If you wanted yellow shoes, you would have bought yellow shoes. So, if your white shoes turned yellow after washing them, it's a problem. White shoes are notoriously difficult to clean and maintain. The upside is that white materials can be cleaned with a wide range of products that might stain darker shoes, including bleach, so your yellowed sneakers might not be a lost cause.
Wash White Shoes the Right Way
If your white shoes turned yellow after washing them, it could be because you didn't wash them properly. Avoid machine washing white shoes if at all possible, even if they're made of canvas and the manufacturer says they can go in the washing machine. Being battered around in the washer can damage shoe materials and make shoes shrink.
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Before washing, take the shoelaces and removable insoles out of shoes to wash separately. Next, remove dried dirt from white shoes with a brush and then use a shoe cleaning kit and/or specially designed white shoe cleaner to spot treat any stains. Alternatively, mix a little laundry detergent into a bowl of warm water and use a clean sponge to scrub at dirty patches. Use a clean, wet sponge to wipe away detergent residue. Let the shoes air-dry indoors or outdoors in a shady place, never in direct sunlight.
Of course, some shoe types require much more careful handling than others. Suede shouldn't get wet, so cleaning white suede shoes requires products made for use on suede. Canvas shoes and athletic sneakers can generally be washed with soap and water without damage.
Cleaning Yellowed Shoes
There are a few things you can try to "unyellow" white sneakers or other white shoes. Because different shoe materials will respond differently to various cleaning products, it's always smart to test cleaning methods on a lesser-seen part of the shoe before using them all over.
A trusty Magic Eraser can erase yellowing on white rubber shoe soles and may be used to clean shoe uppers too. Melamine sponges are generally safe for white sneakers and canvas shoes. Hydrogen peroxide can also brighten white canvas shoes. Make a paste of one part water, one part hydrogen peroxide, and two parts baking soda and rub it into canvas shoes with a brush. Follow this with a clean, wet cloth to remove the paste.
Depending on how much you're bothered by the fact that your white shoes turned yellow after washing, it might be worth bleaching them. This method is safe for white canvas shoes. Work in a well-ventilated room and wear gloves while handling bleach. Follow package instructions to mix a bleach solution and scrub the shoes with a brush or cloth dipped in the solution. Rinse the shoes well and let them air-dry.
Keeping White Shoes Bright
Treat white shoes with shoe protector spray after every cleaning. Not only does it make shoes more water-resistant but protector spray also makes shoes more resistant to staining in the future.
Also, look at where you're storing your white shoes when you're not wearing them. Sun exposure can cause white fabrics to yellow over time. If you keep your sneakers on a sunny porch or anywhere in the path of a window, move them to a closet to protect them from the sun's rays.