they do become less than pristine.

Though sometimes you can just dab them with a sponge—depending on the material—or use a Tide stick to spot clean, at other times, it may take a little ingenuity to get your kicks looking good as new. But don't worry, we have you covered: We leaned into Prepare with Cher founder Cheryl Nelson to get her best tips. Keep reading to learn how to clean white sneakers properly, so your favorite pair can retain its magic.

Meet the Expert

Cheryl Nelson is a TV host and lifestyle expert who founded Prepare with Cher, a media service through which she shares tips on planning for and getting through any situation.

How to Clean Canvas Sneakers

When preparing to clean your canvas sneakers, check the label first to ensure they are machine washable.  Remove the shoe insoles and shoelaces, and put the sneakers in a microfiber or mesh laundry bag (like what you use when washing lingerie).  Put the shoe laces and insoles in a separate bag.  Use cold water (to avoid shrinking and damage) and wash your white sneakers on a delicate cycle with a slow spin and, if possible, no spin.  To prevent your shoes from too much banging around in the washing machine, add a few old bath towels of a similar color.

If you'd rather clean your white canvas sneakers by hand, you can do so with a mix of mild dish detergent and water. Dip a soft toothbrush into the mixture, then scrub your sneakers in a circular motion until they appear clean. Then, wipe the shoes with a damp towel to remove excess grime and suds. You may have to repeat the process, as it can be hard to tell if you've removed all the stains and dirt while your sneakers are still damp.

How to Clean Leather Sneakers

White leather sneakers are pretty easy to work with, as they don't hold on to grime and stains as much as cloth-based or suede shoes will. However, be sure to check the label in case there are any special considerations to take when cleaning your white leather sneakers. If it seems okay to use them, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work great at removing dirt from leather and may be able to make a scuff mark look less noticeable. 

To clean your leather sneakers, dampen your magic eraser, then rub it back and forth across your shoes. Wipe with a soft cloth once you've removed the stain or dirt. If you don't have a magic eraser on hand or want to try another route, you can also clean leather using mild Ivory Soap with a damped nonabrasive sponge or soft rag. Just be sure to dry the shoes when you are complete, so there's not a chance for water or residue to ruin the material.

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The Best Detergent for Cleaning White Sneakers

To keep your white sneakers in the best shape possible when cleaning them, use a gentle detergent, such as Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin.  For extra stinky shoes, try adding a bit of distilled white vinegar. While the shoes may be white, don't use any bleach, as this can damage the materials.  To remove set-in stains, it's helpful to use a soft toothbrush to gently brush any stains with soapy water before placing the sneakers in the washing machine. Air dry in the sun if possible, and you can also stuff the sneakers with rags or paper towels to help absorb moisture and maintain the original shape.

How to Clean White Sneaker Insoles

Always wash your shoe's insoles separately (unless the label states otherwise). Soles can soak up a lot of moisture, which makes them difficult to dry.  If insoles are not machine washable, hand-wash them by gently brushing them using a soft toothbrush dipped in soapy water. Use a sponge to soak up excess water.  After cleaning, sprinkle the insoles with Arm & Hammer baking soda to soak up any leftover moisture and remove odor.  Once the insoles are dry, wipe off the excess baking soda and place them back in your clean white sneakers.

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