How To Clean White Vans Shoes So They Look Brand New!

Are your white Vans beginning to look more like a pair of black Vans? We know the struggle.

Vans shoes are known for being, “off the wall,” but unfortunately, they’re still very much on the floor- which means that your crisp white shoes are inevitably going to get coated in grime over time. The white canvas is notorious for yellowing fast, especially if you wear them often.

While the ‘worn-in’ look is a vibe, there’s a fine line between your Vans looking a little scuffed and a bog.

If your Vans fall into the latter category, they’re probably well overdue a deep-clean.

Whether you have the canvas or leather style of Vans shoes, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover the 3 top methods of cleaning your white Vans shoes!

Method 1- Cleaning your Vans by hand

If you choose to clean your white Vans by hand, you’re able to control the depth of the clean and treat the materials with extra care.

This is the recommended method of cleaning white Vans and should be your first move. 

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Choose your cleaning solution - Depending on how grimy your Vans are, you may need certain chemicals to clean them. We recommend starting with warm water, a little laundry detergent, and dish soap in a bowl. If this is too mild for the dirt on your Vans, try using some baking soda with a drop of hydrogen peroxide. This will essentially bleach your Vans, returning them to their original color. Hydrogen peroxide is only safe for use on canvas vans, for other materials, use milder chemicals and cleaning agents, such as dish soap or sensitive detergent.
  • Choose the right tool - For light staining and dirt, a washcloth dipped into your cleaning solution should do the trick. If you need something a little more heavy-duty, we recommend using a hard-bristled brush to scrub the shoes. Just remember, brushes are only suitable for canvas Vans, not their suede or leather shoes. If you don’t have a scrubbing brush, a new toothbrush is a great DIY alternative. 
  • Be patient - Once you’ve applied your chosen cleaning solution and given your shoes a vigorous scrub, you’ll need to give the chemicals a chance to take effect. This is particularly important if you’ve chosen to use hydrogen peroxide or baking soda, as they need to sit on the shoes for some time in order to lift stubborn stains. If you rinse your shoes too early, you may find yourself having to repeat the cleaning steps over again.
  • Rinse - After leaving your cleaning solution to work its magic and you’re content with the whiteness of your Vans, it’s finally time to rinse them. You can do this using a clean washcloth soaked in warm water. For extra sparkle, try cleaning the soles of your Vans with a magic eraser. Leave your shoes to air dry in the sun, do not be tempted to put them in the dryer- this will destroy them! To ensure that your Vans maintain their shape as they dry, try stuffing them with scrunched-up sheets of newspaper.

Method 2 - Cleaning your Vans in a washing machine

Using a washing machine is probably the easiest way to clean your white Vans. However, this method works best if your shoes aren’t completely soiled.

So if they just need a little whitening, you can consider using your machine. Some people advise against using a machine, but it can be done if you follow the instructions correctly.

Please note- this method is only suitable for canvas Vans shoes.

  • Prep your Vans - Don’t just toss your shoes straight into the washing machine, you’ll need to prep them first to ensure they come out still looking like shoes. Start by removing the laces and the inserts from the shoes. This will prevent them from falling out and catching on to anything inside your machine. You should place your Vans in a delicates bag, as this will protect both your shoes and the washer from getting damaged during the wash cycle. If you don’t own a delicates bag, a pillowcase works as a great alternative. Just ensure that the bag or pillowcase is tied securely so that it won’t come unraveled in the machine. 

  • Choose the right cycle - You should wash your Vans canvas shoes on your gentle or delicate cycle with warm water. This will be sufficient for cleaning shoes without causing damage. No matter how stained your Vans may be, don’t be tempted to wash them at a high temperature. Hot water can cause the glue that holds the components of your shoes together to melt and come loose, ultimately breaking them. Don’t go crazy on the detergent, too. A small scoop will be plenty. Also, ensure that the shoes are the only articles of clothing in the machine, as your shoes could damage your other clothes, especially delicates. 

