White shoes are a wardrobe staple – they add classiness to any outfit. They’re also versatile, matching well with outfits in different styles and colours. There’s just something about a pair of clean white shoes that puts a chic touch to your whole look.
The downside? White shoes are not easy to maintain.
Fortunately, they are easy to clean! You just need an old toothbrush, a soft cloth, and an appropriate cleaning solution. Clean canvas shoes with bicarb soda and vinegar, while leather and fabric shoes use liquid dish soap. Meanwhile, you can clean white sneakers with toothpaste.
Don’t waste a perfect look just because your footwear is dirty. Here’s a handy guide on cleaning white shoes – inside and out.
Before anything else…
Can you launder white shoes? The answer is – nope.
Do not toss your white shoes into the washing machine. It could compromise the integrity of your footwear. Cleaning white shoes in the washing machine also risks damaging the fabric, laces, soles, and even the glue.
Instead, use one of our trusty methods to get your shoes sparkling again.
Maintaining White Shoes
Scuff marks, dirt, and stains show up easily on the clean white surface — usually from the moment we step outdoors (what gives, universe!). These can very quickly make your shoes look worn and discoloured.
You can’t completely prevent your shoes from getting dirty, but you can lessen the grime. All it takes is some preventative measures… although you’ll need to commit to doing them, too!
Before you put one foot into your white shoes, spray them with a stain and water repellant! It won’t shield them from dirt entirely, but it will give them an extra layer of protection while you’re out.
Spray your white shoes every few weeks to ensure constant protection.
Make a habit of spot cleaning your shoes when you come home — or at least once a week. It’ll help make maintaining your white shoes more manageable in the long run.
You can use a cleaning wipe, or a damp cloth dipped in soapy water. Wipe off any stains or scuffs so they won’t seep into the fabric, or they’ll be harder to clean out later!
Be mindful of the places you wear your white shoes. The casual aesthetic is tempting, but you’ll save yourself some stress by wearing a different pair if you’re going to the dog park or somewhere wet.
Keep your entryway clean and dirt-free, so you don’t get your shoes dirty even indoors. Sweep and vacuum regularly, or hire a cleaning service to maintain your home for you.
Ways to Clean White Shoes
You’ll inevitably have to clean your footwear at some point. Ice cream melts, Mondays come, and white shoes get dirty. If you’ve scuffed your suede shoes or tracked mud on your sneakers, roll up those sleeves and get to work.
How to clean white shoes? Your tools of choice will be an old toothbrush and a clean cloth. Then depending on your shoe type, you can use one of four cleaning solutions:
- Bicarb soda and vinegar
- White toothpaste
- Liquid detergent or dish soap
- Water and vinegar
You can also use a bleach pen or a magic eraser like Mr Clean. This helps with stubborn stains and other dirty spots.
As another tip, always start by tapping off any dust or dry dirt before you start cleaning. You can also wipe down your shoes with a clean cloth first. If you leave the dirt on, you might end up rubbing it into your footwear instead – counterproductive!
Once you’ve done that, here’s a rundown of what cleaning solution to use on different shoes.
Using bicarb soda and white vinegar
That miracle combination in your kitchen strikes again! This shoe solution is best for clean white canvas shoes, such as sneakers. Mix 1tbsp bicarb soda with 2-3tbsp white vinegar into a paste.
TIP: You can add some hot water to dilute the smell!
1. Scrub it off
Dip a dry toothbrush in your bicarb soda mixture, then start scrubbing! Use light circular motions on the white canvas, and be thorough.
Let the paste dry – it shouldn’t take too long – then wipe off with a soft cloth. For more stubborn stains, you can double-scrub after the shoe dries or use a bleach pen, then wash off with soapy water.
2. Clean the soles
You can use the same paste on the lining and rubber soles, or if the dirt isn’t too bad, just use regular liquid detergent and warm water! Then let the shoes air dry completely before wearing them again.
