How to Clean Canvas Shoes

Machine- and Hand-Washing Methods to Make Shoes Look New

cleaning canvas shoes

The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 2 days, 50 mins - 2 days, 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

Canvas shoes are easy to care for since canvas is a firm, heavy weave fabric often made of cotton. It is absorbent and can get dirty like any fabric, although it is remarkably strong and resistant to pilling when scrubbing it. If you wear them daily, wash them once a week. If only worn occasionally, wash them once per season or when visibly soiled. Canvas shoes can be washed in a washing machine or by hand using detergent. Never dry them in the clothes dryer since the heat can melt shoe adhesives. Take into account that it can take two days for canvas shoes to air dry fully.

Here's how to clean all types of canvas and fabric shoes properly by hand and by machine.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Machine Washing

  • Washing machine
  • Soft-bristled brush

Hand Washing

  • Bucket or sink
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Cloth or sponge
  • Melamine sponge (optional)


Machine Washing

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

Hand Washing

  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Warm water
  • Terry cloth towel


How to Clean Canvas Shoes
Detergent Mild detergent
Water Temperature Cool to Warm
Cycle Normal, Hand wash or spot clean fashion canvas shoes
Drying Cycle Air dry away from direct heat or sunlight
Special Treatment Spot clean rope soles and some stains
items for cleaning canvas shoes
The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

How to Machine Wash Canvas Shoes

  1. Before You Begin

    If your canvas shoes have any suede or leather trim, they should not be washed in a washing machine. The agitation action of the washer is too harsh, and being submerged in water for extended periods may loosen the shoe adhesives.

    Opt for hand washing instead. This applies to any shoes embellished with trim, beading, or rope soles.

  2. Unlace

    If the shoes have laces, remove them and wash them separately to get them clean.

    Add them to a mesh laundry bag before tossing the shoes in the washer to prevent tangling. Or, you can wash them by hand in some warm, soapy water.

    unlacing shoes
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 
  3. Cleaning Products and Washer Cycles

    • Use the normal wash cycle to wash canvas shoes with regular laundry detergent in warm or cold water. But, if possible, choose a lower spin cycle speed to prevent your washer from becoming off-balance.
    • If the shoes are white, you can add chlorine bleach to brighten them.
    • For colored canvas, choose an oxygen-based bleach instead.
    • If you are concerned about athlete's foot, bacteria, mold, or yeast, add a disinfectant to the wash water. Follow product directions for the correct amount to add per load.
    choosing the correct wash cycle
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  4. Remove Stains

    • If shoes are muddy, rinse off the mud with a garden hose or in a utility sink before washing. The mud can clog the washer and cause it to malfunction.
    • If the shoes have stains or are soiled, use a teaspoon of heavy-duty laundry detergent to pretreat stains.
    • Dab on the detergent (Tide and Persil 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.
    removing stains with a brush
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  5. Fill Your Washer Load

    • Canvas shoes should be washed in a load of towels or jeans (depending on their color) to balance the washing machine load. Never wash an entire load of only shoes.
    • For lace-up shoes, pull up the tongue as you place them in the washer so the cleaning solution can easily reach every surface.
    placing shoes in the washer
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  6. Air Dry Canvas Shoes

    When the washer cycle is complete, remove the shoes, place them away from direct sunlight, and allow them to air dry.

    If you are concerned about the shoe retaining 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.


    Never place canvas shoes in a hot clothes dryer. The intense heat can cause shoe adhesives to melt, and the shoes can fall apart.

    wearing newly-cleaned canvas shoes
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

How to Hand Wash Canvas Shoes

Hand washing is much safer if the shoes have embellishments or rope soles. 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.


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.

items for hand-washing canvas shoes
The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  1. Make a Cleaning Solution

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

    preparing a shoe cleaning solution
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  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.
    pretreating shoe stains
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu
  3. Scrub the Shoes With a Sponge

    • Remove the laces and place them in the detergent solution to soak 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.
    using a sponge to scrub the shoes
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 
  4. Rinse and Dry

    • When the soil is removed, rinse the shoes with a cloth dipped in fresh water.
    • Rinse the laces and allow the shoes and laces to air dry away from harsh sunlight and direct heat.
    • Wipe the rinsed shoes with an absorbent towel to speed up the drying process.
    rinsing shoes in the sink
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

Care and Repairs

Canvas can rip and get holes. The adhesives on the soles and rubber parts can come apart over time. Some people sew patches over rips or holes from normal wear and tear. Also, rubber parts can be glued back on using strong shoe adhesives like Shoe Goo or Loctite Shoe Glue.


Store white shoes in fabric bags or boxes because they can collect dust and dirt from places like closets.

If shoes are worn daily or frequently, a shoe tree or shoe storage rack with circulating air is best, so shoes can air out and dry from residual perspiration.

How Often to Wash Canvas Shoes

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

For daily sneakers, 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 hand washed.

Tips for Washing

  • Add one cup of baking soda to the washer drum or one-half cup to the hand-washing solution to help combat sneaker odor.
  • Sneakers should be fully dry before wearing them—this can take as long as two days.
  • Never use fabric softener on sneakers. It may leave a residue that attracts soil or discolors the sneaker.
  • Make sure to remove the laces and inner soles and wash them separately. These components use unique materials that can be damaged by machine washing.
  • If the shoelaces still look dingy after washing, replace the laces with a new pair.
  • If you have white shoes and a tough stain that doesn't come out, opt for a tiny drop of white shoe polish. If the shoes are colored, consider dyeing the shoes using a colored fabric dye.
  • What happens if canvas shoes get soaked from rain?

    Canvas shoes are absorbent and will soak up water quickly, weighing down your shoes. Dirty puddles can make your shoes dirty, requiring cleaning immediately. Canvas can be protected against rain with a waterproofing spray, making them water repellent and giving them some stain resistance.

  • What home ingredients can I use instead of a shoe cleaning product?

    A paste made of baking soda, white distilled vinegar, and some hot water can be scrubbed onto canvas shoes using an old toothbrush to get your canvas shoes clean.

  • Can I use Magic Eraser to clean my canvas shoes?

    Magic Eraser is a brand name for melamine sponges. You can use them on the hard rubber parts of shoes to remove scuff marks, stains, and dirt. In a pinch, they can also be used to get out stains on the canvas part of the shoe.