How to Whiten Yellow Soles on Shoes

How to Whiten Yellow Soles on Shoes

Having bright, white shoes can really pull an outfit together and make it look crisp and polished. However, over time and with wear, the soles and edges of white shoes often start to yellow from dirt, oxidation, and exposure to moisture.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over 9 effective methods for whitening and brightening yellowed soles and edges on white shoes.

We’ll cover homemade solutions using common household ingredients, commercial cleaners and polishes, and a few other tricks. With some scrubbing and soaking, you can get stained white shoes glowing again.

How to Whiten Yellow Soles on Shoes

Reasons Why White Shoe Soles Turn Yellow

Before we get into the cleaning methods, let’s go over a few of the common causes of yellow discoloration on white shoes. That way, you’ll better understand what you need to treat and remove.


With exposure to oxygen in the air over time, the bright white rubber and foam on shoe soles can oxidize and take on a yellowish tinge. This often happens gradually.

Dirt Buildup

As you wear your shoes, dirt from outside can accumulate on the edges and soles. This layer of grime can stain and discolor the white portions of the shoes.

Moisture Damage

Exposure to moisture from rain, snow, and damp surfaces can also cause the white portions of shoes to gradually yellow and dingy.

Chemical Stains

Spills and splashes from household cleaners, lawn chemicals, bleach, and other substances can lead to pronounced yellow stains.

No matter what caused the yellowing, with consistent cleaning you can often get shoes looking crisp and new again. Let’s go over some of the most effective methods.

Also Read: How to Scan an Adidas Shoes QR Code: A Comprehensive Guide

Methods To Whiten Yellow Soles

Methods To Whiten Yellow Soles - How to Whiten Yellow Soles on Shoes

1. Baking Soda and White Vinegar Paste

One of the most popular home remedies for whitening yellow soles and edges is a paste made from baking soda and white vinegar. Many people have these two ingredients on hand, and they work well together to lift stains and brighten shoes. Here is the simple process:

What You Need:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Old toothbrush
  • Damp cloth


  1. Combine equal parts baking soda and white vinegar in a small bowl. The mixture will fizz and bubble. Stir to form a thick paste.
  2. Use the old toothbrush to scrub the paste thoroughly over the yellowed areas of the shoes, focusing on the edges and soles.
  3. Let the paste sit for 2-3 minutes to lift and whiten stains.
  4. Use the toothbrush and a damp cloth to remove the paste. Rinse the shoes with clean water.
  5. Wipe the shoes dry with a clean towel and allow to fully air dry.

The acidity of the vinegar combined with the gentle abrasion from the baking soda can help break down dirt and lift discoloration. For stubborn stains, you may need to repeat this process 2-3 times. But be patient, and you should see the yellowing fade.

2. Toothpaste

Another common household product that can be effective at whitening yellow soles is toothpaste. Look for a white toothpaste that contains baking soda for extra cleaning power. The process is very similar to the baking soda paste method:

What You Need:

  • White toothpaste with baking soda
  • Old toothbrush
  • Damp cloth


  1. Squeeze a dollop of toothpaste onto the toothbrush bristles.
  2. Gently scrub the toothpaste over stained areas for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and wipe dry with a towel.
  4. Repeat as needed for stubborn stains.

The silica in toothpaste is a mild abrasive that can help scrub away dingy discoloration. Be sure to use a white toothpaste so you don’t get blue or green hue on your shoes. With a bit of elbow grease, toothpaste can get white rubber and edges looking crisp again.

3. Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda

For an extra whitening boost, you can mix baking soda with hydrogen peroxide. The bubbling reaction helps lift stains from shoes. Here is how to mix up this cleaning solution:

What You Need:

  • Baking soda
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • Old toothbrush
  • Damp cloth


  1. Mix 2 parts baking soda with 1 part hydrogen peroxide in a small bowl. Stir into a paste.
  2. Apply the paste to yellowed areas and let sit for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Gently scrub with the toothbrush.
  4. Rinse clean and wipe dry with a towel.

Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach, so combine it with baking soda’s abrasive properties, and you have a potent cleansing combination. Be careful not to over-apply hydrogen peroxide, as it can damage some shoe materials. But used properly, this mixture can get white shoes sparking again.

4. Detergent and Baking Soda

For an even more powerful cleaner, try mixing baking soda with laundry or dish detergent. This adds extra degreasing and whitening powers. Follow these steps:

What You Need:

  • Baking soda
  • Laundry or dish detergent
  • Old toothbrush
  • Damp cloth


  1. Mix 1 part baking soda with 1.5 parts detergent. Add a splash of water if needed to make a paste.
  2. Scrub the mixture onto yellowed shoe areas using the toothbrush.
  3. Allow paste to sit for 2-3 minutes before rinsing.
  4. Rinse shoes thoroughly and wipe dry.

The detergent will help break down oils and grime that can build up on shoe soles over time while the baking soda scrubs away discoloration. Together, they make a great DIY shoe whitener.

5. Salt and Hot Water Soak

For mild yellowing, a saltwater soak may do the trick:

What You Need:

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Warm water
  • Large container


  1. Fill container with hot water from the tap. Stir in 1 tablespoon of salt until dissolved.
  2. Place shoes in soak solution, making sure they are fully submerged.
  3. Let shoes soak for at least one hour, up to overnight.
  4. Remove shoes and rinse thoroughly with clean water. Allow to fully dry before wearing again.

The salt helps draw out oils and dirt that can contribute to yellow stains. With time, even tough stains can be lifted with this simple soak.

6. Cream of Tartar Soak

For a stronger soak solution, try mixing up this cream of tartar whitening bath:

What You Need:

  • 4 cups very hot water
  • 1/2 cup cream of tartar powder
  • Large container


  1. Fill a heat-safe container with 4 cups of very hot tap water.
  2. Stir in 1/2 cup cream of tartar until fully dissolved.
  3. Place shoes in solution and let soak 30-90 minutes based on stain severity.
  4. Remove shoes and rinse well with cold water to neutralize the acidity.
  5. Allow shoes to fully air dry before wearing again.
  6. The acidic cream of tartar helps eat through and lift away stubborn yellowing and stains. Be sure to rinse shoes well after soaking to remove all traces of the solution.

With the right soak time, even challenging yellow discoloration can be conquered. Just be sure to thoroughly dry shoes before wearing again.

Also Read: How To Fix Scuff On Dansko Shoes

7. Using Bleach

Bleach can be an effective way to whiten and remove stubborn yellow stains from shoe soles. However, bleach is harsh and can damage some shoe materials, so it should be used with caution.

What You Need:

  • 3% hydrogen peroxide bleach
  • Old toothbrush
  • Protective gloves and eyewear
  • Clean cloths


  1. Put on protective gloves and eyewear. Ventilate the area.
  2. Apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide bleach directly onto stained areas using the toothbrush.
  3. Let sit 1-2 minutes. Do not let bleach sit too long, as it can damage shoe materials.
  4. Scrub gently with toothbrush. Wipe away bleach and loosened stains with a clean cloth.
  5. Rinse shoes very thoroughly with clean water to remove all bleach residue.
  6. Allow shoes to air dry fully. Stuff with paper towels to hold shape while drying.

Once dry, apply a shoe protectant. Buff gently with a soft cloth.
Only use bleach on white leather, rubber, canvas, and synthetic shoes. Do not use on colored leather, suede, or nubuck, as it can remove color. Spot test first. With careful application, bleach can whiten soles effectively. But improper use can cause permanent damage.

8. Using Professional Shoe Cleaner

If you want powerful cleaning results, consider using a professional shoe cleaner formulated specifically for whitening and brightening. You can find these products at shoe repair shops, shoe stores, and online.

