Kicking up a fuss over grassy stains on your new sneakers? Or is your footwear looking a little grey after navigating the concrete jungle? Don’t worry, we’ve got a few quick hacks to help you get your white shoes looking bright again. But before we dive in, don’t forget to check the care instructions that come with your shoes. While a pair of canvas sneakers might be safe to put in the washing machine, the same can’t be said for leather dress shoes (these would be screaming for a polish instead).
Can you put shoes in the washing machine?
Most washing machines now have a particular wash setting that tailors the cycle to clean footwear, which is typically gentler than a regular wash cycle. The general rule is to set your washing machine to a delicate setting and cold temperature, with a slow spin speed. Do not tumble dry your shoes.
Appliance brand Whirlpool says canvas shoes and running shoes made from materials like nylon, cotton, and polyester are generally durable enough to clean in a washing machine. Laundry detergent should also be safe to use on these types of shoes. However, shoes made with certain fabrics such as leather or suede should stay far away from the washer. The same goes for items with delicate fabrics, embroidery, sequins and other embellishments.
Here are a few tips to help you safely clean your white shoes in a washing machine:
- Take out the insoles and laces from the shoes, and put the laces in a secured garment bag to stop them from getting caught behind the drum or wrapping around other items. You can handwash the insoles separately.
- Wipe off any loose dirt or large and stubborn bits of debris on the soles of the shoes and shoelaces. You can use an old toothbrush and a bit of laundry detergent or stain remover to scrub off highly soiled parts pre-wash.
- Washing your shoes in a washer can be rough on your washing machine, so it’s worth adding a few old towels to provide some cushioning (and prevent banging inside the drum) as well as help balance the load.
- Set your washing machine to a cold wash only. Do not use a warm or hot wash or you’ll risk destroying the shape of your shoes. The same goes for tumble drying.
What is the best homemade shoe cleaner?
Baking soda doesn’t just work wonders in the kitchen, but it’s also a great DIY solution for cleaning white shoes. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 1 tablespoon of baking soda
- ½ tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide
- ½ tablespoon of water
- An old toothbrush or small scrubbing brush (but a toothbrush is likely to be easier to use and more precise)
Make a homemade cleaning solution by adding one tablespoon of baking soda, half a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and half a tablespoon of water in a bowl and stir the mixture until it thickens enough to form a paste. If you don’t have a bottle of hydrogen peroxide around, you can buy a bottle at the supermarket for around $4.
You can then use an old toothbrush (or another small scrubbing brush) to apply the paste onto the shoes. If there’s any loose dirt, you can start off by adding a small amount of paste to help brush it off before applying the rest of the paste to coat each shoe. After your pair of shoes is covered in paste, leave it in the sun to set for approximately four hours (or until the paste is dry and cracking off). Once time has passed, wipe off any cracked pieces of paste and relace your freshly cleaned shoes.
Can you use vinegar to clean white shoes?
One power couple that shouldn’t be underestimated is baking soda and vinegar. Aside from cleaning kitchen benches and other surfaces around the house, these two staple ingredients can also be used to clean shoes. Just take a tablespoon of baking soda, two tablespoons of white vinegar and a cup of water and stir it all in a bowl. Dip an old cloth or toothbrush into the mix and give the shoes a good scrub. Similar to the method above, leave the shoes to dry for about 30 minutes to let the baking soda set. Then, wash everything off with water.
Can you use bleach on white shoes?
If the washing machine is full and there’s no baking soda in the house, bleach can be a quick way to make your shoes white again. Similar to the homemade paste above, you can create a liquid mix using one part bleach to four parts water. You can then use an old toothbrush or scrubbing brush to remove debris and stains. Appliance brand Speed Queen also recommends placing your footwear in the sun to dry in order to achieve a brighter result. Don’t forget to use gloves!
Does toothpaste help clean white shoes?
If toothpaste can make teeth white, then surely it can do the same for footwear… right? Technically, yes. For superficial and surface stains, you can squeeze some whitening toothpaste onto an old toothbrush with a bit of water, to clean shoes. You can then dry the shoes off with a cloth and voila! While this can work on little accidents, this method isn’t effective or recommended for regular maintenance.
Picture credits: Nnattallii/Shutterstock.com, New Africa/Shutterstock.com, Beeboys/Shutterstock.com, Ukrit Theengarm/Shuttestock.com.