The problem with buying white shoes is that they inevitably become, well, less white. And while there's something to be said for lived-in shoes that don't look fresh out of the box, there's a fine line between a few scuffs and downright dirty shoes. Here are some tips for how to brighten and whiten your kicks.
Leather: Quality leather shoes will last for decades if you take care of them. For easy upkeep, wipe them down with a slightly damp cloth every few days to pick up any dirt and grime. (Be sure not to soak the cloth in water because leather should never be too wet.) To target specific spots, use a cleaning agent like specialized white leather shoe cleaner, or white toothpaste if you’re in a pinch. Squeeze a little paste onto the shoe, rub lightly with a damp cloth, and wipe the shoe clean with a dry towel.
Canvas: The best part about cleaning canvas is that it can weather almost any treatment, including strong detergents and bleach. To be safe, test out any cleaning agent on a small, hidden area of the shoe first, like the back of the tongue. When you’ve found a cleaner that works, scrub and rinse the shoes thoroughly. Then, submerge them in a hot water bath with a splash of bleach. After a final rinse, the canvas should look like new.
Suede: Suede is susceptible to warping, and too much moisture can leave permanent marks, so your best cleaning option is a suede brush. Available at most cobblers and convenience stores, these wiry, stiff brushes lift and kick off small chunks of dirt that get wedged into the grain. Be sure to brush gently, and wipe the shoes down with a dry cloth before and after cleaning.
Mesh: To clean white sneakers, remove the laces and toss shoes in a washing machine with a splash of detergent. If they're extra filthy, put some detergent on a toothbrush, and scrub the problem areas five minutes before starting the cycle. Run the machine with hot water to loosen up dirt trapped on the mesh. The laces should get similar treatment, but skip the bleach as it can cause yellowing and disintegration of synthetic fibers. Place them in a mesh laundry bag before washing so they don’t knot up inside the machine. And remember: the hotter the water, the whiter the end result.