How to Clean White Shoes So They Look as Good as New

Get rid of scuffs and stains to keep your white shoes gleaming.

By Deirdre Mundorf | Published May 25, 2022 11:19 AM

how to clean white shoes

Photo: depositphotos.com

White shoes can really help to pull an outfit together. However, when white shoes get scuffed up or dirty, it’s noticeable and can bring unwanted attention to your feet. Learning how to clean dirty or smelly shoes can help save you from feeling self-conscious and keep your white shoes looking good as new. However, the best way to clean white shoes varies based on the material.

Read on to discover how to clean white shoes made of canvas, leather, mesh, and suede, along with some tips on cleaning white shoelaces.

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How to Clean White Canvas Shoes

how to clean white shoes

Photo: istockphoto.com

Washing your shoes in the washing machine may be an option for some white canvas shoes. However, it might not be the best solution to keep your shoes in top condition. Follow the steps below to safely clean your white canvas shoes without damaging them.

SUPPLIES

Toothbrush or shoe brush
Toothpick
– Warm water
Dish soap or mild laundry detergent
Microfiber cloths
Bleach
Gloves
Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

STEP 1: Take out shoelaces and brush away loose dirt and debris.

Begin by taking the shoelaces (if any) out of the white canvas shoes. Then, lightly brush away loose dirt or debris using a toothbrush or shoe brush. A toothpick may also be helpful to remove stones stuck in the soles of the shoes.

STEP 2: Wash the white canvas shoes by hand.

If you’re wondering what to clean white shoes with, warm water with dish soap or mild detergent can be quite effective. Use a clean toothbrush and a microfiber cloth to gently wipe the shoes using the soapy solution.

If extra cleaning power is needed, consider using one tablespoon of bleach diluted with four tablespoons of water. Put on gloves and, using a circular motion, rub the bleach onto the shoes, paying special attention to any stained areas.

STEP 3: Rinse the cleaner(s) off of your shoes.

Use a clean and damp microfiber cloth to rinse the shoes to remove any soap, detergent, or bleach. Rinse the cloth between wipes and continue rinsing until no residue remains.

STEP 4: Use a Magic Eraser to touch up the edges.

A melamine sponge, such as Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, can help remove any scuff marks that may still be visible along the edges of the shoes. Dampen the Magic Eraser and use it to scrub any scuff marks that you see. After scrubbing, be sure to give the shoes a final wipe-down with a microfiber cloth.

STEP 5: Allow the shoes to dry fully before wearing.

Leave your shoes out to dry completely before wearing them or putting them away. If it is dry and sunny outside, consider letting them dry in the sun to take advantage of some natural whitening and brightening.

How to Clean White Leather Shoes

how to clean white shoes

Photo: depositphotos.com

The washing machine is never a good idea when you’re looking to clean white leather shoes. Because leather is more delicate, you’ll need to use gentler methods, such as the one outlined below.

SUPPLIES

Paper towels or shoe tree
Toothpick
Leather cleaner; dish soap and warm water; or baking soda and white vinegar
Shoe brush or toothbrush
Microfiber cloths

STEP 1: Remove the laces and place something in the shoes to hold their shape.

First, you should remove the laces (if any) from the leather shoe. To help the leather hold its shape, fill each shoe with paper towels or a shoe tree. Then, gently brush away any loose dirt using a soft shoe brush or toothbrush. If there are any small rocks stuck in the outsole, use a toothpick to remove them.

STEP 2: Apply a cleaning solution to the leather shoes.

Next, apply leather cleaner to the white leather shoes using a soft-bristled shoe brush. If you don’t have leather cleaner, you can make your own cleaning solution using dish soap and warm water, or 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and 1 cup of water. Use a soft-bristled shoe brush, toothbrush, or microfiber cloth to apply your homemade cleaning solution.

STEP 3: Carefully rinse the shoes using a damp microfiber cloth.

Wet a microfiber cloth with warm water and wring out the excess. Use the cloth to gently wipe the shoes until no residue is left. You may need to rinse out the cloth and wipe the shoes a few times to remove all of the cleaner.

STEP 4: Leave the shoes out to dry completely.

After your white leather shoes are cleaned and rinsed, they will need time to dry completely. To protect the leather as the shoes dry and help speed up the process, you can fill the inside of the shoes with clean paper towels to absorb some of the excess moisture.

RELATED: The Best Shoe Racks and Storage of 2022

How to Clean White Mesh Shoes

how to clean white shoes

Photo: istockphoto.com

Cleaning white shoes isn’t too complicated, and the same is generally true for white mesh shoes. However, mesh is easy to damage, so take care not to use too much elbow grease when scrubbing your shoes. Follow the steps described below to remove stains and scuffs from mesh shoes.

SUPPLIES

Shoe brush or toothbrush
Toothpick
Gentle laundry detergent
– Warm water
Microfiber cloths
Paper towels

STEP 1: Remove the shoelaces and brush off loose dirt.

