Busting the Best White Shoe Cleaner Myths

Tuesday Bote - March 4, 2021



Ah, white sneakers. The best things about them are they look great, they go with everything in your closet, they're still enjoying top exposure as a fashion trend, they're ultra-comfortable, the list is endless. The worst thing about them, if there ever was one, is that they can get dirty within a minute of putting them on. You should clean your white sneakers regularly to get the most out of them, but if you're doing it wrong, you will belatedly realize that doing so degrades your sneakers and shortens their lifespan. 

How hard can cleaning a pair of sneakers be? Contrary to popular belief, it's not as simple as tossing the pair in the washing machine now and then. Of course, the reality of cleaning your sneakers isn't that much of a challenge, either; it's just not as fully automated as a wash and rinse cycle, which you should never do, by the way. Cleaning sneakers in the washing machine is one of those big myths that need to be busted - it sounds just about right and will save you a lot of time and effort, but your shoes won't be happy about it, for sure.

Busting the Best White Shoe Cleaner Myths

We collected a list of some of the most popular white sneaker cleaner myths, and we're busting them so that you know better and your white sneakers last longer. 

Myth 1: Quickly wash your white sneakers in the washer and dryer

Fact: There was a time when the washer was the only way people knew how to keep white shoes clean. Not all sneakers will benefit from a wash cycle or, scratch that, not many sneakers will benefit from the washing machine. 

We're starting with this myth because we already mentioned it, and you're probably wondering what you've been doing wrong. Back in the day, most sneakers were made of canvas and thin rubber soles, and it made sense to throw them in the wash. However, even canvas sneakers eventually yellow and get warped after constant machine washing. Faster deterioration will occur when you machine wash your leather sneakers, and ooh, did you say suede? Suede shouldn't even get wet at all. 

Putting them in the dryer is even worse. Applying intense heat to your sneakers will quickly wear down the materials and ruin them by dislodging the glue and distorting the shape.

Myth 2: White leather sneakers are too high maintenance

Fact: Even if it takes more effort to manually clean your white sneaks, this is the much better way to care for them, by far. While using white shoe cleaner canvas shoes makes sense, this doesn't mean that a white shoe cleaner for leather doesn't exist. Actually, between canvas and leather sneakers, leather is much easier to clean and care for. 

Myth 3: Use a scrub brush to scrub your white sneakers 

Fact: A scrub brush is usually made of a combination of hard and soft bristles for cleaning carpets, grout lines, and bathtubs. These are hardworking and can make your bathroom sparkle, but we don't recommend them for your shoes. 

It might come as a surprise, but there are brushes dedicated to cleaning shoes and sneakers. Sneaker brushes have softer bristles, often made of horse or hog hair. Giving your sneakers a dry brush is the best way to clean your sneaker, and if you don't accumulate hard stains, dry brushing is enough for a sneaker refresh. Suede especially takes to dry brushing very well (remember, we mentioned that suede shouldn't get wet?), but remember to rush in one direction only. Oliver Cabell's premium shoe cleaning brush has hog bristles and a handle made of beechwood and is designed explicitly for sneaker materials: canvas, suede, nubuck, cotton, and leather. 

If your Oliver Cabell sneaker brush hasn't arrived yet, you can use an old toothbrush in its stead as a DIY substitute. 

Myth 4: Soap up your white sneakers with dishwashing detergent 

Fact: Dishwashing detergent may seem gentle enough to use as a white leather sneaker cleaner, but the same chemicals that slough off grease and soot from your pans will damage your sneakers. Stay away from any cleaners that contain bleach and peroxide, as well. Your best course is to use the white shoe cleaner leather solution that a sneaker brand produces.

Myth 5: Rinse the soap off your white sneakers with water

Fact: Submerging your white leather sneakers in water or pouring water all over them to rinse them out is a surefire way to cultivate mold. Wipe the foamy soap off with a rag or any piece of cloth instead, and let dry naturally. Wiping off the soapy residue already preliminarily dries your sneaker, hastening the drying process.

