How to Clean White Shoes 

Updated
Categories Doing Laundry
Let’s get your old white shoes looking brand new again.

White shoes are popular right now. They are stylish, relaxed and go with almost every single outfit. But they can be a pain to keep clean, since every speckle of dirt shows up on them!

Good news: we’re here to tell you how to clean white shoes whether they’re made of canvas, leather, or mesh. From now on, your white shoes will be sparkling clean and bright white!

How to Clean White Canvas Shoes

  1. Remove shoelaces.
  2. Brush away excess dirt.
  3. Mix together water, baking soda and dish soap.
  4. Use the shoe brush to distribute this mixture over the shoes.
  5. Clean the rubber soles with this mixture or Mr Clean Magic Eraser.
  6. Rinse the shoes with a damp cloth.
  7. Stuff the shoes with paper towels and air dry away from direct sunlight.


Why Do White Shoes Turn Yellow?

White shoes often get discolored and can commonly turn yellow — which isn’t a good look. Here are some reasons why white shoes become yellow.

  • They get discolored in the sun.
  • You’ve used the wrong kind of detergent, or too much detergent.
  • Sweat and dirt can leave yellow stains.

White shoes can often turn yellow after being washed. If you follow our tips for cleaning white shoes, this won’t be an issue anymore.

How Can I Get My White Shoes White Again?

Whether you have canvas, leather, mesh or tennis shoes — we can help get them white again.

Canvas

Canvas shoes, like Vans or Converse, are easy to clean.

What You Need

  • Mesh bags.
  • A soft shoe brush.
  • Baking soda.
  • Dish soap.
  • Mr Clean Magic Eraser (optional).
  • A cloth.
  • White paper towels.
  • Mild detergent (if machine washing).

Instructions

  1. Untie and remove shoelaces. Put these in a mesh laundry bag and wash as normal with your next load of laundry.
  2. Use a soft shoe brush to gently lift off surface level dirt along the shoe and the soles.
  3. Mix together one gallon of warm water and one cup of baking soda. Add in a few drops of dish soap. Mix until combined.
  4. Dip the shoe brush into the mixture. Gently brush over the shoes, spending extra time on stained or dirty areas.
  5. Clean the rubber soles with the same mix. If that doesn’t work, try Mr Clean Magic Eraser.
  6. Soak a clean cloth in cold water. Wipe the shoes, rinsing away the soapy solution.
  7. Stuff the shoes with white paper towels to absorb extra moisture. This also helps the shoes keep their shape while they air dry.
  8. Put them in a warm room, away from direct sunlight, to dry completely.

You can also wash canvas shoes in the washing machine. First, remove the laces. Put them in a mesh bag. Put the shoes in a separate mesh bag. Add a few drops of mild detergent. Set the machine to a cool gentle cycle. Afterwards, stuff the shoes with white paper towels and let them air dry fully in a warm spot away from direct sunlight.

Leather

Leather shoes require a bit more effort to clean than canvas, but the effort is worth it.

What You Need

  • A mesh bag.
  • A soft shoe brush.
  • Three clothes.
  • Toothpaste.
  • Toothbrush.
  • Dish soap.
  • Mr Clean Magic Eraser.
  • A leather cleaner (optional).
  • White paper towels.

Instructions

  1. Untie and remove the shoelaces. Wash these in a mesh bag during your next laundry cycle.
  2. Use a soft shoe brush to gently brush away surface level dirt and dust.
  3. Dampen a cloth in cool clean water. Gently wipe it over the shoes. You don’t want to soak the shoes, but wet them enough to remove dirt.
  4. With your fingers, rub toothpaste over stains and scuff marks. Make sure to use non-gel whitening toothpaste without artificial dyes.
  5. Scrub the stains using a toothbrush. Go in small, gentle, circular motions. Keep doing this until the stain begins to break up and lift from the shoe.
  6. Wipe the toothpaste away with a clean wet cloth.
  7. Now, mix together a few drops of dish soap in a cup of warm water.
  8. Dip a cloth into the solution and go over the whole shoe. This will clean off any remaining dirt or stains.
  9. Clean the soles with Mr Clean Magic Eraser.
  10. Rinse the shoes with a clean wet cloth.
  11. Wipe another dry clean cloth over the shoes to soak up excess water.
  12. Stuff the shoes with white paper towels. Air dry them in a warm spot away from direct sunlight.

If using a leather cleaner, skip steps four to eight. Instead, follow the packaging instructions on your leather cleaner to clean your white shoes.

Mesh

What You Need

  • Mesh bags.
  • Soft bristle shoe brush.
  • Dish soap.
  • Mr Clean Magic Eraser (optional).
  • A soft cloth.
  • White paper towels.
  • Mild laundry detergent (if machine washing).

Instructions

  1. Untie and remove the laces. Toss them into a mesh bag and wash them with your next load of laundry.
  2. Use a soft bristle shoe brush to remove excess dirt.
  3. Make a solution with warm water and one teaspoon of dish soap.
  4. Dip the shoe brush into the solution and gently rub it over the entire shoe, including the rubber soles. If this doesn’t clean the soles, try using Mr Clean Magic Eraser instead.
  5. Dip your shoe brush into clean cool water and brush over the shoes to remove lifted stains and dirt. Continue until the shoes are fully rinsed of the soapy solution.
  6. Dip a soft cloth into your soapy mixture and gently scrub both shoes using soft circular motions. Continue this until the shoes are looking extra clean.
  7. When you’re satisfied, dip the cloth into clean cool water and rinse away the soap.
  8. Stuff the shoes with white paper towels and air dry in a warm spot, away from direct sunlight.

