You take the time to clean your clothes — it’s time to start cleaning your shoes, too. Proactive cleaning is the best way to keep your best white sneakers white, whether they need a quick spray before you wear them out for the first time, or a good scrub after a particularly nasty rainstorm. Because, let’s be honest, if you don’t know how to clean white sneakers, you shouldn’t bother buying them in the first place.
Nothing says “unpolished” more than a guy who’s rocking a cool T-shirt and perfectly cuffed jeans only to pair them with the dirtiest, nastiest sneakers. Leave the Grunge look in the 90s where it belongs. Not only will your white sneakers look dirty, but not giving them a regular cleaning also leaves them prone to bacteria and germs (not to mention some gnarly smells). Ultimately, we simply suggest you just learn how to keep your white sneakers clean instead.
Keeping your white shoes clean isn’t as hard as you think. The first step is working to prevent your shoes from getting dirty in the first place. If it’s too late to stain-guard your new Nikes, don’t worry, there are ways to get your sneakers looking fresh again.
If you’re ready to kick dirty shoes, you might be asking — how do I keep white sneakers clean? Here are six easy ways to do it.
- Pre-treat them with stain and water repellant
- Use laundry sticks or makeup wipes for spot cleaning
- Use a white shoe cleaning kit for regular care and maintenance
- Keep shoe wipes on hand for cleanup on the go
- Scrub scuffs and stains off the outer soles
- Throw them in the washing machine (for canvas and fabric material only!)
1. Pre-Treat Them
Whether your white sneakers are designed from canvas, suede, leather, mesh or a combination of materials, all sneakers should be pre-treated before you wear them the first time. Think of pre-treatments like placing an invisible shield over your shoes. These chemical force fields turn raindrops into harmless beads of water that bounce off your white sneakers. The best stain repellants also stop stains before they can even begin to think about settling down in the threads. If you have a precious pair of suede shoes, this is especially important, as suede is notoriously difficult to clean.
Our favorite sneaker protecting spray at the moment comes from Jason Markk, a brand that most sneakerheads should be familiar with (and whose products will appear frequently in this guide). The Jason Markk Repel Spray is super easy to apply and is safe for all materials, from natural materials like suede and leather to synthetic fabrics and blends. This water-based spray won’t alter the color of your new white sneakers, and once it’s absorbed, it will repel water and stains from settling onto your shoes in the first place. And when the spray runs out, there are convenient refills available.
Another repellant to try is the Cadillac Select Premium Water Repellent & Stain Protector. This eco-friendly, silicone-free spray creates an invisible barrier for your footwear against the elements. Hold the bottle about 10 inches from your shoes and spray away. Pro tip: give them a good coating, let ‘em dry, then spray them again. Sometimes it takes a couple of coats to really seal in the surfaces.
2. Spot Cleaning White Sneakers
Things happen. No matter what precautions you make take — leaping over mud puddles, pivoting away from dropped wine or cocktail glasses, stepping lightly so that no stain or scuff appears — just as you’re about to walk out the door, you see it. A stain, a mark or a smudge that mars the perfection of your white sneakers. Other people won’t even notice, but you’ll know it’s there. You don’t have to immediately take them off and toss them in the wash. There are products that will make those annoying blots vanish.
In fact, you probably have this product in your home already, which is why it’s one of our favorite hacks for cleaning white sneakers. It’s great for making crayons on walls disappear, faucets become gleamingly bright after a quick swipe, and cemented bathtub grime swirls quickly down the drain. The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Original Cleaning Pads freshen up white kicks in a flash. Dampen an edge of the eraser, and gently rub the offending off in seconds.
Another product that does a great job of keeping white sneakers white are non-oily makeup remover wipes. Okay, you’re maybe thinking “What? Is this person crazy?” Nope. In fact, this is my favorite shoe cleaning hack, and it’s especially useful for cleaning white sneakers.
It never hurts to think out of the box when it comes to looking good on the cheap. Non-oily makeup remover wipes are pretty amazing products that do way more than you think. A wipe can clean a sneaker, shine a vegan leather shoe, take off deodorant stains from shirts, clean a laptop screen and more. Neutrogena makes cheap makeup remover wipes that are fragrance-free, which is perfect for cleaning men’s shoes.
3. Invest in a General Shoe Cleaning Kit
When you’re not wearing wear your white sneakers, you want to treat them right with regular care and cleaning. If you’ve ever wondered how sneakerheads keep their white kicks looking so fresh and clean, there’s not a big secret — you just have to have the right tools.
