How To

How to Clean White Shoes: 10 Simple Ways to Remove Stains

Pair of white Nike Air Max

How to clean white shoes? These wardrobe staples tend to get dirty quite easily, but before you throw out your favorite pair, consider our tips for getting those stubborn stains. You might be surprised at how effective simple ingredients can be when it comes to restoring your shoes as close to new as possible! In this article, we’ll be looking at the different methods you can try and which ones would work best for the type of shoes you have. Fabric, leather, suede, and canvas all require different techniques, after all!


How to Clean White Shoes – Best Products to Use


1.    Start with Dish Soap and Water

Dish soap and scrubber.
Photo from everdrop GmbH on Unsplash

The Grunge aesthetic might be popular, but grimy shoes aren’t. You can stay in style by keeping your favorite white shoes clean. If you’re dealing with easy stains or ones that are still pretty fresh, start with some dish soap and water. Simply mix about two tablespoons of dish soap into 240 ml of warm water. Stir this until it gets soapy. You can use a spray bottle or a brush to apply it directly to the stains.


2.    Try Using Good Old Bleach

Person holding yellow spray bottle.
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Good old bleach is capable of removing even stubborn stains. But there is one drawback. Because bleach is a chemical, it must be used with proper caution. If you plan to hand wash your shoes, make sure you wear protection such as gloves and goggles. The best ratio to follow when using bleach is 1 part bleach mixed with five parts warm water. If you’re learning how to clean white shoes using bleach, an important tip is to be mindful of the amount. Too much bleach can leave your shoes with a slightly yellow color.


3.    Get Some Multi-Purpose Baking Soda

Container of baking soda.
Photo by Kaboompics on Pexels

Baking soda can be a miracle worker when it comes to cleaning just about anything. Did you know that it can be used to remove stains from carpets, clothes, and even pots and pans? When it comes to cleaning white shoes, it works best on fabric or canvas sneakers. Mix the powder with some laundry detergent and you’ve got the ultimate “power couple” for stain removal. Another option is to create a paste-like mixture with equal parts baking soda and white vinegar.


4.    Find Another Use for White Toothpaste

Toothpaste and toothbrush.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

When using toothpaste to clean white shoes, stick to the white ones. Gel and colored toothpaste can accidentally stain your shoes if you’re not careful. To make it even more effective use a soft-bristled shoe brush or a microfiber cloth to apply the product to the stained areas. Remember to avoid diluting the toothpaste with water and apply it directly onto the stain.


5.    Hydrogen Peroxide is a Great Alternative to Bleach

Man holding a set of cleaning supplies.
Photo by Ron Lach from Unsplash

If you only need mild bleaching and don’t want to deal with using bleach, a great substitute would be hydrogen peroxide. This product will help you clean white shoes and might even turn yellowed fabric into bright white. You can use it by itself or diluted in water, following a 1:1 ratio. For hard-to-remove marks, you can create a paste by mixing hydrogen peroxide and baking soda together.


6.    Nail Polish Remover is Also Effective for Shoes

Woman painting her nails.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

If your white shoes are made of patent leather or rubber, try nail polish remover. Not only is this product effective for eliminating stains, it can also help clear up any scuff marks on your shoes. How to clean white shoes that are made of suede? Make sure you try a bit of the nail polish remover on a small area first to test for its effect. Let it dry completely before proceeding.


7.    Lemon Juice Isn’t Just a Natural Source of Vitamin C

Lemons and a spray bottle.
Photo from Precious Plastic Melbourne on Unsplash

When using this natural bleach, always dilute it with a bit of water. The most effective ratio is two tablespoons of lemon juice with a cup of cold water. You can then apply this to your shoes using a spray or by using an old toothbrush. Use a circular motion when rubbing it in. To further boost the bleaching power of lemon juice, leave your shoes under the sun for a few hours to let it soak through.

If the usual homemade solutions aren’t working as well as you hoped they would, you can always turn to commercially available cleaning products. There are ones specifically made for shoes and you can also use multi-purpose ones that pack a bit more punch when it comes to cleaning white shoes. Here are a few of our recommendations:


8.     For All Types of Fabric, Try the Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner

Bottle of Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner.
Photo from

If you’re worried about accidentally ruining your shoes by using the wrong product, then get your hands on some Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner instead. This all-one-shoe product is made from saddle soap, premium conditioners, and a variety of gentle oils. It can be used to clean all washable leathers, nubuck, canvas, fabric, and suede shoes.

