How To Clean White Leather Shoes: The Essential Guide in 10 Simple Steps
A pair of white leather sneakers or formal shoes is a style must-have, they’re easy to mix and match with, can bring the perfect level of comfort to a sophisticated smart casual get-up, and can elevate your typical everyday outfit. The downside? They’re prone to dirt and stains and I want to cover how to clean white leather shoes in this blog to keep them in tip top shape.
To have a clean pair of white leather shoes, follow these steps:
- Prepare a soaking mixture for the laces.
- Soak the laces.
- Create a cleaning mixture for the shoes.
- Brush shoes with the cleaning mixture.
- Scrub away the stains.
- Wipe shoes down with damp cloth.
- Clean white midsoles with nail polish remover.
- Brush laces.
- Let shoes and laces air dry.
- Apply shoe protector spray
Many people shy away from wearing white shoes thinking that they’re hard to clean. Thankfully, with a few easy steps, you can clean white leather shoes anytime you have to, and you’ll end up with a pair that looks brand new. To get you started, let’s discuss these steps in further detail.
- 1 1. Prepare a Soaking Mixture for the Laces
- 2 2. Soak the Laces
- 3 3. Create a Cleaning Mixture for the Shoes
- 4 4. Brush Shoes With the Cleaning Mixture
- 5 5. Scrub Away the Stains
- 6 6. Wipe Shoes Down With A Damp Cloth
- 7 7. Clean White Midsoles With Nail Polish Remover
- 8 8. Brush Laces
- 9 9. Let Shoes and Laces Air Dry
- 10 10. Apply Shoe Protector Spray
- 11 Final Thoughts
1. Prepare a Soaking Mixture for the Laces
The laces can get pretty dirty, especially because they’re made of fibers that easily hold dirt. Fortunately, cleaning the laces doesn’t take up a lot of time, and the things that you need to clean them with are probably already in your kitchen too.
To prepare the soaking mixture, you need to:
- Get a small bowl.
- Pour about half a cup of warm water.
- Add about 30 ml (1 oz) of detergent liquid or detergent powder.
- Stir the mixture until the powder (if you’re using that) has dissolved or until everything is completely mixed together.
If you’re using a detergent liquid, be sure to check if it contains bleach or chlorine. If it does, look for another product or brand that doesn’t. Bleach and chlorine can cause the fibers in the laces to deteriorate or have a tangled texture instead of a smooth one. They can also make the laces become brittle and look older than they are–and nobody wants that.
We want our newly cleaned kicks to look brand new.
2. Soak the Laces
Now that the soaking mixture is ready, remove the laces from the shoes and soak them in the bowl. Be sure to do this while the water is still warm, as this can help make the dirt come off faster.
You can soak the laces as long as you like, especially if you notice any tough stains on them. If you want, you can even soak your laces overnight before brushing it clean, to make sure that you don’t have to put too much pressure as you brush.
You’ll know when you can remove the laces from the bowl when you can see that much (if not all) of the first has come off. You can’t expect it to be perfectly clean just yet, though. But as long as you have given it a good soak, a good brush will remove all the remaining dirt very easily.
3. Create a Cleaning Mixture for the Shoes
It’s not recommended to wash shoes too often, as doing so can make them look dull even if you don’t use bleach to clean them. Detergent liquids and powders themselves are very potent cleaning agents that can break down the material of the shoes when used too often.
Ideally, you can give your shoes a wipe-down every two weeks if you want, but just like with leather crocs – a full-blown shoe cleaning should only be when the shoes get noticeably dirty to help preserve their durability and appearance.
So assuming that this time your shoes really need a good clean, here’s what you will need for your cleaning mixture:
- Mixing bowl
- 1 cup water
- 5 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons detergent or dishwashing liquid (or 1 scoop laundry powder)
- 2 tablespoons hydrogen peroxide
The detergent liquid is there to help stains, dirt, and grime come off the material of your shoes, while baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can restore your kicks back to their original pearly whiteness.
If your shoes have seen better days and are particularly grimy, feel free to add detergent or baking soda. However, hydrogen peroxide can be pretty harsh, so make sure that you add more than recommended to avoid damaging your leather shoes.
4. Brush Shoes With the Cleaning Mixture
On to the main part–let’s start cleaning those shoes! Did you know that a clean pair of kicks–especially white ones–is often seen as a good sign that a person takes care of themselves and has their life together? Well, whether that’s accurate or not, nobody wants to be seen wearing filthy shoes.
Aside from the cleaning mixture, you will also need either a scrubbing brush or an old toothbrush, whatever you have at home. If you want to cover a larger area at once, it’s better to use a scrubbing brush. But if you want to really work on cleaning your shoes little by little, a toothbrush is better.
