Nobody would ever purchase a pair of white sneakers and believe they would continue to stay that original bright white color forever. Well, of course, spills, scuffs, and stains are going to eventually happen with time.

After your shoes get grimy and worn, what would you think if you could restore them to their original state? Well, whether your shoes or leather or canvas, read on below and find out that it is possible to restore your shoes to their original pristine state.

Before tossing your formally white sneakers into the washing machine, try a little hand cleaning instead. For one thing, a washing machine can do damage to your shoes if the cycle is too aggressive. When shoes bounce around banging into the sides of the washing tub, it can cause some serious damage, especially when leather is involved.

The Good News

The good news is that hand washing your shoes at home is quite easy to do, and the results can be truly amazing. Plus, more than likely, you already have all the cleaning supplies you’ll need! Here’s a list:

  • Liquid Dishwashing Soap (Dawn or similar)
  • Spray All-Purpose Cleaner (Mr. Clean or similar)
  • Multi-Use Soft Nylon Brush
  • Leather Protection Cream

First, untie and remove the shoelaces from your sneakers. Use a soft nylon brush and remove all the loose dirt. Make sure you go along the rubber edge and tongue to clean in-between all the crevices.

Mix up a few drops of dishwashing soap in a bowl of warm water. take a cloth or soft brush and dip it into the soapy water and gently clean over the sides of both shoes.

Go over the rubber soles and sides by dabbing with a little all-purpose cleaner until the natural color returns. Use another cloth dipped in plain water with no soap and wipe the shoes to remove any soapy residue. Next, take some white paper towels and stuff them into the sneakers so they absorb any excess moisture and the shoes retain their shape. Allow the shoes to dry on a clean flat surface.

For tough stains, dip a brush in hydrogen peroxide solution and scrub until the white returns. Then, dampen a clean cloth and wipe the area clean. Set the shoes on a flat surface and allow them to dry overnight.

White Shoelaces

So what about those white laces? They are probably grimy too. For best results, give each of them a quick go-over with the same dishwashing liquid mixture and let them dry. Then re-thread the shows with the clean shoelaces.

Leather, Patent or Faux Leather

If you need to clean leather shoes (or patent/faux leather), begin by making sure there’s no soil left on the shoes. Wipe them off with a cloth dipped in a half and half solution of cool water and white vinegar and then air dry.

This will work especially well each spring if you’re trying to remove leftover salt stains from winter’s cold weather.

For scuffs on honest-to-goodness real leather shoes, make sure to use a commercial polish designed for leather, and then follow the directions. If you can’t find the right kind of polish for the color of shoes you have, don’t fret!

  • Rub the scuffed area using a soft cloth dipped in a mixture of baking soda and water.
  • Rub the scuffed area and use a clean cloth to wipe away the residue.
  • Allow the shoes to dry and buff with a fresh clean cloth.

Believe it or not, you can restore the leathery shine by spraying with a little bit of regular glass cleaner and then buffing with a soft cloth.


To keep suede shoes or practically any shoe with a napped surface looking its best, make sure you pay close attention to the shoes on a regular basis. The surfaces should always be kept as dry as possible and cleaned often with a soft-bristled brush each time you wear them. This will keep dust and soil from setting and staining the shoes.

For scuffs on real leather shoes, make sure to use a commercial polish designed for leather and follow the directions. If you can’t find the right kind of polish for the color of shoes you have, don’t fret!

Oily & Wet Stains

For oily stains, use some cornstarch or baby powder and sprinkle the affected area lightly to absorb as much of the oil as possible. After an hour or two, check to see that there’s no oil left and lightly brush the area until the nap is restored. If there’s still a little oil left on the surface, repeat the process until it’s all gone.

If you have a wet stain on your shoes, blot a cloth or paper towel so as much moisture is removed and then air dry away from direct heat. Finish up by smoothing the nap with a light brushing.


Sheepskin boots will invariably get dirtier than almost any other pair of shoes you have in your closet. To keep odors or fungus under control, wipe down the inside of the boots after every use. Mix up a solution of water and disinfecting cleaner (Lysol or equivalent) and let the boots air dry at least 24-hours before putting them back on again.

Rope and Cork Wedges

With rope and cork wedges, clean the upper leather or fabric part as outlined above. Then it’s time to tackle the rope or cork part of your shoes.

In a medium-size bowl, mix up a solution of 4 cups of warm water along with a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent and 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Mix well.

Working on a small area at a time, take an old toothbrush or cloth, dip it in the solution, and clean the rope or cork surfaces. With rope, work in a single direction to make sure it doesn’t begin to fray. Once clean, wipe down the surfaces with plain water to remove any soapy residue and let the shoes air dry.

Please let us know if these ideas on cleaning your white shoes have been helpful to you. If you have any thoughts or suggestions about any other home cleaning subjects you might like us to cover, be sure to write to us. And, if you live in the Chicago metro area and are interested in learning more about our home cleaning services and how we can help you maintain a safe and healthy living environment, please give us a call. Our number is 708-599-7000. Or, you can contact us online for a free house or office cleaning consultation.