How to Clean and Care for White Shoelaces

cleaning shoelaces

The Spruce / Ana Cadena  

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $1

White shoelaces get dirty and dingy over time. Replacing the strings may seem the easiest solution, but that approach can get expensive whenever your laces get soiled. While there is no exact schedule to follow to keep laces white, the shoelaces should be removed from tennis shoes or sneakers and washed separately every time the shoes are washed. Have a second pair of laces in reserve while soiled laces are washed and dried.

Can You Wash Shoelaces?

Fortunately, you can maintain bright white shoelaces with laundry detergent, brighteners, and other stain removers. You can hand wash or machine wash them using a mesh washing bag with whites in hot or warm water. But never dry them in a dryer; the heat can melt the plastic tips.

Most flat white shoelaces are made from cotton fibers that you can whiten with chlorine or oxygen-based bleach. The more narrow, round shoelaces are made from synthetic fibers and can only be whitened with oxygen-based bleach. Chlorine bleach will damage the outer white synthetic fibers and reveal the yellow inner core leaving the shoelaces looking dingy.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Glass or plastic medium bowl
  • Old toothbrush or small scrub brush
  • Mesh laundry bag
  • Sink or bucket
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Drying rack

Materials

  • Heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Oxygen-based bleach
  • Enzyme-based stain remover (optional)

Instructions

items for cleaning shoelaces
The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
How to Wash White Shoelaces
Detergent High-performing detergent; use bleach (if cotton) or oxygen bleach (if synthetic material)
Water Temperature Hot or warm with whites
Washer Cycle Normal
Drying Cycle Type Drip dry only
Special Treatments Pretreat with detergent or stain remover; use mesh bag or hand wash
Ironing Settings Cotton setting or warm
How Often to Wash As needed

How to Wash White Shoelaces in the Washing Machine

  1. Remove the Laces From the Shoes

    Shoelaces should be washed separately from the tennis shoes so that you can clean every surface of the laces.

    removing shoelaces
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  2. Rinse Away Surface Soil

    If the laces are muddy, hold them under a faucet running cold water at full force to remove the loose soil.

    rinsing shoelaces
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  3. Pretreat the Laces

    Dip an old toothbrush or a small soft-bristled brush in a dab of heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent or an enzyme-based stain remover. Use the brush to work the detergent into both sides for the laces, working on a flat surface.

    A heavy-duty laundry detergent like Tide or Persil contains the necessary enzymes to break apart heavy soil and stains. If you use a less expensive detergent, use an enzyme-based stain remover to tackle the heavy grime.

    pretreating shoelaces
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  
  4. Place the Laces in a Mesh Laundry Bag

    To keep the laces from becoming tangled in the washer, place them in a mesh laundry bag.

    putting laces in a mesh laundry bag
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  
  5. Wash With a Load of White Laundry

    Toss the mesh bag into a load of white laundry—sheets, towels, cotton underwear—and wash in warm to hot water with a heavy-duty detergent. If the laces are made of cotton, you can add chlorine bleach to the load.

    washing shoelaces with a load of white laundry
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  
    soaking shoelaces in bleach
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  
  6. Hang the Laces to Drip Dry

    Hang the laces over a drying rack or towel rod to drip dry. If you must speed up the drying time, roll them in a thick, terry cloth towel to absorb as much moisture as possible.

    hanging shoelaces to dry
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  

How to Clean White Shoelaces by Hand Washing

Follow the same steps as those listed above—remove the laces from the shoes, rinse off loose surface soil, and pretreat with heavy-duty detergent or an enzyme stain remover. Now you're ready to hand wash the laces.

  1. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Fill a sink or bucket with four cups of hot water. Add 1/2 teaspoon heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent. If you are washing several pairs of laces, double the amount of water and detergent.

    mixing a cleaning solution for shoelaces
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena  
  2. Submerge the Shoelaces

    Add the laces to the detergent solution and swish them for a few minutes to wet them thoroughly and ensure they are submerged in the solution. Allow the laces to soak for at least 30 minutes.

    submerging the shoelaces
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  3. Check the Laces

    Give the laces a final swish through the detergent solution, and then rinse with cool water. If they are clean and bright, they are ready to hang for drying. If not, it's time to do a bleach soak in water and chlorine or oxygen-based bleach.

    checking the shoelaces for cleanliness
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 
  4. Rinse and Dry

    After washing or bleaching the laces, give them a final rinse in cool water and hang to drip dry.

    hanging shoelaces to dry
    The Spruce / Ana Cadena 

Treating Stains on White Shoelaces

If the laces have stains that do not come out in regular washing, you can give them a bleach soak. Chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach work for removing protein-based stains, dyes, and tannins. The type you use depends on the material you're washing.

