How to Clean White Shoes So They Look Brand New

by Alexa

Crisp, white shoes are a thing of beauty. They stand out in the cleanest way — except when they don’t. White shoes can dirty up quicker than the time it took you to buy them. But with a little know-how, you can buff those babies back to brightness. This guide has you covered on cleaning white shoes made of various materials.

A pair of white shoes with a dirty one on the right side and a clean one on the left side

Photo via Shutterstock

How to Clean White Canvas or Fabric Shoes

Have your comfy, low-maintenance white canvas or fabric shoes seen better days? Whether your shoes have a stubborn stain or two or just need a general refresh, bring them back to life with this quick cleaning guide. 

Tools and Materials Needed 

  • Five-gallon bucket
  • Baking soda
  • Laundry detergent
  • Long-handled brush
  • Old toothbrush with medium bristles

1. Create Cleaning Solution

Fill a bucket with one gallon of water and one cup of baking soda. Add a drop of laundry detergent. Mix well using a long-handled brush. 

2. Remove Shoelaces and Soak Shoes

Remove the shoelaces and set them aside (we’ll show you how to clean the shoelaces below). Soak the shoes in the solution for one hour. 

3. Scrub Away Stains and Odors

Use the toothbrush to scrub away the remaining stains. Pay special attention to the insoles to help eliminate odors. 

4. Rinse and Dry

Rinse your shoes thoroughly with warm water until all soap residue has vanished. Allow them to air dry before adding the shoelaces back on.

How to Clean White Leather Shoes

Leather is a delicate material, so it needs extra special care when being cleaned. If soaked in water, leather will lose its oils and become still and brittle. Here’s how to wash white leather shoes properly to get them looking fresh as new.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Old, soft toothbrush 
  • White toothpaste (non-gel formula)
  • Baking soda
  • Warm water
  • Medium bowl
  • Damp cloth

1. Create a Scrubbing Paste

Tackle stains on your white shoes by mixing together a scrubbing paste made of one tablespoon of toothpaste, one tablespoon of baking soda, and one tablespoon of warm water in a bowl. 

2. Apply the Paste and Scrub

Use the toothbrush to pick up the paste and apply it to the stains on your shoes. Gently scrub the affected areas in a circular motion until the stains have disappeared.

3. Wipe Clean and Dry

Wipe away the paste using a slightly damp cloth, then allow them to air dry. 

How to clean white rubber soles

How to Clean White Rubber Soles

It’s easy for scuff marks and dirt steaks to make their way onto white rubber soles. Here’s what to do when that time comes.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Mixing bowl
  • Baking soda
  • Distilled water
  • Old toothbrush
  • Hand towels

1. Mix the Cleaning Solution

Mix three tablespoons of baking soda with three tablespoons of distilled water in a mixing bowl until a thick paste is formed. 

2. Scrub the Rubber 

Use the toothbrush to apply the cleaning solution to the rubber portion of your white shoes. Scrub in circles to loosen stuck-on debris and pesky stains. 

3. Wipe Clean and Dry

Use a wet towel to wipe away the paste. Then wipe dry with another clean towel.

Use a Magic Eraser

A tried and true technique for spot-cleaning white shoes is using a Magic Eraser. Dampen the sponge and rub away visible dirt on white leather shoes and rubber soles. Keeping up with spot cleaning will help you to avoid deep cleaning on a regular basis.

How to Clean White Shoelaces

What are clean shoes without a pair of clean shoelaces? Match your clean white shoes with equally vibrant shoelaces with the help of this quick tutorial. 

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Warm, soapy water
  • Small bowl

1. Prepare the Cleaning Solution

Fill a small bowl with warm, soapy water. 

2. Soak the Shoelaces

Place the shoelaces in the bowl and allow to soak for 10 minutes. 

3. Scrub the Stains

Use a toothbrush to further agitate stains on the shoelaces. 

4. Rinse and Air Dry 

Rinse the shoelaces under warm water until there’s no sign of soap on them. Allow them to air dry, then lace them back into your shoes.

How to Deodorize Shoes

We’ve all got that one pair (or a few pairs, for that matter) of sneakers or other closed-toe shoes that stink. If you’re looking to freshen up shoes, the simple use of baking soda can deodorize shoes, as the baking soda will kill odor-causing bacteria and absorb odors.

Tools and Materials

  • Baking soda
  • Trash can or sink

1. Add the Baking Soda to Each Shoe 

Add one to two tablespoons of baking soda to the insole of each shoe. Tilt the shoe back and forth and shake side to side to evenly distribute the powder. Allow the baking soda to sit overnight.

2. Remove the Baking Soda

Tap each shoe over a trash can or sink to remove the remaining baking soda. Some small residue left behind is OK.

Dryer Sheets

At night, tuck a scented dryer sheet into your smelly shoes to neutralize odors. Remove before putting on your shoes.

Can you put white shoes in the washing machine?

Photo via Shutterstock

Can You Put White Shoes in the Washing Machine?

Sometimes! While some shoes can be placed in the washing machine, others feature delicate materials like leather or sequins that can be ruined when washed.

Inspect the shoe for any signs of such materials. If you do end up cleaning your shoes in the washing machine, wash them alone. Add a small amount of liquid detergent, run the washer on a cold delicate cycle, and allow them to air dry. 

Remember to remove the laces and clean them separately. Running laces through the washing machine will run the risk of tangling, or the laces getting roped around the agitator of your machine.

Can You Put Shoes in a Dishwasher?

Have you heard the lore of throwing your shoes in the dishwasher to clean them? Well, it’s not recommended. High-heat water and steam in dishwasher cycles can ruin the molding on rubber souls, and many dishwasher detergents are made with astringent ingredients and dyes that are harmful to many shoe materials.

Deep Cleaning for Tough Stains

When the power of baking soda doesn’t work on tough stains on fabric or canvas shoes, consider using hydrogen peroxide or bleach.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Bleach or hydrogen peroxide
  • Five-gallon bucket
  • Water
  • Rubber cleaning gloves

1. Prepare the Solution

Form a deep cleaning solution consisting of one gallon of water with ½ cup of bleach in a five-gallon bucket. If you can’t work with bleach or don’t have it on hand, we recommend substituting one pint of hydrogen peroxide. 

2. Soak the Shoes

Place the dirty shoes in the solution for four hours. Once the time has passed, put on rubber cleaning gloves, pull the shoes out of the solution, and allow the water to drip off of them into the bucket for a minute or two. Then, place them on a towel to air dry completely. 

With this comprehensive guide, you now have the tools and knowledge to keep your white shoes spotless and looking their best.

Do you have any additional tips for cleaning white shoes? Share them below!

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 1 comment
  • William William on Sep 26, 2021

    Good tips. I sell a lot of stuff on Ebay. I use white toothpaste (not gel) and a damp toothbrush. For large items I use a damp cloth. Also works on copper, brass, gold, silver, porcelain, ceramics, plastics, etc. For my sales I needed one product for cleaning everything. A dab of toothpaste on a damp toothbrush and gently brush letting it foam up. Wipe off with a damp cloth. I don't know what the baking soda does. Toothpaste already has fine marble powder in it as an abrasive.

    • Dee Dee on Jan 22, 2023

      I do that too and buy it from the Dollar Store. But for canvas sneakers I just throw them in the washer after cleaning the edges.