Introduction: Restoring Old Sneakers

Picture of Restoring Old Sneakers

Like many people, I don't like to throw away perfectly useful shoes, especially not Vans that I found second-hand for seven bucks Canadian. This is how I restored them.

The right-foot shoe was my control, and the left-foot shoe was my first test.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

You will need:
Your scruffy shoes
Some toothpaste
A plastic scrubber (or steel wool)  -A friend of mine recommended using a toothbrush, but I found that it couldn't scrub hard enough.

Step 2: Apply Toothpaste

Picture of Apply Toothpaste

Put it onto the scrubber and not the shoe. You want the paste, which contains an abrasive (possibly sand), to stay with the scrubber.

Step 3: Scrub the Side

Picture of Scrub the Side

Scrub like you've never scrubbed before. This requires real vigour.

Step 4: Rinse

Picture of Rinse

See if you've missed any spots. Then scrub some more.

If there is a little bit of yellow that won't come off, don't fret. That's the glue that's holding the rubber on. It seems to become more obvious when shoes are washed.

Step 5: Scrub the Top

Picture of Scrub the Top

Get a little bit of the toothpaste out of the scrubber. I didn't do this part when I dealt with the other shoe and it foamed up and soaked in. I had to spend a while getting it all out. There's probably some still in there.

These shoes had quite a bit of dirt and dust in them. If yours are old and dirty, this step will benefit them. If they're new and you want to preserve the colour, ignore this. It might make them look faded.

Step 6: Rinse All the Way Through

Picture of Rinse All the Way Through

Rinse rinse rinse so your shoes don't smell like mint (although that might be nice).

Squeeze out the water to dry faster.

Step 7: Bam!

Picture of Bam!

Just like new.

The regular toothpaste works great, but I may try this again later on with a whitening toothpaste or a hardcore industrial-strength hand-cleaner.


NickieK1 (author)2016-05-27

Armorall wipes work great on darker colored suede /leather sneakers. I used on my black Nike air sneakers and they look like i just took them outta the box.

ToddK19 (author)NickieK12017-06-10

that's a really good tip. I used to work fast food and had black sneakers to work in. And I had protected them with Armor All. If anything I don't know shoes all I did is wipe it off they looked pretty new even after I left that job.

ToddK19 (author)2017-06-10

Hey, thank you for a great instructable! I thought a cheap pair of white canvas shoes, and before I could spray them with ScotchgardI wore them like an idiot. And I got them dirty so I was looking for a way to bring them back to White color so that I can protect them and not feel bad about wearing them.

I also saw YouTube video where several people who were restoring high-end sneakers. They used a Clairol hair bleach on the rubber strip going around the shoe to bring it back to normal. I've no idea how caustic that stuff is, so I'm sure you probably have to work loves.

Anyway I just wanted to say thank you and I'm going to go clean my white tennis shoes with toothpaste!

TammiD (author)2016-02-23

Putting tea bags in your sneaker overnight will pull out moisture and odor as well. Not sure the how or why but it works.

RobD52 (author)2016-02-08

thanks for this post! found it on google. after reading the comments i decided to try a toothbrush with dr. bronner's magic soap, the 18 in 1 hemp pure castile soap - i use it for washing, brushing teeth etc never used it for clothes or restoring shoes but i remember ti did say it can wash clothes so i gave it a go and it worked like a charm! the rubber is as white as white can be just gave a little scrub with a tooth brush and cleaned up instantly

saveyorsol (author)2010-10-07

I also use a Magic Sponge which gets alot out first, then scrub the rest! Has anybody ever tried redying vans? I have one foot thats faded and one isn't! Was thinking about taking a paint brush and some Rid and dying them again.

hhartman (author)saveyorsol2015-03-30

You could also try Fabric Medium and plain acrylic paint.
Actually I'm going to try this now! I have a blue pair that I'd drawn all over in High school that I might scrub and paint ;)

growincarla (author)2014-11-26

I'm going to try Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on mine.

StandingOnStones (author)2014-07-17

Rubbing alcohol is amazing for cleaning the rubber parts. I've kept my Converse looking brand new for nearly a year that way.

What do you use to scrub the rubbing alcohol????

I start with a cotton ball and then use a Qtip for angles, like up along the racing stripe and (on converse) the textured toe kick.

gina.delaune (author)2014-08-04

Mr Clean erasers work like a charm on the white rubber soles! And it doesn't take a lot of scrubbing !

tiraha (author)2010-10-07

Well that's all pretty nice and stuff, but how do you get the STINKING and BAD MOISTURE OUT???

aenfield (author)tiraha2014-07-03

There's a strange method that a friend of mine told me about: If you put them in the freezer over night the cold should kill off the bacteria that makes it smell so bad. It's work for all of my shoes :)

mista.v (author)tiraha2010-10-07

Stuff 'em with newspapers overnight. It'll soak up the water.

rattyrain (author)mista.v2010-10-14

And put them on top of the refrigerator.

nlupus (author)tiraha2010-10-13

Put them to the freezer. Cold will kill practically all the stinky bacteria ;)

PearlZenith (author)tiraha2010-10-07

Spray them with a vodka/water mixture and let them dry outside. You can also use a hairdryer if they are still damp when you want to wear them. The Vodka will kill the bacteria that are responsible for the smell.

