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How to Clean White Vans

  • January 22, 2023


There’s nothing like putting on a brand-new pair of white sneakers for a crisp, fresh look. But a quick walk through the park later, you’ll notice scuffs and stains already starting to form on the rubber outsoles and sides of your favorite slip-ons. No matter how careful you are, wearing anything white (think jeans, shirts or shoes) can sometimes feel like a disaster waiting to happen. A drop of coffee during your morning commute or unexpected rain on your way home from the park and poof! Like magic, your white Vans have gone from bright white to dingy gray. And if you’re brave enough to skateboard in a pair of white high tops? You’ll definitely want to keep this step-by-step guide from the Good Housekeeping Institute cleaning experts handy. We’ve tested store-bought and DIY shoe cleaners to find the best way to clean all kinds of shoes, mastered the art of cleaning another much-loved white shoe, the Converse All Star Low Top Sneaker, and have even taken on the smelly task of testing tons of shoe deodorizers.

This step-by-step guide will have all of your white Vans looking like new again. Best of all, most of the products our pros recommend you likely already have at home.

How to clean white canvas Vans

What You’ll Need:

  • Soft brush (or your vacuum’s round dusting brush)
  • Baking soda
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
  1. Remove loose dust or dirt. To avoid making a bigger mess of your white canvas Vans, remove the laces and use a soft brush or the round dusting brush on your vacuum to remove any loose dust or dirt on the surface of the shoes.
  2. Mix up a thin paste of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and warm water. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, ½ tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide and ½ tablespoon of warm water until it forms a thin paste. The hydrogen peroxide acts like an all-fabric bleach to whiten the canvas fabric and the baking soda helps scrub away scuffs and stains.
  3. Gently scrub your shoes with the paste. Dip an old toothbrush or soft brush into the paste and gently scrub your shoes in a circular motion.
  4. Wipe the surface of your sneakers with a clean, wet cloth to rinse them. Dip a clean cloth into water and wring it out until it is just damp. Thoroughly wipe your sneakers with the cloth, being careful to not to saturate the material.
  5. Clean the rubber outsoles with the same paste or GH Seal Star Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. If using the same baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and warm water paste, follow the steps above. To clean the rubber outsoles with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, wet the pad, squeeze out the excess water and rub on the outsole until they are clean.
  6. Allow to air-dry. Set your canvas Vans to air-dry in a cool spot, away from the sun.

How to clean white leather Vans

Most of the steps to clean white leather Vans are the same as above, with some small, but very important adjustments.

What You’ll Need:

  • Soft brush (or your vacuum’s round dusting brush)
  • Baking soda
  • Toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Leather conditioner
  1. Remove loose dust or dirt. Remove the laces and use a soft brush or the round dusting brush on your vacuum to remove any loose dust or dirt on the surface of the shoes.
  2. Mix up a thin paste of baking soda and warm water. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda and ½ tablespoon of warm water until it forms a thin paste.
  3. Gently scrub your shoes with the paste. Dip an old toothbrush or soft brush into the paste and gently scrub your shoes in a circular motion.
  4. Wipe the surface of your sneakers with a clean, wet cloth to rinse them. Dip a clean cloth into water and wring it out until it is just damp. Thoroughly wipe your sneakers with the cloth.
  5. Clean the rubber outsoles with the same paste or with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. If using the same baking soda and warm water paste, follow the steps above. To clean the rubber outsoles with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, wet the pad, squeeze out the excess water and rub on the outsole until they are clean.
  6. Allow to air-dry. Set your leather Vans to air-dry in a cool spot, away from the sun.
  7. Apply a leather conditioner to the shoes. For extra protection, apply a leather conditioner, like GH seal holder Furniture Clinic Leather Protection Cream, to help keep the leather soft and supple.

How to clean white suede Vans

Suede shoes are notorious for how easily they can get stained — water, dust and dirt can all cause unsightly stains on the material. Suede shoes that have been caught in a rainstorm should be allowed to dry in a well ventilated area overnight, with paper towels or shoe trees stuffed inside to keep their shape. To treat fresh or old stains and restore the suede nap of a pair of suede Vans, follow the steps below.

For suede Vans with fresh stains:

What You’ll Need:

  1. Blot the stain. Using a clean paper towel, blot (don’t rub) the stain on the shoe’s surface.
  2. Sprinkle baking soda over the stain. Allow the baking soda to sit and soak up the stain overnight, then lightly brush away the powder.
  3. If a stain still remains, use a suede cleaner. Our experts recommend the Kiwi Suede Cleaner.
  4. Gently brush the shoes to restore the suede nap. The key here is to brush in the direction of the fibers, not back and forth or in circles. This can cause further damage to the suede. If you used a suede cleaner, wait until the shoes are completely dry to brush the fibers.
  5. Clean the rubber outsoles with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Wet the pad, squeeze out the excess water and rub on the outsole until they are clean.
  6. Apply a suede protector. A suede protector will help prevent further stains or other damage to your suede Vans.

