How to Clean Your White Shoes

Lately, I’ve been noticing a ton of white shoes for spring. As much as I love them, I can’t help but think—eek! Didn’t mom say no to them when I was little, insisting they were going to get totally filthy, pretty much immediately? Regardless of being cautioned on the subject, the trend’s definitely here to stay.


I know myself, and I know that I run shoes—flats especially—into the ground. The dirt and grime that comes with living in New York City definitely doesn’t help. That being said, the crisp color has caught my eye in a big way, so I enlisted the help of Jason Markk, owner of a namesake label of sneakerhead-beloved cleaning products, for the lowdown on how to care for white shoes.

  • Before you wear your shoes for the first time, Jason says to apply a water or stain repellent. “It will help keep your kicks safe from spills or if you’re ever caught in the rain,” he advised.
  • Using a professional cleaner is great, but speed is often of the essence. If you don’t have one on hand, use warm water and blot. “Once you’ve got the stain out, it’s important to absorb as much of the water as possible to avoid water spots.”
  • Leather might be more luxe, but canvas can actually be trickier when it comes to dirt. “It’s one of the most difficult materials to clean because the cotton fibers absorb and tend to hold stains. Treating the stain quickly is key.” Using a stain cleaner, scrub all over, not just the affected area, so the shoe will dry evenly. After cleaning, soak up any excess liquid with a towel and air-dry.
  • You don’t have to automatically resort to liquid cleaner, especially when dealing with suede. “If it looks to be just top-layer dirt, you don’t want to wet it as it will cause the dirt to absorb deeper into the material.” Go over the stain quickly with a dry brush, picking a style with softer bristles.
  • And because nothing will ruin the look of crisp white kicks faster than dirty laces, pay attention to them too. Jason advised removing strings from shoes, soaking them in a mixture of cleaning solution and water and rubbing stubborn stains with your fingers. Rinse and repeat until clean.

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