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How to Restore Whiteness to Canvas Shoes

by M.H. Dyer

Classy and stylish, white canvas shoes add flair to nearly any casual outfit. Unfortunately, the crisp, white canvas can turn a dingy shade of gray over time. Cleaning these durable shoes isn't difficult, but restoring the sparkling whiteness requires special handling and a touch of elbow grease. Washing white canvas shoes in the washing machine isn't a good idea, because often the glue breaks down, causing the soles to separate from the canvas.

Slap canvas shoes together to remove loose mud and dirt, or slap the shoes against a concrete driveway or sidewalk.

Remove the laces and hand-wash them in the sink with warm water and liquid dish soap. Rinse the laces and hang them over a towel rack to dry.

Treat stained areas with a pre-wash spray or laundry stick.

Fill a small bucket or other container with warm water, then add a few drops of gentle liquid dish soap. Use just enough soap to make the water slightly sudsy. Mix in a small amount of color-safe bleach if the shoes are badly soiled.

Hold the shoe by placing one hand inside. Dip a soft-bristled brush or old toothbrush in the sudsy water and scrub the shoe thoroughly -- including the top, bottoms and sides. Repeat on the other shoe.

Rinse the shoes with clear water.

Stuff the shoes loosely with white paper towels or brown paper bags to maintain their shape as they dry. Don't use colored paper or newsprint, because the ink and dyes may transfer onto the white canvas. Include a fabric softener sheet in each shoe if the shoes are smelly.

Let the shoes air dry in a warm place away from direct heat or bright sunlight, which may weaken the adhesives.

Items you will need
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Small bucket or container
  • Soft-bristled brush or old toothbrush
  • Color-safe bleach
  • White paper towels or brown paper bags
  • Fabric softener sheets, optional
  • Baking soda
  • Clear ammonia

Tip

  • Remove stubborn stains with a thin paste of baking soda and warm water. Dip a toothbrush or a gentle nylon or plastic scouring pad in the paste, then scrub the stained areas. Rinse the shoes and let them air dry.

Warning

  • Don't attempt to whiten canvas shoes with chlorine bleach, because the bleach may damage the canvas and dissolve the glue.

About the Author

M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.

Photo Credits

  • Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images