What You Need:

  • Professional shoe cleaner made for whitening/brightening
  • Old toothbrush or applicator brush
  • Soft cleaning cloths
  • Shoe trees (optional)


  1. Remove shoelaces and shoe trees if present. Have cleaning cloths and brush ready.
  2. Shake or stir shoe cleaner before use. Apply a small amount directly onto yellowed rubber sole edges and bottoms.
  3. Let cleaner sit for 2-3 minutes. Use toothbrush or applicator brush to gently scrub stained areas.
  4. Wipe away loosened dirt with a soft cloth. Reapply cleaner and scrub stubborn stains.
  5. Rinse shoes thoroughly with clean water, removing all traces of cleaner.
  6. Stuff shoes with paper towels or shoe trees to hold shape as they dry. Allow to fully air dry.
  7. Once dry, apply a small amount of shoe protectant or conditioner. Buff gently with a soft cloth.
  8. Continue cleaning shoes regularly to maintain a bright white appearance.

Be sure to follow all usage and safety directions when using commercial shoe cleaners. With the right product and method, you can get professional-level whitening results at home.

9. Hair Oxidizer (Video Guide)

In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through the process of How to Whiten Your Yellowed Nike Air Force using a few common household items.

Materials Needed: 0:30

Before we get started, make sure you have the following items ready:

BrushUsed for cleaning the sole. Scrubbing with a brush helps remove dirt and prepares the sole for treatment.
Hair OxidizerApplied to the sole to whiten it. The oxidizing properties of the hair oxidizer help break down yellowing and restore the original color.
Cling FilmWrapped around the sole after applying hair oxidizer. This helps create a sealed environment, enhancing the effectiveness of the oxidizing process.
ToothbrushUsed for cleaning and rinsing. Initially, it’s used with liquid soap to clean the sole, and later, it’s employed to rinse off any remaining hair oxidizer after the treatment.
Liquid SoapUsed in combination with a toothbrush to clean the sole. Liquid soap helps remove dirt and prepares the surface for the hair oxidizer treatment.

Step 1: Sole Cleaning (1:29)

  • Grab a toothbrush and apply a small amount of liquid soap to clean the sole thoroughly.
  • Rinse off the applied soap with water and allow the shoe to dry completely.

Step 2: Applying Hair Oxidizer (2:14)

  • Using a brush, apply hair oxidizer to the sole of your sneakers evenly.
  • Roll out cling film and wrap it around the sole, ensuring it’s covered entirely.

Step 3: Drying in the Sun (4:14)

  • Place your sneakers in direct sunlight for half an hour.
  • After the first half hour, flip the sneakers over to expose the other side for an additional half hour.

Step 4: Washing After 30 Minutes (4:40)

  • Remove the cling film carefully.
  • Use a toothbrush and water to rinse off any remaining hair oxidizer from the sole.
  • Check the results. If you haven’t achieved the desired whiteness, feel free to repeat the entire procedure.

Also Read: How to Scan Nike Shoes QR Code

Tips for Preventing Yellow Soles

It takes a bit of work to get white shoes looking crisp and bright again after yellowing. You’ll have much better success maintaining that fresh white look from the start with good preventive care. Here are some handy tips:

  • Apply protectant sprays or creams regularly to create a soil barrier.
  • Check shoe soles after each wear and spot clean any new stains promptly.
  • Use shoe trees to help shoes retain their shape and absorb moisture when not being worn.
  • Rotate shoes between wears and avoid wearing the same pair two days in a row.
  • Store shoes away from direct sunlight and use shoe bags to prevent dust buildup.
  • Blot wet shoes dry immediately after wear and allow to fully air dry before storing.
  • Clean shoes regularly using soft bristled brushes and mild cleaners safe for the material.

With consistent care and cleaning, you can keep your white shoes looking like new for many wears to come. A bit of prevention goes a long way.


With the cleaning methods and tips outlined here, you can often restore shoes to their original white and bright appearance.

Test out different pastes, polishes, soaks, and scrubs to discover which ones effectively lift the yellow stains from your shoes. With some diligence and persistence, you can get your kicks glowing again.

Keep these tricks in mind for salvaging dingy shoes and stopping stains before they start. You’ll extend the life of your footwear and have them looking fresh, clean and ready to wear anywhere.

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