We all have different styles, so no two shoe collections are completely alike. You might be a fan of a chic pair of leather loafers, while your friend may be all about chunky ankle boots.
That said, there are a few shoe styles that we all probably have on our shoe rack by the door — the basics. You know what we’re referring to — those white runners that have become staples thanks to their timeless nature and the fact that they’re comfortable enough to wear all day long. We love them because they can be paired with pretty much anything, from floral midi dresses to frayed jeans and a white t-shirt.
The secret to keeping your white runners white and bright
Keeping your white runners crisp and clean seems to be one of the hardest tricks of all — until now! While the a-list might be able to purchase a new pair of sleek white trainers when they get theirs dirty, how can we mere mortals ensure our shoes stay looking pristine — especially when we want to wear them hard and use them for years?
Well, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Try out these step-by-step tips for cleaning white runners, and keeping them clean, white and looking like new. There are actually a lot of factors to consider, such as what material they’re made of (whether leather, canvas or suede). But we’ve got tricks to help you get rid of scuff marks, discolouration, grime and much more for all fabrics so you can keep wearing those well-worn kicks on repeat.
What you need to clean your runners
- A towel
- A soft brush
- A microfibre wash cloth
- An old toothbrush for hard-to-reach places
- Washing-up liquid or hand soap
- Magic erasers
- Baby wipes
- Spray protectant
Cleaning white leather trainers step by step
A pair of pristine Nikes, Reeboks or white Adidas runners straight of the box is a thing of glory. If you want people to think you bought yours just yesterday, read on for our tried-and-true hacks for cleaning white leather trainers:
Step 1: Grab an old toothbrush and some hand soap
You can try a dedicated runner cleaner (some even come with a brush applicator) but this method works just well. Mix in some liquid hand soap and warm water and with your worn toothbrush, gently scrub any grimy areas on the leather. Toothbrushes are ideal for really getting into those hard-to-reach areas along the rubber edges.
Step 2: Use vinegar and baking soda on any lingering stains
Dilute with equal parts water and lightly scrub away. This works better on newer stains but with some patience and a little elbow grease can work on pretty much any stain.
To really up the stain-busting ante, you can also mix in a tablespoon of baking soda with equal parts vinegar and hot water. Once your mixture has formed a paste, scrub in circular motions with your toothbrush and leave to sit for a while to really get those trainers looking bright white again. Use a damp cloth to remove the paste and repeat the process once more if needed.
Step 3: Use white nail polish to cover scratches to the leather
If you see a little scratch or smudge on your new white trainers, just take out your white nail polish and do a little touch-up.
Step 4: Magic eraser any scuffs on the rubber
They’re called magic erasers for a reason! If you can’t find these, a microfibre wash cloth dipped in vinegar rubbed gently on any pesky marks should do the job.
Step 5: Let your runners air dry out of direct sunlight
This can cause them to turn yellow. Don’t be tempted to bung them in the dryer.
Now your leather runners are looking fresh again, here’s how to keep them looking white for longer
- Use a protector. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Stop your runners from getting filthy in the first place by using a spray-on stain-and-water repellent. Make sure that you top up every few weeks.
- Spot clean on the regular. Try to catch any stains and scuffs soon after they occur with a baby wipe — this will save you having to try to remove baked-in stains weeks down the line.
How to clean white canvas trainers
Leather is one of the easier runner materials to clean because it tends to absorb less mud and water than other fabrics, like mesh and canvas. Whether you have a pair of Converse, Supergas or Vans, there are things you can do to ensure that your canvas beauties reach their maximum lifespan and remain in pristine condition wear after wear. Keep scrolling for our cost-effective tips on how to clean canvas runners:
Step 1: Take the laces off
Your laces make a big difference when it comes to keeping your canvas trainers looking fresh, so show them some love every now and again! Hand-wash your laces in warm water with gentle soap and let them air-dry. Soak these with a bit of laundry detergent and lemon. Let them air dry.
Step 2: Use a cloth or soft brush to remove dried-in surface dirt
This is a great way to get any caked-in mud off the rubber parts of your runners.
Step 3: Wash the fabric by hand
Use an old toothbrush, warm water, and gentle soap if your shoes have some dirt spots in hard-to-reach places. Scrub gently and you’ll be left with squeaky clean trainers!
Step 4. Remove any persistent stains with vinegar and baking soda
Yep, vinegar again! Take a cloth, and dip it in vinegar from your kitchen cupboard. Rub gently to remove small stains. If the marks are especially stubborn, mix in a bit of whitening toothpaste with warm water and with your soft brush, gently scrub the entire canvas.
Step 5. Stuff them and leave to dry overnight
Once you’ve cleaned your beloved canvas trainers, stuff the inside with some paper towels. This will speed up the drying process so you won’t have to wait as long to wear them!
Step 6: Tackle any oil stains
Use your gentlest shampoo, warm water and a toothbrush or rag to gently wipe at the oil smudge. It should come right out, so no need to worry!
How to clean suede runners
With Irish weather, there’s always a very real chance a downpour is on the horizon, which means understanding how to take care of your suede runners is a priority. And with suede being a delicate material, you’ll have to be cautious that you don’t end up damaging your runners in the process of cleaning them.
There’s no need to turn to a professional for help. By following these simple instructions, you’ll breathe new life into those shabby-looking suede runners in no time:
Step 1: Get a suede brush
Firstly, fill your runners with newspaper or a shoe tree to retain the shape. Brush gently with a dry suede brush in circular motions to remove any loose or bigger pieces of dried-in dirt. Make sure to allow any mud to dry fully before trying to brush it off.
Step 2: Soak a soft brush in suede cleaner
Again, brush the fabric is small circles. You’ll want to use enough of the suede cleaning solution so that your brush is moist but not too damp and scrub lightly in one direction, following the grain of the fabric. Let the runner dry completely before attempting any subsequent rounds of cleaning.
Step 3: Use a suede eraser on any persistent spots
When the shoe is dry, just rub your eraser on any deeply ingrained grim areas that remain. If this doesn’t work, then a try distressing the stain with a nail brush.
Step 4: Let the runners dry for at least a day
At this point, you can give your runners another brush with the dry suede brush to soften up and restore the nap.
Step 5: Be sure to use a suede protector
This is far and away the number one thing you can do to keep your suede runners looking as good as possible for longer.
One other thing: Don’t ever put your runners in the washing machine!
Contrary to popular belief, never put your trainers in the washing machine (unless they’re flyknit or fabric). Your washing machine will be much too rough on your trainers, even on the gentle setting. We never recommend you clean trainers in a washing machine. Play it safe and stick with the hand-washing methods we’ve outlined above.
And when you can’t get those runners clean enough…
Maybe it’s time to buy a new pair?