Here's Exactly How to Clean White Shoes (No Matter the Material)

Whether they're canvas, leather, or mesh, these tips will keep those kicks clean.

White shoes are a closet staple. This versatile footwear works with nearly every type of outfit, making it an ideal choice for daily use. But scuffs, stains, and dirt can quickly make your bright white shoes look dingy and worn after just a few days. And, unfortunately, cleaning white shoes isn't as simple as tossing them in the washing machine and dryer, which could damage the sneakers. To help keep your favorite footwear looking fresh, we've tested and approved these strategies on how to clean white shoes in a variety of materials. Whether they're made of canvas, leather, or mesh, these step-by-step instructions for cleaning white shoes (and shoelaces!) will have your footwear looking like new.

cleaning products white shoes
Jacob Fox

How to Clean White Canvas Shoes

Use this method to clean white canvas shoes (such as Converse All Stars or Vans sneakers) and keep them looking spotless.

What You Need

  • Toothbrush
  • 3 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. white vinegar
  • Soft cloth or paper towel
  • Bleach pen, if needed
  • Eraser sponge, such as a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Step 1: Remove Loose Dirt

Untie and remove the shoelaces so you can easily access all parts of the shoe. To loosen large bits of caked-on dirt or mud, take the shoes outside and knock the bottoms together. Use a dry toothbrush or small, soft-bristled brush to scrub the shoes and remove any remaining loose dirt. Be sure to brush along the rubber soles and outer edges of the tongue.

scrubbing shoe dirt toothbrush
Jacob Fox

Step 2: Clean Shoes with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Mix the baking soda and white vinegar together in a small bowl to form a paste. Dip the toothbrush into the mixture and apply the paste all over the shoes, scrubbing softly to remove dirt and stains. Allow the mixture to harden on the shoes. When it's completely dry, brush off the larger bits and wipe off the remainder using a soft cloth or paper towel. For stubborn stains that won't budge (from grass or blood, for example), use a bleach pen on the spots and wait about five minutes before washing the solution off with hot water and liquid detergent.

magic eraser cleaning white shoe
Jacob Fox

Step 3: Clean Rubber Soles

Use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove any scuff marks or streaks of dirt on the white soles of the shoes. Wet the sponge eraser with water and scrub around all sides of the rubber sole. Dampen a clean cloth or paper towel with water and wipe off the shoes. Let them air dry completely before wearing.

toothbrush baking soda scrub
Jacob Fox

How to Clean White Leather Shoes

Follow these steps to give your white leather shoes that fresh-from-the-box look.

What You Need

  • Toothbrush
  • Liquid dish soap
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Eraser sponge
  • Soft cloth
  • White paper towels

Step 1: Clean Shoes with Soapy Water

After removing the shoelaces, use a dry toothbrush to brush off any loose dirt. Mix a few drops of liquid dish soap into a cup of warm water. Dip the toothbrush into the soapy water and gently scrub all over the shoes.

Step 2: Clean Soles and Let Dry

Remove any scuffs or stains using an eraser sponge (as in instructions above). Use a damp cloth to wipe off the shoes. When you're finished cleaning the shoes, stuff them with white paper towels to absorb any moisture inside and maintain the shape of the shoes as they dry. Make sure they're completely dry before wearing.

shoe cleaning
Jacob Fox

How to Clean White Mesh Shoes

Refresh your white mesh sneakers with these cleaning tips.

What You Need

  • Toothbrush
  • 1 tbsp. liquid laundry detergent
  • Warm water
  • Soft cloth
  • Bleach pen
  • Eraser sponge
  • White paper towels

Step 1: Brush Away Dirt

Mesh is a delicate fabric that can be snagged or damaged easily. While cleaning white mesh shoes, keep in mind that you'll need to use a softer touch than you would with a sturdier fabric like canvas. Use a soft-bristled dry toothbrush to gently brush away any excess dirt on the outside of the shoes.

Step 2: Clean Shoes with Soapy Water

Add a small amount of liquid laundry detergent to a bowl of warm water to create a soapy cleaning solution. Working in circular motions, apply the cleaning solution to the shoes using a soft cloth. Periodically rinse the cloth with warm water as you clean to avoid spreading dirt or stains across the shoes. For stubborn spots like grass stains or ground-in dirt, use the toothbrush and soapy water or a bleach pen to gently scrub the mesh fabric.

Step 3: Rinse Shoes and Let Dry

When rinsing your mesh shoes, avoid submerging them in water, which can damage the interiors or affect their shape. Instead, use a clean damp cloth to wipe down the exterior of the shoes. Fill them with white paper towels to help them retain their shape and let the shoes air-dry completely before wearing.

bleach bowl shoe laces
Jacob Fox

How to Clean White Shoelaces

Here's how to give your white shoelaces a thorough cleaning.

What You Need

For all-white shoelaces, you can use bleach to clean and whiten. Remember to use rubber gloves to protect your hands with working with bleach. Remove the laces from the shoes and place them in a white mesh lingerie bag. Soak the bag in a bleach solution for five minutes (Clorox recommends using 3 tbsp. of bleach for every gallon of water), using a small plate to keep it submerged if needed. Remove the laces from the bleach solution and wash them in the washing machine using regular detergent. Let the shoelaces air dry.

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