How to Clean Canvas Shoes (8 Easy Steps, Any Types & Methods)

how to clean canvas shoes

Canvas shoes are one of the most basic forms of shoes or sneakers. As the name suggests, canvas shoes’ upper are made from canvas, and they normally have rubber soles down below. They are lightweight, comfortable, and definitely stylish. Therefore, a lot of big shoe brands have produced cool canvas shoes, like Vans, Nike and Adidas.

Are you one of the proud owners of canvas shoes? If you are, then it’s mandatory for you to know about the best methods to keep your canvas shoes clean and fresh. Well, guess what? That’s exactly why I created this article from the first place. Being a professional in the shoe industry, I will be sharing with you about the best ways on how to clean canvas shoes. The following guideline is based on my professional knowledge and also experience, thus I believe they will be very beneficial for you. So, let’s start scrolling down, shall we?

I. How To Clean Canvas Shoes Properly?

Cleaning canvas shoes require patience and attention to detail. Therefore, I have constructed a good and rather easy way to answer the question on how to clean canvas shoes and make them stay fresh. Below, you will find the best canvas shoes cleaning methods, which I created based on a thorough trials and errors of the best practices, as well as the latest research in the field of shoe cleaning.

1. The Cleaning Kit

But before we go to the detailed methods, let’s first find out below the cleaning kit and tools that you need to prepare before the cleaning process begins.

Shoe CleanerA special shoe detergent to clean your canvas shoes. You can use other mild detergents as well. But in my experience, a shoe cleaner will be the best option in the market.
ApronNot an obligatory item, but it will come in handy when we’re talking about keeping your shirt clean while washing your canvas shoes.
Premium BrushClean the upper part of your canvas shoes which are going to be made from canvas. 
Medium BrushClean your canvas shoe’s midsole section. 
Standard BrushClean your canvas shoe’s outsole section.
Small Brush or ToothbrushThis type of brush will come in handy when it comes to cleaning the inner part of your canvas shoes that is usually hard to reach. 
Microfiber ClothWipe canvas shoes clean from dirt and stains. 
Shoe TreeEssential item to keep your canvas shoe’s basic structure intact. 
Container or BowlUsed to mix water and shoe cleaner to create shoe cleaner solution.

2. The Cleaning Steps

Once you have the kit ready, it’s time to start cleaning! Here are the basic shoe cleaning steps that you need to understand from the very beginning. The steps can be slightly different for different types of canvas shoes. But in general, they will still refer to the following basic techniques. Rest assure that these steps are highly reliable since I have hand-on experience in cleaning and maintaining any kid of shoes, including those made from canvas.

1. Remove the laces from your canvas shoes

It’s essential to remove the laces from your canvas shoes before starting the cleaning process. Laces need to be cleaned separately. You can do this by soaking them inside a bucket of water that has been mixed with the shoe cleaner detergent.  

2. Insert the shoe tree in your canvas shoes

This is an essential step, as a Shoetree will be important to maintain the shape of your canvas shoes when they’re being washed. However, make sure to remove the insole before inserting a shoe tree. Don’t force it if the insole can’t be removed, though. 

3. Dry clean your canvas shoes

Before proceeding to clean your canvas shoes with water, you really need to dry clean your shoes first. To do this, you can use a Premium Brush or small brush to get rid of loose dust or dirt. I love to do this step before cleaning my shoes with water, as it can help reduce the dirt before deep-cleaning them.  

4. Wash the outsole and midsole of Your Canvas Shoes

During this cleaning stage, you can use a Standard Brush. Make sure to use all your strength when cleaning the outsole, as it’s naturally the dirtiest part of a shoe.

As soon as you have finished cleaning the outsole, you can proceed by cleaning the midsole with a Medium Brush. This time, patience and diligence are needed, as there will be a lot of dirty spots that are hard to clean. Never resist from repeating the cleaning process if your suede shoes are still dirty.

