We asked the experts how to keep our white sneakers, slip-ons and bags looking clean this summer. Photo: Vanni Bassetti/Getty Images When so much time, deliberation and most likely money have gone into hunting down the perfect pair of white sneakers — be it your traditional, but perennially cool Chuck Taylors or a pair of exquisite leather kicks by Common Projects — keeping them white is obviously top priority. I mean, what’s the point of wearing a pair of $695 Saint Laurent court classic high-tops if the alabaster leather is marred with unsightly scuffs? And never mind the faux pas of yellowed rubber soles. Well, to sum it up, owning a pair of pristine white sneakers is a commitment. But it’s worth it if you put in the effort. So to find out exactly how to preserve and protect the precious shoes, I consulted a few experts in the field — David Mesquita, vice president of the fashion set’s go-to shoe and bag miracle fixer Leather Spa, Angie Dita, designer for Vans Classics, and Megan Wellemeyer, lifestyle product manager at Keds. (And if you needed another excuse to invest in a pair of leather sneakers over canvas, Megan says that the former tends to stay cleaner longer… )
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Prevention, prevention, prevention. The absolute second after you take your brand new shoes out of the box, pre-treat them with a stain and water repellent. For canvas and leather, Mesquita swears by the Leather Spa nano-technology spray, which he likens to skincare products. “It’s meant to not seal the pores of the leather, so it’s still breathable,” he says. (Full disclosure: I use it on all my shoes and bags.) To keep her classic Vans slip-ons clean, Angie starts with a Scotchgard™ spray to protect the fabric, and for her leather Sk8-Hi Zips, she uses a Jason Markk repel agent. For canvas, Megan from Keds multi-tasks with a winter boot water repellent spray. Also, a one-time spray isn’t enough. Make sure to repeat every few weeks or so. Regular spot-cleaning is key. Scroll to Continue
All three emphasize that you need to wipe off any stains or scuffs as soon as possible, otherwise the blemishes will penetrate into the fabric or leather. It might sound like an extra effort, but once you get home and take your sneakers off, take an extra few minutes to give your kicks a meticulous once-over for smudges and the like. Then get to spot cleaning. Angie has an arsenal of whitening tools ready: Either a Vans cleaning agent or Jason Markk essentials kit, plus a set of different sized micro-fiber brushes. (Like I said, commitment.) “One tip, is to make sure when you are cleaning white suede or canvas to not scrub too hard,” Angie says. “Gently wash and repeat until clean.” She’s also a fan of shoe wipes (genius). David suggests a cleaner cream and a paper towel to spot clean leather, and says that his team has enlisted the help of Tide stain remover pens for canvas. Whatever you do, DO NOT PUT YOUR CANVAS SNEAKERS IN THE WASHER. (I’m assuming you wouldn’t consider placing your leather sneakers into a spin cycle.) “The wear and tear of the machine and the heat of the dryer can make the shoes discolor further and rip or tear them,” Megan warns. Not only that, but a machine wash will definitely turn the beautiful white-on-white rubber into that dreaded yellow hue. What else makes the rubber yellow? And what can you do about it? Like vampires, white rubber can also be ravaged by the sun. So store your shoes indoors and out of direct sunlight. David also suggests spot-cleaning the rubber as needed with water mixed with mild soap and a small brush. Basically, the goal is to not reach the point of ugly, yellowed soles. But as a last resort, Megan suggests using Retrobrite, a hydrogen peroxide, OxyClean, and cornstarch concoction that you can apparently make at home. That said, the the mixing process sounds a bit daunting (goggles and protective gloves are suggested), so I’m thinking it’s best to prevent this from happening in the first place. OKAY, so you’ve got your new white kicks, but how do you keep white sneakers white and bright all year round? If you read my last post you’re probably wondering about the upkeep or maintenance required with owning a pair of white shoes. I’ve heard of a few women who have a wardrobe of white sneakers. One pair gets dirty, marked or stained and they just throw them out! Talk about extravagant. But I — and I’m guessing many of you — would never consider purchasing several pairs of white sneakers every year. Nor would I ever toss them out just because they’ve got a small mark. Instead, I’ve adopted a fairly strict cleaning routine. Here are my tips on how to keep your white sneakers white.
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1. Before wearing your new shoes, pre-treat with a waterproofer or stain repellent, such as a Scotchguard, for canvas or something similar for leather. Reapply every few weeks. Remember to use the correct product on the right material because the wrong product can damage the shoe instead of protecting it. Generally speaking, creams, oils, beeswax (products applied with a clean, dry, soft white cloth) such as Kiwi Zanolin are great for conditioning and waterproofing soft leather. Or a spray waterproofer works well on fabric and canvas shoes. 2. NEVER EVER wash your canvas sneakers in the washing machine. Some brands suggest you can, but just DON’T. 3. However, if you get some unsightly marks and scuffs on your white shoes, use a clean cloth dipped in white vinegar to spot clean some stains. 4. For more stubborn stains, such as oil or grease, spot clean stains with a clean damp cloth dipped in a solution of warm water and gentle baby shampoo. 5. You can use bleach — diluted, of course (one part bleach with five parts water). Rinse with warm water when you’re done. Full strength (undiluted) bleach will actually leave a yellow mark where you sponged. 6. Use an old toothbrush dipped in your cleaning solution of choice — warm water and shampoo or white vinegar — to get to those hard-to-reach areas. 7. After cleaning, stuff shoes with paper towels or an old dry cloth to help absorb any excess moisture and speed up the drying process. 8. Leave to dry outdoors, but out of direct sunlight. 9. Clean white laces by placing in a lingerie wash bag or a pillowcase and wash in a hot (whites) cycle in the washing machine. 10. Use white nail polish — truly! — to cover up scuffs and scratches on leather and rubber soles of your sneakers. Or try a sports shoes whitener such as Kiwi Sports Whitener. BONUS: If you wear your sneakers without socks or those little cotton sockettes, sprinkle baking soda inside your sneakers at night to absorb any unpleasant odours.
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DOUBLE BONUS: For those who want to keep their white shirts and Tees white, I swear by good old Bluo, the liquid blue optical laundry brightener. I’ve been using it for years and it’s never let me down. Your welcome! Do you love your white sneakers? How do you keep them clean? Like to share your tips and hints? Would love to hear from you. Ever stylishly yours …
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