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How to Clean Sneakers and Restore Yellowed Midsoles

Posted on January 09 2018

Raymond Truong

Adidas NMD

Shoes. We wear them everyday, we collect them, we spend a ton of money on them - so it’s only fair that we keep good care of them. Your shoes take a beating every day and showing them a little TLC every now and then will help give you a cleaner and more polished look.

I’ve been noticing a lot of guys lately rocking some dope outfits, but the minute I look at their sneakers, I’m immediately taken aback. No matter how nice of a shoe it is, a dirty pair of sneakers can easily take away from the look as a whole. Here’s how you can start the new year off with clean kicks:

There are essentially two ways you can clean your sneakers. First, is the lazy method where you just toss them in the washing machine and let the machine handle the rest. The other method is manual, which requires a bit more elbow grease.

The Lazy Method

If you’re like me, you're always on-the-go and manually cleaning your sneakers by hand just isn’t something you have time for. Using the washing machine to clean your shoes is very convenient and it gets all the dirt out in those hard to reach places. I might get some grief for suggesting this method, but it’s not as savage as you think it is - IF you do it properly.

This method works best for cloth or knitted shoes. Due to the textures, nooks and crannies of these shoes, they can be a little harder to clean. DO NOT throw your suede or leather shoes in the washing machine. That much water will shrink, warp and stain them.

  1. To begin, remove the insoles and laces from the shoes and place them into a separate wash bag so they don’t get tangled in the wash (your girlfriend’s bra wash bag will do great). If your shoes are exceptionally filthy, try brushing off the loose dirt with a soft brush.
  2. Next, add your shoes to the washer along with a load of old towels. The towels will help balance the load and keep your shoes from knocking around in the washer.
  3. Add liquid detergent and run the delicate or hand wash cycles with cold water. Avoid using powder detergent as they can sometimes leave behind residue inside your shoes.
  4. After your sneakers are finished with the wash, air dry them. Do not use the dryer as the heat can damage the sneakers.

    The Manual Method

    This is the safest way to clean your more expensive sneakers that you don’t want to risk doing any damage to - especially if you’ve got them red bottom bloody shoes Cardi B’s rapping about.

    1. Remove the laces.
    2. Grab a bottle of sneaker cleaner or prepare a solution of soap and water (70% soap, 30% water). Remember to use the right kind of cleaner for the type of shoe you have. Recently, my favorite for sneakers has been the Essential Kit from Jason Markk. The bottle looks small, but you really only need a small amount for it to be effective. For the fellas on a budget, the generic shoe cleaners you find at Footlocker or Amazon will do just fine – I just don’t recommend using the plastic cap brush that it comes with. The bristles are very abrasive and might cause some unwanted scuffs.
    3. Dip a brush or cloth into the cleaning solution and gently scrub the outsole, midsole and sole of the shoes to remove the debris.
    4. Use a fresh sheet of paper towel to wipe away the excess soap or cleaner, replacing the paper towel for a new sheet as it becomes saturated.

      Restoring a Yellowed Midsole

      If you have white sneakers, sometimes even after a good cleaning your midsole might still not look as pristinely white as it did out of the box. Here are a couple tips especially for the midsole:

      Dr. Clean Magic Eraser

      This thing works wonders in getting the dirt and some of yellow off sneaker midsoles. All you have to do is wet the eraser thoroughly and then give the midsole a good scrub. The special foam the magic eraser is made off acts as an abrasive cleaner that loosens up the dirt, while the microstructure of the foam sucks in and traps the grime.

      White Sneaker Paint

      The yellowing of midsoles is less about dirt and staining, and mostly about oxidation. Anyone that has owned a pair Adidas’ with boost soles will know what I’m talking about. This chemical reaction is largely unavoidable, but it can be fixed! The best and easiest solution I’ve found is to use a white sneaker paint such as the ones from SneakerER. The pen form allows for easy application. Just apply a thin coat of paint to the midsole (after cleaning) and allow to dry for an hour. If needed, apply a second coat and your sneakers should be restored to their former glory!