How To Clean Canvas Shoes

Canvas shoes, in the form of both slip-ons and sneakers, have stood the test of time as a wardrobe staple. One of the reasons being is that these classics can be worn with virtually any outfit, from jeans and shorts to dresses and skirts. Recently, they have even become an acceptable form of footwear for political campaigns.

With both versatility and comfortability being the main selling points, it's hard to imagine a downside to owning at least a few pairs of canvas shoes. When you take into consideration the fact that they are fabric, however, you realize they can get dirty quicker than most of your other shoes. According to Bustle, canvas shoes can be an easy target for stains such as grass and mud.

The good news is that as effortlessly as the material gets soiled, it can be just as simple to get sparkling again. Ahead, you'll discover a step-by-step method to cleaning your canvas shoes from top to bottom.

Brush off any loose dirt

Before you get to the real nitty-gritty of cleaning your sneakers, do yourself the favor of removing the loose stuff first — meaning any dirt, sand, grass, and even leaves, sticks, or pebbles that have accumulated on and inside the shoes. This can be done easily by shaking them outside or over a garbage can. According to Byrdie, you can also smack the soles of your shoes together or onto the pavement to really shake things off.

A more precise method, per Better Homes & Gardens, is to use a soft-bristled, new toothbrush to scrub away any loose dirt. Skipping this action could result in creating more work for you in the long run or not seeing the best possible results after you go through the following process. So take the extra minute or two to get as much of the excess stuff off the sneakers as you can before moving on to the next step.

Remove and clean the laces

Next, remove the laces and take note of how they were laced in, especially if this is the first time you're removing them. Take a photo of them beforehand if necessary. Once they're removed, you have a few options to choose from when it comes to cleaning them.

Country Living suggested simply submerging them into a mixture of water and dishwashing liquid and then letting them lay out to dry on a paper towel. If they are white and particularly dirty, Family Handyman recommended the option of washing them in a bleach solution diluted with water and then rinsing them clean. Be sure to protect your skin by wearing disposable gloves while handling bleach, even when it's diluted.

Another route is to let the washing machine do the dirty work for you. Put them in a zippered mesh bag first to keep them from tangling or getting lost and then run them through a regular cycle. If you choose to also wash your sneakers in the machine, you can wait to toss the laces in there with them.

Pre-treat tough stains

In addition to taking the time to knock off the excess dirt, pre-treating stains is another step you'll want to take to make sure your sneakers come out as clean as possible in the end. Per Better Homes & Gardens, all you'll need to do is cover any stains with a bit of laundry detergent and let it absorb for a minimum of fifteen minutes. You can also use your hands or, better yet, a soft-bristled brush to really work the detergent in, according to The Spruce.

Who What Wear suggested using the same gentle spot treatment you would use on your clothing for everyday stains since canvas is also a fabric. For really tough stains, such as grass, a stronger spot treatment product should do the trick. Many treatments on the market include a brush with its packaging, making it easier for you to scrub the spot. Feel free to use either method on the laces if they're riddled with stains as well.

Toss in the washing machine

This method of washing your sneakers is most likely the easiest; however, it's not suitable for all types, so it's important to know if it's worth the risk before choosing this route. Most canvas shoes will hold up fine in the washing machine, especially if you're doing it only once in a while. However, if the shoes have any embellishments or are trimmed with material such as leather, suede, or even rope — like in an espadrille sole — then you'll want to skip to the next section.

If you've decided that your sneakers will survive a laundry cycle, then toss them in alongside some towels to cushion them as the machine spins. Bob Vila recommended removing any inserts you may have added and then sticking the shoes inside a zippered mesh lingerie bag. It's helpful to have at least two on hand so that your laces can go into a separate one and be washed in the same cycle.

According to The Spruce, you can opt to wash your sneakers with regular detergent and on a low spin cycle. Adding bleach is only possible if everything in the load, including the sneakers, laces, and towels, are white. Otherwise, feel free to use an oxygen-based bleach for added cleaning power.

Or hand wash

A safer, albeit more hands-on, cleaning method for your canvas shoes is to wash them yourself. A simple way to do this, per Good Housekeeping, is to mix a mild dishwashing detergent with warm water. Using either a soft cloth or brush, dip it in the solution and then suds up your shoes and rub it in to get them clean.

You can also opt to use a mild laundry detergent or even baby shampoo in place of dishwashing liquid. If you want to do a little extra scrubbing for dirtier shoes, try mixing together one part baking soda and one part white vinegar with one part water to create a paste per The Kitchn. A clean toothbrush can then be used to work in the paste all over the shoes until they're fully covered. Lastly, if your shoes are white, Good Housekeeping gave the green light to use a brush dipped in hydrogen peroxide to clean them.

Scrub the soles

Once you're done either hand washing them, or the washing machine cycle has finished, your shoes should be in a much cleaner condition. Now it's time to put on the finishing touches, including getting the soles of your shoes sparkling. The method that seems to be the most universally successful is to use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. According to Reader's Digest, run the eraser under water and use a circular motion to buff the soles. 

Magic Erasers are extremely effective cleaners due to the fact that they're made of melamine foam which, as Apartment Therapy explained, is a strong yet gentle abrasive that actually mimics thin sandpaper. If you don't currently have any erasers on hand, you can run a damp cloth over the soles to try and remove any lingering stains. Next time you're at the store, consider picking up a pack of these melamine sponges so you can touch up the soles from time to time.

Wipe down and rinse off

Once you're satisfied with how your canvas shoes look, it's time to give them a final wipe down. This is especially important if you've followed the handwashing method as the washing machine has most likely done a good job of rinsing away any soap and suds, but there most likely is some lingering detergent or baking soda on the shoes if you cleaned them by hand.

Better Homes & Gardens suggested wiping down the shoes with a new, clean cloth dipped in some water. Be sure to run it across the entire surface, including under the tongue. According to How To Clean Stuff, you can also go through the process of rinsing your shoes with a sponge. Whichever method you chose, do your best to prevent saturating them during this step. The Kitchn recommended waiting until after they're completely dry to scratch away any leftover baking soda paste bits or hitting the shoes together to oust any excess.

Stuff and let air dry

Finally, it's time to dry out your shoes, so they're ready to wear again as soon as possible. The Spruce suggested wiping them down with a towel that's quick to absorb moisture. From there, you may want to consider stuffing your shoes with some paper. This not only speeds up the drying process but it also helps to keep the shape of the shoe, per Byrdie. You'll want to avoid using newspaper or anything with ink on it that can potentially transfer onto your shoes, even if only on the inside. Instead, reach for paper towels, white printer paper, or even brown paper bags to do the trick.

When setting shoes down to air dry, place them anywhere you can to avoid direct heat or sunlight. One exception to sunlight is white canvas shoes, as it's been known to brighten them a bit, according to Who What Wear. Once your favorite sneakers are fully dry, you'll be able to put them on and wear them out with confidence again.