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How to clean canvas shoes

How to clean canvas shoes

We’ve all been there, that moment when you look down at your bright white kicks to realise they’re not quite so bright and crisp anymore. There’s no need to rush out and buy a new pair – it’s super simple to clean your canvas sneakers.

Think of your canvas trainers like you would any other cotton garment and clean accordingly. You wouldn’t let a stain linger on your trousers indefinitely, you’d dab it as soon as possible – do the same with your sneakers. From washing machines to using an old toothbrush, we’ve got all the tricks you need to keep your shoes sparkling. (Side note: We are talking only about canvas shoes here – do not put your suede trainers in the wash, it will not end well.)

Prevention is better than cure

You don’t have to box up your summer shoes when autumn arrives, but it is a good idea to pay closer attention to them before you leave the house. Spraying your shoes with a fabric protector (make sure to let it dry completely) before first wearing them means it’s harder for the dirt and little marks to stick. You can also use beeswax to give a layer of protection. Rub the shoes all over with beeswax, and then blast with a hairdryer to let it set before you wear them. Voila, protected shoes.

Quick tricks

Let any mud or dirt dry before you try to tackle it, and then brush off the excess. Depending on how tough the stain is, you can either use a face wipe to give it a quick clean or try the toothpaste technique. Rub the (non-gel white) toothpaste into the stain with a toothbrush, leave for ten minutes, then clean with a damp cloth. It’s great for stubborn stains.

Handle with care

Hand washing is one of the best, and gentlest, ways to clean your shoes. Fill a bucket or sink with warm water and 1-2tbsp of non-bio washing detergent, and create a lather. Hold each shoe above the water, and scrub with a soft-bristled brush (a washing-up sponge or toothbrush will also work), briefly dip in the water to rinse, then repeat the process until they’re clean. Rinse the shoes – avoid submerging for too long – and use an old towel to dry and squeeze all the moisture out. Stuff with tissue paper to hold the shape, and leave your shoes air-dry. Clean the laces separately, and re-lace when dry.

A bigger clean

Don’t be afraid of the washing machine. It’s perfectly acceptable to put your canvas shoes in the wash, but do keep a few things in mind. Remove the laces first – it’s best to wash them separately. Try to remove as much of the mud and dirt as possible by brushing it off first. Then put them in the machine, ideally with an old towel so they don’t bash around too much. Wash on a cool setting with a non-bio detergent. Then leave to dry naturally, outside if possible. Do not put your shoes into the tumble dryer, for one it’s bad for the planet, but mainly it’s bad for your shoes: it will melt the glue, which means they’ll lose their shape and won’t last as long.


Words: Nadia Balame-Price
Photography: Lola & Pani
Styling: Brooke Philips