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9.    For a Quick Fix, Use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

Mr. Clean brand of Magic Erasers.
Photo Ivy Hogan on Flickr.

For most folks, Mr. Clean’s Magic Erasers are a no-brainer for cleaning white shoes. Otherwise known as melamine foam, this versatile cleaning tool is handy to keep around and is also easy to use. The only drawback is that you can’t use it for every type of shoe. Magic erasers work best for fabric or canvas shoes and sneakers, but could otherwise damage leather or suede shoes.

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10. If All Else Fails, Get OxiClean

A set of OxiClean stain removers.
Photo ajay_suresh on Flickr

OxiClean is great for heavy and deep-seated stains, especially on fabric or canvas shoes. It is important to dilute ¼ cup of it in a gallon of hot water before soaking your shoes in it. Depending on how bad the dirt is, you can leave the shoes to soak for ten minutes or for a few hours. Just like with the lemon juice method, leaving it under the sun will help brighten your shoes further.

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How to Clean White Shoes Depending on the Material

Now that you have some idea of the products you can use, let’s talk about how to clean different types of shoe materials. This is important if you want to do the process right and avoid ruining your favorite footwear in the process. Remember, different materials would also vary in the kind of care they require.


1.    How to Clean White Sneakers

Person wearing white Air Force 1 sneakers.
Photo by Jules Palmer on Pexels

For sneaker-heads, keeping their favorites in good condition is a must. If you’re wondering about how to clean white Air Force 1 sneakers and other popular styles without damaging them, here’s what you need to do.

  • First, use a plastic shoe tree to maintain the shape of your white sneakers while you clean them.
  • Using a shoe brush, start by brushing off any loose dirt on the shoe fabric. A soft microfiber cloth or a soft nail brush would also work. The key is to remove dirt without accidentally pushing it deeper into the fabric.
  • After, you can use dish soap and water to get rid of any remaining stains. We also suggest the bleach method if simply using soapy water isn’t enough. How to clean white shoelaces? Remove them from the shoes and soak them in the same mixture.
  • Rinse your shoes well then place them on top of paper towels to air dry.


2.    How to Clean White Converse and White Vans

Woman wearing Converse Low-Top Sneakers
Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras on Unsplash

When it comes to canvas shoes, prepare for a substantial amount of scrubbing. Dirt and grime can easily work their way into the woven material, making them harder to remove. There are ways to make it slightly easier, though. Here’s how to clean white shoes that are made of canvas.

  • Prepare your shoes by inserting a shoe tree in place, removing any shoelaces, and brushing away any loose dirt.
  • Next, mix together some baking soda and laundry detergent. We recommend a 1:1 ratio to avoid adding water to the mix. Instead of a paste, you’ll be using powders to lift and remove stains.
  • Using a shoe cleaning brush or an old toothbrush, apply the powder onto the stained areas. The abrasiveness of the powder, combined with the brush should help you scrub away any dirt stuck in the canvas.
  • If there are leftover stains, clean them up with baking soda and white vinegar Follow the same 1:1 ratio until it forms a paste. Apply this onto the problem areas and let it sit for an hour or so before rinsing.
  • Depending on how tough the stain is, you might need to repeat the same process a few times. Do make sure to dry your shoes between each round of cleaning.


3.    How to Clean White Knit Shoes

Person wearing Nike Flyknit running shoes.
Photo by Joseph Barrientos on Unsplash

Materials such as Adidas’s Primeknit or Nike’s Flyknit are a favorite among sports enthusiasts. Because they have a lot of stretches, they are very comfortable to wear. However, this material can be quite tedious to clean since you’ll need to avoid damaging the fabric. Here’s how to clean shoes made of knit material.

  • After you’ve prepped your shoes for cleaning, grab some white toothpaste. No particular brand is required and you can even use the ones you get for free in travel kits.
  • Next, get an old toothbrush or a piece of microfiber cloth and use it to directly apply the toothpaste onto the stain. No need to dilute it in cold water.
  • Scrub gently, going in the direction of the knit as much as possible. This might take a bit of time, but continue this process until you see the stains starting to fade.
  • If you need something stronger, you can add a bit of hydrogen peroxide to the mix. Only do this for cleaning white knit shoes as it might accidentally bleach colored ones.
  • Leave this on for an hour or two before rinsing. You can repeat the process as needed, just make sure you dry your shoes in between cleaning.


