How to Clean Canvas Shoes

Shoes on a chair

Christopher Burns / Unsplash

Canvas shoes come in many styles from traditional sneakers to espadrilles to fashionable heels in every color under the sun. Most canvas shoes are breathable, comfortable and easy to care for.

How to Clean Canvas Shoes
Detergent Mild detergent
Water Temperature Cool to Warm
Cycle Hand wash or spot clean
Drying Cycle Air dry away from direct heat or sunlight
Special Treatment Spot clean rope soles and some stains

How Often to Clean Canvas Shoes

How frequently canvas or fabric shoes need to be cleaned depends on how often they are worn and where they are worn. For dressier shoes worn only occasionally, give them a good cleaning at least once per season and spot clean any specific stains.

For sneakers worn daily, more frequent cleaning will keep them looking their best and smelling fresh. Canvas shoes worn multiple times weekly should be cleaned weekly in the washer or by being hand washed.

What You Need

Supplies

  • Laundry detergent
  • Chlorine or oxygen-based bleach
  • Mesh laundry bag
  • Disinfectant (optional)

Tools

  • Washer
  • Soft-bristled brush

How to Wash Canvas Shoes in a Washer

  1. Before You Begin

    If your canvas shoes have any type of suede or leather trim, they should not be washed in a washing machine. Opt for hand washing instead. This is also true for any shoes embellished with trim, beading, or rope soles. The agitation action of the washer is too harsh and spending too much time in the water may loosen glues used in construction.

  2. Unlace

    If the shoes have laces, remove them and wash separately to get them clean. You can add them to a mesh laundry bag before tossing in the washer to prevent tangling. Or, you can wash them by hand in some warm, soapy water.

  3. Cleaning Products and Washer Cycles

    Canvas shoes can be washed with your regular laundry detergent. If the shoes are white, chlorine bleach can be added to brighten them up. For colored canvas, choose an oxygen-based bleach instead.

    If you are concerned about athlete's foot, add a disinfectant to the wash water. Follow product directions for the correct amount to add per load.

    Wash in warm or cold water using the normal wash cycle but, if possible, choose a lower spin cycle speed to prevent your washer from becoming off-balance.

  4. Remove Stains

    If the shoes have stains or are really soiled, use a teaspoon or so of the laundry detergent to pretreat stains. Dab on the detergent (Tide and Persil are heavy-duty detergents that work best to remove grease and tough stains.) and work it into the canvas with a soft-bristled brush. Allow the detergent to work for at least 15 minutes to break apart the soil before adding the shoes to the washer.

    A reminder, never add muddy shoes to a washer. Rinse off the mud with a garden hose or in a utility sink before washing.

  5. Fill Your Washer Load

    Canvas shoes should be washed in a load of towels or jeans (depending on their color) so help balance the load. Never wash an entire load of just shoes! For lace-up shoes, pull up the tongue as you place them in the washer so that the cleaning solution can reach every surface easily.

  6. Drying Canvas Shoes

When the washer cycle is complete, remove the shoes and place them in a spot away from direct sunlight and heat to air dry. Never place canvas shoes in a hot clothes dryer. The intense heat can cause glues to melt and the shoes will fall apart.

If you are concerned about whether the shoe will retain its shape, stuff the toes with nylon mesh or paper towels. If you use paper towels, change them frequently so the interior will dry more quickly.

How to Hand Wash Canvas Shoes

If the shoes have embellishments or rope soles, hand washing is much safer. It is also easier to just spot clean the fabric if needed, when you are in a hurry and don't want to wait for shoe interiors to dry.

Tip

For shoes with rope-covered soles or trim, do not submerge in water. Use a damp cloth or sponge dipped in soapy water to gently wipe away soil from the rope. Work in a small area at a time, changing the water frequently to avoid redepositing soil, and always rinse away any sudsy residue. Allow to air dry.

What You Need

Supplies

  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Warm water
  • Terry cloth towel

Tools

  • Bucket or sink
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Cloth or sponge
  • Melamine sponge
  1. Make a Cleaning Solution

    Mix one teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent with two quarts of warm water.

  2. Pretreat Stains

    If the shoes have visible stains, use a dab of detergent to pretreat the specific stain. Work in the detergent with your fingers or with a soft-bristled brush. Allow it to work for at least 15 minutes before washing the entire shoe.

  3. Scrub the Shoes With a Sponge

    Remove laces, if any, and place them in the detergent solution to be soaking while you wash the shoes.

    Dip a sponge or washcloth in the warm water and detergent solution and use it to scrub the outside and inside of the shoe. Pay attention to the soles as well.

    If the soles are very dirty, use a melamine sponge to remove scuff marks from the rubber.

  4. Rinse and Dry

When the soil is removed, rinse the shoes completely with cool water. Rinse the laces and allow the shoes and laces to air dry away from harsh sunlight and direct heat. Wiping down the rinsed shoes with an absorbent towel will speed the drying process.