Organize & Clean

3 Easy Ways to Clean Your White Shoes So They Look Like New

updated Aug 11, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

Nothing upgrades an ensemble like a fresh pair of sparkling white kicks. But what to do when your once-white sneakers start to look scuffed up and grungy? Fret not my fellow sneakerheads, there’s hope to be had.

Follow Topics for more like this

Follow for more stories like this

Before you go and drop a chunk of your paycheck on a new pair of shoes, do yourself (and your bank account) a favor and try this goof-proof sneaker-cleaning technique. The best part: You probably have all the tools and ingredients you need at home in your kitchen cabinets.

What to Use:

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy
1 / 8
First, remove the shoelaces. You may want to soak them or run them through the washing machine while you clean the rest of your shoes.

How to Clean White Leather or Canvas Shoes

You can buy specialty shoe cleaners and wipes, but all you really need to restore your white shoes is a quick wipe-down with soapy water.

  1. First, remove the shoelaces. You may want to soak them, or run them through the washing machine while you clean the rest of your shoes. See the “How to Clean White Shoelaces” section below.
  2. Give your shoes a shake by knocking the soles together to remove any easily-dislodged dirt. You can follow this up by using a dry cleaning brush (or retired toothbrush) to clear out excess dirt from crevices in the soles, buckles, or any other details on your shoes. A clean toothpick also works great to clear out dirt from the tiny holes in perforated leather, for instance. If you did a lot of dirt-dislodging detail work in this step, give your shoes one more knock and shake before moving on.
  3. Gently wipe down the outside of your shoes—skipping the soles for now—with a lightly damp cloth to remove more easily-dislodged dirt from the surface.
  4. To remove any discoloration, stains, or scuffs that remain, mix a solution of lukewarm water and a mild soap (like dish soap, gentle laundry detergent, or castile soap). The mixture should be sudsy but still clear; try a ratio of 1 teaspoon of soap and 1 cup of water. Dip your cloth into the soapy water, wring out any excess, then use it to gently wipe away dirt and discoloration, massaging the surface of each shoe with small circular motions.
  5. Rinse your cloth out well (or use a second clean cloth), and use warm water to remove any excess soap and suds from your shoes.
  6. If any truly stubborn stains remain, scrub them with your dish soap mixture using a cleaning brush or old toothbrush. You want to use light, soft, rapid strokes.
  7. Clean the sole with a Magic Eraser sponge. Follow the instructions on the package for dampening the sponge, then run the sponge up and down the soles and rubber parts of your shoes until they’re clean and all the scuffs and stains are removed.
  8. Let your shoes dry at room temperature.
  9. If your shoes are leather, you can apply a bit of leather shoe conditioner treatment.
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

A Tip: We don’t recommend cleaning your white shoes with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. After the bubbling ends (remember your science fair volcano?), the basic baking soda and acidic vinegar reaction really just produces water, salt, and carbon dioxide gas.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

How to Bleach White Canvas Shoes With Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide

Your white canvas kicks can turn yellow after a while. Here’s a routine that will restore them to their bright white glory. Don’t use this method on non-white shoes, or non-white parts of shoes, as it may permanently discolor them.

  1. Make a paste with 3 tablespoons of baking soda and ½ tablespoon each of hydrogen peroxide and warm water. You may need to adjust the mixture to suit your environment (with either more baking soda if it’s too runny, or more water/peroxide if it’s too solid); you want a paste that holds together, but is spreadable.
  2. Use a clean brush to apply the baking soda paste all over the canvas of your shoes. You could also wear gloves and use your hands.
  3. Let the mixture sit on your shoes for around three hours, while the mixture hardens.
  4. Once three hours have passed, you can shake and peel the hardened paste off your shoes, then wipe off any remainder with a damp cloth, and let the shoes dry thoroughly.
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

How to Clean White Shoelaces

Whether or not your shoes are white, your white laces could use sprucing up. You might also want to take this opportunity to clean your shoe’s insoles, if they’re removable. Washing your insoles can help get rid of bad odors.

  1. Remove your shoe’s laces and insoles, if they’re removable.
  2. To machine wash them, place the laces and insoles in a mesh laundry bag and run it on a cold/delicate cycle with laundry detergent. It’s fine to wash them with other items, if they’re not excessively soiled.
  3. To hand wash them, soak your laces and insoles in a bowl of warm, soapy water (you can use your soapy water from washing your shoes), and let them soak for a few hours before air drying.
  4. If you need to bleach your white shoe laces, you can cover them with the hydrogen peroxide, water, and baking soda paste from above. Let the laces dry for a few hours with the paste applied, then remove the paste, wipe with a damp cloth, and let the lacea dry before lacing them back into your shoes.

In a perfect world, our white sneakers would stay looking brand new forever. But since your super fly sneaks are made for walking (and sometimes showing off) it helps to give them a good old-fashioned hand-cleaning at least once a week, depending on how often you wear them. Or, if you’re like me, you can take a few minutes in the evening to quickly wipe down whatever shoes you wore that day, so that all of your kicks are ready to go whenever you might need them!