4.    How to Clean White Leather Shoes

Pair of leather pumps.
Photo by Emily Gouker on Unsplash

Leather shoes are classics and go well with just about any style, including Dark Academia outfits. However, white leather shoes are some of the hardest types of footwear to maintain. These can easily get scuffed and just about anything could leave a stain on them. Fortunately, leather is fairly simple to clean if you’re using the right product. Our recommendation? Nail polish remover.

  • Prep your shoes for cleaning and use a piece of fabric to clean off any dust on them.
  • Using a cotton swab or a piece of cotton, apply the nail polish remover to the stained areas.
  • Lightly rub the product in, using a circular motion. Do check often to see if the stain has begun to fade.
  • Continue the process until the stain has been removed or has significantly lightened.
  • If there are stubborn stains left, you might want to make use of a shoe cleaner or a magic eraser to finish the job.
  • Don’t forget to use a leather conditioner after your white leather shoes have dried.


5.    How to Clean White Fabric Shoes

Person putting on white fabric boots.
Photo by Michael S on Unsplash

Fabric shoes are some of the most common. You’ll find them in different styles such as sandals, pumps, ballet flats, and sneakers. If you thought simply tossing these in the washing machine is the best option, think again! Doing so can damage your shoes and render them useless. Instead, here’s how to clean white shoes made out of the fabric by hand.

  • Start by prepping your shoes for cleaning. Make sure you also cover sensitive parts that you don’t want to get wet, such as the heels on your pumps or any metal hardware on your sandals and flats.
  • Next, mix two tablespoons of lemon juice with a cup of water. Transfer this to a spray bottle if you have one.
  • After, simply spray this mixture onto the stains that you want to be removed. You can also use an old toothbrush to gently scrub any stubborn marks left.
  • Once you’re happy with the result, leave your fabric shoes to air dry somewhere sunny. Doing this will actually help boost the bleaching power of lemon juice and make your white shoes brighter.


6.    How to Clean White Mesh Shoes

Man holding mesh shoes.
Photo by Michał Kubalczyk on Unsplash

The thing with mesh tennis shoes is that they absorb just about anything they come into contact with. From mud to food spills, these will definitely leave a stain. If you own white mesh shoes, keeping them pristine will be quite a task but definitely not impossible. Here’s how to clean white shoes made out of mesh easily.

  • Start by prepping your shoes for cleaning. If they happen to be wet, make sure you dry them first.
  • Next, brush off any loose bits of dirt. Since mesh can be delicate, use a soft-bristled toothbrush or a soft shoe brush. Only use light pressure to avoid damaging the material.
  • If you’re planning on using a DIY cleaning solution, avoid anything with harsh bleaching agents.
  • To be safe, we suggest using the Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner or other similar shoe cleaning These tend to be gentler and do not contain any harsh chemicals that may damage materials such as mesh. Another option is using a Magic Eraser, which is especially useful for spot cleaning.
  • Once done, leave your shoes to dry naturally and check if you need to repeat the process again.


7.    How to Clean White Rubber Shoes

White Fila rubber shoes.
Photo by Tom Radetzki on Unsplash

Often battered and beaten, rubber shoes tend to go through a lot on a daily. Some look best when they’re a bit worn in, but cleaning them is a must to maintain their usability. If you want to keep yours looking good for a long time, here’s how to clean them:

  • As always, start by prepping your shoes for cleaning. Rubber shoes come in different styles; you have sandals, tennis, and basketball shoes for example.
  • Depending on how dirty the shoes are and the kind of stains it has, rubber shoes can be easily cleaned using soap and water. You can also finish it off with the baking soda solution to brighten up the material after. This works for surface stains such as mud, dust, and food spills.
  • If you’re dealing with something tougher, such as ink or paint, then you might want to use OxiClean. Do this by diluting ¼ cup of the solution in a gallon of hot water. After scrubbing off the grime that can be removed by hand, leave it to soak in the mixture for a few hours.
  • After your shoes dry, check if there are any stains left. For smaller ones, spot-clean using nail polish remover. You can also opt to repeat the process as needed.


Knowing How to Clean White Shoes Properly Can Save You Money!

Did you know that some people end up spending hundreds of dollars every year just to replace their favorite shoes after getting stains on them? Instead of doing that, simply learning how to clean white shoes will keep your favorite pair going for a long time. The best bit is that you only need simple tools and products to clean them up. There’s no need to spend a lot of money on professional shoe cleaning or dry clean services. All it takes is a bit of elbow grease and some of the household products we’ve mentioned here. Give these tips and tricks a try today!

Want more ideas on how to save money? Here are 30 budgeting tips to keep in mind.