How to Clean White Shoes: 4 Totally Tested Methods

By: Alia Hoyt  | 
cleaning white shoes
You can renew your dingy and dirty white sneakers in just a few easy steps. New Africa/Shutterstock

Key Takeaways

  • Canvas shoes are easy to clean. Many are suitable for machine washing, making them low maintenance for regular wear.
  • To clean machine-washable white shoes, remove laces and soak them in water with baking soda. Then, wash shoes in the machine with mild laundry detergent and cold water before air-drying.
  • For shoes that are not machine washable, use a mix of baking soda, laundry detergent and water to soak. Scrub with a brush, focusing on stains and inside odors, before you rinse and air-dry.

Nothing looks sharper than bright white shoes, but it can be a real trial to keep them that way. Especially when your white shoes face everyday threats like mud puddles, pollen and regular old dirt.

While some people only shop for bargain white shoes, others drop serious money on theirs. For example, Air Jordan 1 Mid "Triple White" Shoes retailed for $110 plus tax when they were released back in 2020 (now they retail for about $160!). Since many sneakerheads have multiple pairs, it pays to protect the investment and keep those kicks clean.


Many experts suggest storing shoes in a dust-free environment, inside of a shoebox and with shoe covers to protect them. Sneaker protector spray is another excellent option that'll keep them cleaner, longer.

It's important to know what you're doing when cleaning white shoes, however. A misstep one way or the other can leave them looking yellowed, overly bleached or unevenly clean. No one wants that! Here are some tried-and-true, totally tested methods for cleaning white shoes.


How to Clean White Leather Shoes

A few household items are all that's necessary to clean white shoes that are primarily made of leather. Gather the following: toothbrush, soft cloth, an eraser sponge (like the Magic Eraser) paper towels, liquid dish soap and 1 cup (236 milliliters) of warm water.

First, remove the shoelaces, then use the toothbrush to get rid of loose dirt on the shoes. Rinse the dirt off the toothbrush. In the cup of warm water, mix in a small amount of liquid dish soap (three or four drops should do). Now, swirl the toothbrush around in the soapy water. Then scrub the shoes carefully.


Next, it's time to clean the soles of the shoes. Use the eraser sponge according to package directions to gently buff out any unsightly marks. Then, dampen the clean cloth and wipe the soles down. Once everything's clean to your standards, wad up a bunch of paper towels and stuff the shoes. This will absorb the moisture from the inside and help preserve their shape.

Another great option for cleaning white leather shoes is using a makeup remover called micellar water. Simply pour the "water" on a clean white cloth and use the cloth to wipe the shoes. This also works on rubber or suede shoes, but really tough stains, such as oil, won't respond to this method.

These Nike Air Jordan 1 Mid "Triple White" Shoes retail for around $160. Nobody wants them to look dirty.


How to Clean White Canvas Shoes

Some canvas shoes can be tossed in the washing machine, but those with other types of detailing, like leather or suede, cannot. So, before going that route always check the washing instructions.

If the washing machine is an option, handle the shoes this way:


  1. Take the laces out and soak them in a solution of water and baking soda.
  2. Then, place the fabric shoes inside the washing machine.
  3. Add a small amount of laundry detergent, the milder the better.
  4. Run the machine using cold water on the gentlest cycle available.
  5. Once done, air dry the shoes and laces, then lace them back up.

If they can't be machine washed, gather the following household materials: baking soda, laundry detergent, a bucket, an old toothbrush or some type of cleaning brush.

Bang the soles together to get rid of dirt, or brush it off using the toothbrush/brush. Then, fill the bucket with 1 cup (236 milliliters) of baking soda, one drop of laundry detergent and 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water.

Next, remove the shoelaces and then soak both shoes and laces in the bucket for approximately one hour. Remove them from the bucket, then scrub any stains using the brush. Don't forget to scrub on the inside to get rid of any stinky odors! Lastly, rinse them thoroughly with clean water. Air dry both the shoes and the laces, then lace them back up.

cleaning white shoes
Cleaning canvas shoes is relatively simple. Some can even be tossed in the washing machine.
New Africa/Shutterstock


Use White Toothpaste to Clean Any Type of Shoes

White toothpaste is another popular shoe-cleaning hack. Whatever you do, make sure it's completely white because gels and toothpastes with colors will stain the shoes. To clean using this product, squeeze some paste onto a toothbrush. Then, scrub the shoes, lending extra elbow grease to the really dirty spots. Let the toothpaste dry for 20 minutes, then wipe it off with a damp, clean cloth.


Bleach as a Cleaning Agent

Bleach is another option, especially for shoes with serious stains, but approach with caution. This chemical is very strong and can cause skin irritation, trouble breathing, etc. if used inappropriately. When working with bleach, definitely do so only in a well-ventilated room, while wearing gloves.

To clean white shoes with bleach, mix up five parts of warm water with one part of bleach. Too much bleach will cause the shoes to yellow, so don't overdo it! Next, loosen up dirt and stains with either a toothbrush or sponge, dampened with the bleach mixture.


Then, dip a microfiber towel into the solution, then wring it out to remove extra liquid. Blot the shoes with the towel, then rinse the shoes with a cloth soaked in warm water. Allow the shoes to dry in a room with plenty of ventilation.

Using any of these methods, white shoes should be effectively restored to their former glory.


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use bleach to clean my white shoes?
While bleach can be effective, it's risky and can damage the fabric if you do not dilute it properly. Instead, try gentler cleaning methods first to avoid potential damage.
How can I protect my white shoes to keep them cleaner longer?
Applying a water-repellent spray can protect your shoes from stains and water damage, extending their clean appearance. It's best to apply the spray following the manufacturer's instructions for optimal protection.