5 Golden Rules For Keeping Your White Sneakers White

It's a daily battle worth fighting.
IMAGE Common Projects

The white sneaker is your summer blank canvas upon which many stylish looks can be built. But they have one major, obvious drawback: they don't stay white for long.

The window between 'box fresh' (when, if anything, they can be a little too white) and 'looking tatty' is alarming small, particularly if you're using them to add a casual edge to an otherwise smart outfit.

Unfortunately, that means there is some work involved. The flipside of white sneakers being the most versatile footwear in your arsenal is that they are also the most high maintenance.

Here are 5 tips for keeping them in pristine condition.

1 | Avoid the washing machine

Tempting as it is to just 'bung 'em in the wash', putting sneakers – particularly canvas pairs – in the washing machine will damage the stitching and discolour the rubber. If you have to do it, put them on a very low heat and allow them to dry naturally rather than in an equally harmful tumble dryer. But really, this is a shortcut you're best to avoid.


2 | Invest in three basic tools

Along with some warm soapy water, you need: a hard brush, a soft brush and a microfibre cloth, the holy trinity of sneaker stain removal. If your sneakers are leather, you can use the hard brush all over, otherwise save it for the mid-toe (the hard bit at the end). If you're working on suede or canvas, use the softer brush. Work the water into the fabric in circular motions, repeating for deeper stains, the use the microfibre cloth to wipe down. As with all stains on anything ever, the sooner you tackle it the better, meaning a daily touch up is better than a once-a-month deep clean.

3 | Remember the laces

Even if the body of your shoe is white as the the pure driven snow, dull laces can be the detail that let them down. Unfortunately you can't clean laces properly when they're still on, so remove them and them wash separately in soapy water (stick them on a radiator or use a hairdryer to dry). If they're too far gone or getting frayed, don't underestimate the power of a fresh spare pair to lift the entire shoe.

Steve McQueen, 1963/Getty.
Steve McQueen wearing white sneakers, 1963

4 | Get off to a good start

When you buy your sneakers, keep the box they came in and invest in some all weather protection spray at the same time. The former means you can store them free from dust and a coating of the latter before you first wear them out will protect them against the elements. The key word here? Prevention.

5 | Wear socks

Going sockless with sneakers in the summer is a sharp look, but the trick is to only appear to be sockless. Invest in some white ankle socks or some invisible pairs so you're not sweating directly into the fabric of your shoe, which will discolour them (not to mention begin to smell).

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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