Vodka doesn't have a high enough concentration of alcohol to be an effective disinfectant (assuming it's at most 100 proof). Disinfectant effects don't start to show up in force until you hit about 88% concentration.

If you could lay your hands on some everclear, that might do the trick.

Sabata (author)timoftheshire2010-10-09

So you're saying that my home remedy of taking a few shots of vodka or whiskey when I'm sick won't kill the germs in my system? ;)

Oh, cool. I haven't used it, just passing on info, but I will remember that for future use.

juliet8810 (author)tiraha2010-10-07

i put my shoes expose to the sun ligth and works well for moisture out.

Arendos (author)2014-05-02

Instead of toothpaste, you might want to use regular bar soap (the cheapest you can find, preferably good old green soap with no colorings or aromas added) with a good, strong shoe brush. Works wonders.

enji (author)2011-04-17

need to restore ur sink :)

shaneomacmcgee (author)2010-10-10

I did this with an old pair of converse I had sharpied on and regretted, but I used sand paper and (for the tough stuff) acetone. Worked nicely :)

d0rkyg1rl (author)2010-10-07

The abrasive in tooth paste is usually diatomaceous earth which are the fossilized remains of hard-shell algae.

sockless (author)d0rkyg1rl2010-10-07

It's also often ground limestone.

Kryptonite (author)sockless2010-10-09

Same thing really.

BtheBike (author)2010-10-07

great job , Old skool Vans Rule . a suede sealer/waterproofer would help too.

Skyriam (author)2010-10-07

Cool trick, thanks for the tip.

redcore4 (author)2010-10-07

I've had pretty good results scrubbing shoes with a nail brush and washing powder - use the powder thick enough to make a paste.

Also it stops them getting so dirty next time if you spray them with Scotch Guard or similar to make them water resistant.

lidzy (author)2010-10-07

Another thing that works fabulously on whitewalls are moistened eraser pads (the kind designed for kitchens)..i just buy the generic ones, lots cheaper and work just as well..yer whitewalls will look new!

jbh123 (author)2010-10-07

Baking soda also works well for this. And it won't make your shoes smell like mint, cinnamon or whatever other overdone flavor/aroma most toothpastes have. Rather, it will actually help remove whatever odor the shoes may have built up.

And FWIW, it's also a very effective yet mild abrasive for dozens of similar tasks, including getting that caramelized or burnt-on goop off of toasters, frying pans, ovens, etc. For the easier stuff, just sprinkle it on and scrub; and for the gnarlier stuff, just apply a thick paste (mashed-potato consistency) of baking soda and water. Keep the paste moist and let it sit for a couple of hours, and then you can usually just wipe the crud away -- honest.

Slight differences aside, I applaud your thrifty approach, which I also share.

Bierle (author)2010-10-07

i usually chuck sneakers and joggingshoes into the washingmachine
works wonders
but you should not do that too often

wagori (author)Bierle2010-10-07

the washingmachine works great to clean your shoes. But this manual labour makes shure u won't destroy your shoes and they don't shrink

figment (author)2010-10-03

Nice Instructable! Another good note. Once dry (or before you get the wet) freeze your shoes for 24hrs to kill off most of the odor causing nasties.

MsJaxFla (author)figment2010-10-07

And please put them in a freezer zip lock bag before putting them in the freezer? lol I have always just thrown mine in the washer and used cold water, so they don't shrink so much, but they do usually shrink a tadge.

nouserr (author)2010-10-07

u should restore your old basin mate hehe

Juicy Fruit (author)2010-10-05

i tried using Zep Heavy Duty Hand Cleaner With works really well, since the pumice acts as an abrasive. good job, man :)

hawkxs (author)2010-10-05

You can also chuck your Chucks (lol) in the washing machine, if you have a newer self-balancing front loader. I'd run them by themselves or with other shoes/heavy objects (sleeping bags?). Either take the shoelaces out [of the shoes] and put them in a pillowcase to wash them too, or tie them tightly so they don't come out and get caught on the spinning thing. They come out nice and clean, although scrubbing the sidewalls with toothpaste is definitely something I'll try on my painted Chucks; I'm a little afraid to put them in the washer.

jeffconnelly (author)2010-10-03

I think (hope?) that this is a typo

"The right-foot shoe was my control, and the left-foot shoe was my first test."

Fat Bagel (author)jeffconnelly2010-10-03

isn't that right? as in he didn't do anything to the right foot shoe and tried it on the left first to see the difference? What did you think it meant?

paperclip32 (author)Fat Bagel2010-10-04

The shoe on the left is much dirtier than the right.

travershenry (author)paperclip322010-10-04


he means the one that fits on his right foot........

Yes, exactly. Sorry for the confusion.

7green7 (author)2010-10-04

Why have I never known about this?

And to think of all the shoes I've thrown out that could possibly have been saved...*sigh*

Thanks, can't wait to try this!

anibioman (author)2010-10-03

im gonna test this out on my converse i got them over the sumer and their already disgustingly dirty

notveryreal (author)2010-10-03

Like brand new! Great instructable, going to try this soon.

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