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How to Clean Converse Sneakers

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If your favorite pair of well-worn white Converse sneakers are looking… well, a little worse for wear, then you are probably wondering how to clean them without causing damage. Because they’re made of canvas and leather, they are more likely to get scuffed and stained quickly. Thankfully, they are also easy to clean! Keep reading to find out everything you should know about how to clean white Converse sneakers.

How to Clean White Converse Sneakers
@mikutas, @collagevintage

Converse Cleaning Guide: Contents

Cleaning White Canvas Converse by Hand

Converse specifically advises against cleaning your shoes in a washing machine, so first, we will recommend washing by hand. For hand-washing, you’ll need a cleaning cloth (such as a washcloth) and two small bowls. You can also use an old toothbrush to remove grime.

• Choose your cleaning solution. For everyday stains and scuffs, 1/4 cup laundry detergent mixed with 2 cups of warm water should be a reliable cleaning solution for overall cleaning.

• In the second bowl, pour clean, warm water. This bowl will be for rinsing your cloth in between cleaning.

Read Next: 10 Best Women’s Converse Shoes You Should Add to Your Shoe Rack

• Remove your laces and insoles – we will talk about how to clean those a bit later!

• Test! Pick a discreet area of the shoe, such as the outer edges of the tongue, to test your solution. Think of it like doing a test strip when dyeing your hair! You want to make sure the color of your sneaker isn’t affected.

• Begin cleaning your Converse shoes, section by section. Dip your cloth in your cleaning solution, and use it to scrub away dirt and stains by working the soap into the canvas, making sure to saturate it thoroughly.

• Periodically rinse your cloth in the clean water before continuing.

• You can also use this solution on the rubber soles of your Converse. Be sure to use a clean, damp cloth to clean any soapy residue from the rubber.

• Let your shoes air-dry. After you’re done cleaning your white Converse, you can stuff them with newspapers or paper towels so they keep their shape and absorb the moisture faster. Let them air-dry at room temperature, away from direct sunlight or heat.

How to Clean Converse Sneakers

Additional Cleaning Solutions

Using the method above, you can use the following cleaning solutions depending on what you have on hand:

  • Dish soap, such as Dawn;
  • Shampoo diluted with water;
  • Baking Soda and Vinegar: Create a paste of two parts baking soda and three parts vinegar (or just enough to make a paste), scrubbing the paste over the entire shoe. Rinse entirely when done and follow our drying instructions.
  • Toothpaste! Believe it or not, toothpaste is also a magical cleaning agent for your Converse sneakers to lift dirt. Use a non-gel, white toothpaste (half the amount you would use on your teeth) and a soft-bristled brush to scrub the toothpaste into the material of the shoe.
  • Be sure to only use toothpaste on canvas sneakers, as it may damage any other materials. After scrubbing the toothpaste into your shoe, let sit for 10 minutes, and then wipe away with a clean, damp cloth.

Cleaning White Leather Converse by Hand

While you may be tempted to follow the same cleaning protocol for your leather Converse, leather is a bit trickier. To clean your leather Converse, you will need paper towels, a clean cotton rag (such as an old T-shirt), mild soap (such as ivory soap), and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser

• Do not soak your leather Converse. Soaking leather can lead to leather shrinkage and distortion of the color. And don’t even think about throwing your shoes in the washing machine!

• As with canvas, remove your laces and your insoles. This will make cleaning easier.

• Wipe away any dust and heavy dirt with a clean, damp cloth, then let your shoes dry for a few minutes.

• Clean the sole. For cleaning the soles of your Converse sneakers, this is where the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser comes in handy. Wet the sponge, so it’s saturated but not dripping, and run it along the sole of your shoes to remove dirt and stains.

• Scrub with soap. Now that your soles are clean, wet your cotton rag and lather with your soap. Using small, circular motions, massage the soap into the shoe until the stains begin to lift. Be sure to wipe away any excess soap. Allow your sneakers to dry.

