How to Clean White Shoes

White shoes go with almost anything. But their crisp, bright look can become dingy and stained in no time. It is nearly impossible to keep your shiny new shoes looking that way, and even the neatest of people are going to dirty their Nikes or Vans. So what is the best way to get those grass-stained Adidas looking clean again?

Cleaning Your White Shoes

If your white New Balance or Converse aren’t looking so white anymore then it’s time to clean them up. Below are the best overall cleaning methods. Some methods work better for different types of stains and materials. It may take more than one attempt to get your shoes bright again. If one of these doesn’t work on your shoes, another should. 

Cleaning With Toothpaste

When you’re looking for a way to clean your drab white shoes, look no further than your bathroom. You probably have a nice cleaner right there, in the form of toothpaste. It not only makes your teeth shine, but it can also scrub away the stains on your white shoes.

This method works especially well to spot clean small stains, but you can use it on entire shoes. It works well on mesh, canvas, and other materials.

What You’ll Need

  • Toothbrush or similar soft brush
  • White, non-gel toothpaste (Colored toothpaste can stain material)
  • Soft cloth, such as a towel

Steps For Cleaning

  1. Remove the shoelaces and set them aside for separate cleaning, as described below.
  2. Brush away loose deposits with a dry brush. You can use a toothbrush or other soft brush for this. Pay special attention to crevices and seams.
  3. Dampen a towel or other soft cloth and gently wipe away any remaining surface dirt.
  4. Squeeze a small amount of toothpaste onto your toothbrush. 
  5. Rub the toothpaste into the surface of your shoes using a circular motion. Spend more time on heavily soiled areas. Be careful not to use too much pressure on fine meshes or on suede shoes, but on most materials you can exert a little more pressure to work out the tough stains.
  6. Let the shoes sit for ten minutes.
  7. Use a damp cloth to wipe away the dirt and toothpaste. Make sure to wipe into the seams and crevices well. You may need to use a damp brush to get into those areas.
  8. Allow shoes to air dry completely.

Cleaning With Baking Soda And Vinegar / Hydrogen Peroxide

Baking soda is a staple when it comes to cleaning around the house. You probably already have some on-hand. If you look around your kitchen, you’ll likely find a bottle of white vinegar.  If you prefer, you can substitute hydrogen peroxide in place of the vinegar.

While this method works on most shoes, it works especially well on mesh areas and on canvas shoes. 

What You’ll Need

  • A toothbrush or other soft brush
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar or hydrogen peroxide
  • Soft cloth, such as a towel

Steps For Cleaning

  1. Remove the shoelaces and set them aside for separate cleaning.
  2. Brush away loose dirt with a brush.
  3. Mix together baking soda, vinegar, and water in equal parts. Alternatively, you can replace the vinegar with hydrogen peroxide.
  4. Using a brush, press the paste solution into the surface of the shoes and scrub at any deposits. Pay special attention when working the paste into seams.
  5. Apply a coat of the paste over the surface of the whole shoe.
  6. Let the shoes air dry for several hours. The paste should turn dry and may crack.
  7. Brush and scrape away the loose paste. 
  8. Wipe the outside of the shoe with a damp cloth. 
  9. Set your shoes aside to air dry.

Cleaning With Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent cleans away tough stains and deposits on laundry, so it’s no surprise it works on shoes as well. You can use either a standard detergent or a detergent with a whitening agent.

This method works great for mesh areas and on canvas shoes. 

What You’ll Need

  • A toothbrush or other soft brush
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Soft cloth, such as a towel

Steps For Cleaning

  1. Remove the shoelaces and set them aside for separate cleaning.
  2. Brush away loose dirt with a brush.
  3. Mix together One tablespoon of detergent with three cups of warm water.
  4. Dip a soft cloth into the solution, then work the solution into the outer surface of the shoe. You should use a circular motion. For tough to reach areas, try using a toothbrush to work in the cleaning solution.
  5. Rinse the shoe well, but avoid getting the interior too wet if possible. As an alternative, you can use a wet cloth to wipe down the outside of the shoes. If you do, you may need to rinse your cloth and repeat this several times. 
  6. Set your shoes aside to air dry.

Cleaning With Vinegar

Many home cooks know that vinegar is used in everything from sauces to baked goods. They also may know that it makes a great surface cleaner, and is often one of the contents on the back of cleaning products. It also works well when cleaning and whitening suede, canvas, or cloth areas on shoes.

This method especially works well when spot cleaning suede.

What You’ll Need

  • A toothbrush or other soft brush
  • White vinegar
  • Soft cloth, such as a towel

Steps For Cleaning

  1. Remove the shoelaces.
  2. Wipe and brush away any loose dirt and deposits, being careful not to rub in or spread any stains.
  3. Dip the soft cloth in vinegar and blot at the stains. Carefully rub the vinegar in, but be very careful that you don’t spread the stain beyond the current location. 
  4. Allow the shoes to completely air dry.
  5. If the shoes are suede, brush over the treated areas to restore the look and texture to that of the rest of the shoe.

