White shoes are a familiar wardrobe staple, adding a classy touch to any outfit. They’re versatile, matching well with clothes of many styles and colours. There’s just something about pristine white shoes that adds a chic touch to a casual look.
The downside? White shoes are not easy to maintain.
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. But how to clean white shoes so you get them looking neat and new again? Here’s a handy guide so you can keep in step with your shoe maintenance.
You might not completely stop your white shoes from getting dirty, but you can still lessen the grime or hinder the inevitable with some preventative steps!
Before you put one foot into those new white shoes, spray them with a stain-and-water repellant! It won’t shield your shoes from all the dirt, but it’ll give them a layer of protection from the elements and any mud on the footpath. Repeat the spraying process every few weeks to ensure constant protection for your shoes.
Make a habit out of spot cleaning your shoes when you come home — or at least once a week. It’ll help make maintaining your white shoes easier in the long run. You can use a cleaning wipe, or a small towel dipped in soapy water or cleaning product. 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! It’s tempting to have that casual aesthetic while going out, but you’ll save yourself some stress by choosing a different pair if you’re going to the dog park or going out in the rain! Otherwise, this “how to clean white shoes” guide will definitely come in handy.
It’s inevitable, though — you’ll have to clean white shoes eventually. If we had it our way, chocolate would be self-replenishing and white shoes would be self-cleaning, but none of us are that lucky. So if your running shoes are scuffed up, or your white sneakers got mud on the canvas, it’s time to grab some cleaning equipment and roll up those sleeves!
For some tips: do not toss your white shoes in the washing machine. This can compromise the integrity of the shoe and damage the fabric, laces, soles, or even the glue. And make sure to tap off any dust or dry dirt before you start cleaning, or you could end up rubbing it into the material instead!
Two things you’ll need to clean white shoes are an old toothbrush, and a soft cloth. A bleach pen or magic eraser (like Mr. Clean) is optional!
For your cleaning solution, it’ll depend on the kind of shoe you own, since each material needs to be treated differently. But you don’t need anything fancy — in fact, you can find most cleaning agents in your kitchen! Then it’s just a matter of patience and some good old-fashioned scrubbing with an old toothbrush to get rid of the dirt. Here’s a rundown of what cleaning solution to use on what shoe:
Bicarb soda and white vinegar
That miracle combination in your kitchen strikes again! This shoe cleaner is best for white canvas shoes, such as sneakers. Mix up 1 tablespoon bicarb soda with 2-3 tablespoons white vinegar into a paste (you can add some hot water to dilute the smell!) and get clean white sneakers again.
1. Scrub it off
Make sure you’ve brushed off any loose dirt, or you’ll just rub it into the shoes. Dip the toothbrush in your bicarb soda and white vinegar mixture, and start scrubbing! Use light circular motions on the white canvas, and be thorough. Let the paste dry — 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 again.
Liquid detergent and warm water
This method keeps it simple and easy, and is best for white leather shoes and 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 like new.
1. Wipe them down
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 your 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 shoes air dry completely, then they’re good to go.
Yep — white toothpaste isn’t just for cleaning your teeth! Use this on white sneakers (especially the lining and soles!) or mesh shoes. Stay away from gel or coloured toothpastes, 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
Wet your soft cloth 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.
White vinegar and water
Use this to clean your white suede shoes, since suede is a delicate fabric that stains very easily. 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.
Of course, when you clean white shoes, you don’t just clean the shoe surface. What’s the point in pretty white canvas sneakers 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 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 litre 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!
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 dry. Reinsert them after your white shoes are cleaned!
Besides the general steps for cleaning, here are a few other tips to keep in mind for how to clean white shoes:
- Use minimal pressure while scrubbing so you don’t deform or weaken your shoe material.
- Avoid harsh cleaners as these could damage the shoes.
- A bleach solution will work, but you’ll need to be extra careful and use protective gear, so it’ll take more effort.
- 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.
If you don’t want to clean white shoes yourself, though, you can always add them to the laundry and hire some professional cleaners! Slip into a different pair of shoes for the night — or a second white pair, for that Aesthetic — and come back to a clean home, clean clothes, and clean white shoes to wear next time you’re out.