• Repeat! If your shoes are particularly stained, you may need to repeat this process until you are satisfied.

• If the shine on your leather Converse sneakers has worn off, you can use colorless shoe polish to shine them up.

How to Wash White Converse Sneakers

How to Spot-Clean Tough Stains on Both Canvas and Leather Converse Shoes

If you want to spot-treat tough stains before cleaning the rest of your Converse sneakers, there are two additional household items you probably already have on hand that you can use. These two items are used separately, depending on whether you have canvas or leather Converse.

  • For Canvas: For tough stains on canvas, you can use a toothbrush dipped in hydrogen peroxide to buff away tricky stains.
  • For Leather: For tough stains on leather Converse shoes, you can use a toothbrush dipped in baking soda to make a paste to scrub the leather.
  • In both cases, finish by wiping away any remaining residue from your cleaning products or stains and let air-dry.

How to Clean Suede Converse Sneakers

Suede is a delicate fabric that can stain easily. If you have a pair of suede Converse sneakers, such as the Converse Colors Suede Chuck ’70s, you will need to take a different cleaning approach.

  • Brush: Suede brushes are specifically used to brush the delicate fabric and can be found on Amazon for relatively cheap. You can also use an old, clean toothbrush or any soft-bristled brush you might have. Make sure they are completely dry and gently brush with the grain of the suede (not back and forth) to remove dirt or dust.
  • Scrub: For tough stains, you can use your old reliable friend, white vinegar. Use vinegar on hard-to-remove stains such as salt or food. Apply the vinegar to the stain directly with a clean cloth and let dry. Once dry, brush the stain out with your brush.
  • Erase: There are erasers made specifically for suede, but a regular eraser from a pencil will also work in removing stains from your suede Converse. If you have a scuff or mark that won’t lift, try rubbing it with the eraser, using firm pressure to remove the marking.
  • Protect: When it comes to protecting your suede Converse from future damage, you can use a waterproofing or stain-repellent spray. This Scotchgard protector is a great choice for winter, as it repels salt. This spray from NikWax is also a great waterproofing option.
  • Maintain: Be sure to repeat the above steps regularly to keep your suede Converse clean and protected!
How to Clean Colored Converse Sneakers

How to Clean Other Colored Converse Shoes

While white Converse sneakers are trendy, many people wear Converse of other colors or have Converse with patterns on them.

  • You can follow the same cleaning methods listed under the canvas sneaker description above for Converse with patterns or different colors. For a cleaning solution, mix one tablespoon of baking soda with two tablespoons of white vinegar, adjusting the ratio until you have a sort of wet paste.
  • Let your shoes sit with the paste on them for about an hour, and then hand-rinse.
  • Let dry, following our guidelines on how to dry canvas sneakers. 

How to Safely Clean Converse Sneakers in the Washing Machine

While most care tips don’t recommend washing your Converse sneakers in a washing machine, you can do so without damaging your sneakers if you are set on doing so.

  • Prep: Before you can wash your sneakers, rinse off any large pieces of dirt or mud. Remove the insoles, as well as the laces.
  • Protect: Protect your shoes by putting them in a mesh wash bag or a pillowcase to protect them while they’re in the washing machine. You can also add a comforter, or several large towels to the machine, to prevent your Converse from banging too loudly against the machine.
  • Wash: Wash on a gentle cycle, in cool to lukewarm water. Water that is too hot can damage the glue holding your shoes together. Use a mild detergent, and avoid any fabric softeners.
  • Dry: As always, allow your Converse sneakers to air-dry only.
How to Clean White Converse Shoes

How to Clean Converse Insoles

After you remove the soles from your Converse shoes before cleaning them, they will also need to be cleaned.

