How to clean white shoes and make them look brand-new

Clean white shoes can make most outfits look marvellous.

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White shoes are an essential part of a good wardrobe but have the disadvantage of getting dirty easily. If you have any or plan to purchase a pair, it’s important to keep them clean – dirty white shoes can ruin a nice outfit, no matter how perfectly put-together!

The simple rule for white shoes is to clean them with tried-and-tested tips. Note that cleaning white shoes requires different tools and techniques, depending on their material. So read on and find out how to clean your white shoes!

How to clean white canvas shoes

Cleaning white canvas shoes

It’s worth knowing how to clean white canvas shoes as they’re comfortable to wear, inexpensive, and go with almost any outfit; This means you’re likely to wear them often and get them dirty. 

Fortunately, their material makes them relatively easier to clean than other types of white shoes.  

What you’ll need

  • Old toothbrush

  • Soft-bristled brush

  • A soft cloth or paper towels

  • Eraser sponge

  • Bleach pen

  • Baking soda (3 tbsp)

  • White vinegar (1 tbsp)

  • Mild liquid or powder detergent

  • Rubber gloves

Step 1. Do general cleaning

Start by removing the shoelaces and setting them aside for separate cleaning. Loosen large bits of dirt or mud on the shoes by knocking the soles on the floor or against each other. 

Using a soft-bristled brush, go over the surfaces of both shoes to get rid of loose dirt. Give the shoes’ tongues, outer edges of the tongues, and the soles special attention with the brush, since they have nooks and crannies where loose dirt may settle. 

Step 2. Clean the shoe surfaces

Next, make a cleaning solution by mixing the white vinegar and baking soda in a small container. Mix the two until it forms a paste. Dip the old toothbrush in the paste, and apply it to the entire surface of each shoe. 

Place the shoes in a warm, dry area away from direct sunlight and allow the paste to air-dry. 

Make sure the shoes air-dry away from direct sunlight, as any excess moisture exposed to sunlight may turn parts of the shoe yellow as the paste dries. 

After letting it sit for a few hours, brush off all the hardened paste, then wash off any residue with warm water.

Using bleach pen to clean white canvas shoes

If the shoes have stubborn stains, you can do spot-cleaning with a bleach pen. Apply the pen directly on the stain and leave the shoes to dry for a few minutes. Then, you can brush off the bleached spot with a paper towel or soft cloth. You can then wash off the rest of the cleaning solution with warm water. 

Pro tip: A vinegar and baking soda solution is one of the best ways to clean white shoes, but it mostly works best on canvas or cotton. Don’t use this on leather or suede! 

Step 3. Clean the soles

Use an eraser sponge (like Mr Clean Magic Eraser) to remove dirt or scuffs on the soles. Simply follow the usage instructions; wet the sponge and scrub all the surfaces of the soles. 

To clean the undersides of the soles, use a soft-bristled brush or old toothbrush and mild detergent.

Step 4. Dry the shoes

Finally, crumple up some paper towels into balls and stuff them into the shoes. These balls of paper towels are meant to absorb excess moisture and retain the shape of the shoes as they dry. 

Make sure to let the shoes air-dry in a clean area away from direct sunlight.

How to clean white leather shoes

Cleaning white leather shoes

Knowing how to clean and whiten shoes made of leather is important since this type is more stylish and expensive. White leather shoes can be a good investment since they can make formal outfits look fetching, almost as well as more formal footwear. 

As with casual canvas shoes, the only drawback to white leather shoes is that they lose their appeal if they’re dirty. Here’s how you can clean them. 

What you’ll need

  • Eraser sponge or pencil eraser

  • Old toothbrush

  • Soft cloth

  • Dish soap

  • Warm water

  • Paper towels

Step 1. Remove loose dirt 

Start by removing the shoelaces for separate cleaning. Go over the entire surface of each leather shoe with an old toothbrush or soft-bristled brush to remove loose dirt. 

Step 2. Do a thorough clean 

Progress to a more thorough cleaning with a mixture of dish soap and warm water. Mix 3 to 4 drops of dish soap with the water and stir until homogenous. 

Brushing white leather shoes

Then, dip an old toothbrush into the soapy water and apply it on the surfaces of the leather shoes. Remember to gently scrub the shoes to remove any dirt to avoid damaging the leather. 

Slightly dampen the soft cloth with water and wipe away the dish soap mixture. 

Step 3. Clean the soles

Use the eraser sponge to remove any scuff marks or dirt on the sides of the soles. Dampen the soft cloth and wipe down the sides of the soles. 

