How To Clean White Nike Shoes Like a Sneakerhead

Tuesday Bote - Oct 17, 2020

Oliver Cabell Premium Shoe Care Kit

Athletic shoes need some lovin' too even if they aren't dress shoes. If you think that keeping a pair of Nikes spotless is not worth it, a sneakerhead will tell you otherwise – Nikes are not only sports performance shoes, but they’re also investments that are worth a lot more at resale value. A shoe collector bought the most expensive pair of Nikes at an auction this year for $560,000! The shoes are 1985 Michael Jordan signed Nikes, worn in his rookie year.

If there’s anyone who knows how to keep Nike shoes mint fresh, it’ll be a person like a sneakerhead. They say learning how to clean white Nike shoes or any sneaker for that matter, needs more than just soap and water. Here’s what top collectors, sneaker restorers, and cleaning services recommend on how to clean white Nike running shoes, or any other white trainers.


Why It's Important to Regularly Clean Your Nikes and ‘(Just) Do It’ Right

If the stink alone is not enough to spur you into action – one other major reason to clean your white Nike shoes is to keep them in good shape for longer. Grime and bacteria, especially in running shoes are a major bummer on any sneaker material and your soles. All that dirt, sweat, not to mention the weather (hello, salt stains!), does a job on your athletic shoes, making them deteriorate that much faster. 
This funky situation invites a lot of nasty things like Oxidation and Hydrolysis, that result in your shoes, literally crumbling away to nothing.

How Often Can You Clean Athletic Shoes?

The safe answer to this depends on how often you wear them and what you do to them. If they were a car, you’ll need to replace your Nike running shoes every 500 miles. (You can track that with a step counter). Learning how to clean your white shoes regularly, with the best cleaning shoe kits extends the life of your favorite sneakers.

Nike sneakers are made to be beaters, the term sneakerheads use for shoes that suffer the most with everyday wear. Even if you have 2 or 3 in rotation a week, running shoes or sports sneakers get “beat up” more than your average sneaker.  Experts recommend deep cleaning your Nikes at least every 2 weeks to keep them from smelling like a sewer.  


The Do's and Don'ts of How to Clean Your White Nike Shoes

Here are the top things to do (and avoid) to get your Nike’s clean as a whistle:


- Use shoe trees to reinforce your sneakers so that they hold up better while cleaning.
- Remove all laces and insoles first before starting.
- Dry brush first before doing any actual cleaning.
- Use a soft bristle brush on the uppers and inner lining so you don’t fray the material.
- Pay attention to cleaning the inside of your shoes to prevent bacteria buildup. (deep cleaning)
- Use a toothbrush to get to hard to reach places.
- Spot cleaning every day makes deep cleaning a snap.
- Never use harsh bleaches or detergents on your shoes.
- Don’t dry your white Nikes in direct sunlight as this will yellow them out.
- Don’t just store sneakers in boxes. Keep them in breathable shoe bags and away from damp environments.
- Avoid drying your shoes with direct heat from a hairdryer.
- Never use hard-bristled brushes for the upper or the lining of your shoes. These brushes are only meant for cleaning soles.



Steps For Cleaning Any Nike Sneaker, Done the Sneakerhead Way

If there’s any secret to flawless sneaker cleaning, sneakerheads rely on premium sneaker cleaning kits to do a quality deep cleaning with less effort. As one sneaker cleaning service said, you let the cleaning solutions and brushes do the work - you don’t have to scrub as hard to get that spotless shine. Here’s how to clean white Nikes:

A. General Steps for Cleaning Any Nike Sneaker
    Whether you have Air Force 1s, an Air Max, or even retro Kicks, you can follow these general cleaning techniques:

    1. SETUP and PREP
      Set up your cleaning station on a flat dry surface: 
      premium shoe cleaner, shoe polish
      soft brush, hard brush, or toothbrushes
      - microfiber towels
      Remove the laces and insoles.
      Put rolled up white towels inside or shoe trees to make your shoes hold up better for scrubbing.
      Dry brush your sneakers first to remove surface dirt.

      2. SCRUB and CLEAN
        You can do a top-down approach:
        - Put a few drops of cleaning solution in a small bowl filled ¾ of the way up with water.
        - Handwash your laces in the cleaning solution, rinse, then set aside.
        - Dip your soft brush in and shake off excess water. Gently scrub the uppers and inner lining of your shoes until they foam up. Wipe off with the towel.
        - Next, dip your hard brush in the cleaning solution, then scrub the midsoles and bottom of your sneakers.

