5 Home Remedies to Clean Your Chuck Taylor Sneakers

A hundred million Chuck Taylor All Stars are sold every year (seriously) and I’ve owned at least one pair ever since I was fifteen years old. (My first pair was burgundy.) Being made of white rubber, they get dirty pretty quickly. I know people tend to be less obsessive about the pearly whiteness of beater sneakers like Chucks than they are about expensive Italian sneakers like Common Projects or Koio. But given they’re arguably the most popular and iconic sneakers on Earth, there are plenty of folks who like to keep them clean.

After searching online for the best way to clean my Chuck Taylors, I found tips that just seemed a bit out there — like toothpaste. But I came out pleasantly surprised by how well these methods worked.

If you’re trying to work out how to clean your Chuck Taylor’s canvas, just rub it with warm water and soap — or you can use the third method in the list below!

[SHOP THE CHUCK TAYLOR ALL STARS HERE!]

 

Clean Chuck Taylors Nail Polish and Cotton Ball

Method One: Nail Polish Remover and a Cotton Ball

What you need:

  • High acetone nail polish remover (not the purple kind)
  • A pack of cotton balls

You might have to borrow or buy some nail polish remover, but at under ten bucks, it’s not too expensive. I managed to find some under the sink in my apartment, and the good news is that it doesn’t actually expire.

You want to get a nail polish remover with plenty of acetone — a volatile, flammable liquid that’s also is good at stripping stuff off your nails, I guess.

Put some on a cotton wool ball and rub it into your rubber. If the dirt isn’t moving, it might be worth letting the cotton wool ball sit on the rubber for a minute or two, so it can “eat into” the dirt, before rubbing it away. 

[Check out my full review of the original Converse Chuck Taylor All Star!]

Chuck Taylors Cleaned with Nail Polish

How well did it work?

8/10.

If you’re really looking close, you’ll see some minor scuffs. Also, I tried a few methods: I tried just rubbing it with a cotton wool ball, but I also left the saturated cotton ball on the rubber for a few minutes so that it doesn’t evaporate as quickly and it can dissolve the dirt a little more. This might be worth trying for extra stubborn stains.

[Related: Chuck 70 vs All Star – Which Is the Best Converse Hi Top?!]

baking soda and vinegar for cleaning converse

Method Two: Baking Soda and Vinegar

What you need?

  • Baking Soda
  • White Vinegar 
  • Brush
  • Clean Cloth
  • Paper or plastic cup (no metallic utensils)

Another popular remedy for cleaning Chuck Taylors is baking soda and vinegar. (I’m technically cleaning Chuck IIs, an ill-fated sequel to the original Chuck Taylor that were taken off the market.) 

Start with two parts baking soda to three parts vinegar. It’s really important to note that you don’t want to use a metal bowl or a metal spoon to mix it up because the metal reacts with the with the baking soda and the vinegar, making the mixture less effective. (Mixing with a toothbrush is an easy way to mitigate this.) In addition to being acidic enough to break down muck, it’s also slightly abrasive, giving it some grit to dislodge particles and remove stains. 

It’s smart to add the vinegar to the baking soda a little at a time so you don’t make one of those science fair volcanic eruptions all over your table. Then, you just stir and dip your brush into the vinegar baking soda mix and rub it onto the rubber.

baking soda and vinegar for cleaning chucks

How well did it work?

9/10

I’d say this did the trick. The rubber is pretty clean. This method is inexpensive and most people have vinegar and baking soda at hand. The main issue is that you’ll probably get some white, gritty spillover on the canvas that you’ll then need to clean out.

Clean Converse Chuck Taylors Detergent and Water

Method Three: Laundry Detergent and Water

What you need?

  • Powdered laundry detergent
  • Warm water
  • Brush
  • Cup or bowl

With this method for cleaning your Chuck Taylors, you should use powdered laundry detergent. There aren’t exact measurements; the goal is to reach a paste-like consistency, not a precise amount. So drop a few tablespoons of powder into a bowl and add warm water — as is the case when doing laundry, mixing detergent with warm water makes it a bit more effective — until you reach the consistency of a thick paste. 

