It’s hard to find a greater joy for sneakerheads than scoring a new pair of the freshest shoes on the market.
But on the other hand, it would be hard to find a pain that compares to seeing your favorite shoes start to turn yellow at the soles.
Yellowing soles is a problem that a lot of people face, whether you’re a sneakerhead with the newest pair of Jordans or just a casual wearer with your trusty Adidas trainers.
And since it’s such a common issue, one of the most common questions out there when it comes to sneakers is, “how do you clean yellowing soles?”.
There are a lot of different ways to clean yellowing soles, with some of the most popular methods being applying baking soda and/or toothpaste. When trying to clean out yellow soles, one could use these methods on its own, or try combining several of them for greater effect. That being said, the application will vary depending on your shoes and the method being used.
To make the process easier for you, we’ve created a comprehensive guide on how to clean yellowing soles, going through the different methods you can use, as well as looking into the reason soles turn yellow in the first place.
So if you’re a sneakerhead or just an average shoe-wearer looking to deal with this issue, you’ve come to the right place.
Read on to learn more.
Why Do Soles Turn Yellow?
While a lot of people, especially sneakerheads have to deal with the dreaded problem of yellowing soles, a lot of people don’t actually know the reason that this happens.
Soles turn yellow because of a process called oxidation, which is the combination of any substance and oxygen.
The process that causes soles to turn yellow is the same reason apples turn brown after they are sliced.
This all happens when your soles come into contact with oxygen, which is why it is highly advisable to avoid walking in puddles and snow as this exposes your shoes to oxygen, which in turn will cause them to turn yellow.
So if you want to avoid yellowing soles, make sure to avoid water, snow, and mud when walking, but we’ll touch more on that later.
How To Clean Yellowing Soles
Since yellowing is something that is caused by oxygen, which is something that is all around us, a lot of times yellow soles cannot be avoided.
So in the case that your soles have already turned yellow, then here are a couple of methods you can use to restore them to their original white color!
Using Baking Soda
This is one of the most common methods that people use when trying to clean yellow soles, as baking soda is an ingredient that a lot of us already have at home.
When using this method, some people tend to also use hydrogen peroxide at the same time to enhance the effects, but this is mostly optional.
Here are the steps to cleaning your yellowed soles with baking soda:
Step One: Make A Paste
To make a cleaning paste with baking soda, start by adding two tablespoons of baking soda and mixing it with four tablespoons of laundry detergent.
If you want, you can also mix in a couple of tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide to enhance the whitening effects, but this is optional.
From there, start adding water one drop at a time, up until you create a loose and firm paste.
Remember, once the paste starts to form, stop mixing and stop adding water.
Step Two: Dust Off The Shoes
After making your paste, you’re first going to have to clean off any excess dust from your shoes.
To do this, simply use an old toothbrush and get scrubbing.
This will make it much easier to whiten the soles later.
Step Three: Brush The Shoes With The Paste
After giving the shoes an initial cleaning, you can start bruising the soles with the paste you made earlier, using the same old toothbrush.
All you’re going to have to do to clean the sole is apply the paste and scrub it with the old toothbrush.
Step Four: Wait!
Once you have scrubbed the soles using the toothbrush and the paste, now you’re going to have to wait a bit.
You will have to let the mixture dry onto the sole, which can take a couple of hours.
You can leave the shoes under the sun to speed the process up, but make sure to keep track of dust flow as you don’t want dust flying onto the shoes while it’s drying.
Once the mixture has completely dried up, simply give it a rinse with water, scrub up the excess paste, and your shoes will be significantly whiter!
This is another quick and easy way to clean out yellowing soles, and all you’ll need is an old toothbrush, bleach, and water.
Step One: Make A Bleach And Water Solution
This is a very simple step and all it involves doing is mixing equal parts of bleach and water, that’s all there is to it.
Step Two: Scrub With A Toothbrush
Once you have your mixture, get an old toothbrush and dip it into the mix.