        3. AIR DRY
          Put your sneakers in a semi-airy space away from direct sunlight.

          4. DISINFECT
            Do a disinfecting spray for the insoles to kill off any remaining bacteria

            5. PROTECT and STORE
              Lace up your shoes.
              Use a weatherproofing spray to seal in your sneakers and keep off stains.
              Insert shoe trees, and put them your sneakers in shoe bags.
              Place them in a cool, dry place.

              B. Special Instructions for Cleaning, Based on Your Sneaker Material:

                Always make sure that your cleaning solutions and brushes are meant for your type of sneaker material. White leather sneakers, also those with suede or nubuck materials, will need cleaners and brushes specially made for them. 
                - How to Clean White Nike Flyknit Shoes
                Since this sneaker is made from woven fabric, you will need to be gentle when scrubbing your flyknits, so that you don’t cause any snags.
                - How to Clean White Leather Shoes                     
                White leather sneakers, also need leather care, so consider investing in a premium leather conditioner to keep leather supple. 
                If you want to smooth out creases, you can put a damp towel on your white sneakers and iron that to steam out the creases.
                - How to Clean Mixed Material Shoes
                Make sure that your cleaning solution is okay for your type of sneaker material. Get suede, leather, or nubuck friendly cleaning kits so that you don’t ruin your leather shoes.


                Tips for Whitening Yellowed Out Soles 

                Oxidation is a natural process that causes a yellow discoloration of your soles. Air and the elements react with the PUV material of your soles, causing them to change color.
                Top sneaker cleaning/restoration services actually recommend this strategy to address this:

                1.Get a “magic eraser” (from any detergent brand) and brush the sole or any scuffs on the uppers.

                2. Use a hard brush to apply a sole brightening product or homemade mixture (hydrogen peroxide/baking soda paste or white toothpaste) on the sole, including the bottom parts.

                3. Wrap your soles with clingwrap. Air dry shoes with the bottom facing up.

                4. Repeat the process as needed.


                  Machine Washing: A Do or a Don’t?

                  As a general rule, Nike doesn’t recommend machine washing shoes. Soaking sneakers exposes them to too much moisture as well as potentially damaging your washer or dryer; this is a lose-lose situation. 
                  Handwashing and natural air drying are best practices for sure, but if you feel antsy about giving your sneaker insides a thorough clean, putting your white Nikes in the washer is possible. Here’s how:

                  1. Pretreat your shoes with a mild cleaning solution.

                  2. Put your laces and shoes in separate laundry bags.

                  3. Wash your sneakers alone, with white towels, if possible to keep them from noisily clunking around.

                  4. Use a gentle laundry liquid cleaner, then do a cold wash with a gentle cycle.

                  5. Air dry your sneakers away from direct sunlight.


                    How to Keep Your Performance Sneakers from Falling Apart Sooner

                    Learning how to clean white shoes is part of prolonging your sneaker’s shelf life. Nikes, unfortunately, even when they are made of leather, can only be kept an average of close to 10 years. 

                    Sneakerheads and shoe collectors who keep them for longer take extra precautions to keep Nikes away from too much heat, humidity, and sunlight, so that prized sneakers can still make good displays.

                    No matter how much you maintain any Nikes well, their soles will eventually give out, because they’re made of PUV material that decays over time. Sneaker aficionados do regular deep cleaning, rotate pairs, and wrap shoes in clingwrap to delay the process.

                    If you want to maximize you Nike’s best years, you’ll need to keep away excess moisture and humidity away from your shoes:

                    - minimize water use while cleaning sneakers; wipe/blot the suds with a microfiber towel

                    - do proper storing: insert shoe trees and keep your shoes in breathable shoe bags
                    Take out the shoebox paper that comes with the box, and put in silica gel packets (4 small ones will do) to prevent humidity. All these precautions delay oxidation, or yellowing out your soles.

                    - rotate wearing several pairs of shoes so that your beaters don’t have dirt buildup

                    - wear socks so that your insoles don’t absorb bacterial sweat as much
                    Even if you don’t plan on starting a prized sneaker collection like a sneakerhead, learning how to clean your white Nike shoes is part of the fun of having sports sneakers.

                    They’re performance shoes that help you run, play, and work without missing a beat – you might as well make their job easier so that you can enjoy them for longer.