White shoes are a must-have for any closet. This shoe can be worn with almost any outfit, making it a great choice for everyday wear. But after just a few days, scuffs, stains, and dirt can make your bright white shoes look dirty and old. And unfortunately, you can’t just throw white shoes in the washer and dryer to clean them, because that could damage the sneakers.
We’ve tried and tested these ways to clean white shoes made of different materials so you can keep your favorite shoes looking great. These step-by-step instructions for cleaning white shoes (and shoelaces!) will make your shoes look brand new, no matter if they are made of canvas, leather, or mesh.
There are a lot of ways to get white shoes to look like new again, and most of them use things you probably already have at home.
Here are some tricks we always use to clean our white sneakers, sandals, and heels:
- Warm soapy water: Add about a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid to a cup of warm water and stir. This will clean almost any kind of shoe. Using a cloth or toothbrush, gently scrub the shoe until it is clean. Wipe off any extra water and let it dry in the air for a few hours.
- Baking soda and white vinegar are great for cleaning canvas shoes, but they can also be used on other types of shoes. Make a paste by mixing 1 tablespoon of hot water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Put the paste on the shoes in a circular motion with a toothbrush. Let the shoes air out for a few hours before brushing and shaking off the dried paste.
- Bleach that has been heavily diluted is a great way to clean fabric shoes as long as you do it in a well-ventilated area and protect your skin and eyes. Make a cleaning solution with one part bleach and five parts water. If you use too much bleach, your shoes could turn yellow. Use a toothbrush to work the solution into the shoes in a circular motion. When you’re done, wipe off the solution with a damp cloth and let it dry for at least 5 hours.
- You could also try using toothpaste (the white creamy type and not a colored gel). Use a circular motion to put it on the whole shoe, paying extra attention to any stains that are hard to remove. Leave for 10 minutes, then wipe off with a damp towel. If necessary, do it again.
1. How to clean canvas white shoes
Things You Need:
- 3 tbsp. baking soda
- White vinegar, 1 tablespoon
- Paper towel or soft cloth
- Bleach pen, if you need it.
- An eraser sponge
Step 1: Remove loose dirt
Untie and take off the shoelaces so you can get to all of the shoe’s parts easily. Take the shoes outside and knock the bottoms together to loosen dirt or mud that is stuck on. Scrub the shoes with a dry toothbrush or a small, soft-bristled brush to get rid of any loose dirt that is still on them. Make sure to brush along the rubber soles and the edges of the tongue.
Step 2: Use baking soda and vinegar to clean the shoes
In a small bowl, mix the baking soda and white vinegar together to make a paste. Dip the toothbrush into the mixture, and then gently scrub the canvas white shoes with the paste to get rid of dirt and stains. Let the mixture set on the shoes for a while. When it’s completely dry, brush off the bigger pieces and use a soft cloth or paper towel to clean up the rest. Use a bleach pen on stains that won’t come out, like grass or blood, and let it sit for about five minutes before washing it off with hot water and liquid detergent.
Step 3: Clean soles made of rubber
Use an eraser sponge to get rid of any scuff marks or dirty streaks on the white soles of the shoes. Wet the eraser sponge with water and use it to scrub all around the rubber sole. Wipe the shoes clean with a damp clean cloth or paper towel. Let them dry completely in the air before putting them on.
2. How to clean leather white shoes
Leather is a bit more fragile, so you have to be careful about how you clean it. First of all, never wash clothes in a machine. Instead, follow these steps:
Things you need:
- Brush with soft bristles
- Microfiber material
- Hand towels
- Soap for washing dishes (optional)
- Cleaner for leather (optional)
- Baking soda (optional) (optional)
- White vinegar (optional)
- Mouser water (optional)
- Magic eraser (optional)
Step 1: Wash the shoes with soapy water
After taking off the shoelaces, brush off any loose dirt with a dry toothbrush. Add a few drops of liquid dish soap to a cup of warm water and stir it together. Put the toothbrush in soapy water and scrub the shoes gently all over.
Step 2: Wash the bottoms and let them dry
Use an eraser sponge to get rid of any marks or stains (as in the instructions above). To clean the shoes, use a damp cloth. When you’re done cleaning the shoes, put white paper towels in them to soak up any moisture and keep their shape as they dry. Make sure they’re dry before putting them on.
3. How to clean white mesh shoes
Use these tips to clean your white mesh sneakers and give them a new look.
Things You Need:
- 1 tbsp. liquid laundry detergent
- Warm water and a soft towel
- Eraser pen Bleach pen
- White toilet paper
Step 1: Brush off any dirt
Mesh is a delicate material that is easy to snag or tear. When you clean white mesh shoes, you’ll need to be gentler than you would be with a more durable fabric like canvas. Use a dry toothbrush with soft bristles to gently brush any extra dirt off the outside of the shoes.
Step 2: Wash the shoes with water and soap
Add a small amount of liquid laundry detergent to a bowl of warm water to make a soapy cleaning solution. Using a soft cloth, rub the cleaning solution into the shoes in a circular motion. Rinse the cloth with warm water every so often as you clean so you don’t spread dirt or stains all over the shoes. For tough spots like grass stains or ground-in dirt, gently scrub the mesh fabric with a toothbrush and soapy water or a bleach pen.
Step 3: Rinse and dry the shoes
If you want to rinse your mesh shoes, don’t submerge them in water. This can damage the insides or change the shape of the shoes. Instead, wipe the outside of the shoes with a clean, damp cloth. Fill them with white paper towels to help them keep their shape, and let them dry completely in the air before putting them on.
4. Cleaning white shoelaces
Here is how to clean your white shoelaces really well. Things You Need:
- Rubber gloves
- White mesh bag for underwear
- 3 tablespoons of bleach to 1 gallon of water
- Laundry detergent
You can clean and whiten shoelaces that are all white by using bleach. Wear rubber gloves when working with bleach to protect your hands. Take the shoelaces off and put them in a white lingerie mesh bag. Soak the bag in a bleach solution for five minutes. Clorox suggests using 3 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water. If you need to, use a small plate to keep the bag submerged. Take the laces out of the bleach solution and wash them in a regular way in the washing machine. Let the laces dry in the air.
5. How to keep your shoes white
Once your white shoes look clean again, here are some good tips for keeping them in good shape:
Prevention is important: Use a spray that stops stains and keeps water from getting in every few weeks. Even though you’ll still need to clean them regularly, dirt and grime will have a harder time getting into the shoe. Water repellents aren’t great for white shoes with a patent finish because they can dull the shine.
One or two places: As soon as you see a stain or spot, clean it up. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get rid of them.
Stay away from the washer: Even though it may be tempting to throw your shoes in the washing machine, you shouldn’t. This can hurt your shoes and make them wear out faster (ew!).
If you’ve tried everything and your shoes still look a little worn out, it might be time to buy a new pair. We’ve put together a list of shoe styles to help you find your next favorite pair of trusty whites.