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How To Clean Canvas Shoes

Someone wearing a white pair of swirly Converse high-tops in two different pink tones, featuring off-white soles and toeboxes.
Credit: Schuh

Knowing how to clean canvas shoes is an important skill to have when trying to keep your sneaker collection looking like new.

With canvas shoes coming in an array of different styles, they're arguably some of the best sneakers and most versatile footwear around, especially since they tend to feature the brightest, boldest designs of any shoes on the market.

Therefore, we've put together a step-by-step guide to talk you through the cleaning process, and have included a few top tips along the way to ensure your sneakers come away spotless as if they were brand new.

So, whether you're trying to clean a pair of your best Vans, or you're getting your Converse shoes ready to wear, we've got you covered right here. Let's dive in...

How to clean canvas shoes

The following is what we believe to be one of the most effective techniques for cleaning canvas shoes, like these Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars, to give just one example.

Converse product image of a pair of black high-top Chuck Taylor All Stars with white details and laces and All Star branding in blue and white.
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Credit: Converse

Don't worry if you don't own any canvas shoes as we've also made guides to cleaning leather, suede, and mesh sneakers for you to check out. We'll be focusing on canvas here though, but before we begin, here's everything you'll need to keep your shoes pristine...

What You'll Need:

Read More: Best shoe cleaning kits

Step 1: Start by removing your shoelaces and soak them in warm water mixed with a small quantity of mild soap, while you proceed with the remaining steps.

Top Tip: Adding a small amount of baking soda to the water can help clean white laces.

Step 2: Gently scrub your sneakers using a soft-bristled brush to eliminate any loose dirt and debris. We'd recommend brushing your sneakers in a circular motion with a gentle touch.

Step 3: Combine a small amount of shoe cleaner, like this Angelus Easy Cleaner, with another bowl of warm water and dip a clean soft-bristled brush into the mixture. Use the shoe cleaner as per the manufacturer's instructions.

Angelus Easy Cleaner product image of a clear bottle containing light green shoe cleaner.
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Credit: Angelus

Step 4: Gently work your way across the surface of your shoes with the brush until the dirt and stains have been removed.

Top Tip: An old toothbrush works well for cleaning any hard-to-reach crevasses.

Step 5: Once you're happy your shoes are clean, leave them to dry naturally. We'd suggest filling the inside of your shoes with old newspaper to help them maintain their shape whilst drying.

Step 6: Although optional, we'd then recommend applying a top protective spray like Crep Protect in order to minimise how often you need to clean them.

Crep Protect product image of a purple and black spray can with yellow details.
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Credit: Crep Protect

Step 6: Remove your shoelaces from their soak and leave them to dry with your canvas shoes before re-lacing them. Check out our guide to lacing Vans and Converse shoes right here for our top tips on getting your canvas sneakers ready to wear.

Top Tip: Filling your shoes with old newspaper beforehand can help ensure your shoes maintain their shape whilst drying.

What about white canvas shoes?

A lot of people turn to bleach to clean white shoes; however, we'd advise against it as it is a particularly harsh chemical that can permanently damage your sneakers if applied incorrectly.

Person wearing white Vans Sk8-His covered in purple paint.
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Credit: Nathan Dumlao

We'd recommend using baking soda instead for stubborn stains as detailed in our guide to cleaning white fabric shoes and white sneakers here.

Combine a tablespoon of warm water with one tablespoon of baking soda to make a paste-like mixture. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the surface of your shoes in a circular motion using this paste. Once dry, your shoes should be a bright white colour once again.

Things to avoid when cleaning canvas shoes

When caring for canvas sneakers, caution is crucial to prevent irreversible damage. Washing machines and dryers can harm the material due to intense spinning and heat, causing fabric wear and stitching to unravel. Excessive water exposure weakens the fibres, so avoid soaking the canvas too. Also, harsh chemical soaps should be avoided as they dry out and potentially stain the shoes, leading to permanent damage.

Additionally, refrain from using direct heat or sunlight for drying, as they can deform the shoes and bleach coloured fabrics. Wired brushes or rough sponges should also be avoided, as they risk pulling apart the threaded fabric and stitching, resulting in challenging repairs. Treat your canvas sneakers gently, opting for mild cleaning methods and careful handling to maintain their quality and longevity.

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