You know you’re a swing dancer when…

But really, can someone do this? We need a comprehensive book with accurate histories/biographies, a plethora of pictures/illustrations, a guide to swing fashion, a lindy hopper dictionary, a guide to swing music, and a how-to section (with clear instructions and helpful pictures) for a good portion of steps/moves. 

We’ve all been there: you buy that brand-new pair of Keds (or Aris Allen sneakers, or City Sneaks) and within a couple weeks, the shining white canvas has devolved into quite the unpleasant shade of filth. Give it a little more time, and all the sweat you’ve worked up during dance has probably produced a not-so-classy odor. What’s a lindy hopper to do?

I’ll preface this by saying that there is no “magical method” or panacea for your shoes. They will never shine as brilliantly as when you first bought them. They will never smell as pleasant as when you first opened the box. They will never be perfect again, but they can be better. Now that that’s taken care of…

I went to Google for advice. I found a few suggestions that sounded good, so I tested out several methods. First I tried the Magic Eraser, which fell quite short of being magic. It didn’t work for me at all. Second I tried Windex (I was thinking of this the entire time), which did not work on the canvas - it did, however, clean the rubber sides (and soles) decently enough. Just make sure you do this with plain paper towels - mine had a blue pattern on it and it started to transfer the color. 

Third, I tried what seemed to be the most commonly recommended method: get a bowl of warm water with a couple drops of dish soap, dip a washcloth in it, and scrub the shoes with the cloth. I started off with Dawn, and it didn’t do much good. It cleared up a little bit of the dirt, but my scrubbing was largely in vain. The washcloth wasn’t the best for my task; it’s fairly difficult to scrub shoes with a rag so I decided to switch to a toothbrush. Finally, I spotted a bottle of an oxy-power dish soap amongst my cleaning supplies. This is where I found my victory. So…

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • an electric toothbrush
  • a regular toothbrush
  • oxy-power dish soap (such as this one, though it’s not the exact one I used)
  • paper towels
  • a bowl of warm water

Start by pouring a few drops of the soap onto the electric toothbrush. Select a portion of the shoe to concentrate on. Turn on the electric toothbrush, then rapidly scrub up and down for about 30 seconds. Dip the electric toothbrush in the bowl of warm water, shake it out over the sink, and quickly scrub the area you just worked on. Next, use the regular toothbrush to brush away the excess water and soap. (Leaving the soap on the shoes will result in more stains.) Lightly dab with a paper towel if there’s simply too much excess. Repeat the process until you’ve covered the whole shoe. When completely finished, allow shoes to air-dry.

To clean dirty shoelaces, fill a bowl with warm water and add a few drops of dish soap. Let them soak, then wring them out a few times, making sure to not let the aglets get wet. Repeat the process until the laces are to your desired cleanliness.

I won’t lie to you. This task was tedious. It took quite a long time, and I had to repeat the process on each area at least twice (though sometimes more). There’s probably a better way to clean our beloved white Keds - but this was the best way that I found. If you’ve had success with other methods, let me know! My shoes aren’t 100% clean now, but they’re much better and look socially acceptable. Take a look! (Sorry about the random red tint in the first after photo. I’m not sure what happened.)

Now, what to do about the terrible stink? I read a tip about putting two tablespoons of baking soda in a sock, tying the sock off, and letting it sit overnight in your shoe. For my shoes, this absorbed some of the smell but not all of it, so I put my shoes in the freezer (with the baking soda) for several hours and that (more or less) got rid of the rest. For preventative measures, though, this easy homemade shoe powder should do the trick.

Enjoy your freshly cleaned, odor-free Keds!

From the bottom of my boogity shoes

Swing dancer poll time!

What shoes do you usually wear for dancing? What shoes do you think are best to dance in, and why? Which brands have been a good investment, and/or which have not been worth the money?

Keds? Vans? Aris Allen? Converse? Character shoes (Capezio or other)? Other?