How to Care for White Shoes

Everyone owns at least 1 pair of white shoes. I had a pair of white Adidas I absolutely loved. But over time they got filthy. Thus, I knew I needed to research how to care for white shoes.

Here’s what I learned:

Start by applying a stain & water repellant. A fabric guard spray also helps keep canvas and fabric shoes looking great too. For white shoes worn regularly, plan to deep clean every 2 weeks. Household products like Borax, toothpaste, baking soda & hydrogen peroxide can help restore white shoes that have gotten stained.

But there’s a lot more to get into.

So in this post, we’re diving deep into the world of white shoes. We’ll review how to keep new white shoes from getting dirty or yellow. But we’ll also look at simple regular maintenance tips to keep them looking great.

Lastly, we’ll also explore some cleaning options for white shoes that, like my Adidas, have gotten dirty, streaked, or yellowed. That way you can get them back looking great without the expense of buying new ones or having to toss them.

What to put on white shoes to protect them?

Before you ever wear your brand new white shoes, buy a stain and water repellent and apply it to the shoes.

It’s far easier to keep white shoes looking white and clean than it is to try and fix them later.

Start by applying Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaning and Repel Kits to your shoes (works great on other colors too).

It comes with a brush too so it’s easy to apply, a great price has fantastic reviews on Amazon and while not Prime, it does come with free shipping.

TriNova Fabric Protector Spray (way better than Scotchgard) also works great on canvas and fabric shoes just like it does on your couch. It also has great reviews on Amazon, is an Amazon’s Choice product, and comes with free shipping on any orders over $25.

But don’t think a one-time treatment is all you need.

Spot clean as necessary and reapply these every few weeks to keep your white shoes looking great for years to come.

How do I keep my white shoes from turning yellow?

White shoes have to be cleaned more frequently than other colors of shoes due to how easily they show scuffs, dirt, and everything else they come in contact with.

While not all shoes can go in the washing machine, some canvas and fabric ones can, but unfortunately, they sometimes come out of the wash looking yellow.

Sneakers and tennis shoes are usually the worst for this.

Follow these steps to help prevent white shoes from turning yellow:

  • Use a cloth rag or bristle brush to gently remove any dirt from the shoes
  • Using white vinegar and a cloth rag, scrub any scuff marks from the shoes
  • Place the shoes in the washing machine
  • Add your standard laundry detergent
  • Add a few tablespoons of Borax to your load (this will whiten)
  • Wash on warm for a gentle cycle
  • Allow to dry on a sidewalk or driveway or deck that gets lots of sun (which also helps whiten)

If your shoes are leather, you can always use white shoe polish to keep them looking great as. of course, you would not put those in a washing machine.

Why do white shoes turn yellow after washing?

The dryer is usually the culprit for turning white shoes yellow after washing.

Thus, as I mentioned in the paragraph above, it works much better to allow them to air dry in the sun than it does to dry in a dryer.

I would not recommend using bleach on white shoes directly as many white shoes are probably a specific shade of white or have been tinted slightly and the bleach will just make the shoes look splotchy.

However, if your shoes are heavily stained, you can add a capful of bleach to the washing machine when you wash them. Just turn the machine on so it starts to fill with water, add the bleach, and then as is starts to fill up, then add the shoes.

How do you keep white shoes from getting dirty?

Unless you plan on keeping those awesome new Chuck Taylors in the closet it’s going to be tough to keep them from getting dirty.

After a while, your white shoes will naturally start getting stains, scuff marks, dirt stains, and maybe streaks too. I used to have a pair of white Adidas with green stripes and it didn’t take long for the green to start to streak all over the place.

I already covered some basic tips above for when you first buy a new pair of white shoes.

Spraying with a water and stain repellent as I detailed above works great to keep your shoes looking great (literally) right out of the box.

But beyond that, here are some additional tips that can really help:

  • Avoid just keeping them on a shelf in your closet (they attract dust and over time will darken and dirty the shoes) – Keep them in their box, or in a shoe bag
  • When you do spot clean, go gentle with the brush (it may seem like the harder you scrub the cleaner they will get, but brushing too hard wears out the shoes prematurely)
  • Do a deep clean every 2 weeks (if you wear them regularly)

How do you remove yellow stains from shoes?

Above we’ve talked about basic cleaning and how to prevent white shoes from turning yellow. But if your shoes are already yellow, we need to take a different approach.

Start by removing the shoelaces. Shoelaces can be washed in a washing machine but since they are small and can easily get wrapped around the agitator, it works best to put them in a pillowcase you tie shut or a laundry bag designed to go in the washing machine.

At a kitchen or laundry sink, fill the sink with some warm water and laundry detergent and maybe a tiny amount of bleach. Mix it well.

Using a brush (toothbrush or shoe cleaning), gently scrub away any scuff marks, yellow spots, dirt, or debris from the shoe.

Add to the washing machine on a gentle cycle with more detergent and wash normally.

When the cycle is done, as we’ve suggested elsewhere, allow to dry in the sun on a sidewalk, deck, or driveway.

What is the best way to clean white shoes?

Best is a pretty subjective term and different types of white shoes call for different cleaning methods.

That being said, one of the methods for cleaning white shoes involves the use of baking soda. Some experts also call for mixing baking soda with toothpaste too.

While lots of fancy shoe cleaning products have come out in recent years, baking soda is a home remedy for cleaning white shoes that has been around a long time.

Mix it into a thick paste with a little bit of water.

Then with a toothbrush, gently scrub the baking soda paste over the whole shoe. Swirl the brush in small circular movements, making sure to cover the entire shoe including any rubber parts. Then wipe the shoe completely clean with a washcloth dipped in warm water.

Allow to dry completely in the sun on a deck, sidewalk, or driveway.

You can also clean white shoes with hydrogen peroxide. Like bleach, hydrogen peroxide will whiten things. Unlike bleach, it’s not a harsh chemical that can easily irritate skin, create spots or splotches or ruin shoes if splashed accidentally.

Mix the hydrogen peroxide with the water and baking soda. You’ll make the same paste I mentioned but use less water so it’s not too watery. Alternately, you can also mix lemon juice with water and clean white shoes with a brush, cloth, or sponge.

How do you clean white vans with toothpaste?

If there’s one staple shoe in lots of closets around the globe, it’s probably the classic white Vans.

Start by getting some white toothpaste (not gel) and a toothbrush you’ll use exclusively for cleaning.

Then using a washcloth dipped in warm water and rung out, gently wipe down the shoe. We want to loosen the dirt and get the shoe damp, but not soaking wet.

Then apply the white toothpaste to your toothbrush and begin to scrub any parts of the Vans that have stains, streaks, or scuff marks.

When done, wipe with a clean, wet washcloth. Check for stains and repeat if necessary. If after a few tries you still see grass stains, try using dish liquid soap (not laundry liquid soap). It has additional properties that help remove grass stains better.

Did we cover all you wanted to know about cleaning white shoes?

In this post, we took a brief look at white shoes; something almost all of us have.

We explored how to keep brand new white shoes clean, but we also looked at how to maintain them, and how to clean heavily soiled or yellowed white shoes.

That way, you can keep wearing and buying white shoes for years to come without the fear or embarrassment of them looking bad.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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