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Dirty laces on a pair of otherwise crisp white sneakers will detract from your entire look. A pair of white Air Force 1s, Chuck Taylors, or Stan Smiths simply aren’t going to look as good if the shoelaces appear to be dingy. Unfortunately, laces may drag on the ground, meaning they often get grimy before the rest of the shoe does. And since they’re typically made of absorbent materials like cotton, dirt tends to show up faster here.
There’s good news, though. If you don’t want to keep buying new laces, you can clean existing ones using a few easy methods and some basic products you may already have in your laundry room.
Ahead, we broke down three simple ways to clean white shoelaces. Note: You’ll likely need to wash them regularly to maintain their brightness.
Wash White Shoelaces By Hand
For more control in the cleaning process, we recommend washing your laces by hand. First, you’ll want to grab a toothbrush, a stain treatment, and a heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent. Then, fill a large bowl with four cups of hot water and add a half teaspoon of laundry detergent. Before placing your laces in the bowl, get them a little wet under some running water and treat them with your stain remover as needed. From there, let them soak in the warm water for approximately 30 minutes.
For added brightening effects, add a teaspoon of bleach to the water. Keep in mind that if your laces are made with synthetic fibers, they can only be whitened with an oxygen-based bleach. (Chlorine-based bleach will damage the fibers). Regardless of the type of bleach you use, it’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves to prevent skin from coming in contact with the chemical, as this can cause irritation.
Once your laces have properly soaked, gently scrub away any remaining dirt with a clean toothbrush. Then, rinse the laces thoroughly and let them hang to dry. You can use an actual hanger or a basic household hook to do so.
Throw Laces in the Washing Machine
For this process, you’ll need most of the same products, plus a mesh laundry bag or old pillowcase with a zipper closure so laces don’t get tangled or stuck inside the washing machine. Before starting a cycle, wet the laces and scrubbing away any loose dirt with a clean toothbrush. Then, apply stain remover to any discolored areas and let the formula sit for about 20 minutes to half an hour.
Next, place your laces in the mesh laundry bag or secure pillowcase, add the closed bag to a load of white laundry with some liquid detergent and wash in warm to hot water. You can also add a bit of bleach to the load. Once it’s done, hang the laces to air dry. You should never place laces in the dryer, since the high heat can distort the plastic tips at the end.
Soak Them in Clorox
If your cotton laces are in need of a more intensive stain treatment, a weakened bleach solution isn’t likely to do the trick. Instead, Clorox recommends soaking laces in three tablespoons of its regular bleach and a gallon of water. Remember to wear gloves when working with bleach.
Prior to submerging laces in your bleach solution, put them in a mesh laundry bag. To prevent the bag from floating to the surface of the solution, place a plate on top of it. Let the laces soak for five minutes before washing in warm to hot water with laundry detergent and a half cup of bleach if they still don’t look up to snuff.
Of course, some laces are simply beyond repair. In that case, it can’t hurt to stock up on some extra sets of laces to have on hand for when it’s time to throw out your current pair. Shop a few picks below.