Myth 6: Dry your white sneakers under the sun

Fact: Direct sunlight is not kind to leather. Think about how you slather on sunscreen to protect your skin from UV rays. The same principle applies to your white leather sneakers. Dry them instead in a cool place, away from direct sunlight. We recommend stuffing your sneakers with shoe trees to preserve their shape as they dry. 

What's in a White Shoe Cleaner?

Sneakers are currently made of different materials: uppers made of canvas, leather, suede, nubuck, plus combinations of these, over rubber soles. Some specific materials have their own particular rules about cleaning according to what your shoes are made of, and in most cases, they have specific cleaning agents that work well with them. 

Remember we said that suede shouldn't get wet? The best white sneaker DIY solution to use with suede is vinegar, and only on the stains, your sneaker brush or a rubber pencil eraser can't get out. 

Another white shoe cleaner DIY alternative recommended is baking soda, which you should turn into a paste with water or white vinegar to remove tough stains. Use your sneaker brush or toothbrush to apply and wipe off with a cloth. 

You should remove your shoelaces when cleaning your shoes and wash them separately while you're at it. The best way how to clean white shoelaces is to soak them in a solution of gentle soap or sneaker cleaner and water, then scrubbing them clean with your sneaker brush. The soak would have already loosened any dirt, making it easier to clean them. 

The best white shoe cleaner is often made by the same people who made your sneakers. Sneaker brands usually develop their own cleaning solutions; Oliver Cabell has a premium biodegradable shoe cleaner specifically formulated to be useful for all the materials we mentioned just now, including suede and nubuck. As we detailed earlier, use your sneaker brush to apply the sneaker cleaner to your shoes and wipe off with a cloth. Dry your shoes naturally, out of direct sunlight. It would be best if you tried using Oliver Cabell's wooden shoe trees, which are made of odor-absorbing cedarwood, to help preserve the shape of your sneakers and absorb moisture as they dry. 


Aside from white sneaker cleaner, wooden shoe trees, and the hog bristle brush, Oliver Cabell's shoe care products also highlight a shoe whitener, quick wipes, and a leather conditioner. Oliver Cabell's shoe whitener is a white shoe cream developed over a year before its release. It's very effective in "erasing" scuffs and small scratches on your leather. It also provides a level of protection for your sneakers. Similarly, Oliver Cabell's leather conditioner revives the leather in your sneakers and protects them from the elements for several days. Leather conditioner can be used on other colors besides white but should only be used on leather and not on suede. 

Oliver Cabell's Quick Wipes are a pack of 24 wipes that you can take with you and answers how to clean your white shoes instantly when you need to. These wipes are great to use when you've accidentally spilled coffee or food on your sneakers at a party or sloshed them with mud or water as you're on your daily commute. 


Perhaps the biggest myth about cleaning your white shoes is that it's a difficult, tedious chore. If you have all the materials you need, and you know what cleaning techniques actually work and help preserve your white sneakers, cleaning your shoes can actually be easy and fun.


Is Oliver Cabell's leather conditioner safe to use every day?

Oliver Cabell's leather conditioner is made of organic materials, namely beeswax, and a blend of almond, coconut, and olive oils. It is safe to use every day, but you only need to use it sporadically, as the product stays on and protects your sneakers for several days. 

Do Oliver Cabell products come bundled in a white sneaker cleaner kit?

Oliver Cabell has several kits for your needs. The most basic kit contains the sneaker cleaner and sneaker brush, while more elaborate kits add on shoe whitener or leather conditioner. Oliver Cabell's Refresh Kit includes a white shoe cleaner, shoe brush, shoe whitener, and an extra pair of cotton shoelaces. 

Does Oliver Cabell charge for shipping, and do they ship to other countries? 

Oliver Cabell ships within the US for free, for orders above $100, and internationally for orders above $170. Your country may charge you separately for duties or other taxes. International orders are sent through DHL.