How to Clean White Shoes (tennis)

White tennis shoes look great when they’re new, but they quickly show signs of dirt and wear. Keep your shoes looking great with these easy cleaning steps. 

You Will Need:

  • Soft scrub brush
  • Soap (or leather cleaner for leather shoes)
  • Water
  • White towels
  • Protective spray
    • Scotchguard for canvas shoes
    • Leather protectant for leather shoes 

Steps to Clean the Shoes:

  1. Start by using a clean, soft cloth to brush off any dry dirt from the surface.
  2. Remove the laces and wash them separately in warm water with a mild soap or detergent.
  3. Look over your shoes to decide if they need some spot cleaning or a complete, all-over cleaning.
  4. Moisten the dirty areas with water.
  5. Apply a soap or cleaning product that is safe for your type of shoe material.
  6. Use a soft scrub brush to gently work the soap into the surface and remove any dirt or debris.
  7. Rinse with clean water.
  8. Repeat as necessary until the shoes are clean.
  9. Dry with a soft towel and allow the shoes to air dry completely.
  10. Once the shoes are dry, apply a protective spray or leather conditioner (for leather shoes) to protect the surface from future stains and dirt build-up. Water proofing spray is also recommended to keep your shoes looking great.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Some shoes can tolerate machine washing for quick cleaning. Use caution as cheaper shoes are glued together, and this washing method can cause the glue to seep and leave yellow markings around the edges.
  • There are also commercial shoe cleaning products available. When using these products, protect your work area with several layers of towels or newspaper (but be careful not to get newspaper print transferred onto the white surface of the shoes).
  • For leather shoes, it’s wise to apply a polish as well. This will freshen the look of the surface while protecting the leather.
  • Some have had luck cleaning white tennis shoes in the dishwasher! Try it at your own risk!


  1. When your white tennis shoes get dirty, use whitewall tire cleaner. Spray it on, let it sit for a couple of seconds, and wipe it off. No scrubbing necessary. Works great!

  2. When your white athletic shoes get dirty, you can clean them quickly without scrubbing with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Just follow the instructions for the eraser, moistening it and rinsing when it gets dirty. Then wipe off any residue on the shoes with a damp rag or paper towel.

  3. Spray on Greased Lightning. It begins to clean before you even put them into the washing machine, as soon as it is sprayed onto them. Excellent product.

  4. I would never believe it, but oven cleaner works like magic to remove tar, paint or just hard to remove road grime; just be careful it doesn’t come in contact with skin.

  5. When you’re in a hurry and don’t want to wear the shoes dirty and don’t have time to wash them, the Clorox Bleach Spray Cleaner works great. Spray it on and wipe it off, then you’re ready.

  6. After several wearings and especially after gardening, I despaired of getting my shoes clean so I removed the insole, loosened the laces, sprayed Spray n Wash over all, and put shoes and insoles into the washer. The first time, I just sloshed them around by hand, but eventually left them in for a short cycle and they came out clean and no worse for the treatment. It seemed to work even if the shoes were part fabric, part leather, or man made. I did not put them in the dryer, however. Let them air dry.

  7. Everyone may laugh when they read this, but I go to the dollar store and buy generic toilet bowl cleaner. It sounds funny, but you dab a little bit on a rag, wipe it down and everything dirty on it comes off. Oh, and by the way, even if the toilet cleaner is blue, it DOES NOT turn any stitching blue. If you have a “set in” tar mess on your shoes, the dollar store sells a spray-bottle of cleaner called AWESOME. This also works very well.

  8. Sid Da Kidd says:

    You take a toothbrush and some hot water and rub the toothbrush on some soap. Then you scrub your shoes until the dirt comes off.

  9. Get a toothbrush and some hot water and get a Fairy tablet. Rub the Fairy tablet on to the area that is dirty, then dip the toothbrush in hot water and scrub until the dirt is gone. Wicked way of getting rid of all types off your white fabric shoes.

  10. I use Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner. It works GREAT! I am sure that any bathroom cleaner would work well though.

  11. To clean white leather or canvas tennis or golf shoes, use a small brush and Barbasol shaving cream. Scrub until clean, then wipe with a cloth. It even makes them smell kind of good.

  12. Carmen rules the school says:

    If you want to clean some dirty white shoes, get an old tooth brush, hot water, and a tiny bit of bleach and you are good to go. Make sure you keep it out of reach of children and away from skin and do not inhale too much of the bleach fumes. The best place to do this is outside.

  13. Most of these answers will damage your shoes beyond repair. They will weaken the shoes so they no longer support your foot like they were designed. This can result in injury.

    Some suggestions will make the shoes look better briefly. But then the shoes no longer protect and support your feet. If looks are important at the risk of damaging the shoes or your feet, you don’t need an answer here. Clean shoes with anything and everything that makes them look good, then buy another pair.

    Never place shoes in a conventional washing machine. The thorough, prolonged soaking and unnatural movement break down the adhesives holding the shoes together.

    Shoes are designed to take the stress of walking, running, or basketball, for example. Shoes are not designed to be flipped, pulled, turned, twisted and dragged upside down and sideways violently underwater nor spun flat at high speeds.

    Oven cleaner, and drain cleaner, and toilet bowl cleaner, are caustic and weaken synthetics or dissolve fibers. The shoes are clean on the outside and disintegrate on the inside. Residue can burn your feet.

    Bleach burns and destroys fabric. Ever seen a nice white cotton cotton that looks clean but has holes like Swiss cheese? That’s what happens to the soft material inside your athletic shoes when using bleach. Looks nice on the outside. Worthless and weak for supporting your foot.

    Remove dry dirt, then mild soap and water in tiny amounts using a toothbrush and then thoroughly rinsing is best. Rinse by wetting the material and blot with a towel. Repeat several times. The single best thing you can do is wet, blot, and rinse thoroughly when cleaning. The dryer the shoes remain, the less soap and chemicals, the better.

    For stains, use 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide (from the drugstore), 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon hot water all mixed together. Scrub with a toothbrush. Rinsing as above is very important.

    White toothpaste can be used to mask stains in difficult to clean white shoes. Scrub with small amount of paste, no water, let dry, brush dried residue loose with a dry brush.

    Baby wipes are good on the soles only. The moisturizing residue on fabric or leather attracts dirt. You get a one time benefit, then you’ve made matters worse.


  14. To clean white shoes, just get a bucket and five spoons of bleach and fill the rest with water, all the way to the top. Put your white shoes in and leave them overnight in there. Then, rinse with water and put them in the dryer.

  15. If you have white leather shoes, just get a rag and spray window cleaner and it gets all clean! :)

  16. Asiansomesome says:

    100% pure Acetone + rag then baby wipes, then use dry rag to finish, then you will be happy. :) I tried it for all my whites shoes.

  17. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste to clean them. They will look new after you clean them.

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