After the sides have dried, clean the underside of the soles with the cleaning mixture, then wipe with the cloth. 

Finally, leave the shoes to dry in a clean area away from direct sunlight.  

How to clean white suede shoes

Cleaning white suede shoes

White suede shoes can be the most difficult to clean due to their delicate nature. Use these tips to clean these stylish shoes. 

Pro tip: Never drench a suede shoe or suede part on any shoe, but rather lightly dampen the suede.

You shouldn’t attempt to clean suede shoes or suede portions of your shoes if they’re wet. Wiping or brushing wet suede may drive stains into them that will be difficult, if not impossible, to remove!

If your white suede shoes have tough stains, you’d best find a professional cleaning service

What you’ll need

  • Suede cleaner, white vinegar, or rubbing alcohol

  • Suede eraser or eraser sponge

  • Suede brush or old toothbrush

  • Soft cloth

Step 1. Remove dirt and debris

Suede is a magnet for loose dirt and debris. After removing the laces, lightly rub the suede with a suede brush or toothbrush. A soft, dry cloth is a good alternative if you don’t have a suede brush. 

Be sure to brush the suede in a gentle side-to-side motion – this will make lifting dirt and debris off the suede fibres easier. 

Step 2. Rub out marks

With a specialised suede eraser from a shoe store, eraser sponge, or even a pencil eraser, scrub away any marks or stains on all the suede surfaces. 

Do this with a side-to-side motion but with a little more pressure. Don’t apply too much pressure, as doing so can damage the suede fibres.

Step 3. Remove stains

Serious stains on your suede shoes may be removed with a suede cleaner applied with a soft cloth. Rubbing alcohol or white vinegar are viable substitutes if you don’t have a suede cleaner. 

Remove the stain with the damp cloth (but never drench the suede!) and do a light massaging or circular motions on the stain. Repeat until the stain is removed.

You can consult a shoe cleaning expert if the stain persists. 

Cleaning the shoelaces

Cleaning white shoelaces

To clean the laces, make a bleach solution from 3 tablespoons of bleach mixed with about 4 litres (1 gallon) of water. Don’t overdo the bleach; if the solution is too harsh, it can loosen the laces’ fibres and cause them to come apart. 

Immerse the laces in the solution for about 10 minutes. Should the laces still have stubborn stains, toss them into the washing machine and use regular laundry detergent. 

Hang up the laces on a clothesline to dry.

Caring for your white shoes

Caring for white shoes

Part of keeping your white shoes clean and looking new is to give them proper storage space. Check out these helpful shoe storage ideas. Once you’ve decided on a storage option, you can hire a carpenter to build it

Another way to care for your white shoes is to use protective sealants or sprays. 

Clean your white shoes with the help of an expert

Cleaning your white shoes by yourself is a great way to keep them looking brand-new, but you may not always have the time, materials, or patience to do a thorough clean. 

When this happens, remember that you can always hire a cleaning expert on Airtasker. This is a better way to get your white shoes expertly cleaned, as a Tasker can come to you and save you the trouble of taking your shoes to a cleaning shop! 

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FAQs on Cleaning White Shoes

Yes, but you must dilute the bleach, or it will turn your white shoes yellow. Mix one part of bleach with five or six parts of water. Dip a toothbrush in the solution and scrub gently. Rinse with warm water and allow the shoes to air dry. Repeat the process until you get the right results.

You need a stain repellent for your type of shoes and apply it before you wear them to keep them stain and dirt free. Use a water repellent to protect your shoes from snow and rain. Use a leather stain repellent for leather or suede shoes and any stain repellent (such as Scotchguard) for white canvas shoes.

Use the same cleaning method for the outside of the shoe to clean the insoles and the inside of the shoe. Once you clean all areas, leave them out to dry, and the bad odour will be gone.

White shoes turn yellow from direct and prolonged exposure to sunlight. The yellowing results from ultraviolet rays in sunlight that trigger a chemical reaction with the shoe’s dyes or any excess detergent left in the shoes. 

To avoid yellowing, stuff the shoes with paper towels to absorb excess moisture and dry them in a clean area not directly exposed to sunlight. You can also use a fan to speed up the drying process. 

When using baking soda as a paste to clean white shoes, you can leave it on for about three to four hours. By then, the baking soda has hardened, and you can remove it by wiping with a soft cloth rag. You can then remove any residue with the same cloth dampened with warm water.

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