How to clean white shoes: a step by step guide


How to clean white shoes: a step by step guide

There’s something about a sparkling white shoe that perfectly strikes the fancy in just about any style. From athletic wear to streetwear, and even high fashion or formal attire, the white sneaker has become a true staple of fashion.

This trend has been going on for decades, and still dominates today. Besides all the beauty, versatility, and popularity associated with the colorless kicks we love today, there is one unfortunate downside too: dirtiness shows on them clearer than on any other shoe.

There’s nothing magical about white shoes that makes them get dirtier more quickly than other shoes. It’s simply that dirt and grime show up on them much easier. The gorgeous white color we love also happens to serve as a perfect background to make a bit of dirt or scuff really pop.

Unless you’re interested in the dirty look, which admittedly is a trend when it comes to white skateboarding shoes in some circles, you’re probably left looking desperately for effective ways to keep your lovely white shoes clean.

Today, Kizik is here to help. We’re bringing you our best tips, tricks, and techniques for cleaning white shoes in a simple, step-by-step guide. We’re going to cover different materials, hand washing, machine washing, and more.

Let’s get started!

Before you clean: know your shoe

The process for cleaning white shoes isn’t going to be the same across all white shoes in the world. After all, white shoes can come in all kinds of shapes and forms, from white leather shoes or white canvas shoes like our Vegas and the Pragues to synthetic mesh styles like the Limas and the Athens, or even suede shoes and high-heeled stilettos.

The most important aspect to pay attention to is your shoe’s material. If your shoe is made of fabric such as canvas sneakers or mesh shoes you can generally choose between machine washing or hand washing. More delicate materials, however, such as premium leather and suede, don’t hold up to washing machines and should be hand washed.

You should also look at how your shoe is constructed. Fashion-focused shoes tend to be more delicate, featuring embellishment pieces that could easily be detached or broken in a washing machine or even with aggressive hand-washing.

Shoes that are held together by glue, as with most styles found today, have special considerations also. For example, they should never be dried in hot clothes dryers, as this might melt the glue and weaken the shoe’s structural integrity.

Pick your process for cleaning shoes: hand wash or machine wash

Now that we know our shoes, we can choose whether we’re going to hand wash or machine wash them.

Hand washing is the safest process and is sometimes preferred for getting out stubborn stains or deep cleaning. However, it’s going to be time and effort intensive and might require more supplies that you don’t already have as well.

Machine washing is certainly a more convenient method in many ways, but you should be careful to ensure it’s appropriate for your pair of shoes and your machine. Machine washing the wrong shoes or with the wrong settings could damage the shoes or unbalance and damage your machine.

Remember that if your shoes are made with premium leather or suede, you should not machine wash them. The excess water can damage leather materials, especially when using strong detergents mixed with hot water.

Delicate shoes are best washed by hand to ensure pieces don’t break or get ripped off.

How to hand wash white shoes: tips and hacks

You’re going to need to prepare a few supplies to wash your white shoes by hand. Thankfully, these common supplies are easy to find. You might even already have them!

  • Hard-Bristle Brush (old toothbrush, shoe brush, or sponge)
  • Paper towels/a damp cloth
  • A cup of warm water
  • Soap (around one tablespoon of mild laundry detergent or dish soap)

If you’re cleaning canvas or fabric shoes, you can use an alternative cleaning solution (instead of water and detergent) consisting of:

  • Three tablespoons of baking soda
  • One tablespoon of white vinegar

Step 1: Preparing your shoes

Before we actually start cleaning, you’re going to want to remove those white shoelaces. This makes it much easier to access all parts of the shoe.

Cleaning the laces can be done separately, either in a mesh laundry bag with a normal load of clothes in a washing machine, or in a bowl of water and detergent (letting them soak for about five minutes). You can use a bleach solution instead if you prefer, to get that crisp white color back. Just remember to follow proper safety procedures for using bleach.