If the shoes are still not clean, put them in a mesh bag. Place them into the washing machine with the recommended amount of laundry detergent on a cool gentle cycle.

Handle With Care

Always be gentle with mesh shoes. They’re not as tough or durable as leather shoes.

Tennis Shoes

Tennis shoes can get really dirty, really fast. They’re exposed to more dirt and sweat since they’re typically worn for sports. But with our tips, they’ll be super clean and white again in no time.

Something to Note

Tennis shoes are typically made with canvas, mesh or leather. So check what yours are made of and follow the tips above. However, these tips below can restore most white tennis shoes and are unlike our other tips so far. You can always combine previous tips with these next instructions.

What You Need

  • Baking soda.
  • Distilled white vinegar.
  • Hot water.
  • Toothbrush.
  • A cloth.
  • Mesh bag.

Instructions

  1. Remove the shoelaces. Put them in a mesh bag and wash them with your next load of laundry.
  2. Mix together one tablespoon of hot water, white vinegar and baking soda in a bowl until it makes a paste. If the paste is a bit runny, add a sprinkle of baking soda until it’s thick.
  3. Dip a toothbrush into this paste and gently brush it all over the shoes. Spend more time on stained areas.
  4. Let the paste dry onto the shoes for four hours. You can leave them in direct sunlight so the paste hardens quicker. Because the shoes are covered in paste, they won’t discolor.
  5. Clap the shoes together to remove the paste.
  6. Use a toothbrush to remove excess paste. Continue until the shoes are clean.
  7. If the paste is stuck on, dampen a clean cloth in water and gently remove excess paste.

FAQs

Can Toothpaste Remove Yellow Stains From Shoes?

Yes — if you have yellow stains on your shoes, try toothpaste. Use a non-gel whitening toothpaste with no artificial brighteners. Rub it onto the stained area, working it in with a soft shoe brush or old toothbrush. Let it sit for 10 minutes before wiping clean.

Can You Clean White Shoes With Dish Soap?

Yes, we recommend dish soap for cleaning canvas, leather and mesh shoes. It’s a gentle way to remove tough stains. Plus, you probably already have it in the house! So no need to buy new expensive products.

How Do I Clean White Shoelaces?

We recommend putting them in a mesh bag and washing them with your next load of laundry. If you don’t use a mesh bag, they can get tangled up or sucked down the drain if you’re unlucky. Air dry them in a warm spot afterwards.

However, if you want to wash them by hand, fill up a bowl with warm water and a couple drops of dish soap. Soak the laces in the water for 10 minutes. Wearing rubber gloves, get your hands in the bowl and agitate the laces to remove stains.

Once the laces are looking cleaner, empty the water out and soak them in clean cool water with a tablespoon of white vinegar. Agitate them while wearing rubber gloves, then rinse out the laces and lay flat to air dry.

How Can I Whiten My Shoes Without Bleach?

We don’t recommend using bleach when cleaning your shoes. It can be harsh on the materials and wear down your shoes. Instead, follow all our tips above depending on what kind of shoes you have. Overall, the best tool you’ll find for cleaning shoes is definitely dish soap!

But for really sparkling white shoes, the baking soda and white vinegar paste is going to work wonders.

How Do I Clean the White Soles of My Shoes?

Soles are definitely the dirtiest part of shoes, since they come in direct contact with the ground on a daily basis. Even if you only wear your shoes indoors, you’ll soon notice that they become really mucky.

We’ll share awesome tips for removing dirt and whitening soles again.

  1. Remove any caked on dirt with a soft shoe brush.
  2. Mix together one part baking soda and one part laundry detergent. This is your cleaning solution.
  3. Dip your shoe brush into the solution and start gently scrubbing the soles of the shoes. Go in circular motions to attack as much grime and dirt as possible.
  4. Soak a clean cloth in cool water. Wipe it over the soles to remove the detergent solution. Continue this until the solution is completely rinsed away.
  5. Use a clean towel to dry the shoes. Leave the shoes in a warm spot to completely finish drying, although this shouldn’t take long. Now — you have super clean and bright white shoes again.

Tips for Keeping White Shoes White

  • Spot treat stains as soon as you see them. The longer a stain is ignored, the harder it is to remove. So, if you see a scuff mark or stain, deal with it as soon as you get home.
  • If it’s going to be a super sunny day, and you’re planning on relaxing outside all day, then avoid wearing white shoes. The sun can discolor the shoes.
  • Likewise, avoid wearing shoes on rainy muddy days. Your shoes will get a lot dirtier on days like this which will make them harder to clean.
  • Use a shoe protector. There are many different shoe protectors for different materials. This will prevent dirt, stains and moisture from ruining your bright white shoes.
  • When you’re not wearing them, store them in a box away from dampness and humidity. If you leave them at the front door, they can easily pick up other dirt and dust particles.

Keep Them Fresh

We avoided buying white shoes for years because we were scared they’d get ruined. But with these tips for cleaning and preventing yucky stains, our white shoes are looking as good as new a year later!

Always check the material of your shoes before diving into a cleaning routine. And remember — don’t wear white shoes on rainy or super sunny days.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!
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