5. Wash the Upper Part of Your Canvas Shoes

To clean the upper part of your canvas shoes, I will definitely use a Premium Brush, as it’ll be soft enough to not damage your shoes. Canvas are quite sensitive, and that’s the reason why you shouldn’t use a standard brush to clean the upper part of your shoes. 

6. Wash the Inner Part of Your Canvas Shoes

Use a small brush to clean the inner part of your shoes that is narrow and small. Shortly after, clean it with a microfiber cloth. You can actually use a Premium Brush to clean this section. But if you have a large hand like me, a small brush or toothbrush would be a better option. 

7. Detailing

Use a microfiber cloth to clean the details on your shoes that are still dirty. As an alternative, wet tissue can also be used. However, I personally love to use a cloth better than a tissue, as it’s more effective to absorb dirt and water. 

8. Drying Process

Leave your shoes in front of a fan and leave them for around 1-2 hours. 

II. Guidance to Clean Any Types of Canvas Shoes

There are two types of canvas shoes. The first one is the white canvas shoes, which is one of the most popular shoes out there, and then we also have the colored canvas shoes. Just like the obvious color differences between the two, each requires different cleaning methods as well. Luckily, I have researched the best techniques for cleaning white and colored canvas shoes, and I am happy to share them with you below.

a. How to Clean White Canvas Shoes?

White canvas shoes can be trickier to clean. As a matter of fact, they can get easily dirty due to their color. That’s the reason why you should clean them regularly.

There are a lot of ways to clean white canvas shoes. But based on my research that involved surveying other canvas shoes users, plus my own scientific studies, bleach can be a great answer to clean a pair of dirty canvas shoes. Furthermore, I’ve tried to use bleach to clean my white canvas shoes that have yellow stains, and it works! So, before you start cleaning your canvas shoes with bleach, you will need to prepare these items:

  • Make a solution of 1 part bleach and 4 parts water
  • A soft brush. As an alternative, you can also use a toothbrush
  • Gloves to protect your hands from bleach
  • A microfiber cloth

Now, let’s get into the fun part!

  • Step 1: Prepare the solution, and dip your brush inside the solution
  • Step 2: Gently rub the brush on the surface of your shoes. Do it in a circular motion and make sure to cover all parts of your shoes
  • Step 3: Leave your shoes for a while to let the bleach do its work
  • Step 4: Rinse your shoes with water to get rid of the stains and bleach
  • Step 5: Wipe the shoes with a microfiber cloth. Make sure to get them completely dry before storing your shoes

b. How to Clean Colored Canvas Shoes?

How to clean canvas shoes

Colored canvas shoes are normally darker than normal shoes. Therefore, the stains might not be as visible than the ones on the white ones. Of course, you can’t use bleach because it will only damage the paint job of your precious footwear. So, what is the best method to apply then? Stick around because you will soon find the solution for that issue. Just read on to find top-notch tips and technique for cleaning your colored canvas shoes with excellent results.

First, you can try using the previous method that I have shared to clean colored canvas shoes (including black shoes as well). As an alternative, you can also clean them in washing machine, and I will also share the technique a bit below.

III. Alternative Methods to Clean Canvas Shoes

a. How To Clean Canvas Shoes by Hand?

You can definitely clean your canvas shoes by hand (by hand, I mean manually cleaning your canvas shoes without the need to use a washing machine). Before getting into the guideline, you will need to prepare the following tools:

  • Soft brush
  • Damped cloth
  • Mixture of water and laundry detergent. You can actually use other mixtures to clean canvas shoes. However, I found out that laundry detergent is very effective in cleaning your canvas shoes.

Now let’s find out below the step-by-step cleaning guide:

  • Step 1: Prepare the items that I have mentioned before
  • Step 2: Dip the soft brush into the mixture
  • Step 3: Rub the brush on the surface of your shoes. Do it gently and in a circular motion
  • Step 4: Once you have covered the whole shoes, you can proceed to clean them with a damp cloth to get rid of both the mixture and stains
  • Step 5: Store your shoes or use them once they have completely dried

b. How to Clean Canvas Shoes Without Water?

