I am obsessed with white shoes. To me, there’s nothing better than a crisp white pair of Air Force 1s or Stan Smiths with literally any outfit.
But dirty white shoes? I’d rather go barefoot.
If you, like me, CAN NOT physically leave the house wearing dirty shoes, you need to familiarize yourself with the best cleaning methods for white shoes. With a little research and the right products, you can keep your white shoes looking new for a long time, and easily deal with any spots as they happen.
Here’s the ultimate guide to how to clean white shoes, with tips on how to clean leather, canvas, and knit shoes. Never rock dirty shoes again!
Related reading: How to Wear White Sneakers: The Ultimate Guide
Table of Contents
How Often to Clean White Shoes
First, let’s talk about how often you should be cleaning your shoes.
The experts say that you should ideally be cleaning your shoes after every wear — basically just wiping them down with a baby wipe, special shoe wipe, or damp microfiber cloth to get rid of any surface dirt. I generally try to do this when my shoes are brand new, but then I tend to fall off my regimen, which leads us to…
More realistically, you should be cleaning your white shoes at least once a month, or whenever they start to look dirty and dingy, to keep them as fresh as possible. (I definitely recommend cleaning more often if you wear the same pair every day.)
Also, if you’re going to store your white shoes for the winter, make sure to give them a good cleaning (and let them fully dry) before you put them away.
How Long Will it Take to Clean White Shoes?
The time commitment here can vary depending on what type of shoes you’re cleaning. (Note: These estimates do not include dry time; always let your shoes fully dry before wearing!)
Leather sneakers (Adidas, Air Force 1s, etc.) generally take me around 20 minutes to clean in depth.
Canvas sneakers (Converse, Keds, etc.) or can take up to an hour to clean as you are generally going to be scrubbing a lot and using cleaning products to penetrate the fabric.
Knit sneakers (Flyknits, etc.) can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to clean, depending on the level of soil and the exact material you’re working with. These can usually be thrown in the washing machine, hence the longer cleaning time.
What You Need to Clean Your White Shoes:
Now it’s time to gather your supplies! Here are the things I always have on hand for cleaning my white shoes:
Supplies for Cleaning White Shoes:
- Magic Eraser or generic melamine sponge
- Microfiber Cloth – I like to buy the big packs from Amazon.
- Dish Soap – Dawn is my favorite but use what you have.
- Soft Toothbrush
- Laundry Detergent (if you will be using your washing machine)
- Mesh Laundry Bag for Shoes (again, for washing machine)
- OxiClean (optional, for tough stains)
- Sneaker Wipes (optional, good for quick cleans and maintaining your shoes)
- Repel Spray (optional, for protecting your shoes after cleaning)
How to Clean Your White Sneakers
Now that we’ve gathered our supplies, let’s get to cleaning.
The process will be different, depending on whether you’re cleaning leather, canvas, or knit shoes, so I’ve detailed specific instructions for each below.
How to Clean Leather Sneakers
I’ve found leather sneakers are the easiest type of sneaker to clean. (Luckily, they are also my favorite style of sneaker.)
Start by brushing off any obvious dirt or debris with your soft toothbrush. Then it’s time to get serious. Dampen your Magic Eraser and use it to clean the uppers.
For really tough stains, I will sometimes use a little dish soap and water on my Magic Eraser, but I always try to do a pass with the Magic Eraser and water first. (Dish soap can be harsh so I avoid it if possible.)
Wipe your shoes with a damp microfiber cloth and allow to completely air dry before wearing.
How to Clean Canvas Sneakers
White canvas sneakers require the most work of all the shoe types, but if you love your Keds and Converse, the process is worth it.
Start by removing the laces (see the section below on how to clean them) and any removable insole from the shoe. Next, combine dish soap and water and use your soft toothbrush to scrub the uppers and work the soap into the fabric. Use a damp cloth to wipe away the soap. Repeat as needed.
For really tough stains, you can apply a stain remover like OxiClean and let it sit for 5 minutes, then remove with a damp microfiber cloth.
Also, many canvas shoes can be put in the washing machine, HOWEVER this has also been known to ruin certain shoes so use this as a last resort and proceed with caution. If you are going do the washer method, make sure to use a mesh shoe bag to protect your shoes and stick to cold or warm water and mild to regular detergent.
Finally, always air dry your canvas shoes and laces! Never, ever put them in the dryer because this can literally melt your shoes. Also, keep them out of the sun as sun can discolor them.
How to Clean Knit Shoes
In contrast to canvas shoes, knit shoes like Flyknits can be put in the washing machine, so that makes them a lot easier to clean. (Of course, always research your specific shoe and do not use the washing machine if you are at all unsure about it!)
For small spots, you can definitely do the dish soap method used for canvas shoes above, but for a heavier cleaning, here’s the washing machine method to use:
The first step is always to remove the laces and any removable insole before proceeding.
Next, put your shoes in your mesh shoe bag and run them through your washing machine on a delicate cycle with regular laundry detergent. Then air dry (again, NOT in the sun). Do not wear until completely dry.
Also, just a note that putting your shoes in the washing machine can sometimes lower the lifespan of your shoes, so save it for times when your shoes really need the deep clean.
How to Clean Shoelaces
If you want to clean your shoelaces (I generally do this monthly), remove them from your shoes and soak them in a bowl of hot water with a teaspoon of laundry detergent for at least 15 minutes. Then, rinse and air dry.
How to Clean the Soles of White Shoes
This is where the Magic Eraser will be your best friend. I’ve found it’s the absolute best thing for cleaning the midsoles of white shoes. You can combine it with a little dish soap and water for extra cleaning power.
Just scrub away with the sponge (and soap, if using), then wipe with a damp microfiber cloth. Repeat this process as needed.
Tips to Keep White Shoes Clean for Longer
Want to avoid spending tons of time cleaning your white shoes? It helps to keep your shoes as clean as you can. Here are some tips to keep your white shoes looking new for longer, to avoid having to deep clean as often.
- When your first get your shoes, spray them with a protectant like the Jason Markk Repel Spray (a favorite of sneakerheads). This creates a breathable barrier on your shoes to repel stains and liquids before they can set in.
- Be sure to re-apply your protectant every 4 weeks or after you clean your shoes. It doesn’t last forever.
- For quick cleans on the go, use wipes designed for sneakers like the popular Crep Wipes. These are specifically designed to be gentle on sneakers and they work amazingly well to remove stains as they happen.
- If you have leather shoes with a scuff that just WILL NOT go away, you can use a little white shoe polish to cover it up. This is definitely a last resort for me, but it works.
- Always take care of stains as they happen for the easiest clean up. Just like with clothes, set-in stains are the toughest to remove so fix them while they’re fresh.
- Noticed a smudge right before leaving the house? In a pinch, you can use a baby wipe or a little bit of dish soap and water on a paper towel to remove any little bits of dirt.
How do you keep your white shoes looking new?
Fellow white shoe obsessors, I want to know all of your tips! How do you keep your white shoes looking new for longer? Any cleaning methods I need to try? Tell me in the comments