From there, you can start scrubbing the soles with the toothbrush and make sure to pay extra attention to the areas of the soles that are yellow.
Step Three: Rinse & Repeat As Necessary
After scrubbing, all you’ll need to do is rinse it with water.
Depending on the severity of the yellowing, you can simply do this once to get results.
However, in cases of intense yellowing, you might have to repeat this process a couple of times to get the original white finish on your soles.
If you’re in the need of a quick fix for your yellowed soles before heading out and don’t have time for the other methods we featured, this might be your best bet.
For this method, all you’re going to need is an old toothbrush and some toothpaste.
Step One: Apply Toothpaste To The Sole
Simply get a generous amount of toothpaste and apply it to the sole, making sure to put extra focus on the yellowed areas.
Step Two: Scrub The Sole
From there, add a sprinkle of water to the toothpaste and scrub with an old toothbrush.
You can also use a soft-bristled brush to do this, just make sure to scrub the soles well.
Step Three: Rinse & Repeat
After scrubbing, all you have to do is wipe off the toothpaste with a damp cloth or rinse it off with some water.
Once rinsed, you should notice some of the yellowing disappear, which will allow you to wear your shoes again.
But if you notice that the shoes still have significant yellowing on them, all you have to do is repeat the process until you achieve the desired results.
How To Prevent Yellow Soles
As we mentioned earlier, the reason soles turn yellow over time is because of a process called oxidation.
This happens when a substance comes into contact with oxygen, and since oxygen is all around us, a lot of times this cannot be prevented.
However, there are a couple of things you can do to lessen the chances of this happening to you and your favorite pair of shoes.
The first of these things is to make sure that your shoes don’t come into contact with water, mud, grass, dirt, and gravel.
Not only can all of these things cause damage to your shoes, but they can also be the main reason your soles are starting to yellow.
Another thing that can be done is to take the paper out of the shoebox.
This is because the paper in these boxes has a dye that can cause your shoes to yellow.
To avoid this you can remove the paper and replace it with non-acidic paper, which can be pretty costly, so if you’re trying to save money, you don’t need to buy the paper.
Lastly, you can also store your shoes with a couple of packets of silica gel.
Since silica gel absorbs moisture and humidity, it is a great way to keep your shoes from coming into contact with oxygen and yellowing when stored.
However, make sure not to put more than four small packs or one large pack of silica gel in a shoebox.
Does Applying Toothpaste, Baking Soda, Or Hydrogen Peroxide Degrade The Sole Of A Shoe?
Substances like those mentioned above can potentially degrade the glued portion of a sole.
That being said, glue is only applied to the inner surface of the sole, so the chances of these substances seeping in are very low, so this isn’t something that happens too often.
How Long Will Soles Remain White After Cleaning?
This will largely depend on how much you use the shoes and how well you take care of them.
But on average, soles will take around 3-6 months before they start to yellow again, but remember, this will largely depend on how you wear the shoes, where they are worn, and how well they are kept.
Why Is Hydrogen Peroxide Effective In Whitening Soles?
Hydrogen Peroxide is a non-chlorinated bleach, so when mixed with baking soda, it will bond with the dirt and turn it into gas bubbles.
Then when warm water is applied to rinse the shoes, the bond between the dirt and hydrogen peroxide is broken, which in turn cleans the soles of the shoe.
And with that, our comprehensive guide to cleaning out yellowed soles comes to an end.
Sadly, a lot of time, yellowing soles is something we cannot avoid, but luckily, there are many ways to restore yellowed soles to their original white color.
If you’ve been dealing with this issue, you can try out some of the methods we featured in this article, and even combine some of them for enhanced cleaning effects, and if you make sure to do it properly, the soles of your favorite shoes will be restored in no time!
Steve Oddvar Vicantas is a professional electrician and building inspector who loves writing about work boots, work safety, and everything in between. He is also a part-time blogger when he has spare time.