Take the shoelaces out of your white mesh shoes and use a soft-bristled shoe brush or toothbrush to carefully remove any loose dirt. One important thing to note about how to clean dirt off white shoes is that you shouldn’t rub too hard. Doing so could damage the mesh or drive the dirt into the material. Additionally, you can remove any pebbles in the outsole with a toothpick.

STEP 2: Mix gentle laundry detergent and warm water in a small bowl.

Add a few drops of gentle laundry detergent to warm water in a small bowl. You want the solution to be a bit soapy, but not so much that it is overly sudsy.

STEP 3: Use circular motions to rub the solution onto the shoes with a microfiber cloth.

Dip a clean microfiber cloth into the clean solution and gently rub it onto the shoes using a circular motion. If needed, you can also use a soft-bristled shoe brush or toothbrush to remove tough stains. Pay attention to how clean the soapy solution looks. Start with a fresh solution if it begins to look too dirty so you don’t undo your hard work and end up spreading dirt back over the shoes.

STEP 4: Use a damp microfiber cloth to rinse the shoes.

Grab another clean microfiber cloth and dip it in fresh water to rinse the shoes. Before rinsing, squeeze the cloth to remove excess water. Carefully wipe the shoes with the cloth a few times, rinsing it out with each pass.

STEP 5: Leave the shoes in a dry and cool spot to air dry.

Finally, leave the white mesh shoes in a cool and dry location where they can air dry. Choose a location that does not receive any direct sunlight for best results. If the shoes seem overly wet, you can put some paper towels in the shoes to help them hold their shape.

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How to Clean White Suede Shoes

how to clean white shoes

Photo: amazon.com

Suede is another very delicate material. When you are ready to clean white shoes made of suede, work carefully to avoid damaging your shoes. The steps below should help you effectively remove spots and stains from your white suede shoes so that they are ready to wear again.

SUPPLIES
Paper towels
Toothpick
Suede brush
Suede eraser
Suede shoe cleaner or white vinegar

STEP 1: Remove the shoelaces and fill the shoes with paper towels.

If your suede shoes have shoelaces, remove them before cleaning the shoes. Stuff the shoes with paper towels to help ensure they retain their shape while being cleaned, and use a toothpick to remove any pebbles stuck in the bottom of the outsole.

STEP 2: Use a suede brush to remove loose dirt from the shoes.

Brush against the nap’s direction with gentle, one-way strokes to remove loose dirt from the shoes. If there are any dirt spots that aren’t coming off, you can gently move the brush back and forth over the area to loosen the dirt.

STEP 3: Use a suede eraser on any remaining spots or stains.

Work with a suede eraser to address any spots or stains that are left on the shoes after brushing. In some cases, this may be all that is necessary to leave your white suede shoes ready to wear. If more cleaning is needed, continue following the below steps.

STEP 4: Treat stains with a suede shoe cleaner or white vinegar.

A suede shoe cleaner or vinegar can be used to remove stains from suede shoes. Before cleaning the shoe, be sure to test the cleaner on an inconspicuous area to make sure it isn’t noticeable. Then, follow the directions on the suede cleaner, or blot the vinegar over the shoes using a microfiber towel.

STEP 5: Use the suede brush once more to prevent matting. 

After removing stains, brush the suede shoes once more using the suede brush. This will help to fluff the fibers back up so the suede doesn’t become matted.

RELATED: The Best Shoe Glues of 2022

How to Clean White Shoelaces

how to clean white shoes

Photo: depositphotos.com

You don’t want to spend time learning how to clean white tennis shoes only to leave the laces dirty. Read through the steps below to learn how to get your laces looking like new to match your freshly cleaned white shoes.

SUPPLIES
– Water
Laundry tub
Bleach
Gloves
Mesh laundry bag

STEP 1: Prepare a mixture of bleach and water.

Add one gallon of water to a laundry tub and mix in three tablespoons of bleach. Be sure to wear gloves when working with bleach to protect your skin.

STEP 2: Soak the white shoelaces in the bleach mixture for five minutes.

Place the shoelaces in a mesh laundry bag and place it in the tub with the water and bleach. Allow the laces to soak in the solution for about five minutes. If the laces floating on the surface of the water, you may need to place something heavier on them to keep them submerged.

STEP 3: Wash the laundry bag and shoelaces in the washing machine.

Put the laundry bag with the white shoelaces into the washing machine and add detergent. Run a gentle, cold wash cycle to clean the laces and rinse off the bleach.

STEP 4: Leave the laces out to air dry.

After the wash cycle is complete, remove the laces and let them air dry. Don’t dry shoelaces in the dryer because the plastic ends (aglets) could melt.

3 Top Tips for Keeping White Shoes Clean

Knowing how to clean white shoes is important, but you can extend the length of time your white shoes stay clean by taking a few preventative measures. These include:

  • Applying a shoe and sneaker stain repellent to new white shoes, and then routinely as recommended.
  • Storing white shoes in boxes or shoe bags.
  • Lightly brushing off dirt and other debris after each use with a toothbrush or shoe brush.