How to Fix Sole Yellowing on Shoes

Sole yellowing can make shoes look cheap, dirty, and old, even if they’re new and expensive!

So what causes this unsightly occurrence and how do you prevent it? Better yet, how do you turn those yellowing soles back to a crisp, clean white?

We’ve put together a list of ways to fix sole yellowing on shoes so you can restore your shoes to their former glory!

We’ve also included some tips for preventing yellowing in the first place, so your new shoes stay looking clean and new for as long as possible.

Why Do Soles Turn Yellow?

Sole yellowing is usually just a case of a chemical reaction. The material that the soles are made of contains oxygen, which becomes unstable as it’s exposed to air, sunlight, and other compounds over time.

Sunlight, in particular, is often the reason behind yellowing. Ultraviolet light reacts with the coloring in the shoes, causing whites to turn yellow. Oxidation also happens if you walk on ice and snow, which sticks to the bottom of the shoes and changes color as it comes into contact with oxygen.

Sometimes, you might come into contact with harsh chemicals, like if you walk over a floor that’s recently been cleaned or if you walk through a spill. In some cases, the cleaning solution you use on your shoes could cause this too.

In most cases, taking good care of your shoes and cleaning them regularly will prevent them from yellowing. However, it’s still handy to know how to make them white again in case you ever have to deal with some yellowing.

How to Fix Yellow Soles

If you’re trying to get your yellowing soles back to looking clean and white, try some of these methods.

1. Baking Soda

Baking soda is easy to find in most houses and can make a big difference to your yellow soles! The process is easy, but you may have to do it a few times before seeing a good result.

Mix equal parts baking soda and water in a bowl. You want this to form a paste. It should not be runny—you don’t want it to be able to drip onto other parts of the shoes. Add more water or baking soda as needed to create a thick paste.

Once you have the paste, use an old toothbrush to spread it onto the soles of your shoes. When the full sole is covered, place your shoes on a paper towel with the sole facing up in sunlight. Make sure you do this on a warm day to get good sunlight.

Leave them like this for an hour. Then, rinse the paste off and see if the yellow color has faded into white. You may need to repeat this process to get them white again.

2. Bleach

Bleach can be a good solution, but you should be aware that leaving it on for too long or not diluting it properly can make the stains even more yellow! You will need to be careful with this method, but it can be very effective.

Before you start, it’s a good idea to use tape to cover up the parts of the upper closest to the sole. This will prevent the color from being damaged if bleach accidentally touches it.

Mix bleach and water in equal parts. Then, dip an old toothbrush into the solution and use it to scrub the sole of the shoe. Once you’ve scrubbed the whole sole, rinse it thoroughly with water. The sole should be much whiter.

Take care not to touch the bleach with your hands. You may want to wear rubber gloves and ensure you do this outdoors where the bleach can’t fall onto any clothing or furniture.

3. Toothpaste

Toothpaste is found in most houses and can effectively bring that whiteness back to your soles. Use an old toothbrush and scrub toothpaste over the yellowed soles. You can add a touch of water to cause the toothpaste to foam.

Once the whole sole is covered, leave the shoes for half an hour to an hour. Then, use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the toothpaste off the soles.

If there are still yellow areas, repeat this process until they disappear.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another common household cleaner. You can use it on your shoes to quickly take them from yellow to white. Create a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water and use a spray bottle to apply it to the soles of your shoes.

Scrub the soles with an old toothbrush or a soft brush. Once you’ve scrubbed the whole sole, rinse the shoes with water and dry them off. You can try mixing hydrogen peroxide with baking soda if you notice still yellow stains. This will create a more potent mixture.

Mix the two to create a paste. Apply it to the soles of the shoes and wrap them in plastic to allow them to dry. Leave them for about an hour, but avoid putting them in the sun. Once the hour has passed, wipe off the solution and rinse them in water. The yellow should have turned to white.

5. White Vinegar & Baking Soda

Mix hot water and white vinegar in equal parts. Add some baking soda here to create a paste, and apply this across the whole sole using a soft brush.

Let the shoes sit for 45 minutes to an hour, then brush the mixture off. Rinse the shoes and dry them, and they should be much whiter!

6. Makeup Remover

If you have makeup remover or even makeup remover wipes, you can use them on the soles of your shoes if you’re in a pinch. The alcohol in the remover can help to remove yellow stains and make your shoes look cleaner and whiter.

Rather start with less. If the stains don’t go away entirely, you can always do it another two or three times. Make sure not to use colored tissues or cloths to do this, though, as the color may transfer onto the soles of your shoes!

7. Lemon Water

You may be surprised that lemon water can help to whiten the soles of your shoes. Lemon contains citric acid, which can help to dissolve yellow stains on your sole.

You’ll need two or three lemons. Cut them in half and squeeze the juice onto your shoes. Try not to get any on the uppers, as it could damage the color. Leave the juice on the soles for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Then, wipe it off and rinse your shoes with water. The soles should look much whiter than before the lemon juice.

8. Salt

If the soles of your shoes aren’t too yellow yet, but it’s just starting, you can try salt mixed in hot water. One tablespoon of salt in one cup of water should be enough. Stir it until the salt is dissolved.

Then use an old toothbrush to scrub the sole of your shoe with salt water. The stains should come off quite easily if they’re new. Don’t forget to rinse your shoes and dry them off properly before wearing them.

9. Shoe Sole Whitener

You can also buy sole whitening solutions like Angelus Sole Bright. These are designed to turn yellow stains back to white, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure your shoes don’t get damaged.

How to Prevent Sole Yellowing

Although it’s good to know how to turn yellow soles back to white again, it’s also important to know how to prevent them from yellowing in the first place.

Store Your Shoes In a Cool, Dry Place

Sunlight and moisture are often the things that lead to sole yellowing in the first place. Keeping your shoes away from them when you’re storing them can help to keep the soles white.

Make sure your shoes are stored in a place that’s out of the direct sun and away from humidity. The area should be cool and well-ventilated.

Choose the Right Shoe Cleaning Materials

Never clean your shoes with general household cleaners, as they may contain chemicals that can not only yellow your soles but can damage your shoes’ materials.

Choose a shoe cleaner specifically made for shoes, preferably the material that your shoes are made of. These cleaners are much less likely to cause any sort of discoloration.

Clean Your Shoes At Least Once a Week

Stay on top of cleaning your shoes. You should clean them at least once a week to prevent the soles from getting yellow. If you walk through snow or ice a lot, cleaning your shoes—particularly the soles—after every use is a good idea.

Clean New Marks With a Pencil Eraser/Magic Eraser

Smaller marks on your soles can be buffed out with a Magic Eraser or a pencil eraser. Removing small stains as they appear can keep your soles clean and prevent them from becoming overly dirty.