White shoes are a must-have in everyone’s wardrobe. They’re classic, reliable, and can pretty much work with any outfit you’re going to wear!
But the bane of their existence is getting dirty, and it’s easy to understand why. Any scratch, mark, or stain is going to be clear for all to see.
We’ve all been in that position; the moment when we wonder, “How should I maintain them?” or “How should I clean my white shoes?”
Some people like to use vinegar when cleaning their shoes, and while yes, it can be used in a mixture with other ingredients to get good results, vinegar is acidic and may end up damaging your shoes, especially leather ones.
That being said, we’ve got you covered as we’re going to help you out and share some home remedies that you can do to make sure they’re as pearly white as they can be, and without the use of vinegar.
How to Clean White Shoes Without Vinegar
Cleaning your canvas white shoes or sneakers at home on a regular basis is a great way to save some money and keep your footwear in good condition.
Here are three effective ways to clean your white shoes without vinegar:
1 – The Bleach Method
This is an easy one, but you need to take certain steps to make sure the bleach actually cleans the shoes and does not stain them.
Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Mix in one part bleach with four to five parts water. This step is important as the bleach needs to be diluted. If it’s not, it will stain the white canvas shoes and give them a yellow hue.
- Unlace the shoes, put the laces in a small bowl with some of the diluted bleach, and let them soak.
- After that, you’re going to dip an old toothbrush and start scrubbing your shoe gently until all the stains come off.
- Finally, wipe it all with a wet cloth, remove the laces from the bowl, and leave everything to dry.
2 – The Baking Soda Paste Method
If you’re still not sure about using bleach on your shoes to clean them, don’t worry, we have a couple of alternatives for you to check out.
This one is a simple chemical mixture of three ingredients that will create a cleaning paste that only needs to be applied.
- In a bowl, mix a tablespoon of baking soda and water, respectively, along with half a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide until a white paste starts to form.
- Unlace the shoes and wipe them with a dry piece of cloth to remove any sand or dirt.
- With a toothbrush, gently rub the paste on your shoes until it completely coats them. Remember to scrub every nook and cranny well.
- Put the laces in another small bowl with the same paste and mix them well.
- At first, you’ll think that it’s not cleaning the shoes as you’re coating the paste, but you’ll need to leave the coated shoes for about three hours for it to have an effect.
- You’ll find that after the three hours have passed, the paste will be dry and cracked. All you need to do now is brush off any excess paste, and you’ll find the shoes clean and pearly white.
- Do the same with the laces and you’re good to go!
3 – The Toothpaste Method
Toothpaste is also a good way to clean your white shoes, if it’s good enough for your teeth, it’s good enough for your shoes, right?
- This one is simple; get a whitening non-gel toothpaste and put some on a toothbrush.
- Unlace the shoes and expose the shoe’s tongue.
- In a circular motion, coat the shoes with toothpaste, and apply extra pressure on stains and dirty areas. Brush the laces too with the toothpaste.
- Leave the coating on the shoes for about 15 minutes so it can get into the fabric of the footwear.
- While using a damp towel, piece of cloth, or sponge, start wiping off the coating.
- If you still find the stains need work, repeat the process as needed.
What About Leather Shoes?
Leather shoes are more fragile than canvas shoes when it comes to cleaning liquids.
That said, they need a milder cleaning mixture to keep them looking shiny without damaging or cracking their surface.
The Liquid Dish Soap Method
Doing the same thing we did for the canvas shoes, unlace the shoes and wipe/brush any dry mud, dirt, or sand off of the shoes, then follow the below steps:
- Mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water.
- With a soft toothbrush, scrub out the stains. You can also use a microfiber cloth here too if your toothbrush has harsh bristles.
- After leaving the mixture for about 10 minutes, wipe it off using a clean damp microfiber cloth.
- Fill the leather shoes with paper towels to maintain the shape of the footwear and absorb any moisture.
- Clean the laces in a separate bowl.
- Leave both the shoes and the laces to dry completely before use.
Can’t I Just Throw Them in The Washing Machine?
Throwing your shoes in the washing machine might be tempting, but before you do that, there are some things that you need to consider. The first of which is, what type of shoes are they?
Leather shoes should never be washed inside washing machines. If thrown in, expect the leather, be it fake or genuine, to crack and slightly fade as well, so that’s a big no-no.
Another material that should never see the inside of a washing machine is suede. It will also get easily damaged so avoid doing that at all costs.
Sneakers and canvas shoes can usually be washed in the machine, but there are a few steps that should be taken in the cleaning process:
- If the shoes have any type of mud or sand, they need to be wiped off while they’re still dry. This will prevent them from getting wet and making a mess inside your machine.
- Unlace the footwear and put them in a separate mesh bag before putting them into the washer.
- The detergent itself has to be a mild one so as to not damage the shoes.
- The spin-cycle should be set on low, to make sure it doesn’t dent the shoes while it’s tumbling inside.
- Also, make sure to add a few other pieces of laundry, preferably without color, to dampen the movement when washing.
- After you’ve finished washing them, let the shoes dry in the shade, then relace.
You don’t have to wait to start protecting your white shoes; you can keep them clean and protect them early on. Simply follow the tips below.
Protect Your Shoes Early On
Some people like to protect their white shoes as soon as they buy them, and most of them do so by going with the hydrophobic protection kit route. It’s a fairly new technology that’s usually sold as a spray and can be used on a wide variety of surfaces.
The formula basically coats the shoes and keeps the water, dust, grime, mud, dirt, and so on from seeping into the material or fabric of the shoes itself and falling off, keeping them both clean and stain-free.
Several brands are now available in the market; all of them recommend that the shoes are clean and dry before adding on the hydrophobic nano-coating.
This coating is going to need to be reapplied every few weeks and the shoes will still need to be cleaned every once in a while.
Be Mindful of Where You’re Walking
Do your best to stay mindful of what you’re going to do throughout your day as you’re wearing your white shoes.
For example, if you’re going to a place that has a lot of dirt and debris, bring extra footwear or avoid wearing your white shoes altogether.
Catch Stains As Early As Possible
If you’re out and about and you find that your shoes have gotten dirty, wipe them with a piece of cloth early on so that the stain wouldn’t be hard to remove later on.
Ensure Proper Storage
Make sure not to throw away the shoebox your shoes came in as it’s a great place to store them when they’re clean.
You can even put that box inside your closet to make sure no dust reaches them.
Put Your Shoes in Rotation
Don’t rely solely on a single pair of shoes. You definitely have other shoes in your wardrobe, so make them a part of a constant rotation. This will help keep all of your shoes in good condition in the long run.
White shoes are an essential addition to any person’s wardrobe. However, some effort needs to be applied to maintain their cleanliness.
Said effort can be applied early on, when you first buy your shoes, and throughout their lifespan in your closet with regular cleaning sessions to maintain their upkeep.
If you’re not fond of using vinegar to clean your white footwear for whatever reason, one of the three methods detailed above will surely suffice as an alternative.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Film/Video/Media Studies, as well as an associates degree in Communications. I began producing videos and musical recordings nearly 15 years ago. I am a guitarist and bassist in Southwest MI and have been in a few different bands since 2009, and in 2012 I began building custom guitars and basses in my home workshop as well. When I’m home, I love spending time with my three pets (a dog, cat, and snake) and gardening in my backyard.