  • Soak: For regular maintenance cleaning, you can soak your insoles in a mixture of warm, soapy water. You can also soak them in a 1:1 mixture of water and white vinegar to disinfect them.
  • Scrub: Use a scrub brush and gently scrub away stains. Remember not to soak leather insoles. Leather insoles should be spot-cleaned to avoid warping.
  • Rinse: Once you’re done soaking (up to three hours for particularly smelly insoles), be sure to thoroughly rinse your insoles, removing any remaining soap. Squeeze out any excess water.
  • Dry: Let your insoles dry overnight, and avoid putting them back in your shoes unless they are completely dry. For a slight bleaching effect, you can also dry them out in the sun on a clothesline.
  • Maintain: To maintain your insoles, be sure to wash them regularly, twice a month, or as needed.
  • Reducing Odor: To further reduce odor in your insoles, you can put the insoles in a ziplock bag with two teaspoons of baking soda. Shake the bag, coating the insoles completely. Let them absorb the baking soda overnight, then use a dry cloth to remove any excess.

How to Clean Converse Soles

While the fabric itself and the inside of the shoes are incredibly important, you should also know how to keep the soles of your shoes clean and tidy. These steps will help you keep the rubber soles of your Converse just as clean as the rest of the shoe.

  • Remove Excess Dirt: If your Converses have caked-on dirt or mud in the soles, take them outside and clap them together a few times to loosen and remove the larger pieces. You can use a butter knife to remove anything caked into the grooves of the shoe.
  • Dry Brush: Use a dry shoe brush, such as this one from Amazon, to further remove any loose dirt.
  • Remove Scuffs: Like with suede, you can use a pencil eraser to rub away scuff marks on the rubber of your Converse. You can also use cotton balls soaked in nail polish remover. Just be sure to avoid the fabric if you go the acetone route!
  • Deep Clean: Now comes the satisfying part. A popular choice for scrubbing away large stains on Converse soles is a melamine sponge, or similarly, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. If you want a more delicate cleaning process, you can use a soft-bristled toothbrush and scrub with a cleaning solution of your choice. A good place to start is a gentle laundry detergent mixed equally with baking soda. Be sure to avoid any detergents with bleach.
  • Other Cleaning Methods: There are many different variations you can try on what cleaning solution you use. While you shouldn’t use chlorine bleach on the rubber, you can try a natural bleach, such as lemon juice mixed with hydrogen peroxide. Other cleaning methods include toothpaste, baking soda, etc.
  • Rinse: Use a different sponge or cloth, and using only water, wipe away any residue from the cleaning agents.
  • Dry: Once you’ve rinsed off any residue, use a clean, dry cloth to dry the rubber before you wear your Converse shoes again. By drying completely, you’ll be able to see how well your cleaning solution worked and if you need to repeat the process.
How to Wash Converse Sneakers

How to Clean Your Converse Laces

Cleaning your laces is relatively simple! Since you’ll have already removed your laces before cleaning your Converse sneakers, go ahead and throw them in a bowl of warm, soapy water, allowing them to soak. For white laces, you can add a bit of bleach to the mixture to revive the brightness.

If your laces are significantly frayed or stained, opt to replace them with new ones.

How to Keep Your Converse Fresh

Maintaining fresh Converse sneakers, no matter what color or material, is all about planning and being prepared for the worst. We have a few last tips on how to maintain fresh-looking Converse sneakers.

  • Prep: Before you even wear your sneakers, and after you clean them, spray your Converse sneakers with a water and stain repellent. We mentioned a few options under our tips on how to clean suede Converse. Those products or any sneaker protector spray will do wonders in improving the longevity of your shoes. For your leather Converse, be sure to get a product that is safe for leather.  
  • Spot-Clean: If you don’t have time to do a big clean, make sure you are spot-cleaning as you notice stains. You can easily spot-clean at the moment with any available mild soap and water. This will make it much easier to do a deep clean later.
  • On the Go: If you want to make sure you can easily remove scuffs or stains on the go, tuck a large pencil eraser into your bag. As we mentioned earlier, erasers are great for removing scuff marks and keeping the rubber on your Converse sneakers looking fresh. You can also carry a to-go stain remover, such as this stain remover wipe from Shout or this one from Tide.

Photos via Instagram