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14th July 2023 EDT FEATURES

How To Clean Your (White) Sneakers, as Explained by Shoe Mo

Nothing's quite as apropos and adaptable as white shoes. Your beater sneakers don't have to look beaten. Here's shoe care expert Shoe Mo showing us how to clean them.

How To Clean Your (White) Sneakers, as Explained by Shoe Mo
How To Clean Your (White) Sneakers, as Explained by Shoe Mo

Chances are, you’ve worn one pair to death at least once in your life. That’s simply how versatile white shoes are. They’re a wardrobe staple, a perfect complement to any outfit. Just as easy as they are to wear, however, they’re just as easy to get dirty. How exactly do you clean sneakers then?

Fret not, as Shoe Mo’s resident shoe care expert Vince explains how to clean white sneakers to keep you looking fresh and fly.

What you’ll need to clean sneakers

Sneaker Foam CleanerAny brand will usually do, or a mix of 20% soap and 80% water.
Horse Hair Brush/
Soft Brush
Mainly for the upper, also for dry brushing more delicate materials like suede.
Medium Brush/
All-Purpose Brush
For the midsoles and tougher materials such as leather or canvas.
This’s the one that comes with a standard cleaning kit.
Stiff BrushStrictly for the outsoles.
ClothTo clean, wipe, and dry the surfaces, especially the upper when even a soft brush is too hard.
Awl Prickers/
To remove grime and dirt in the crevices of the outsole.
The pincer is for the interior to unpick lint buildup from socks.
Suede EraserFor dry cleaning suede.

Your kit may not be as comprehensive but at least have a medium brush, horse hair/soft brush (at the very least), cloth, and a fresh foam cleaner.

Cleaning the outsoles

If Drake and his crew started from the bottom, so should we. To start cleaning white sneakers, use a stiff brush and dry scrub the outsole to remove any loose dirt or grime.

If you’re using a foam cleaner, apply the necessary amount onto the surface. If you’re using water and soap, dampen the bristles of your brush onto the mix then begin scrubbing*.

As experts advise, always scrub in one direction! It might appear as a zig-zag motion when you see others do it quickly but they actually scrub, lift the brush, and start from the original spot.

Use the prickers if you desire to remove any dirt that’s stuck in the crevices. Lastly, wipe dry with a clean cloth.

*People make the mistake of applying too much solvent which causes the shoes to yellow if not rinsed off properly after. So don’t apply too generously and remember to wipe them dry after.

Cleaning the midsoles

Moving up, apply the foam cleaner onto the midsole and scrub in one direction. Essentially, it’s the same process as above, but be gentler in this area to preserve the paint and other details. Use a cloth first to wipe and if the dirt is too stubborn, proceed with a medium or soft brush.

If your weapon of choice is a soap and water mix, dampen your brush and then scrub—and to reiterate—in one direction like Harry Styles used to be.

Always wipe dry thoroughly afterwards to prevent yellowing. This is caused by oxidation when soap residue is left on the shoes for a period of time under air and direct sunlight.

Cleaning the upper

Before proceeding, it’s always better to dry brush the upper first with a soft brush to remove any loose dirt. Then as before, apply the foam cleaner and begin wiping.

Depending on the intricacies of the shoe’s design, it’s best to be as delicate as possible when performing this process. Always wipe with a cloth, then if necessary, a soft brush*.

To be more precise, it’s advised to remove the laces (and wash them) when cleaning the upper to reach even the tongue, and to prevent dirt from hardening and cracking on the eyelets.

Once more, remember to throughly wipe them dry to prevent them from yellowing.

*Although the medium (all-purpose) brush is the standard in most cleaning kits, it often proves too coarse for most uppers. The disclaimer is usually stated on the care label of the packaging but is often overlooked. Only canvas and certain types of leather are strong enough to withstand it.

Cleaning the interior

The cleaning of interior’s oft-forgotten in the process but it is recommended since lint from socks (and dead skin cells!) do build up over time.

If possible, detach the insoles from the shoe and begin with a vacuum (if you have access to one). If not, just proceed with dry brushing them. There may be debris that’s harder to pick off, so use the pincers if you can summon the diligence.

Finish the process with some good ol’ soap, water, and scrubbing.

Drying your sneakers

Naturally, it’s best to dry your sneakers indoors away from direct sunlight. But here’s a tip you may not have heard of:

Some shoeboxes actually have ventilation holes. Let the hairdryer blow through them with your shoes inside. Be mindful though! Do these in low heat and only for a few minutes.

More about Shoe Mo

Making your sneakers look the best they can is what Shoe Mo does. But that barely scratches the surface of what they can actually do. Here’s a list of things you should leave to the pro:

Deep cleaning; repair services; midsole repainting; unyellowing treatment; Sole Shield application; restoration; customization; amongst many more.

Aside from the above-mentioned services, they also have an online store where you can purchase the tools you’ll need.

Established in 2016, they’ve since serviced more than 70,000 pairs and counting! If you’re in Singapore, pay them a visit at:

#04-140 14 Scotts Road, Far East Plaza, Singapore 228213

And it’s only one of several other locations in Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam.

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