How to Clean White Shoes
A crisp pair of white sneakers or a luxe set of ivory leather knee-highs instantly freshens any look. What about when those stunning shoes start to turn, well, a little less bright? Yellow stains, scuff marks, dirt smudges, and debris can all make you want to ditch that once-loved pair of pearly white shoes for a more weather-friendly beige or a practical & fashionable black.
Don’t give up yet! Learn how to make your white shoes shine again with these at-home methods for cleaning white canvas, leather, and suede shoes.
What Can You Use to Clean White Shoes?
Unless you’re only wearing them in the house, white shoes don’t take long to start looking dingy. It may be tempting to toss them in the washing machine, but this can do more harm than good, causing certain materials to break down faster. Cleaning white shoes at home is easy, takes 30 minutes or less, and you can usually find all the tools needed in your kitchen or bathroom.
The best way to clean white shoes depends on the type of stain and the material of the shoe. Remove stains from white shoes with the right cleaners and keep them stain-free by incorporating a shoe cleaning and protection spray.
Canvas or Mesh Sneakers
There are a few ways to clean white canvas shoes or mesh sneakers depending on what you have around the house. An old toothbrush and whitening toothpaste can easily scrub stains away from a rubber sole. However, more stubborn stains and the fabric of your shoes may require a different cleaning method:
Baking Soda & Vinegar
Prefer using eco-friendly cleaners? Baking soda and white vinegar are a powerful duo for removing stains from white tennis shoes. Take these steps to keep your white Converse or Toms a staple to your spring capsule wardrobe:
- Untie and remove your shoelaces.
- Shake off any excess dirt outside.
- With a dry toothbrush, scrub off loose dirt particles on the soles, tongue, and fabric.
- Make a paste out of 3 tbsp baking soda and 1 tbsp white vinegar.
- Use your toothbrush to apply the paste to the shoe, scrubbing gently in circular motions.
- After the paste hardens, brush it off with a dry cloth. For stronger stains, consider the next method: Bleach.
You might want to consider cleaning your shoes with a color safe or splash-free bleach to avoid messing up your clothes or any surrounding surfaces. If spot cleaning, a bleach pen usually does the trick, however some sneakers may need extra TLC:
- Mix 1 tbsp of bleach with 1 quart of warm water.
- Moisten a dry cloth or dip an old toothbrush into the solution.
- Lightly scrub the fabric, midsole, and outsole of the shoe.
- Immediately rinse or wipe away excess soap. Reapply as needed.
- Allow shoes to air-dry fully and spray with a sneaker shoe care spray before wearing.
Liquid Laundry Detergent
Though the breathable material is perfect for workout shoes, the extra dirt your mesh sneakers pick up from your daily run can ruin a perfect gym fit. Mesh is a more delicate material than canvas, but a little bit of liquid laundry detergent can make your white mesh tennis shoes look like new:
- Use a soft bristled toothbrush to loosen any excess dirt.
- Mix liquid laundry detergent in a bowl with warm water.
- Dip a clean cloth into the mixture and gently rub the mesh material, being careful not to spread the stain.
- Rinse shoes with clean, lukewarm water and do not submerge.
- Use a clean cloth to wipe down the outside of the shoe and leave them to airdry.
- Spray with shoe care spray to protect shoes from future stains.
How to Get Shoelaces White Again
After removing your shoelaces, you can wash them by hand with mild dish soap and water or place your laces inside a mesh laundry bag. Wash them on delicate with other clothes. At the end of the wash, take your shoelaces out of the bag and hang to dry, since excessive heat from a dryer could warp the plastic tips.
Shoelaces with grass, dirt, or food stains can also be cleaned by soaking them in a solution of 3 tbsp of bleach and 1 gallon of water. Allow the laces to soak for a maximum of five minutes. Then, wash them thoroughly by hand and hang them to dry.
White Leather Shoes, Heels & Boots
From thigh-high boots to lug sole loafers and strappy summer sandals, white leather shoes come in every style you can think of. Patent or faux, leather is slightly fragile when it comes to cleaning since the material changes shape when wet. Similar to cleaning winter boots made of leather, here’s how to clean white leather shoes:
Baking Soda & Vinegar
With leather, you always want to avoid using harsh chemicals as it may ruin the finish. A leather shoe protector spray can help you avoid dirt and stains in the first place. Unless you plan to use a leather cleaning solution, baking soda and white vinegar removes stains, fights odors, and gets rid of bacteria.
- Stuff the leather shoe with newspaper to help retain its shape.
- Mix 1 tbsp of baking soda, 2 tbsp white vinegar, and 1 cup of water.
- Apply the solution with an old toothbrush or clean cloth, gently scrubbing away dirt.
- Allow leather boots or shoes to air dry in indirect sunlight.
- Before wearing, apply leather shoe protector.
Dish Soap, Water & Magic Eraser
Just a little bit of liquid dish soap goes a long way, especially on leather shoes. Be careful to use a soap that does not contain moisturizers or enhanced scents, as this could affect the natural material:
- Gently brush away loose dirt.
- Add a few drops of liquid dish detergent to a cup of warm water.
- Gently scrub dirt stains with the soapy solution and a toothbrush.
- With a Magic Eraser sponge, rub away any scuffs.
- Wipe off the shoes with a clean, damp cloth and protect with leather shoe spray.
- Stuff shoes with paper towels or newspaper to absorb moisture and retain shape.
White Suede Shoes
If you own suede loafers, booties, or mules, you’re no stranger to how easily this material shows smudges, dirt, and even water stains. A suede brush is a great starting point if you need to clean white suede shoes, while suede shoe spray guarantees a more stain-resistant shoe from the start:
Suede Brush & Vinegar
Suede brushes and erasers are a couple of tools you can use to upkeep your suede booties and shoes all year round, keeping those winter outfits chic and your summer wardrobe stunning. A soft bristled toothbrush and a clean pencil eraser are easy substitutes when prepping your white suede shoes:
- Brush shoes to loosen dirt and debris.
- Use an eraser to gently rub away more stubborn stains.
- Place a few drops of white vinegar on a clean, microfiber cloth.
- Blot the surface of the stains with the vinegar and cloth until satisfied.
- Allow shoes to air dry, then spray with a suede shoe protector.
Yes, the same holy-grail product you use to take makeup off can also be used to clean white suede shoes! The solution is gentle enough that the micelles inside pull dirt and oil away from the surface without damaging the material. You can even use micellar water on leather and rubber boots, too:
- Brush shoes to loosen and remove dirt and debris.
- Use an eraser to gently rub away difficult stains.
- Place a few drips of regular micellar water on a clean, soft cloth.
- Dab stained areas of the shoe with the micellar water and cloth until stains visibly lift.
- Allow shoes to air dry, then protect with suede shoe spray.
Keep White Shoes Clean with Foot Petals
When it’s love at first sight, you shouldn’t have to worry about your new shoes getting dirty too quickly. Clean white sneakers, boots, flats, heels, and more with Foot Petals shoe care essentials. Foot Petals makes it easy to take care of your beloved shoes no matter the style, material, color, or fit!
Our shoe sprays repel water and fight stains, so you can keep white sneakers clean while shoe deodorizers provide a refreshing scent from the inside out. Treat blisters and prevent staining with our blister relief products. For all your other shoe needs, there’s Foot Petals shoe cushions, the perfect fix for discreet comfort in every step.