How to clean canvas shoes

Most of my tricks to clean canvas shoes will require the assistance of water. However, some of you might prefer dry-cleaning them in order to avoid mess in your house (or wherever you’re cleaning them). If you’re wondering ways on how to clean canvas shoes without water, then you might want to stick around. 

Based on my honest review, you can try to dry-clean them. I did a research on this, and I can assure you that this method is valid as it is known as a proven method for cleaning and maintaining canvas shoes. You will need to prepare a shoe brush (or a soft brush), wet tissue (technically, there’s water on your tissue, but you’re not using tap water, right?), a Magic Eraser, and a microfiber cloth. Then, you can start with the cleaning process as below:

  • Step 1: Scrub your shoes gently and carefully with a shoe brush to get rid of the dirt and stains. Since you’re not doing it with water, make sure to be patient, as the stains might be a little bit tougher to get rid of
  • Step 2: Wet the canvas shoes with wet tissue. Make sure to tap them gently when cleaning the canvas material
  • Step 3: Use the Magic Eraser to get rid of any stains or dirt remnants
  • Step 4: Complete the process by using a microfiber cloth

You can definitely clean canvas shoes without water. However, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be as effective than when you’re using them. Therefore, I recommend other methods for shoes that are very dirty. Only use this method if your shoes are not too dirty (i.e. no stains can be found, as there are only dust on your shoes).

c. Cleaning Canvas Shoes with Baking Soda

How to clean canvas shoes

Although bleach is an effective tool to clean your shoes, some people might feel a little bit reserved when using them, due to their damaging nature. Therefore, baking soda has turned out to be an interesting prospect that you can use as an alternative.

Personally, I love cleaning canvas shoes with baking soda as well, as it can help clean my shoes and make them fresh once more. Moreover, baking soda is also proven as an effective cleaning agent for excellent result. Here’s what you need to do to clean your shoes with baking soda:

  • Step 1: Prepare a mixture between baking soda and vinegar
  • Step 2: Pour the mixture inside a spray bottle to make it more practical
  • Step 3: Sprinkle the mixture on your shoes using the spray bottle. Make sure to focus on the dirty sections of your shoes. 
  • Step 4: Scrub the shoes with a shoe brush. Make sure to repeat the process until the stains are gone
  • Step 5: Rinse the shoes with warm water to get rid of baking soda and vinegar remnants
  • Step 6: Dry the shoes by using a microfiber cloth

IV. Do’s and Don’ts

Clean your shoes carefully and gently because canvas is known as a material that is quite sensitive.Don’t scrub your shoes with your whole strength, as it might damage them.
Clean your shoes at least once a month before dirt and stains are piling up. Once they do, it will be harder to clean.Don’t try to leave your shoes under direct contact with the sunlight, as it may damage the paint job of your shoes.
Clean your shoes as soon as you notice stains and scuffs on them.Don’t store your canvas shoes in a humid place, because the shoes can get moldy.

V. Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can You Use Bleach On Canvas Shoes?

How to clean canvas shoes

Yes, you can use bleach to clean canvas shoes. As a matter of fact, I have explained it before. However, using bleach is a viable option only when you own a pair of white canvas shoes. There’s a chance that bleach might change the color of your colored shoes, or even worse, permanently damage them. 

If you want to know the right way to use bleach on canvas shoes, make sure to check out the “how to clean white canvas” section. 

2. Does Hydrogen Peroxide Clean Canvas Shoes?

How to clean canvas shoes

Hydrogen peroxide is a homemade item that can also act like bleach. In other words, hydrogen peroxide can help make your yellow canvas shoes white once more. Therefore, you can use hydrogen peroxide to clean white canvas shoes. I’ve tried using them once before, and it also produced the same result as bleach does. So, the choice is up to your preference or item availability.

