Cleaning White Leather Shoes

How to Clean White Leather Shoes

The white shoe is a great summer staple, after all, summer is all about the white, nude and lighter-colored outfits that work to keep you feeling cool on hot days and nights. Especially when traveling, the white shoe is a great option to include in a limited packing situation.

So, what’s the drawback?

Well, white shoes may seem like a great idea, until they become soiled and look more like a murky brown version of what you had initially purchased! But the white leather shoe is actually much easier to keep clean than you would expect, it’s just about maintenance.

Like with any pair of shoes, the easiest way to keep your footwear clean and in better shape for longer is to wipe them down after every wear. You only need a quick minute or two and a damp cloth or brush to get rid of any surface dirt or dust from your daily wear. This makes cleaning much easier on the long run as it help to avoid layered dirt that will be much more challenging to remove. A deeper cleaning will then only be necessary if your shoes are heavily soiled, and is also a good idea before storing them away for a longer period of time.

So what entails a quick daily post-wear clean?

  1. Use a soft brush to dust off any dust or dirt that is stuck to your shoe (you can use an old toothbrush), then
  2. dampen a cloth or rag and wipe your shoes clean (make sure not to over-soak the cloth or it will wear-out the leather, it just needs to be slightly damp).
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes Brush Dirt Off
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes Wipe Cloth

Amazingly, you can give your white leather shoes a great cleaning using a couple of cheap household products. There is no need to spend on expensive leather cleaning products, as you can select cleaning your shoes using:

  1. Non-gel toothpaste
  2. Vinegar and baking soda

Other items you can use are:

  1. Rag, cloth or sponge
  2. Small soft brush or toothbrush
  3. Warm water

For either of the deeper cleaning methods (toothpaste or vinegar and baking soda), you can begin with the same steps as the daily post-wear clean. Then, depending on the method selected, follow the corresponding steps (I also use the same methods in the case I want to focus on a scuff or specific area that has been stained, or on the rubber sole of sneakers or running shoes).

For the toothpaste method:

  1. For scuffs and stains, rub a non-gel version or whitening toothpaste using a soft cloth or small sponge over the problematic areas of your shoe, and gently rub the product in (you can also use your fingers). Don’t use gel toothpaste, especially the colored version, as the dye can stain the leather! If you are addressing a specific area on your shoe, you can get away with keeping your laces in, otherwise it is recommended to remove them until you're done with the cleaning.
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes Toothpaste
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes Toothpaste
  2. Apply a smaller amount on the rest of your shoe to give it a light cleaning.
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes Apply Toothpaste
  3. Using a small and soft brush (can be an old toothbrush to keep within theme), lightly go over the most problematic areas. Work your way from the outside of the dirt location to inside in order to eventually get the stain out - working from the inside-out will just spread out the dirt.
  4. Leave the toothpaste on for about 10 min, and then use a cloth or towel to wipe away the toothpaste.
    How to Clean White Leather Shoes Wipe Toothpaste
  5. Use a slightly dampened clean cloth or rag to wipe away all the traces of the toothpaste, and then a dry cloth to wipe over your entire shoe, and keep them out to dry (don't forget to keep them stuffed with paper or a shoetree to maintain shape).
    How to Clean White Leather Shoes Wipe Toothpaste Damp Cloth
    How to Clean White Leather Shoes Using Toothpaste
  6. If your shoes were very heavily soiled, you might want to repeat the process for a second round.

For the vinegar and baking soda method:

  1. Create your cleaning paste by combining 1 spoon of warm water, 1 spoon of vinegar and 1 or 2 spoons of baking soda.
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes Vinegar Baking Soda Paste
  2. Use a small soft brush or toothbrush (I like using a children's toothbrush especially when focusing on just 1 area) to apply the paste to your shoes and gently work it into the leather using soft circular motions.
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes with Vinegar Baking Soda
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes
  3. Clean out the toothbrush well so you can use it again in future cleanings.
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes with Toothbrush
  4. Let the paste dry on your shoes for 3 to 4 hours.
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes Baking Soda Paste Dry
  5. Remove the dirt by hitting your shoe soles together.
  6. Brush off any excess and dry paste using a clean dry brush, then use a clean toothbrush to gently remove any leftover product.
    How to Clean White Leather Shoes
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes Brush Off Baking Soda Paste
    Cleaning White Leather Shoes Baking Soda Paste Dry

In the case your shoes have laces, don’t keep those out of the cleaning process! You don’t want to wear your clean white shoes with dirty laces. You can also easily clean your laces in two ways,

  1. Soak them in a bowl of warm water with a small amount of detergent,
    Cleaning Shoe Laces Detergent
    Cleaning Shoe Laces Soak Warm Water Detergent
  2. Throw them in the washing machine for a quick wash.

So there you have it, a few inexpensive and readily available household items is all you need to keep your white shoes looking as fresh as you want to feel!

Signing-off: Rana Cheikha for The Shoe Advisor 


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