How to Clean White Shoes

Keep those kicks looking like new by following these easy tricks.

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With a high incidence of scuffs, proximity to the dusty ground, unavoidable grass stains and that occasional drip of ice cream in the summer heat, white shoes really take a hit. Keep them looking their best by following a simple care routine.

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Photo by: Getty Images/Thanakon Niamchaona for EyeEm

Getty Images/Thanakon Niamchaona for EyeEm

Always remember to check the care instructions for your shoes so that you can first attempt what the manufacturer recommends. If that doesn’t work, dive into some of these options to tackle the tough stuff. While there are lots of different solutions to consider when you’re tackling dirt on fabric and scuffed-up soles, the best approach is usually to spot clean by hand using an old toothbrush or a white, soft rag, rubbing the cleaning solution in a vigorous, targeted circular motion. Keep in mind that if you use a colored cloth when cleaning, you’ll risk transferring unwanted dyes onto your white shoes.

Some sneakers can withstand the wash cycle, but it’s always advisable to air dry your shoes rather than put them into the dryer. The dryer's heat can break down adhesives used in the shoe’s construction and cause them to fall apart more quickly than you’d expect.

Canvas shoes for youth, modern and casual-looking clothes.

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Canvas shoes for youth, modern and casual-looking clothes.

Photo by: Getty Images/Luis Mario Hernandez Aldana for EyeEm

Getty Images/Luis Mario Hernandez Aldana for EyeEm

How to Clean White Canvas Shoes

No doubt you’ll need to clean your white cotton canvas shoes regularly to help keep dust, dirt and pollen at bay.

  • Prepare and pretreat the shoes. Remove any shoe inserts (insoles, gel cushions or other orthotics). Remove laces and pretreat by soaking them in a bath of 1:1 white vinegar and water. Treat the inside of the shoes to reduce smells. Pour a tablespoon of baking soda into each shoe and shake gently to distribute the powder.
  • Spot clean. Tackle spots and stains before laundering by soaking them directly with stain-removing spray.
  • Place shoes and laces in a mesh laundry bag for delicates. An old pillowcase is a good substitute if you don't have a mesh bag.
  • Place the shoes (in mesh bags) and several old towels into the washing machine. The towels help cushion the shoes during the cycle and prevent the machine from becoming imbalanced.
  • Set and run the washer on the most delicate wash cycle. Use liquid detergent, not bleach. Alternatively, you can also pour a cup of white vinegar into the wash after the shoes have submerged and are soaked with water. White vinegar is more delicate than bleach. Adding white vinegar at this stage in the cycle and allowing the cycle to complete will have a bleach-like effect on your whites. Important reminder: Never, ever combine bleach and vinegar for cleaning purposes, even if diluted in the washing machine, as the combination creates highly toxic gasses in the home.
  • Allow shoes to air dry. Air drying is an important final step to the washing process. The heat from a dryer can damage the adhesives used in sole construction, so avoid it if possible. Reshape your shoe and leave it in a space to dry.
  • Once dry, you can thread the laces and replace the inserts.
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How to Wash Shoes in the Washing Machine

Machine washing is an easy way to keep your shoes clean all year long.

Fresh Lemon Juice

Fresh Lemon Juice

Follow these tips and you'll be able to make your clothing cleaner in the laundry.

Photo by: Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Can you use lemon juice to clean white canvas shoes?

Sure can! Lemon juice has often been used as an option for whitening clothing, and it works well for cleaning white shoes, too. Start by soaking the shoes in water so that they’re fully saturated. Then, after squeezing the juice from one lemon and creating a 1-to-1 solution of lemon juice and water, use a toothbrush to apply the diluted juice onto the shoes. Allow the shoes to sit for an hour and then rinse clean and allow the shoes to air dry.

How to Clean White Synthetic Shoes

Synthetic sneakers are among the easiest shoes to clean. Whether it’s a white faux leather or suede boot or a white athletic sneaker, the synthetic fibers are less prone to trapping stains.

  • Prepare the shoes for spot cleaning. Remove laces and inserts. Some athletic sneakers might be safe to run through the washing machine, but spot cleaning can help extend the life of any shoes. Once again, you can pretreat your shoelaces by soaking them in a bath of 1:1 white vinegar and water.
  • Mix a cleaning paste. Combine two parts baking soda with one part hydrogen peroxide and stir it together until it is mixed. A baking soda paste is one of the most tried-and-true solutions for cleaning stains on a number of surfaces, and it works wonders on fabric shoes, too. The properties in the baking soda safely promote whitening without the threat of deterioration for the rubber, adhesives and fabric, and it can be used regularly to keep your shoes looking sharp. No baking soda? Use toothpaste instead!
  • Apply the paste to your shoes. Use an old toothbrush to gently massage the paste onto the shoes. Rinse the toothbrush under water as necessary.
  • Use a clean cloth to wipe off any excess dirt that lifts from the fabric. Repeat two to three times if necessary.
  • Rinse shoes in cool water.
  • Reshape the shoes and allow them to air dry.
  • Replace laces.
Closet: Willie Parker’s Home in Durham N.C.