Using white toothpaste
Yep – white toothpaste isn’t just for cleaning your teeth. Use this on white sneakers (especially the lining and soles) or white mesh shoes. Stay away from gel or coloured toothpaste, though – they’ll just stain your kicks!
1. Brush up
It’s similar to brushing your teeth! Mix some non-gel white toothpaste with water, then dip your toothbrush in the mixture. Scrub the shoes gently, going over any particularly dirty spots once or twice. Let the toothpaste sit on your shoes for 5-10 minutes to work its magic.
2. Wipe down
Get a damp towel and wipe the toothpaste off, and be thorough – you don’t want toothpaste crust on your clean shoes! Repeat the process as necessary until your white shoes look good as new.
Using liquid dish soap
This method works best with white leather shoes or mesh shoes. Add a few drops of (mild!) liquid detergent or dish soap into warm water, find an old toothbrush, and get those shoes looking new.
TIP: A mild laundry detergent will work just as well!
1. Wipe off
Again, remove the laces and tap off any loose dirt. Wet your soft cloth with the cleaning mixture and carefully wipe down the surface. This will clean off any superficial dirt and stains.
2. Brush on soapy water
Dip a dry toothbrush into your cleaning agent, then gently scrub over the white leather or mesh. Use gentle, circular motions; you don’t want to ruin the shape of your shoe! Wipe off any suds or excess soapy water with a damp cloth when you’re done.
3. Stuff ’em
You read that right. To help your damp leather shoes maintain their shape – and dry out the interior – you can stuff them with paper towels to absorb any moisture inside! (This isn’t necessary for mesh shoes, though.) Then just let the shoes air dry thoroughly, then they’re good to go.
Using a vinegar mix
Use this to clean your white suede shoes, since suede is a delicate fabric that stains very easily. It works on white fabric shoes too. Simply dilute white vinegar in water, then set to the side.
Blot any damp spots on the suede with a paper towel – don’t rub! Then dip a soft cloth into your cleaning mixture and gently wipe at any stains on the surface. Let the shoes dry, then rub the outside with a suede brush to finish cleaning.
Cleaning White Shoelaces
Of course, when you clean white shoes, you don’t just clean the shoe surface. What’s the point in pretty white shoes if the laces are grubby? So while your shoes are air drying on the porch or window sill, take the laces and make them look new with one of these tricks:
For all-white laces, a bleach solution will do wonders (just wear gloves for protection!). Place them in a small laundry or mesh bag, and soak for five minutes in a mix of 1tbsp bleach to 1 litre of water. Afterwards, remove the laces and either run them through the washing machine or rinse them under the tap.
Using liquid detergent
If the laces aren’t too stained, then a simple mix of liquid soap and water will work just fine. Add a few drops of detergent to warm water, soak the laces in the mixture, then use a toothbrush to scrub them clean.
The trick to this is wrapping the laces around your fingers while scrubbing, so they don’t slip around. Then just rinse them clean!
Cleaning inner soles
If your white shoes are the type to have removable insoles, take them out and clean them separately! You can just scrub them with soap and water, then rinse and let them dry. Reinsert them after your white shoes are cleaned.
Tips for Cleaning White Shoes
Besides the general steps for cleaning, here are a few tips for cleaning white shoes:
- Gently scrub so you don’t deform or weaken your shoe material.
- Avoid harsh chemicals as these could damage the shoes.
- A bleach solution will work, but you’ll need to be extra careful and use protective gear.
- Be extra gentle around the stitching and the join between shoe and sole.
- You can speed up the drying process by using a blow-dryer – just don’t let it get too hot! Or place shoes in front of a fan overnight.
- Spot clean with wipes when on the go; it’ll save you some effort later.
And that’s it for how to clean white shoes! Remember these tips next time you slip on a pair and head out. It may be capital-a Aesthetic, but it takes work to keep the look pristine. Your outfit won’t appear classy if your shoes are cruddy – so keep your footwear flawless.