Cleaning With Dish Liquid

Dish liquid is a fantastic all-purpose cleaner. You can clean dishes, countertops, hands, you name it. Did you know it also works well to clean and whiten your shoes? 

This works especially well on oily stains. While it can work great on most shoes, you should avoid using dish liquid on suede. This method works well on most leather shoes.

What You’ll Need

  • A toothbrush or other soft brush
  • Dish soap
  • Soft cloth, such as a towel

Steps For Cleaning

  1. Remove the shoelaces.
  2. Brush away any loose dirt and deposits, paying particular attention to seams and the area near the sole.
  3. Mix about a teaspoon of dish liquid into a cup of warm water.
  4. Use a brush, rag, or sponge to wipe the soapy solution over the shoes.
  5. With the brush, scrub at the stubborn areas and darker stains. 
  6. Dampen a cloth or sponge with clean water and wipe away the soap and dirt.
  7. Dry the shoes as well as you can with a towel or other soft cloth.
  8. Allow the shoes to completely air dry for several hours.

How To Clean White Shoelaces

You’ve cleaned your white shoes using one of the methods above, but now you need to clean up your laces. Dull, stained laces do not go well with your newly whitened and freshened shoes. Follow these steps to clean them up.

What You’ll Need

  • A toothbrush or other soft brush
  • Dish soap or laundry detergent
  • Bleach (optional)
  • Bowl

Steps For Cleaning

  1. Fill a bowl with about three cups of warm water.
  2. Add half a teaspoon of dish liquid or laundry detergent to the bow.
  3. Soak the laces for a few minutes, making sure they’ve had sufficient time to loosen any dirt or stains. 
  4. Remove the laces from the bowl and scrub along the length of the laces with a toothbrush. Be sure to work the bristles into the laces well at any point where the dirt is heavy or any stains appear.
  5. Soak the laces in the water for an additional ten minutes.
  6. Rinse the laces in fresh water, ringing the water from them as well as you can.
  7. If the laces still appear dingy, empty the bowl and refill with fresh water. Add two tablespoons of bleach to the water.
  8. Soak the laces in the bleach and water solution for five minutes.
  9. Rinse the laces well. 
  10. If stains still remain, soak an additional five minutes in the bleach and water solution, then rinse again.
  11. Lay laces flat or hang to dry.

Cleaning Soles

We’ve gone over how to clean the shoes and the laces, but now you’ve got those drab-looking soles to deal with. While this area of the shoe may suffer from a lot of wear, that doesn’t mean the visible part of the sole shouldn’t look as good as the rest of the shoe. 

What You’ll Need

  • Toothbrush or other soft brush
  • Melamine sponge, such as Mr. Clean Magic Sponge
  • Dish soap
  • Soft cloth

Steps For Cleaning

  1. Mix a small amount of dish soap, like Dawn, with water to create a soapy solution.
  2. Using a brush dipped in the cleaning solution, scrub at the bottom and sides of the soles. Try to get all the dirt out of crevices and off of any seams.
  3. Dampen a melamine sponge such as a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, with water and scrub lightly at the visible areas of the soles. Use only as much pressure as necessary, and don’t scrub any longer than you need to. This type of sponge can be abrasive, and you don’t want to damage the surface of your soles.
  4. Rinse away any remaining cleaning solution or deposits with a damp cloth.
  5. Let air dry before wearing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you dry shoes?

The first thing you should know about drying your shoes is to never use the clothes dryer. The heat produced can damage the plastic or rubber parts, and it may loosen some of the glue used when creating the shoe.

Air drying is always the best way to go with your shoes. If the insoles are removable, take them out. Lay the shoes and insoles in a warm place to dry, preferably in the sun or near a heater vent. If your shoes are leather, vinyl, or something similar then you should stuff the inside of the shoes with wadded up newspaper, rags, or towels to maintain their shape while they dry.

How do I prevent stains on white shoes?

The best way to prevent stains on white shoes is to use a shoe protectant spray, such as Scotchguard or Kiwi Sneaker Protector. These sprays are available in places such as Walmart or Amazon. They waterproof your shoes and add resistance to salt, oil, and grease.

Can I clean my shoes in the washing machine?

While hand washing is the recommended method for most shoes, some shoes can be machine washed. If you have canvas shoes, such as Converse, you can place them in a garment bag inside the washing machine. Be sure to remove laces and insoles first. It is best to wash your shoes with several towels to soften the impact of the shoes moving around inside the machine, and always use the gentle cycle.

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