How To Clean Vans Shoes

Person wearing a green jumper holding a pair of green Vans low-tops featuring white details in front of a green backdrop.
Credit: Kristian Egelund

Person wearing a green jumper holding a pair of green Vans low-tops featuring white details in front of a green backdrop.
Credit: Kristian Egelund

Figuring out how to clean Vans shoes isn't as straightforward as you might think given the sheer number of styles and materials the company uses to make its models.

However, despite being some of the best skate shoes designed to withstand the rigors of a skatepark, Vans still need a little bit of maintenance every now and then to keep them looking great each time you lace them up.

Therefore, we've put together a step-by-step guide to talk you through the cleaning process, highlighting a few top tips along the way to help ensure your best sneakers come away looking spotless as if you'd unboxed them for the first time.

So, make sure you have your best pair of Vans to hand, whether they're a classic set of "Black White" Old Skools, or a pair of the Knu Skool low-tops, and follow along with our top tips right here.

How to clean Vans

The following is what we believe to be the most effective way of cleaning a classic pair of Old Skool Vans as they are, arguably, the brand's most popular model.

Vans Old Skool product image of a black sneaker with white details, laces, and midsole.
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Credit: Vans

With Vans typically being made from canvas cotton and rubber, we'll be focusing specifically on how to clean these materials in this article.

Stick around though as we'll be discussing our top tips for cleaning alternative fabrics such as leather a little later on. For now, though, here's what you'll need to clean Vans...

What You'll Need

Step 1: Before you begin, remove your shoelaces and place them in a mixture of warm water and mild soap to soak.

Step 2: Next, brush off any loose dirt with a soft-bristled brush.

Step 3: Combine a small amount of shoe cleaner with warm water in another bowl. You can purchase dedicated shoe cleaners, like this Angelus Easy Cleaner featured in our list of the best leather shoe cleaners, but a relatively mild cleaning agent should also work.

Step 4: Dip your microfibre cloth into the mixture and rub away any of the deeper stains across the canvas material. You can also use the cloth to clean the stains on your rubber midsoles.

Top Tip: Try not to apply too much water to the canvas in order to avoid damaging the material and to reduce the drying time.

Vans product image of a pair of black sneakers covered in blue paint.
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Credit: Vans

Step 5: Once satisfied the stains are gone, remove the shoelaces from their soak and leave them to air dry, away from direct heat and sunlight, with your shoes.

Step 6: Once dry, you can then take the process a step further by restoring the midsoles to their usual white colour using white vinegar. To begin, apply some masking tape to cover the canvas section of your shoes to avoid staining.

Vans product image of a pair of blue, unlaced sneakers next to a blue skateboard.
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Credit: Vans

Step 7: Take an old toothbrush, dip it into the vinegar, and gently buff the white rubber in small circular motions before wiping them clean.

Step 7: Re-lace your Vans, then we'd recommend applying a protective spray, like Crep Protect, which we've previously featured in our list of the best sneaker protectors, to minimise how often you need to clean them. Make sure you use the formula as per the manufacturer's instructions.

What about other materials?

Vans are typically made out of canvas and rubber; however, there are some iterations out there that utilise other materials. Don't worry though, here are some of our top tips for when you encounter an alternative material to what you're used to.


Although not often, some Vans, like these Barbie x Vans Sk8-Hi Tapered Stackform sneakers, arguably the best Vans collab released this year, can be made from leather.

Barbie x Vans Sk8-Hi Tapered Stackform product image of a pair of white leather high-tops featuring a 34mm pink midsole and a hanging white and pink "B" logo.
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Credit: Vans

Fortunately, the process remains almost identical to cleaning canvas as leather tends to be incredibly durable and capable of withstanding water as well as your shoe cleaning products.

Simply wipe away any dirt with a brush then use a damp cloth to clean the surface of your shoes until any remaining stains are gone. You can then apply conditioner to the leather to avoid the material drying out. Check out our list of the best leather conditioners to get you started.

Read More: Best shoe cleaning kits


Again, suede is not a material commonly used in the construction of Vans; however, there are some, like the Range Exps, that feature suede panels.

Vans product image of a pair of black suede and mesh sneakers.
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Credit: Vans

As outlined in our guide to cleaning suede shoes, removing dirt and stains from suede is notoriously difficult, but not impossible. We'd first recommend using a suede brush, like this Shacke 4-Way Suede Brush, to remove any dirt when whilst your shoes are dry.

You can then take this a step further by using a suede eraser, like this bit of kit from Kiwi featured in our list of the best suede shoe cleaners, to rub away any tough stains and smaller marks. Then, to make sure your shoes stay clean, make sure you check out our list of the best suede protectors to keep your Vans looking fresh.

Read More: Best shoe deodorizers

Things to avoid when cleaning Vans

When it comes to cleaning your Vans, it's important to know the dos and don'ts so that one wrong move or product won't leave your Vans damaged permanently.

Firstly, Vans advise against putting your shoes in a washing machine or dryer, regardless of the material. The intensity of the spin, water, and heat can damage delicate materials, often leading them to crack and/or deform.

Vans also suggest you avoid using bleach to whiten the rubber midsoles because it may actually turn your shoes yellow.

Leading on from this, we'd suggest you avoid using any soap that contains harsh chemicals. In addition to removing some of the oil from your shoes, soap can also dry out the canvas and rubber, thus causing permanent damage.

We also suggest you avoid using direct heat to speed up the drying process. This heat can warp your shoes and even cause certain elements to crack.

Finally, and to something we mentioned in our guide to cleaning mesh shoes, avoid using wired brushes or rough sponges because they can pull apart the threaded fabric and leave permanent scratches on the surface of your sneakers.

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