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How to clean white shoes and trainers: six cleaning hacks

We've all had our bright white shoes go from dazzling and shining to dull and grey, so how can you keep them looking fresh?

How to clean white shoes and trainers: six cleaning hacks

Summer is coming (finally) and it’s time to rock your white shoes again. But you’ve just found that they’re looking a bit dirty or dull after the long winter.

Fortunately all is not lost. You can wash white trainers, restoring some of that lost shine.

Watch the video below and read on for a step-by-step guide on how to clean white shoes or trainers, whether they’re made of leather, canvas or stretch material.

Become a laundry master with our complete guide on how to wash clothes.

1. Remove the laces and insole

removing trainer insoles to wash them

To give your shoes a proper clean, you need to remove the laces first. Try to remember how they were tied so you can rethread them the same after cleaning – you can take a photo of the laces if necessary.

Avoid a soggy sole by removing the insole, too. These are normally made of foam that is a nightmare to dry.

2. Give them a scrub

Dilute some liquid laundry detergent or completely dissolve some powder detergent in water. Don’t apply detergent directly onto your shoes.

Then you can use a wetted brush to get rid of most of the surface dirt and a cloth to tackle any leftover surface stains.

After, make sure you rinse away the left over detergent by using a cloth soaked in plain tap water.

If your white shoes are leather, then you can also buy purpose-made leather cleaner that won’t dry the leather as much as regular detergent.

3. Leave them to fully air dry

After giving your shoes a good once-over, you need to be patient and leave them to air dry, either hanging up or upside down on a rack. Ideally leave them in a breezy place, but avoid direct sunlight.

Never put your shoes in the tumble-dryer or on a radiator. Shoe soles are normally attached to the rest of the shoe with a glue adhesive. When heated up, this will deteriorate and you risk having your beloved shoes come apart.

4. Give them a shine

Once dry, you can give leather or plastic shoes a shine. Leather shoes will particularly benefit from a quick polish with a microfibre cloth.

This will also get rid of any water marks potentially created when drying.

5. Apply shoe protector and shield

To keep your white shoes looking bright for as long as possible, you can buy shoe protector. This will act as a coating that prevents dirt and stains from seeping into the material.

If you’re a sneaker-head and want to avoid the dreaded crease in the toe area, you can also buy a shoe shield. This will act like a rib-cage for your shoe, helping it to keep its perfect shape and not sag or crease over time.

6. Store them properly

Sunlight can cause the dazzling white of your shoes to dull over time, so store them away from any direct light.

Even out of the light, the white dyes and paints will naturally yellow over time. This happens because they oxidise with the air over long periods of time. Unless you can store your white shoes in a vacuum, there’s little you can do to prevent this.

Don’t over-wash your trainers either. Excessive cleaning could fade them, or simply wear away the material.

If you have a particularly loved pair of white shoes that need their pizzazz back, you can get professional colour restoration. These will properly clean your shoes and restore some of the original colour to them.

Can you put white shoes in the washing machine?

First things first, check the label. If there’s no label then play safe and wash by hand. And never put leather shoes in the washing machine.

If you’re going to use a washing machine, make sure you follow these instructions:

  • Only wash shoes and trainers on a cold or low temperature wash.
  • We recommend using a liquid detergent rather than powder or capsule, as it is more likely to fully dissolve in lower temperatures.
  • Protect your shoes by sticking them in a laundry bag. If you don’t have one, a spare pillow case tied at one end can work.
  • Don’t wash them alone – they’ll just bang about, potentially damaging your shoes and washing machine. Stick some towels or other white clothes in the wash with it to absorb impacts and balance the load.

Read our full story for more on washing trainers in the washing machine.

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