As was the case above, the grittiness of the powder helps to improve the cleaning properties. Mix everything up with a brush (an old toothbrush or scrubbing brush works) and rub the shoes vigorously until you see the stains lift out.  

Clean chuck Taylors with laundry detergent

How well did it work?

9/10

This is a fabulous method, about as useful as the vinegar and the baking soda, but the downside is that it’s a lot messier. As you can see above, you’ll get detergent-y paste on the canvas, which you’ll need to wash off. I know from experience that the longer you leave it on there, the harder it’ll be to remove. 

That said, this is also a pretty handy way to combine the act of cleaning the rubber with the canvas: you can just keep scrubbing past the toecap and onto the canvas. Just make sure you’ve got a tap nearby to help wash everything else off.

Nothing New Sneakers Cleaned with Mr.Magic Eraser

Method Four: Magic Eraser

What you need?

Next I tried The Mr. Clean Magic Eraser method on a pair of sneakers that are so similar to Chuck Taylors that they’re usually mistaken for them: the more eco friendly Nothing New.

This is probably the simplest of all the methods. Fun fact: the Magic Eraser’s power comes from the ingredient melamine resin, which cures into foam. Because its microstructure is almost as hard as glass, it acts like an extra fine sandpaper when applied to stains.  

The Mr. Clean brand is designed to have water added to it, like a sponge. If you’re using a brand that looks more like a run of the mill pencil erase, you’ll find that adding a little water helps to improve the cleaning ability.

[Read My Comparison of Converse vs Nothing New, the Most Eco-Friendly Sneaker on Earth]

Nothing New Sneakers Cleaned with Mr. Magic Earser

[WANT TO TRY NOTHING NEW? GRAB A PAIR HERE!]

How well did it work?

7/10

It’s great at getting rid of stains, but I wouldn’t say it’s the ideal way to clean dirty shoes. It takes a lot more energy and time to rub out stains with a Magic Eraser than it does to use any of the other methods. But it’ll do enough when you’re in a pinch, plus it has the big advantage of being able to travel easily in a bag or pocket — you don’t even need to have water with you. (But that does make it more effective against extra stubborn ones.)

Converse cleaned with soap and tooth paste

Method Five: Toothpaste and Hand Soap

What do you need?

  • Non-gel white toothpaste
  • Liquid hand soap
  • Brush
  • Cup or bowl

The last home remedy for cleaning your Chuck Taylors is also the weirdest one that I found online. For this method we’ll use non-gel white toothpaste and regular,old hand soap.

First you’ll mix the soap and toothpaste together, which seems like a punishment my grandmother might subject me to if I cursed in front of her. I used a roughly equal amount of toothpaste and just a little less hand soap than toothpaste, so let’s say a 5:4 ratio. I just eyeballed it until it looked spreadable. Mix it up with a brush, dip it into the mixture and scrub! 

Chuck Taylors cleaned with soap and toothpaste up close,very clean

How well did it work?

10/10

Out of the five methods, the toothpaste seems to have done the best job. I used extra whitening toothpaste, and I assume that the “extra whitening” aspect helped. It’s not only super effective, but it’s fairly easy to control where the substance goes. By this, I mean it was easy to keep it from leaking all over the canvas like methods 2 and 3 on this list. 

The main downside is that this winds up a fairly expensive cleaning method. Toothpaste ain’t free! 

Chuck Taylor sneakers cleaned 

Conclusion: What’s the Best Home Remedy to Clean Your Chuck Taylors?

The toothpaste and hand soap seem to have done the best job, but it’s also the most expensive. If money is no object, I’d say to star with the toothpaste and soap is the most effective and use the Magic Eraser to clean off the tougher marks that remain.

But if you’d rather save money and time? Laundry detergent is your best bet: it’s effective, inexpensive, doesn’t risk damaging or discoloring the canvas, it’s easy to use it to clean the canvas as well (if you like), and it’s not that hard to wash any spillover off of the canvas either.

How about that: the cleaning product is the most effective cleaning product!  

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Karl Wasson

Karl is an IT product manager living in South East Asia who gets a kick out of durability and dependability. He believes form and function are not mutually exclusive. When he's not working, he's searching for the best bespoke menswear in South East Asia and beyond.

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