Congratulations on the purchase of your white leather sneakers! We’re so glad you made the decision to join Team Internet Fashion, your new social outlet. Included with your new sense of style and opinion on Bon Iver are the following mandatory perks of ownership:

  1. Denial of scuffs
  2. Anxiety in crowds
  3. A newfound reliance on the Weather app

Exciting, right?! Remember: these are all necessary parts of becoming the social media superstar you always wanted to be. Being a true fashion elite in the age of cleanliness is easy task - even the Wall Street Journal agrees. Even if every other part of your outfit screams “festival season slub,” your shoes must stay spotless.

I’m talkin’ bleach white.

Snow White.

“Leave it to Beaver” white.

You get the idea.

Despite their heavy toll, the three psychological dependencies packaged with your sneakers will indeed make sure your Stan Smiths/Common Projects/Greats Royales/minimal sneaker du jour stay as white as the day there were bought. If this mental burden sounds like too weighty a load, you’re always welcome to deactivate your Team membership and return the shoes. No one else has so far, but hey, that’s no sweat – competition is scary if you fall behind.

After all, you probably just weren’t cut out for this.

That’s right. This is a question of character. Like dog walking and fantasy football, keeping your white leather sneakers looking fresh is a lifestyle commitment.

Unless you know how to clean ‘em, that is.


As both Internet menswear dweeb and sane human being, I’ve often gotten my sneakers dirty in the name of *gasp* wearing them outside. Gamedays aside, they’re shoes: the occasional wear and tear just can’t be avoided. The visible dirt and stains, though? Those we can fix.

With just a little bit of work and some cheap products from your local drugstore, you can leverage your regulatory focus (Babin/Harris 92) to keep your white leather sneakers looking fresher, longer. Here’s how.

Materials (cleans one pair):

  • 1x Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bar (sold in packs, 2 for $3)
  • 1x Leather conditioning cream (recommended: Allen Edmonds Leather Lotion, $10/bottle)
  • 1x Microfiber cloth or t-shirt rag
  • 1x roll of paper towels
  • Supply of warm (but not scorching hot) water


1. Wet a paper towel with warm water and wipe down the outsoles. From a side view of the shoes, this is the “rubber” bottom that’s stitched to the leather “upper.” Don’t worry about getting these squeaky clean with the paper towel – your main job here is to remove visible clumps of dirt or any abrasive debris.

2. With a new, damp paper towel, lightly wipe down the leather upper. Again, your job is just to remove visible dirt. That being said, go easier on the water than you did when wiping down the outsole – aggressive wiping or a saturated rag will peel the paint from cheaper leathers. If you’re cleaning Common Projects, the risk of peeling is dramatically lower than, for example, a pair of adidas Stan Smiths.

3. Let the shoes dry for 10-15 minutes. Suggested activities include idly browsing Facebook, idly browsing reddit, or Hungry Hungry Hippos. 

4. Wet the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in warm water and wipe down each shoe’s outsole. Don’t try to scrub – wipe in long strokes instead. This reduces the amount the foam Eraser will break apart on the shoe, especially over textured “grip” surfaces. The eraser will shed through use, but smoothing out your technique means picking less foam out of your shoe afterwards. Which is nice.

5. Use a damp paper towel to wipe away any foam pieces left behind by the eraser, then let the shoe dry. The outsoles should be significantly whiter now.

6. Squeeze a quarter-sized amount of leather conditioner onto the toebox of each shoe. Just… do it.

7. Use the rag/cloth to work in the conditioner, wiping lightly in small circles. Pay special attention to work the conditioner into cracks, crease, and wear areas caused by the laces. A little rejuvenation in these “friction spots” will go a long ways.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until the entire exterior of the shoe is covered in a thin layer of conditioner.

9. Let the shoe dry for 5-10 minutes, then evaluate. If any parts of the shoe look unaffected by the conditioner or visibly dry/distressed, add a second coat. Repeat. Remember: at the end of the day, leather is skin. Just like on your skin, conditioning creams should have an immediate visible effect when applied correctly.

10. Enjoy. Your white leather sneakers are officially back in action.

With this simple and easy method in mind, your kicks will stay fresh without fear.

Did you try this yourself? Any tips/tricks? Let me know on my Facebook or in the comments below. Until then, happy cleaning.



AS RAKESTRAW | The personal site of Alex Rakestraw.