Pro tip: Try to use a scrubbing brush that’s not too stiff, as this can damage the leather and sometimes even create unwanted streaks. If you’re not sure whether your scrubbing brush is soft enough, you can use a toothbrush instead. Toothbrushes are typically much softer, which makes them a safe choice.
To clean your shoes, do the following:
- Dip your scrubbing brush or toothbrush in the cleaning mixture.
- Gently brush all surfaces of your shoes in small, circular motions.
5. Scrub Away the Stains
If, after brushing your shoes with the cleaning mixture, there are still stains left behind, you can now proceed to scrub those away using the same cleaning mixture that you previously used and an old toothbrush.
But if the stains are proving to be extra stubborn, you can also use another ingredient: toothpaste. You’ll be amazed at what a pea-sized amount can do.
To clean away the stains:
- Dip an old toothbrush in the cleaning mixture.
- Rub the stains vigorously while maintaining slight pressure.
- If the stains are still visible, apply a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the brush.
- Scrub the stained areas vigorously until the stains are completely removed.
Again, no matter how stubborn you think those stains are, refrain from using bleach, chlorine, or more hydrogen peroxide than necessary. These abrasive chemicals can damage leather.
6. Wipe Shoes Down With A Damp Cloth
All that brushing and scrubbing can create a nice, thick lather on your leather shoes–don’t wash it off with water! Soaking your shoes in water can damage your shoes. Plus, it will take a while for them to dry.
To remove the soapy lather from your leather kicks, do the following:
- Get a soft hand towel or cloth.
- Pour water on the towel until it is sufficiently damp.
- Using the damp cloth, wipe the soapy lather off the surface of the shoes.
- Run the soapy cloth under water and wring to remove the soap residue.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the soapy lather is thoroughly wiped off.
7. Clean White Midsoles With Nail Polish Remover
If you have leather shoes with white midsoles, this next step is for you. Now that most of the shoes are cleaned, you can now proceed to cleaning the midsoles. Many people clean the surface of their shoes and leave these behind–that’s a huge no-no. This works well for white converse shoes as well and I have an article on cleaning them here.
When you have cleaned shoes, uncleaned midsoles will look even dirtier in contrast. So if you want that fresh, brand-new appearance, you need this nifty trick to achieve white midsoles.
What you need:
- Cotton balls
- Nail polish remover (acetone)
To clean white midsoles, do the following:
- Wear a pair of gloves if you have manicured nails to avoid erasing your nail polish.
- Wet a cotton ball with nail polish remover or acetone.
- Wipe dirty midsoles down with the wet cotton balls.
- Repeat step 3 until the midsoles are looking white and clean.
8. Brush Laces
Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned your shoes, it’s time to get to work on those laces. Ideally, most of the dirt and grime that have clung to your laces have come off or have been softened by the soak. And now the only thing left to do is give them a good, slight brush to get them perfectly clean.
To do this, you need to:
- Get an old toothbrush.
- Soak the toothbrush in the detergent solution.
- Thoroughly brush the laces until all the dirt is completely removed.
9. Let Shoes and Laces Air Dry
You now have cleaned shoes and laces, but they’re still damp. All you need to do is leave them out to air dry. You can hang your laces to dry them out faster. As much as you want them to dry quickly, though, refrain from using a hair dryer in this step, as the heat may damage your shoes.
You can opt instead to wipe down your shoes with a dry cloth to make them dry faster. Also, make sure to leave your damp shoes somewhere that doesn’t get lots of dust, as this can easily stick to your shoes’ damp surface.
10. Apply Shoe Protector Spray
Once your shoes and laces are completely dry, you can now put the laces back on–and voila! You have a brand-new-looking pair white leather shoes! But you can’t stop here yet.
To make your shoes resistant to dirt, moisture, and stains, you can apply a shoe protector spray, such as this Crep Protect Spray (available on Amazon.com). This is also important for suede shoes and uggboots and slippers as well. All you need to do is spray it all over your shoes, wait 10 minutes for it to dry, and you’re good to go. What’s great about this Crep spray is that you can also use it on other materials, such as suede, canvas, nubuck, and others.
I hope I have answered your question on how to clean white leather shoes the right way. Keeping white shoes white, is a harder task than most people anticipate! Thankfully with some detergent, a good brush, patience and some elbow grease, you can keep them looking as good as new.
Once your shoes are cleaned and your protective spray has dried, you can proudly wear your smart-looking pair of white leather shoes. No need to buy a new pair. This one will look as new as any brand-new pair from the store.
Reno addict, keen gardener, and baker. I started blogging in 2012 and have been hooked ever since!