The first step of the actual cleaning process is to get your shoes ready for a real deep clean. Start by wiping away dirt and other debris with a microfiber towel or a dry brush. The last thing we want is clumps of mud and dirt contaminating our cleaning solution and brush and simply getting spread around everywhere.

If your shoes are excessively muddy, you’ll want to hose them down outside before even beginning this process.

Deep or very noticeable stains can be pretreated by lightly rubbing detergent and letting it sit for 15-30 minutes.

Step 2: Primary wash

Now we get to the main portion of the process. Using whichever brush you chose when gathering supplies, dip it into the cleaning solution. Another option is to grab our shoe cleaning kit, which has everything you need. 

If you’re using a sponge, you don’t need to get it soaked in soapy water — just a bit will do. If your shoes end up dripping wet, they’ll just take longer to clean and dry.

Scrub your shoe gently. Too much force can lock in dirt or damage the material. Try to follow the grain of the material, if there is one. Otherwise, scrubbing in a circular motion is an effective method.

Try to clean across your shoe evenly so you don’t end up with irregular spots of discoloration, also known as spotting. Parts of your shoe looking pearly white while others look somewhat brown is generally undesirable but avoidable with focus and attention to detail.

If you decided to use the baking soda and vinegar mixture we mentioned earlier, your process will be a little different. Apply the paste all over the shoe evenly using the brush, then let it sit until it hardens, at which point you brush it away with a dry towel or brush.

Step 3: Drying

Finally, we can dry our shoes and get them back into action! If there is any soapy residue left at this stage, be sure to wipe it away with a towel or paper towel. Then, you can simply let your shoes air dry.

It is recommended to put some paper towels inside your shoe to help it keep its shape and dry quicker. Just remember to remove the paper towels and possibly replace them after some time, otherwise, they’ll just hold moisture inside the shoe.

Don’t dry your shoes directly in sunlight or by a heat source, as this can wear them down.

How to machine wash white shoes

While machine washing is much more convenient than hand washing in many ways, it also has its downsides. Machine washing simply isn’t suited to certain kinds of shoes, including those that contain leather, suede, or delicate pieces.

It’s also going to require a longer drying time, which means hand washing is better suited to those who want to wear their shoes again as soon as possible.

Step 1: Get your shoes ready for the wash

Once again, removing the laces is the first thing we should do. You can toss your laces into a mesh laundry bag and include them in the load, or clean them as described in the hand washing section in a bowl of equal parts water and soap.

Be sure to rinse your shoes of excess mud before putting them in the washer, as well. Lots of dirt and mud could clog up your washer, so we definitely want to be rid of those already.

Have another load of jeans, towels, or durable clothes ready to go along with your shoes. Obviously, white pieces should be washed together. Washing shoes by themselves, or a load filled with nothing but shoes, is likely to unbalance your washer during the spin cycles.

Lastly, to ensure the most thorough clean possible, lift the tongue of your shoe before putting them in.

Step 2: Run the wash

Use a mild detergent, warm or cold water, and gentle settings with a low spin speed. The gentler the cycle, the less likely your shoes will be damaged, even if they are a durable pair to begin with. Fast spin cycles could also unbalance your machine.

You can add bleach for extra whiteness, but you should check the cleaning instructions for your shoes to make sure bleach won’t damage the material used.

Step 3: Air dry

A crucial thing to remember when machine washing your white shoes is that they should not also be machine dried. Clothes dryers typically use hot air, which could melt the glue in your shoes and weaken the structural integrity.

The best practice for drying your white shoes is to let them air dry, out of direct sunlight. Avoid using hair dryers or other heat sources to dry them, as this could also melt glue or damage the material.

Final Remarks

We love our bright white shoes as much as anyone, and totally know the feeling of wanting them to be clean and crispy white. We hope this guide helps with the process, whether you’re in a stylish pair of Kiziks or another kind of shoe!

How The White Trainer Took Over The World | Esquire
How to Clean White Shoes: 4 Totally Tested Methods | HowStuffWorks
How to Clean White Shoes: Canvas, Leather, Suede, and More | The Spruce

Written By: Chris Fry

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