How to Clean White Shoes at Home Without Bleach or Expensive Cleaners

Keep your shoes bright white using simple ingredients you probably already have on hand.

Three white tennis shoes on a yellow and teal background
Photo: Marisa Kikis

White shoes are a wardrobe staple for both men and women. Whether you're rocking a suit, a sundress, or classic jeans and a tee, a stylish pair of white sneakers may be the most versatile item in your closet. The only downside is learning how to clean white shoes once the inevitable scuffs and scrapes start popping up, which, let's be honest, usually happens within the first two minutes of putting them on. In addition, washing these shoes at home can seem like a daunting task if you have yet to figure out the best way to get the job done.

Easy Methods to Wash Shoes by Hand

In a perfect world, ice cream would have no calories, and white shoes wouldn't get dirty. (OK, maybe that's just one idea of a perfect world.) But what if there was a way to keep your beloved white shoes pristine without harsh chemicals, a dry cleaner, or a washing machine? Trust us, it's possible. Try out these three simple methods to clean your shoes by hand with items you likely already have in your linen closet. The following step-by-step guides will walk you through how to handle canvas, suede, and leather shoes with ease.

Before you get started, double-check what your white shoes are made of, study the instructions, gather ingredients like cleaning vinegar, baking soda, and Magic Erasers. Your white shoes will look good as new in no time.

Person using a cloth to wipe a white leather shoe, teal background
Marisa Kikis

How to Clean White Leather Shoes

Leather is one of the easier materials to clean because it doesn't absorb as much water as some other fabrics. Here's how to give white leather shoes a thorough cleaning:

  1. Gather your materials. You'll need paper towels, basic white bar soap, cotton rags (an old T-shirt works great), and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.
  2. Tackle surface dirt. Wet a paper towel, squeeze out excess water, and then gently wipe down the outside of your shoes. This step will help remove any big pieces of dirt that are caught on different parts of the shoe. After you're done, let your shoes dry for 10 minutes.
  3. Clean the sole. Wet your Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and squeeze out any excess water. Run the Magic Eraser up and down the soles of your sneakers or shoes until the dirt and stains are gone. You want to make sure your Magic Eraser is damp, but not dripping all over your shoes. Try to use only enough pressure to remove the stain, but not so much that you risk scuffing the fabric.

Depending on how dirty your shoes were, you may need to repeat this process a few times.

person using a toothbrush to clean a white shoe, teal background
Marisa Kikis

How to Clean White Canvas Shoes

You may think it's difficult to get the grime out of your white canvas shoes, but it's actually pretty simple (maybe even easier than deodorizing smelly sneakers). Here's how you can clean white shoes with baking soda and white vinegar.

  1. Gather your materials. You'll need baking soda, white vinegar, and warm water.
  2. Combine all of your materials. Slowly mix a tablespoon of baking soda with two tablespoons of white vinegar and a cup of warm water. Let the fizz settle down before proceeding to the next step.
  3. Start scrubbing. Dip a cloth or clean toothbrush into the mixture and begin scrubbing away the dirt on your shoes. The baking soda mixture will dry pretty quickly. Once you're finished scrubbing, brush off any remaining mixture, wipe with a damp cloth if needed, and let your shoes air-dry.

If you don't have baking soda and white vinegar, you can also try the first method using generic dish soap and water.

Person using a pencil eraser on a white shoe, teal background
Marisa Kikis

How to Clean White Suede Shoes

Cleaning suede shoes can be a little tricky since suede is a delicate fabric that stains easily. Because of this, you've probably noticed most suede shoes don't come in a true white hue. Just like true whites, though, off-whites can get dirty easily. Here's how to clean suede shoes gently and effectively.

  1. Gather your materials. You'll need a soft cotton cloth, a pink pencil eraser, white vinegar, and a suede brush.
  2. Begin by blotting. Blot your shoes with the soft cloth to help remove any moisture. Then, gently rub any stains with the pink pencil eraser.
  3. Dry with a paper towel. Place a paper towel onto any wet stains and apply pressure. Make sure not to rub the dirt and stains, as they could spread across the shoe.
  4. Get rid of remaining stains. Dip your soft cloth in white vinegar and very gently rub any remaining stains. Once you've done that, you'll want to allow your shows to dry and then rub the outside of each show with a suede brush. This will help them get that velvety texture back.
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