How to clean white shoes made of any material

man holds pair of white sneakers on the beach

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White shoes are the workhorses of any footwear collection. They can add a pop of cheery brightness to an outfit or provide a neutral option when the rest of your look is busy or bold. Of course, the downside to white shoes is that they readily show all kinds of stains and scuff marks. If your favorite white kicks are displaying evidence of all the places they’ve been, find out how to clean and brighten them so they can get back into rotation.

MORE: How to clean your suede shoes

How To Clean White Shoes By Material Type

When deciding how to clean white shoes, first determine the kind of material you’re dealing with, as some cleaning methods will damage certain kinds of shoe materials. Keep this list as a handy guide to cleaning a variety of shoe types.

Canvas and denim: Canvas is a durable, plain-woven material that is often used to make shoes, and it’s a popular choice due to its water-resistance. Similarly, denim is a cotton fabric that is sturdy and long-lasting. Many shoes made with these cotton-derived materials are machine-washable, though you’ll want to pre-treat them. Begin by clapping the soles together outside to remove any mud or grime that’s been caked on, and then use a toothbrush or cleaning brush to scrape off any remaining chunks of dirt.

Next, consider treating the shoes with OxiClean, as many folks swear that this stuff is like a white knight for white shoes. Keep a tub of OxiClean White Revive Laundry Whitener + Stain Remover Powder on hand to brighten all kinds of white items, including canvas or fabric shoes.

Product image of OxiClean

$10.49 at Target

You’ll want to remove the shoelaces first, and then soak both the shoes and the laces in a bucket with a scoop of OxiClean and warm water for up to 6 hours. Next, run the shoes through a cold, gentle wash cycle. Leave the shoes out to air-dry, preferably in the sun. (Don’t put them in the dryer.)

If you’d rather use simple household items instead, try this:

  1. Create a paste using one part white vinegar to three parts baking soda and rub the paste over the entire shoe. Use some good old-fashioned elbow grease to scrub at any stubborn grime.
  2. Leave the shoes alone until the paste has dried and then use a paper towel, cloth or brush to wipe it away.
  3. If your white kicks still look dirty, remove the laces and run the shoes through a wash cycle with a small amount of mild laundry detergent.


Leather and synthetics: It’s best to avoid washing leather or synthetic shoes in a washing machine. Instead, use a toothbrush or other small brush and a little warm, soapy water to scrub the dirty areas gently. For tougher stains on leather shoes, you’ll want to seek out a stain-remover that’s formulated to treat leather without damaging it.

Knit: Mild bath soap might be boring, but it’s a dependable solution for treating stains on knit shoes. Use a clean, dampened cloth and a bar of white bar soap to get a little lather going and then scrub gently at the stains and smudges. Wipe away any remaining soap with a separate damp cloth.

Mesh fabric: For mesh fabric shoes, you can start by brushing off any caked-on dirt and then mix some warm water with a tiny bit of liquid laundry detergent and scrub at the stains. You can also reach for a bleach gel pen for stubborn stains, as long as you know that the fabric can tolerate the bleach. These Tidoxi bleach pens on Amazon easily fit inside a suitcase or purse and come in handy for all sorts of stain emergencies.

bleach gel pens

$9.99 at Amazon

A note about melamine sponges (such as Magic Erasers): You may have discovered that for all of your household-dirt conundrums around the house, the Magic Eraser really does work like magic! These melamine sponges can also wipe away scuffs and marks on shoes. You simply wet the sponge, wring it out and wipe the shoe.

You can use these sponges on rubber soles, foam shoes (such as Crocs) or shoes with embellishments made of rubber, plastic or synthetic leather. They’re available by Mr. Clean on Amazon for around $6, which is a small price to pay to have magic at your fingertips.

woman uses Magic Eraser on white sneaker

$5.48 at Amazon

How To Clean White Shoelaces

Many shoelaces are made from a blend of cotton and synthetic fibers, such as nylon and polyester. Just like with canvas shoes, you can use OxiClean to eliminate stains from white shoelaces, or mix up a more mild solution using warm water and dish soap or laundry detergent. Remove the shoelaces, work the solution into the them with your hands and then rinse and hang them up to dry.

Nike advises soaking white shoelaces in your sink in warm water with just enough dish soap to create suds for 20 minutes, moving them through the soapy water occasionally, but if you add bleach, only soak them for five minutes.

Shoelaces can typically withstand a cycle in the washing machine, too, though you may want to pre-treat them with fabric stain remover, a mild cleaning solution (like the dish soap and warm water option above) or OxiClean. To pretreat shoelaces with OxiClean, the brand recommends mixing one scoop with a gallon of warm water and soaking shoelaces (again, removed from the shoes!) for at least six hours or overnight.

Then, place them in a mesh laundry bag before tossing them into the washing machine.

mesh laundry bag for shoes or delicates

$5.99 at Amazon

There’s no need to stress about keeping your white shoes pristine. With the right supplies and a few tricks up your sleeve, you can get your shoes looking like new again in no time.

MORE: The Best White Sneakers For Women

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