  • Dry them correctly - Even if you have a combined washer and dryer, make sure to take your shoes out to air dry them. Once again, consider stuffing them with pieces of newspaper to maintain the shape. Don’t be tempted to tumble dry them as the heat will damage the glue on your sneakers, even at a cool temperature. Simply place them in a dry and sunny spot until completely dry. Once dry, you can replace the inserts and laces. Don’t wear your Vans until they’re bone dry, as dampness will develop during wear, causing unpleasant odors.

Method 3 - Spot-cleaning stains on your Vans

Whether you’ve tried and tested Methods 1 and 2, or you just want to get rid of one pesky stain, you’re going to need to spot-clean your Vans.

Spot cleaning involves focused stain removal and is most useful when you have deep staining or just one area of staining.

  • Consider using a magic eraser - As we mentioned in Method 1, magic erasers are great at removing one-off scuffs and stains. They’re essentially just spongy blocks that are made from melamine foam, which activates when you wet it. This makes the sponge act like ultra-fine sandpaper. You can use them to wipe away marks on walls, surfaces, floors, and of course- Vans! Magic erasers take action in just seconds, making it one of the easiest cleaning methods. 

  • Consider using shoe shampoo - Another great way to spot-clean your Vans is using shoe shampoo. Products like this one come with a little scrubbing brush, so you can leave it in your closet or your car until an emergency arises.

  • Try out cleaning pens - You can even buy to-go spot-on stain removers such as this one from Tide, which you simply use as a pen. These are suitable for light stains in small sections. For more stubborn stains, consider investing in a bleach pen- it could save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

How do I clean non-canvas Vans?

While Vans made from canvas material are by far their most popular and recognized shoes, many people prefer their suede and leather varieties.

Here’s how to go about cleaning those:

Cleaning Suede Vans:

  1. Brush away any loose dirt and grime off of your Vans with a soft-bristled brush. If you don’t have one, a sensitive toothbrush works wonders.
  2. Remove any dark staining by blotting gently with a damp cloth and a few drops of white vinegar. However, don’t get carried away- be careful not to saturate the entire shoe.
  3. Use a magic eraser to clean the rubber strip around the outside of the sole of your Vans.
  4. Leave your Vans to air dry and stuff with newspaper.

Cleaning Leather Vans:

  1. Begin by removing any surface dirt and grime from the bottoms, soles, sides, and tops of your Vans with a shoe brush.
  2. Clean your leather shoes using a suitable leather shoe cleaner, and work it in using a synthetic brush. Make sure the brush is soft- hard-bristled brushes can damage leather!
  3. Once all of the visible stains have been removed, work a waterproofing product into the leather and the stitching. This will prevent any moisture from getting inside your Vans.
  4. Leave your Vans to dry in a sunny spot for a minimum of 24 hours.

Why did my white Vans turn yellow?

White shoes often turn yellow or off-white due to oxidization. This is just a chemical reaction that takes place if you wash your shoes and leave them out in direct sunlight.

An accumulation of sweat and dirt can also stain your Vans yellow.

Can you bleach Vans safely?

Yes. Bleach can be used to restore your Vans to their original white color.

However, it’s important to remember that bleach contains many chemicals that can be harmful, especially when used in conjunction with other chemicals. 

To prevent any harmful fumes from being created, never mix bleach with any other cleaning product. 

Also, avoid using neat bleach where you can. You can dilute bleach with warm water safely.

Also, you should only ever use bleach on white Vans, if you use bleach to try to clean any other color shoe, you will irreparably damage your shoes.

How do I clean checkerboard Vans?

If you’re cool enough to own a pair of the traditional, checkerboard Vans- we are jealous. But we also understand how daunting they can be to clean.

First, you should rub off as much excess dirt as you can with a washcloth or under a faucet. 

Next, follow Method 2 for checkerboard Vans. Do not be tempted to use bleach or any other whitening product on them because it will turn the black checkers into a lighter, undesired color.

Rob is the adrenaline junkie of the team. If it's fast moving, high octane and just generally pretty scary, Rob is all over it. His passion lies on the slopes, but has competed in 13 marathons around the world.

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