How to Clean White Shoes: A Step-by-Step Guide

Keeping white shoes clean all the time is nearly impossible. No matter how pristine they were when you first got them, scuffs, stains, and spills are inevitable over time. Your beloved white Converse or Vans will likely lose their spotless charm.

Instead of parting ways with your sneakers, follow our step-by-step guide on how to clean white shoes. We’ve gathered expert-approved tips to restore your canvas, suede, and leather shoes to their original glory. Plus, we’re sharing advice on preventing dirt and grime buildup in the first place.

When it comes to cleaning white shoes, your initial thought might be tossing them in the washing machine. However, a gentler approach is beter. Hand-cleaning with a cloth or a soft brush is more effective and less harsh than a washing machine’s aggressive cycle—especially for leather sneakers, loafers, and slippers.

While there’s no strict rule on how frequently you should clean your white sneakers, “the dirtier they get, the harder they are to clean.” Depending on how often you wear your shoes, she suggests washing them every month or so. Additionally, promptly address visible spots and stains to maintain a cleaner appearance for a more extended period.

Follow the straightforward instructions below to revive your white shoes, regardless of the material. As an extra precaution, explore our favorite shoe organizer ideas to help you keep your footwear in excellent condition.

Credit: Getty Images / nastenkapeka

How to Clean White Canvas Shoes: A Simple Guide

Certainly, maintaining the cleanliness of your white cotton canvas shoes is crucial to ward off dust, dirt, and pollen. Here’s an easy-to-follow method:

  1. Prepare and Pretreat:
    • Remove any shoe inserts, including insoles, gel cushions, or orthotics.
    • Take off the laces and soak them in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.
    • Tackle any potential odors by pouring a tablespoon of baking soda into each shoe and shaking gently to distribute the powder.
  2. Spot Clean:
    • Address spots and stains before washing by directly applying a stain-removing spray.
  3. Use a Mesh Laundry Bag:
    • Place the shoes and laces in a mesh laundry bag for delicates. If unavailable, an old pillowcase works as a suitable substitute.
  4. Load the Washing Machine:
    • Put the shoes (in the mesh bag) and several old towels into the washing machine. The towels serve as a cushion, preventing imbalance.
    • Opt for the most delicate wash cycle and use liquid detergent—avoid bleach. Alternatively, add a cup of white vinegar after the shoes are submerged to achieve a bleach-like effect without the harshness.
  5. Air Dry:
    • Allow the shoes to air dry; avoid using a dryer as the heat can damage adhesives in the soles. Reshape the shoes and leave them in a well-ventilated space.
  6. Final Touch:
    • Once dry, rethread the laces and replace the inserts.

How to Clean White Synthetic Shoes: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide

Cleaning your synthetic shoes, whether they’re faux leather boots or athletic sneakers, is a breeze. Synthetic fibers are less likely to trap stains, making the process straightforward.

  1. Prepare for Spot Cleaning:
    • Remove laces and inserts. While some athletic sneakers may handle the washing machine, spot cleaning extends the life of all shoes.
    • For an extra touch, pretreat shoelaces by soaking them in a mix of equal parts white vinegar and water.
  2. Create a Cleaning Paste:
    • Make a cleaning paste by combining two parts baking soda with one part hydrogen peroxide. Mix until it forms a consistent paste. If baking soda is unavailable, toothpaste can serve as an alternative.
    • This baking soda paste is a reliable solution for cleaning stains on various surfaces, ensuring your shoes stay white without harming rubber, adhesives, or fabric.
  3. Apply the Paste:
    • Use an old toothbrush to gently massage the paste onto the shoes.
    • Rinse the toothbrush under water as needed.
  4. Wipe Off Excess Dirt:
    • Use a clean cloth to wipe away any lifted dirt from the fabric.
    • Repeat the process if necessary.
  5. Rinse in Cool Water:
    • Thoroughly rinse the shoes in cool water to remove any remaining cleaning residue.
  6. Air Dry and Reshape:
    • Allow them to air dry. Don’t use heat, as it can damage the synthetic materials.
  7. Replace Laces:
    • Once dry, replace the laces to complete the refreshed look of your synthetic shoes.

How to Clean White Leather Shoes

Cleaning white leather shoes is best done by hand, offering a personalized touch to maintain their pristine appearance. If you have suede shoes, please refer to the next section.

  1. Remove the Laces:
    • Take off the shoe laces. If they are cotton or synthetic, feel free to wash them in a delicate bag.
  2. Clean Loose Dirt:
    • Use a soft cloth or brush to agitate and lift dirt and grime from the surface of the shoes. Pay special attention to the soles, ensuring they are free from dirt to prepare for cleaning.
  3. Apply a Gentle Cleaning Solution:
    • For mild stains, create a mixture of one cup of warm water and a small amount of liquid dish soap. Dip a soft cloth into the solution, wring it out, and gently wipe the exterior surfaces of the shoe.
    • Alternatively, you can use a store-bought leather cleaner for an effective clean. Tough stains may require extra effort and more concentrated cleansers.
  4. Wipe Away the Cleaner:
    • Use a new, lightly dampened cloth to wipe off any residual soap from the leather.
  5. Dry the Leather by Hand:
    • Hand-dry the leather with a soft towel. Avoid exposing the shoes to direct sunlight or heat, as this can lead to fading or cracking of the leather.
  6. Condition the Leather:
    • Apply a leather conditioner to provide a hydrating and protective layer while adding a shine to your clean leather shoes. You can use a store-bought leather conditioner or create your own by mixing 1 part vinegar to 2 parts linseed oil.
    • Apply the conditioner to the leather, let it sit for about 15 minutes, and then buff it with a soft cloth until the leather shines.

