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How To Clean White Shoes So They Look New (And What Doesn’t Work)


One of the greatest mysteries around the home is how to clean white shoes. Useful and practical as they may be, white shoes are notoriously hard to keep fresh and pristine after we take them out of the box. That’s why we searched high and low to find the best tips for cleaning white shoes, so that you can master this task once and for all. From bleach to baking soda to toothpaste, here’s a look at some of the best ways to keep your white shoes in great shape.

Remember: While it’s possible to figure out how to clean white shoes, it does take a little extra time and commitment — along with a few brilliant cleaning shortcuts. If you’re up for the challenge, the results are worth it. A little effort can go a long way!

The First Step to Cleaning White Shoes: Repellent

First things first: Prevention is key. Before you even put your new shoes on for the first time, experts recommend that you treat them immediately with a spray-on stain-and-water repellent. Repeat the spray-on process every few weeks to keep your shoes protected, no matter where you plan to wear them or what type of weather, spills, or grime you come in contact with during your day.

Another wise tip: Make spot-cleaning a habit. It may seem tedious, but regular spot-cleaning will lend a huge hand while you learn how to clean white shoes completely. To do so, wipe off any stains or scuffs as soon as you see them with a gentle cleaning agent or wipe. Otherwise, they might sink into the fabric, and your task of getting them perfectly white again will be that much more challenging.

What to Use to Clean White Shoes

One of the must-haves for cleaning your white shoes is an old toothbrush, which can help you target hard-to-reach smudges. Use it to scrub your white shoes (gently!) with just warm water and soap, and you’ll likely make a quick difference in the condition of your shoes. But if that doesn’t work, know that a variety of household items — such as baking soda, bleach, baby powder, or even toothpaste — can all potentially help you get your stained shoes white again.

An important piece of advice: Never put your white shoes or sneakers in the washing machine with the rest of the laundry, or even in the wash by themselves. Doing this can possibly make the stain and discoloration of white shoes even worse. More importantly, it can cause permanent damage. You may notice tears, loose threads, or a breakdown in your shoes’ leather or fabrics; in short, your shoes may never look the same again after that wash. Our vote: Skip it.

Can you clean white shoes with bleach?

Wondering if you can use bleach on white sneakers? The short answer: Yes, but it’s not your most gentle choice. In fact, the caveat with using bleach to clean white shoes is that you have to dilute it carefully. As for how much bleach to use to clean white shoes: It varies, but most shoe-care guides suggest mixing one part bleach for every five parts water. Any more bleach used will increase your risk of turning your white fabrics a strange yellow tone.

It’s important to note that household bleach (sodium hydroxide) is not technically considered corrosive or toxic, though bleach exposure can cause irritation in the eyes, mouth, lungs, and on skin. You should also follow the standard bleach safety tips you’d use anytime you’re working with bleach for regular loads of laundry, which means staying in a well-ventilated area and protecting your eyes and skin from exposure.

To clean white shoes with bleach: You’ll need bleach, a container, water, a toothbrush, and a fan or a nearby open window. Mix a small amount of bleach with at least five times as much water in a well-ventilated area. Dip your toothbrush in the diluted bleach solution and scrub the shoes gently. Rinse with warm water when you’re finished, and then let the shoes air dry for at least several hours (though overnight is better).

How To Clean White Shoes With Baking Soda

Sure, it freshens your fridge, but baking soda is just another tool for cleaning white shoes — and it’s one of our favorite DIY cleaning tricks. To play it safe, you’ll also need a splash or two of white vinegar, which, in addition to freshening up the scent of your home, is a pretty useful cleaning agent.

To clean white shoes with baking soda: Combine one tablespoon of hot water, one tablespoon of white vinegar, and one tablespoon of baking soda. Mix until it reaches a paste-like consistency, and then use an old toothbrush to lather the mixture onto the canvas areas of your shoes. Work in circular motions for best results. Once the shoes are covered, leave them outside in bright, warm sunlight for three to four hours. After the mixture is dry, clap the shoes together to remove it; brushing again with a toothbrush should shake it all off. Shoes should be several shades whiter. (Side note: Baking soda can also be used to easily clean cookie sheets and other common household items, making it a must-have for your home at all times.)

How To Clean White Shoes With Toothpaste

Sure, toothpaste whitens your teeth — but can it whiten your shoes? Believe it or not, it can. However, you’ll need to stay away from colored toothpastes, which can stain white shoes even more. The bonus here is that this cleaning agent is gentle; you use it in your mouth, after all.

To clean white shoes with toothpaste: Use a non-gel white toothpaste and an old toothbrush. Similar to the method of cleaning white shoes with baking soda, you’ll apply the toothpaste to your dirty shoes, working in circular motions on your extra-dirty spots. Once you have worked the paste into the fabric of the shoes, let it sit for about ten minutes. Use a damp towel to wipe the toothpaste off your shoe, and repeat the process if necessary.

How to Clean White Shoes During the Winter

At first glance, you might not think that wearing white shoes during the winter would be much of an issue. After all, the color of falling snow is pretty darn close to the color of many white shoes — and snow becomes clear after it melts. However, a lot of us don’t think about the fact that most towns use road salt to minimize snow piles on the streets and sidewalks. In fact, anyone who has ever had salt stains on their shoes knows that this mess can wreak havoc on any shade of footwear.

Luckily, hope is not lost if that happens to you: Experts say all you need is a simple mixture of water and white vinegar with a cloth to rub those pesky marks right off. You can check out this very helpful demonstration of the cleaning hack.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the best way to clean white shoes is to be consistent with your method of choice. Keep a sharp eye out for any marks, don’t let stains last too long after you spot them, and store them in a clean place when you’re not using them. Who knows? Maybe someone will think you just bought them the next time you bring them out!

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