This page is part of a series on shoe care, maintenance, and repairs. It deals specifically with white shoes and sneaker.
If you’ve found yourself here in error, the other pages are:
- How To Polish Leather Shoes In 15 Minutes
- Proper Shoe Storage
- How To Care For Suede Shoes
- Cleaning & Polishing White Shoes (you are here)
- Common Shoe Repairs & How Much They Cost
This article will deal with how to clean and polish white leather shoes separately from canvas sneakers such as Converse All-Stars.
Note: This article is not gender-specific and as such does not pertain only to men’s shoes. Women can read the information below and apply it to their own shoes as well.
White Shoes & Maintaining Them
If there’s one thing we love about the summertime, it’s white shoes. They’re flashy and have a ton of “pop” regardless of the trousers you’re wearing. As you can only get away with wearing them for about three months out of the year in most places, they’re the footwear equivalent of a culinary delicacy.
They also get dirty really, really easily. And, white being white, attempts to clean it can result in doing more harm than good. What’s the best way to clean white leather shoes?
You will need:
- A brand new Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
- Unused paper towels
- A brand new soft cotton cloth, preferably white
- An unused horsehair shoe brush
- White or neutral shoe cream
How To Clean & Polish White Leather Shoes
The process (listed in a step-by-step fashion below) is very similar as it is to a regular shoe clean and shine session, but with a couple of different particulars to accommodate the delicacy of white leather.
Without further ado, here’s the breakdown of the process:
- Wet your Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and remove the dirt and stains on the shoe uppers. Note that this will leave some small spots and don’t worry about them. They’ll be taken care of later in the process.
- Once the stains have been removed from the shoe, use a paper towel to gently dry the water off. Repeat this process with the other shoe.
- Use the horsehair brush to remove any remaining dirt, paying particular attention to the welts, which tend to be a place where dirt and other schmutz collect
- Use the cloth to apply the shoe cream as you would to any shoe: use small circular strokes all around the upper
- Let the shoe cream dry & buff with a clean cloth
If the above process proves unfruitful, then your best bet is to patronize an excellent cobbler.
How To Clean White Canvas Sneakers & Shoes
There are a multitude of ways to clean white canvas sneakers and shoes with light-colored canvas. In general, we recommend not machine washing or drying. Though these methods may be quick and even effective, our fear is that the risk of warping your shoes’ shape (and thus their fit) is too great to entrust them to a machine.
To clean your white canvas sneakers by hand, do the following:
- Mix a 1:1 ratio of hand or dish soap and cool water until it becomes a bit pasty in consistency
- Clean your sneakers with a new toothbrush and the soap and water mixture
You may have heard of using toothpaste, but we suggest avoiding that as it can leave residue on canvas.
To clean your laces, you can simply let them soak in a separate bowl using the same soap-and-water mixture you made to clean the body of the sneakers.
White Shoes In Other Materials
As you might imagine, white shoes aren’t only available in canvas and leather. There’s plenty of white and off-white suede on the market, and white nubuck (a material similar to suede, but with less of a nap) is popular for footwear in the summertime too.
It should come as no surprise that these shoes get really dirty really quickly. In the case of a classic American shoe like white bucks, for example, a touch of dirt adds a bit of character, and no one should give you a hard time if your originally-pristine white shoes eventually turn a light cream color.
There’s a fine line between character and grossness, though. If your shoes look gross, you need to do something about it.
While we certainly invite you to take a look at our page on caring for suede shoes for some guidance, white suede can be a tricky animal, and you may end up doing more harm than good. Thankfully, even if your DIY instincts got the best of you, you can always take your shoes to a cobbler and, more likely than not, undo any damage.
Conclusion: Shoe Maintenance
Cleaning white shoes is only one small aspect of a well-rounded shoe maintenance routine. For more information on maintaining and repairing your footwear collection, see our shoe care home page.
If you’d like to do a deeper dive into all things footwear-related, take a look at our home page for shoes.