How to Clean White Suede Shoes: A Fearless Approach

Owning white or light-colored suede shoes requires a bit of courage, but with the right tools in your cleaning arsenal—such as a suede brush, crepe brush, suede eraser, and cornstarch—you can keep them looking fabulous.

  1. Remove Dirt with the Suede Brush:
    • Utilize a suede brush with firm bristles to remove dirt. No need for liquid cleaners—simply brush the fibers in different directions. With each pass, you’ll notice stains lightening.
  2. Address Stubborn Stains with a Suede Eraser:
    • If stains persist, use a suede eraser, treating it much like you would a pencil eraser. Gently erase the stubborn spots.
  3. Tackle Oil Stains with Cornstarch:
    • For oil stains, generously sprinkle cornstarch directly onto the affected area. Avoid rubbing it in; instead, let it sit undisturbed for several hours. Afterwards, shake, tap, or vacuum off the cornstarch.
  4. Restore Suede Texture with a Crepe Brush:
    • Following the cleaning process, the suede’s texture may become flattened or inconsistent. Use a suede crepe brush to lift and restore the suede to its original, luxurious state.

Owning white suede shoes doesn’t have to be daunting. Armed with these cleaning techniques, you can confidently keep your suede shoes looking impeccable.

How to Revitalize Scuffed or Discolored Rubber: Bring Back that Fresh Look

Scuffs and discoloration on white-soled shoes can make them seem worn and old. Thankfully, two effective options can help restore the vibrancy of your soles: melamine foam (Magic Eraser) and a UV-activated cleaner.

Cleaning Scuffed Soles with Melamine Foam (Magic Eraser)

  1. Prepare the Foam:
    • Dampen a piece of melamine foam with water. Squeeze out excess moisture, leaving it slightly damp.
  2. Treat Scuff Marks:
    • Gently massage the dampened foam on scuff marks along the edges of your shoe. Watch as the magic eraser eliminates mild scuffs and reduces the visibility of darker ones.
  3. Dry with a Clean Cloth:
    • Once scuffs are addressed, dry the sole using a clean cloth.

Cleaning Yellowed, Stained Soles with UV Cleaner

  1. Apply Sole Cleaner:
    • Use a UV-activated sole cleaner to transform dingy white soles. Apply the solution directly to the rubber sole and edges with an old toothbrush. Protect your hands with rubber gloves.
  2. Wrap in Plastic:
    • Surround the treated sole with plastic wrap to prevent the solution from drying out when exposed to the sun.
  3. Sun Exposure:
    • Place the shoes in the sun with the soles facing up. The UV treatment will start working immediately, so leave the shoes outside for at least six hours.
  4. Remove Plastic Wrap:
    • After sun exposure, remove and discard the plastic wrap.
  5. Clean Remaining Solution:
    • Wipe off any remaining solution using a clean towel. For thorough cleansing, use an old toothbrush and soapy water to ensure the soles are free from any residue.

How to Clean White Shoelaces and Shoes for a Fresh Look

Maintaining the pristine whiteness of your shoelaces and shoes is easy with these simple steps. Whether using bleach, a bleach pen, or toothpaste, follow these guidelines for a thorough cleaning.

Cleaning White Shoelaces with Bleach

  1. Remove and Soak:
    • Take off the laces from your shoes and place them in a white mesh lingerie bag. Submerge the bag in a bleach solution for five minutes (mix 3 tbsp. of bleach with every gallon of water, as recommended by Clorox). Use a small plate to keep the bag submerged if necessary.
  2. Wash Laces:
    • After soaking, remove the laces from the bleach solution and wash them in the washing machine with regular detergent. Allow the shoelaces to air dry.

Bleaching White Shoes

  1. Quick Spot Treatment with Bleach Pen:
    • For small, dark stains on your white shoes, use a bleach pen. Apply it directly to the stains for a targeted cleaning.
  2. All-Over Clean with Diluted Bleach:
    • Mix 1 part bleach with 4 parts water. Wear protective gloves and use a toothbrush to gently scrub the shoes with the bleach solution. Rinse thoroughly and let them dry.

Cleaning White Shoes with Toothpaste

  1. Choose the Right Toothpaste:
    • Opt for an all-white toothpaste, preferably with baking soda.
  2. Scrub the Shoes:
    • Use a toothbrush to gently scrub the entire surface of the shoes with the toothpaste.
  3. Let Them Sit:
    • Allow the shoes to sit for 15 minutes to let the toothpaste work its magic.
  4. Wipe Away:
    • Use a damp washcloth to wipe away the dried toothpaste.

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