Should you want to proceed to clean your white canvas shoes with hydrogen peroxide, then please take a look at my detailed instructions below:

  • Prepare hydrogen peroxide and a small brush (you can also use a toothbrush as an alternative)
  • Remove the shoelaces from your white canvas shoes
  • Apply the hydrogen peroxide on the dirty parts of your shoes
  • Scrub the dirty surface with your brush
  • Wait for 10-15 minutes to let the hydrogen peroxide do its job
  • Rinse your shoes to get rid of all the dirt, stains, and hydrogen peroxide
  • Clean your shoes by leaving them in front of a fan

3. Can Magic Eraser Be Used On Canvas Shoes?

How to clean canvas shoes

Magic Eraser can definitely be used to clean your dirty canvas shoes. If you’ve been reading through my whole article, you’ll notice that if you want to clean your canvas shoes without water, a Magic Eraser can play a part in making them stay fresh and clean. All you need to do is to spray a small amount of water on the shoes. Then, wipe your Magic Eraser across the surface of your shoes. Shortly after, you can dry them by using a dry cloth.

4. Does Toothpaste Clean Canvas Shoes?

How to clean canvas shoes

You don’t have to be a professional to clean your dirty canvas shoes. If I can do it with my homemade items, you can do the same as well! Another daily product that you can use will be toothpaste. I love using toothpaste to clean my shoes, and it doesn’t always have to be canvas shoes. It also works best with a toothbrush (just like they work well to clean your teeth!). 

Alright, if you want to clean your canvas shoes with toothpaste, then you have to do it correctly. Here’s how!

  • Wet your toothbrush with water, then apply toothpaste on it
  • Scrub your toothbrush to get rid of dirty scuffs and stains on your canvas shoes. It’ll be better to do it carefully and in a circular motion. I’d usually take my time here
  • Wait for a while to let the toothpaste absorb the scuffs and stains
  • Wipe away the toothpaste excess with a cloth
  • Make sure that the shoes are completely dry before storing them back where they belong

5. Can You Clean Canvas Shoes With Soap And Water?

How to clean canvas shoes

If I can clean my canvas shoes with mild detergent, I might use soap and water as well! Don’t worry about any damages! I have tried using this method and it works wonders for me. However, I do suggest getting a mild dish soap in order to reduce any risks. 

  • Prepare a soapy solution inside a bucket
  • Remove the shoelaces from your shoes
  • Before using soap and water, I usually scrub my shoes with a soft brush to get rid of loose dirt and stains. When you neglect this step, there’s a chance that the dirt might go deeper inside your shoes when they come into contact with water
  • Dip your brush inside the soapy solution. 
  • Scrub it on the surface of your shoes. Do it in a circular motion
  • Wipe the shoes with a microfiber cloth
  • If they aren’t dry yet, leave them in front of a fan. I don’t recommend storing them unless they’re completely dry

6. How To Clean Canvas Shoes In Washing Machine?

How to clean canvas shoes

There’s good news for people who own canvas shoes: you can clean them inside a washing machine! Canvas shoes are quite strong and sturdy. Therefore, they won’t break easily, even when they’re washed in washing machine

  • Remove the shoelaces from your canvas shoes
  • Put your shoelaces inside a mesh bag and your canvas shoes inside another one
  • Put a small amount of laundry detergent inside your washing machine before you start the washing process
  • Insert both mesh bags inside the washing machine. Make sure to use the soft cycle in order to prevent damages on your shoes’ glue
  • After the process is done, let them out and dry them 
  • Put the shoelaces back on, then store them inside their original box

7. How Do You Get Tough Stains Out Of Canvas Shoes?

How to clean canvas shoes

Most of the items that I have mentioned here can get tough stains out of canvas shoes. The key is not the items per se, but attention to detail and patience. Baking soda can be used to get tough stains out of canvas shoes just like toothpaste does. However, you really need to take your time and scrub your brush repeatedly in order to achieve the satisfactory result. Remember, nothing can be achieved without hard work (unless you’re using a washing machine!). 

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VI. Summary

Having a pair of canvas shoes is great. However, you do need to clean them regularly in order to keep them fresh and awesome. Fortunately for you and me, there are a lot of things that you can use to clean canvas shoes, such as baking soda to a washing machine.