Restoring Old Sneakers

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Introduction: 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

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

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

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

Step 4: 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

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

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!

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.

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    49 Comments

    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.

    1 reply

    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.

    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!

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

    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

    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.

    1 reply

    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 ;)

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

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

    2 replies

    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.

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

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

    7 replies

    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 :)

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

    And put them on top of the refrigerator.

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

    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.

    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? ;)