For heavy-duty cleaning, there’s only one shoe cleaning kit worth mentioning. The Jason Markk Essential Shoe Cleaning Kit includes a foaming Premium Shoe Cleaner and a wooden handle brush for easy application. The product is safe to use on all colors and materials including leather, suede, nubuck, canvas, nylon, cotton mesh and more. While there are better products for spot cleaning white sneakers, when it comes to regular maintenance, you’ll want this shoe kit.
Next, let’s address that dreaded foot odor. If you want to get rid of stinky feet, pop a couple of sneaker deodorizers like the Sof Sole Sneaker Balls into your shoes and bad smells vanish. With thousands of rave reviews on Amazon, you know they work. They can also be used to de-scent lockers, gym bags and backpacks.
4. How To Clean White Sneakers When You’re on the Go
Someone steps on your shoe. You accidentally stub a toe. Junk falls on your white sneaker. It happens. Rather than letting those white sneakers look dirty, you can quickly fix them on the go. So many companies have white sneaker wipes that can fit into a messenger bag or jacket pocket.
Part of the BootRescue family of products, SneakerRescue is made with an all-natural formula that cleans canvas, leather and suede sneakers (and shoes of all kinds and colors). The small resealable pack contains 15 textured wipes.
For leathers or suede sneakers, use a cleaning wipe and address the dirt right when it happens. Tight Wipes Sneaker and Shoe Cleaner are pre-moistened sneaker wipes that restore your shoes to their original condition. They’re safe on apparel, safe on hands and don’t make a mess.
Brush off any surface dust, then give your shoes a good scrub. These Jason Markk Quick Wipes are specifically made for footwear, so you don’t have to worry about scuffing or damaging the material. When it comes to cleaning shoes, there’s no brand we trust more than Jason Markk. The wipes are dual-textured, with a smooth side to wipe away dirt, and raised dots on the reverse to clean extra-tough spots. Individually packaged, we like to keep a stack in our car, some at the office, a handful in our travel bag and the rest at home.
5. Wipe Away Scuffs on the Outer Soles
Scuffed sneakers and grungy soles is a fact of life, well, it used to be until SneakErasers came along. These tiny discs quickly dissolve gross scuff marks. They’re pre-moistened and ready to get to work. Open up a pack and then gently rub the offending item off your sneaks, and you’re good to go.
6. Throw Them in the Washing Machine
Spot cleaning can take off dings and stains, but when you wash sneakers in the machine, it’s like they’re getting a spa day AKA a deep cleaning. Using a washing machine will also get rid of any funky smells. Pro tip: remove the laces first so they don’t get caught in the spinner. There are products that you can use as a pre-wash or combined with a laundry detergent to keep sneakers white and new looking. One company created a laundry detergent specifically created for sneakers.
Dealing with stains like grass or wine can be frustrating, using OxiClean White Revive Laundry Remover brightens white sneakers and gets out dirt and other gunk from the fabric. Simply toss one pod into the washer along with your detergent and you’re done. If you have a stubborn stain, pre-soak the sneakers in the tub or sink with one of the OxiClean pods before washing them with detergent and an Oxi pod.
Please keep in mind that this step does NOT apply to leather, suede and designer shoes, which should always be cleaned by hand.
Specifically formulated for sneakers, Reshoevn8r Laundry Detergent Pods remove stains and eliminate stinky odors too. The brand recommends washing up to two pairs at a time in cold water. They suggest you pop the pod in their laundry bags with your sneakers. The laundry detergent works well with these sneakers: Jordan, Nike, Adidas, Puma, Balenciaga, Yeezy, Air Force 1, Speed trainer, Skechers, Vans, Converse, Chuck Taylor, Air Max, Jordan 1, Jordan 3, Jordan 4, Ultraboost, NMD, Superstar, Off-White, Huarache and Reebok. Not compatible with color-blocked, wool, leather or suede sneakers. Again, never put those sneakers in a washing machine.
Your sneakers will feel incredibly pampered and look brand new after using the Shoes Wash Bags Sneaker Mesh Washing Cleaning Bag. These bags can fit numerous sneakers to safely wash them in the washing machine without damaging your sneakers or method of wash. The bags use upgraded net fabric which is much more durable than other net fabrics you might be used to. The bag zips at the top so your sneaks won’t slip out. When traveling, pop the sneakers into their bags and then in your weekender. The bag will protect your clothing from any random sneaker grit.