How to Clean Canvas Sneakers

black femme posing in sun

Javier Diez / Stocksy

While there's something charming about a well-loved pair of canvas sneakers, there's a fine line between an attractive, worn-in pair and shoes that look like they just plain need a bath. Comfort aside, canvas sneakers are versatile, practical, and a popular choice for your favorite Insta-influencer. Best part? They're also extremely flexible and tough, and allow your feet to "breathe" so that they're never too hot or too cold.

If you've had your canvas sneaks for a while, they're probably carrying little mementos of all the places you've worn them to in the form of dirt, scuffs, stains, and splotches. But we're here to tell you not to throw those old faves out just yet. As long as they're not ripped or riddled with holes, you can probably eke more time out of them with some TLC. We've rounded up a few of our favorite DIY remedies that help keep the shoes, laces, and soles of your canvas sneakers squeaky clean.

Keep reading to learn how to clean your canvas sneakers at home.

What You'll Need

  • Nylon bristle brush or an old toothbrush
  • Soap, such as laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, or a cleaner made for suede and fabric
  • Nylon scrub pad
  • Baking soda
  • Plain paper
  • White cream shoe polish (for white canvas sneakers)
01
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Wipe Away Excess Mud

person jumping in the desert

GUILLE FAINGOLD / Stocksy

Dealing with muddy sneakers? Wait until they dry before cleaning them. You can knock off any loose dirt by smacking the sneakers on pavement or by tapping the soles together over a trash can or newspaper. Wipe the sneakers with a damp cloth to remove any remaining caked-on dirt, then remove the laces.

02
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Use a Toothbrush and Nylon Pad to Clean Excess Dirt

clean white sneakers

ZHPH PRODUCTION / Stocksy

If you're trying to get rid of visible scuff marks, start by rinsing the shoes with warm water inside and out, then scrubbing the canvas sneakers' outsides, insides, and liners gently with a toothbrush and a mixture of water and mild detergent. Next, rinse with clean, cool water. If you're still seeing stubborn marks, you can scrub them gently with a nylon pad, rinsing as you go. And if the liners still whiff of foot odor, you can scrub them with a paste of baking soda and water.

White canvas sneakers will do well with a solution of one part water to five parts bleach. For colored sneakers, just make sure to do a small spot test beforehand to make sure it doesn’t fade or bleach out the color. If your sneakers have leather detailing, dampen the shoes and clean the canvas as directed, then use leather cleaner on any leather parts.

03
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Clean Laces in the Wash

Dirty laces will stand out in stark contrast to your newly clean sneakers. Throw them in the wash with a load of like-colored laundry and let them air dry when done.

04
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Stuff the Sneakers with Paper

When you're done washing your sneakers, shake off the excess water. Then, to help them absorb extra moisture and maintain shape, stuff them with crumpled brown paper bags, paper towels, or white office paper. (Heads up: Don't use newspaper or colored paper—the ink will transfer and stain the shoes). Next, set the sneakers aside to air dry, and make sure not to dry them near a fireplace or heater—direct heat breaks down canvas fabric and causes it to become dry and brittle.

05
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Use a Shoe Polish on Excess Stains

When the shoes are thoroughly dry, you can replace the inserts and laundered laces. Still notice some stains? Lightly dab on some white liquid shoe polish. Some manufacturers even suggest spraying the tops of new canvas sneakers with a fabric protector before you wear them—but first, peep the care instructions included with the sneakers to make sure this won't damage them.