For suede Vans with old stains:

What You’ll Need:

  1. Gently brush or scrape the stain from the shoe’s surface. Using a special suede brush (or a toothbrush) is your best bet for completing this step without causing any damage. Brush in the direction of the fibers. If this doesn’t work, you can try dabbing a suede eraser on the stain to remove it.
  2. Steam the matted area for a few seconds. If the stain is gone, but has left behind a patch of matted fibers, use your favorite garment steamer on a low setting to lightly steam the area, then brush in the direction of the fibers with the suede brush. If the stain is still there, take your suede Vans to a shoe repair shop so a pro can take a look at them.
  3. Clean the rubber outsoles with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Wet the pad, squeeze out the excess water and rub on the outsole until they are clean.
  4. Apply a suede protector.

Can I put my white Vans in the washing machine?

We think it’s safest to wash any pair of shoes by hand, especially when they’re new. But we get it, sometimes you might be tight on time. If you want to give it a try, only canvas Vans should ever be put into the washing machine. Note that the washer can cause your sneakers to shrink or lose their shape.

Here’s the best way to wash your shoes in a washing machine: Place your sneakers in a mesh bag to help them keep their shape and toss in some old white towels to balance and buffer the load. Select a delicate cycle on your machine, cold or warm water, and a low or moderate spin speed.

Skip the dryer. Instead, stuff the wet Vans with white paper towels and let them air-dry away from heat and sunlight.


Should I bleach my white Vans?

No! Keep the bleach away from your Vans! Bleach is too harsh for use on white Vans — especially leather and suede ones. Many people even note that after using bleach to clean their white shoes, they found that the shoes took on a yellow tint instead of being restored to their original white.


Why do white Vans turn yellow after washing?

A few things can cause your white Vans to turn yellow after you wash them. As mentioned above, many people find that using bleach causes yellow staining on white shoes after they are dry. Drying freshly washed shoes in direct sunlight can also cause discoloration. Additionally, residue from shoe cleaners that are not properly rinsed from white shoes can leave behind a yellow tint.


Tips to keep your white Vans in tip-top shape

  • Before your first wear and after every cleaning, spray Vans with a water and stain repellent spray to help them stay cleaner longer. The GH Cleaning Lab likes Kiwi Sneaker Protector for both leather and canvas shoes. The brand also has a suede and nubuck protector.
  • Keep white Vans stored away from direct sunlight and out of humid, moist environments to prevent yellowing.
  • Clean stains and remove light dust as soon as you spot them. The longer they sit on your Vans, the harder it will be to remove them later.
  • Sometimes all your Vans need is a quick wash of the laces to look like new. Remove the laces and wash them separately in a mix of mild soap and warm water. Rinse and let them air dry before re-lacing your shoes.
  • Before using any cleaning products on your white Vans, carefully read the instructions and test it on a small inconspicuous area of the shoe to make sure it does not cause any damage.

Pure Baking Soda

Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda
Credit: Arm and Hammer

Hydrogen Peroxide

Swan Hydrogen Peroxide
Credit: Swan

Microfiber Cleaning Cloth

Amazon Basics Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
Credit: AmazonBasics

Magic Eraser Extra Durable

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Extra Durable
Credit: Mr.Clean
Headshot of Carolyn Forté

Home Care & Cleaning Lab Executive Director

Carolyn Forté brings more than 40 years of experience as a consumer products expert to her role as executive director of the Good Housekeeping Institute‘s Home Care and Cleaning Lab. Using deep analytical testing and writing expertise in appliances, cleaning, textiles and organizational products, she produces cleaning and home care advice for GH, has authored numerous books and bookazines for the brand and partners with the American Cleaning Institute to co-produce the Discover Cleaning Summits. She holds a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences from Queens College, City University of New York.

Headshot of Jodhaira Rodriguez

Home Care & Cleaning Lab Reviews Analyst

Jodhaira (she/her) is a product reviews analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Home Care & Cleaning Lab, where she tests and writes about home appliances, cleaning products and cleaning tips. Prior to joining GH in 2021, she graduated from Hofstra University with a bachelor’s degree in forensic science and spent two years as an analyst in an environmental lab in Queens.



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