How to Get Your White Shoes Looking Brand New

Product Care

There's nothing quite like unboxing a brand-new pair of white shoes, but dirt and debris can quickly take away their lustre. Here's how to get them looking fresh again.

Last updated: 5 December 2023
5 min read
Time Required
30 min
Estimated Cost
US$ 10


  • Laundry detergent
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Bleach
  • Toilet paper
  • Lemon juice
  • White vinegar
  • Micellar water
  • Newspaper


  • White cloth or old toothbrush
  • Mesh laundry bag
  • Magic eraser
  • Gloves

A new pair of white Air Force 1s out of the box look so pristine, you may shudder at the thought of stepping outside in your new kicks. But a good pair of sneakers is designed to take you places, whether you're exploring the city or taking your adventures off-road. Inevitably, scuff marks, dirt and stains will blemish your once-perfect white shoes. And the colour of dirty dish water isn't exactly fashion-forward.

But before you rush out to buy another pair, there are a few tricks you can try at home to restore your white shoes to their original glory. Clean your shoes regularly to avoid tough messes later on, and when your shoes get especially dingy, use these tricks to revitalise them.

How to Revive Your White Shoes

Whether you're dealing with a slight greyish tinge or a pair of sneakers you'd never guess were once white, there are at-home cleaning methods you can use to improve the appearance of your white shoes. Depending on the type of mess and the materials used to construct your shoes, some of these methods may work better than others. Luckily, none of them require an extensive shopping list.

How to Clean Canvas Shoes

While some folks may suggest putting canvas shoes in the washing machine, this method of cleaning can cause unnecessary wear and tear and even damage the construction of the shoe. To be safe, try one of the methods below instead. You can also use toothpaste and an old toothbrush to scrub away stains on the soles of your shoes.

  1. 1.Mild Laundry Detergent

    1. Mix a small amount of mild laundry detergent with warm water
    2. Dip a white cloth or old toothbrush in the soapy water and use it to scrub away stains on the uppers
    3. Brush away dirt on the midsole and outsole of the shoe
    4. Use a damp cloth to rinse away excess soap
  2. 2.Bicarbonate of Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide

    3% hydrogen peroxide not only removes stains and brightens whites, but it also disinfects your shoes from harmful bacteria, fungi and viruses. You can make a paste by mixing two parts bicarbonate of soda with one part hydrogen peroxide. Use an old toothbrush to apply the mixture to the soles and uppers of your shoes. Wait 30 minutes before rinsing or leave them to air-dry in the sun and brush away the paste once they're dry.

  3. 3.Bleach

    While you shouldn't try to use bleach on delicate fabrics like leather or suede, it's effective at returning canvas sneakers to their original bright white colour. Follow these steps:

    1. Add one tablespoon of bleach to 1 litre of water and stir
    2. Dip a brush or white cloth in the mixture
    3. Scrub the uppers of each shoe, followed by the midsole and outsole, in a circular motion
    4. Rinse or wipe away excess soap and allow to dry completely
  4. 4.Toilet Paper

    You've probably never considered mummifying your shoes with toilet paper, but it can be a surprisingly effective method of removing stains. Layer water-soaked sheets of toilet paper over your shoes, paper-mache style, and allow your shoes to dry for 12 hours before peeling away the strips. This method can lift stubborn stains often left behind after cleaning.

  5. 5.Lemon and Sunlight

    If all you've got lying around is a lemon in the fridge, you can use it to bleach stains out of your shoes. Simply mix some fresh lemon juice with a little bit of water. Using a clean cloth or brush, scrub the mixture over stains in a circular motion. Then, leave your shoes in direct sunlight for a few hours before rinsing away the mixture with clean water.

How to Clean Leather Shoes

Leather shoes require a little more TLC than canvas sneakers, since the material is delicate and can lose its shape when it gets wet. Before you start, place a shoe tree inside your shoes or stuff them with newspapers. Then, apply a leather cleaning product or try one of the methods below.

  1. 1.Bicarbonate of Soda and Vinegar

    Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar are effective at removing odours, stains and bacteria. Make a solution with one tablespoon of bicarb, two tablespoons of white vinegar and a cup of water. Use a brush or a cloth to gently scrub away dirt and debris. This method will also work on canvas shoes.

  2. 2.Magic Eraser

    Sometimes, all you need to get a pair of white leather shoes clean is the same tool you use to remove grime from your bathtub. Just dip the Magic Eraser in water and use it to scrub out stains from the leather upper and the sole of the shoe.

  3. 3.Micellar Water

    Micellar water is designed to cleanse the skin, but it's also gentle enough to use on leather shoes. It's made from purified water, moisturisers and cleansing compounds that form spherical micelles. The micelles act on dirt and oil to pull these substances away from the surface, leaving your shoes clean and white. It works well with leather, suede and rubber.

How to Clean Shoelaces

First, remove your shoelaces from your sneakers. You can wash them by hand using a mild soap or detergent mixed with water, or you can place them in a mesh laundry bag and run them through your washing machine's gentle cycle. Make sure you allow them to air-dry, since heat can deform the plastic tips.

If your shoelaces still don't come out looking white, soak them in bleach. Using gloves, mix three tablespoons of bleach in 3.8 litres of water. Place your laces in a mesh laundry bag before submerging them in the solution, and use something heavy to keep the bag from floating to the top. Leave your shoelaces to sit for five minutes, and then wash them thoroughly by hand or in the washer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Clean White Leather Shoes?

Avoid harsh chemicals when cleaning your white leather shoes and opt for bicarbonate of soda and vinegar or micellar water instead. You can also use a magic eraser to gently scrub away stains from the surface of your shoes.

When Is it Time to Replace White Sneakers?

If you've tried every whitening method and your shoes are still looking soiled and drab, it might be time to purchase a new pair. It's generally a good idea to replace your shoes every 300–500 miles, so if you've been walking and running in your trusty kicks for about six months, you may benefit from a new pair regardless.

Originally published: 2 November 2021

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