For cotton laces, use chlorine bleach. Pour two cups of warm water into a plastic or glass bowl and add one teaspoon of chlorine bleach, stirring well to mix. Add the laces, swishing them through the solution, so they are thoroughly wet, and allow them to soak for five minutes. When the time is up, rinse the laces in cool water. If you are whitening several pairs of laces, double the amount of water and bleach.

Tip

If you use chlorine bleach, use rubber gloves when adding and removing laces from the solution.

For laces made with synthetic materials, pour two cups of warm water into a plastic or glass bowl and add one tablespoon of oxygen bleach, stirring well to mix. Add the laces, swishing them through the solution to wet them thoroughly. Allow them to soak for at least two hours; up to eight hours is fine. Oxygen bleach works much more slowly than chlorine bleach. Rinse well before drying.

Shoelace Care and Repair

The main problem that needs repair with shoelaces is that the plastic tips, called aglets, fall off, causing the laces to fray and unwind. You can find kits online and some home goods stores for fixing the aglets, which often use heat shrink wrapping to adhere the aglet to the shoelace.

In a pinch, if your aglet falls off in the middle of your day and you need to restring a shoe or tie your shoes, you can apply super glue to the ends of synthetic laces to stop the fibers from fraying. This fix is only temporary.

Storing Shoelaces

If you're planning on storing your sneakers, you should remove the shoelaces. Storage time is usually good for washing the shoes and their laces. Coil the cleaned laces and keep them in the storage container with the corresponding pair of shoes. A stackable plastic box is a good option. Most are opaque, so you can see what's inside, and they keep rodents and other pests at bay.

How Often to Wash

White shoelaces get noticeably dirtier than colored laces. Sometimes only one wear is all it takes. Brush off your shoes and laces each time you wear them. Wash white shoelaces as often as you can, especially after a lot of activity or use. Do not try to clean the laces on the shoes. Remove them every time you think the laces need cleaning.

What Are Shoelaces Made Of?

Most shoelaces are made of cotton. Cotton washes easily. Elastic shoelaces (most often non-removable) are being used more frequently. The wearer can tighten these laces with a circular piece at the end. Other common synthetic materials include polyester, nylon, and polypropylene. Specialty laces come in different materials, including leather, Kevlar, and hemp. A shoelace's length depends on the shoe's size, the number of eyelets, and the lacing pattern. The aglet or hard tip at the end of the lace that makes lacing easier can be made of plastic or metal, depending on the shoe.

Ironing

Shoelaces come either flat or round. Flat laces often hold the tie better, especially if the lace is cotton. Round laces tend to tie a bit tighter and more easily. Round laces are more common in work boots and some types of athletic shoes. If your flat laces seem to be losing their flatness, you can iron them.

You can also use an iron to dry your damp cotton or hemp laces. Place the lace on a thick towel; use an old cotton T-shirt between the iron and shoelace and gently press using a warm iron while the laces are still damp from the washing; steer clear of the tip. Never iron synthetic fabric (nylon, polyester, or polypropylene) laces.

Tips for Washing

  • If you have tough oil stains that don't seem to come out with bleach, try an orange hand cleaner (without pumice) from the auto parts store. This cleaner works on oily, greasy hands and clothes.
  • If you don't want to wash your laces all the time, then consider getting colored laces. They don't show dirt as much as white laces; you can go longer without looking like the laces are dingy.
  • If you have leather laces, gently wash them with saddle soap and warm water. Allow them to air dry, do not lay them out in the sun. After they're dry, oil them (leather oil, olive oil, coconut oil) to keep them pliant.
FAQ
  • What natural cleaner can be used to whiten shoelaces?

    You can use white distilled vinegar (1 part vinegar to 1 part water), hydrogen peroxide (1 part peroxide to 4 parts water), or baking soda (1 part baking soda to 2 parts water) to whiten your laces instead of using bleach. A vinegar solution or baking soda mixture is safe on synthetic and natural materials. Only use a hydrogen peroxide solution on natural fabrics like cotton or hemp; refrain from using it on synthetics.

  • Hand washing vs. machine washing: What's better?

    If you hand-wash the item, you have more control over the cleaning process. You can add more soap or use brighteners while washing if you notice they're not getting clean. Machine washing is better for those without time to think about it. You can always rerun it if it doesn't get clean in the machine the first time.

  • Biggest mistake to avoid when washing shoelaces?

    Washing your shoes with laces still on is one of the most common mistakes people make. Avoid washing the shoes with your shoelaces laced up. 
    Besides not getting the laces fully clean, the ends of the shoe’s laces can easily get caught or tangled inside your washing machine.