Closet: Willie Parker’s Home in Durham N.C.

Willie’s master bedroom closet puts even die-hard fashionistas to shame, with row upon row of pristine sneakers, including his many pairs of beloved (and unworn) Michael Jordans.

Photo by: Bryan Regan

Bryan Regan

How to Clean White Leather Shoes

Leather shoes are best cleaned by hand, but if you have suede shoes, skip to the next section.

  • Remove the shoe laces. If the laces are cotton or synthetic, feel free to put those through the wash in a bag for delicates.
  • Clean loose dirt. A soft cloth or a brush helps agitate and lift dirt and grime on the surface of the shoes. Pay attention to the soles, too. Prepping leather soles for cleaning also requires them to be dirt-free.
  • Apply a gentle cleaning solution. For mild stains, mix a cup of warm water and a small amount of liquid dish soap in a cup. Dip a soft cloth into it, wring it out and wipe the exterior surfaces of the shoe. Alternatively, you can also use a store-bought leather cleaner to lift and clean the leather. Tough stains may require extra effort and concentrated cleansers.
  • Wipe away the cleaner. Use a new, lightly dampened cloth to wipe off the residual soap.
  • Dry the leather by hand with a soft towel. Avoid putting the shoes in the sun or by a heater as they dry because this can cause the leather to fade or crack.
  • Condition the leather. Apply leather conditioner to add a hydrating, protective layer and add shine to your clean leather shoes. Leather conditioner for shoes is readily available but you can also mix your own using 1 part vinegar to 2 parts linseed oil. Apply it to the leather, let it sit for about 15 minutes and buff with a soft cloth until the leather shines.
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Cleaning suede with suede brush

How to Clean Suede: Remove Dirt With a Suede Brush

Use special brushes and erasers to clean light-colored suede shoes.

Photo by: Jalynn Baker

Jalynn Baker

Use special brushes and erasers to clean light-colored suede shoes.

How to Clean White Suede Shoes

You are a daring person to own white or light-colored suede. There are a few cleaning items you need to keep in your arsenal specifically for cleaning suede including a suede brush and crepe brush, suede eraser and cornstarch.

  • Remove dirt using the suede brush. You don’t need to use any liquid cleaners with suede, but you do need a brush with firm bristles. Brush the fibers in one direction, then in another direction. With every pass, the stain will lighten.
  • If your stain is still visible after using the suede brush, use a suede eraser. This works a lot like using a pencil eraser.
  • Treat oil stains with cornstarch. Apply a generous sprinkle of cornstarch directly to the oily stain on your shoe but avoid rubbing it in. Allow it to sit for several hours, undisturbed. Then, shake, tap or vacuum the cornstarch off the shoe.
  • Restore the texture of the suede. After cleaning and brushing, the surface may be flattened or inconsistent. Use the suede crepe brush to lift and restore the suede to its original state.
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How to Clean Suede

Keep your suede shoes, clothing and accessories looking like new with these simple steps.

Cropped image of a couple's feet as they sit on a washing machine at the laundromathttp://195.154.178.81/DATA/i_collage/pi/shoots/781114.jpg

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Cropped image of a couple's feet as they sit on a washing machine at the laundromathttp://195.154.178.81/DATA/i_collage/pi/shoots/781114.jpg

Photo by: Getty Images/PeopleImages

Getty Images/PeopleImages

How to Clean Scuffed or Discolored Rubber

Scuffs and discoloration are common on white-soled shoes and — face it — dingy soles just make your shoes look old. Let’s look at the best two options for keeping the soles clean: melamine foam and UV-activated cleaner.

Cleaning Scuffed Soles Using Melamine Foam (Magic Eraser)

  • Moisten a piece of melamine foam with water. Ring the foam so it isn’t dripping with moisture.
  • Massage at scuff marks on the edges of your shoe. Magically, the foam is going to eliminate the mild scuffs and reduce the visibility of darker scuffs.
  • Dry the sole with a clean cloth.

Cleaning Yellowed, Stained Soles With UV Cleaner

  • Apply a sole cleaner. UV-activated solutions do a great job at transforming dingy white soles. Oxygen, pollutants and heat can cause rubber soles to oxidize and become a yellowed color over time. Apply the solution directly to the rubber sole and edges of the shoe using an old toothbrush. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
  • Surround the cleaner with plastic wrap. Surrounding the sole with plastic helps prevent the solution from drying out when placed in the sun.
  • Put the shoes in the sun, soles up. The UV treatment will begin to take effect immediately, but leave the shoes outside for upwards of six hours.
  • Remove and toss the plastic wrap.
  • Clean the remaining solution off the sole of the shoe. Use a clean towel to dry off the sole of the shoe. Use an old toothbrush and soapy water to cleanse any remaining solution from the soles.
3 Ways to Care for Shoes
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