Shoes can easily become stained from spills or just daily wear and tear. You can find a variety of cleaning products designed to clean and maintain shoes, but these items can be expensive and aren't always effective in removing a stain. Instead, you can use a few inexpensive household cleaning items that'll take care of the shoe stain without damaging your shoes or your budget.
Here's how to remove stains from your shoes — and specific advice on how to get rid of the really noticeable (and stubborn) shoe stains like wine, coffee, and even blood.
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Use a Gentle Dish Soap
Dish soap works well for removing stains from canvas shoes — and particularly works well for removing stains on white shoes. It also acts as a de-greasing agent. Here's how to use this cleaning method:
- Mix 1 cup of water with two squirts of liquid dish soap.
- Mix until suds form.
- Use the tip of a cloth or paper towel to absorb some of the cleaning solution. Rub it over the stained area of the shoe, and repeat as necessary until the stain is gone.
- Use an old toothbrush to scrub stains if the cloth doesn't work. You might need to scrub repeatedly until the stain comes out completely.
- Let the shoes air dry, and the shoes should be as good as new.
Apply Laundry Detergent and Wash
It's no surprise that laundry detergent is an effective method for removing shoe stains. A lot of shoes can simply be thrown in the washing machine, but read the care instructions on the shoes to be sure. Canvas and athletic shoes that can handle the ride through the wash cycle are the best candidates for this stain-removal method.
If your shoes do indicate they are machine-washable, follow these basic steps for machine washing:
- Clean mud or loose dirt off shoes by banging them together outside or using a soft brush.
- Spot clean stains with a little soapy water and an old toothbrush.
- Take out the shoelaces to prevent them from getting tangled or caught. Remove the insoles if possible and wash them separately.
- Place the shoes in a mesh bag to protect them. You can also use an old pillowcase.
- Throw them in the wash on a delicate cycle with cold water. Hot water can damage adhesives that keep the shoes together. Add your normal detergent. Putting a few old towels in with the shoes helps to keep your washing machine balanced and keeps the shoes from banging around as much.
- Let the shoes air dry in sunlight when possible, which will dry and brighten shoes. Stuff some newspaper or rags inside the shoes to help them hold their shape while they dry.
Keep in mind that you should never machine-wash shoes made of leather, suede, and other delicate materials that require special care.
Make a Baking Soda Paste
Making a cleaning paste with baking soda can help remove stubborn stains from shoes. Add a little water at a time until the baking soda becomes a paste. (Alternatively, you can make a paste with baking soda and laundry detergent.) Apply a thick coating of the paste to the stain, let sit for a few hours until it dries, and brush off the dried paste. Then, simply wipe the shoes clean with a damp cloth.
Mix White Vinegar and Water
For salt stains that easily wipe off of canvas shoes but tend to stick to leather and suede, mix a solution of two parts water and one part white vinegar. Dab a cotton ball or cloth in this solution and rub over the salt stain until it's removed. Go over the area with a clean, soft cloth to absorb the vinegar. Let the shoes air dry.
Another at-home trick for removing stains from shoes is good old-fashioned toothpaste. Work the toothpaste into the stain using a toothbrush in firm, circular motions. Allow it to work on the stain for around three hours. Then, remove the toothpaste using a damp sponge.
If the stains on your shoes are on the rubberized sole rather than the shoe fabric, you can remove them using a Magic Eraser sponge.
How to Eliminate Tough Stains on Shoes
It seems like no matter how careful you are, stains on shoes (especially white shoes) are inevitable. Here's how to get the toughest stains out of your shoes — and get them looking brand new once again.
Type of Shoe Stain
Red stain (i.e. wine or grape juice)
Dishwashing detergent and white vinegar
Cold water and white vinegar
Hydrogen peroxide and cold water
How to Get Red Stains Out of White Shoes
Red wine spilled on any surface results in a discolored, tannin stain. Whether it's red wine, grape juice, or another red substance, getting a red stain out of a shoe can feel nearly impossible. And when the purple pigment from the red stain ends up on your white canvas shoes, the stain is especially noticeable. Here's how to get red stains out of white shoes:
- Blot the shoes with paper towels to absorb as much of the red wine as possible.
- Pour 2 cups of warm water into a bucket. Add 1 tablespoon of dishwashing detergent, followed by 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Stir the ingredients until blended well.
- Dip a sponge in the detergent and vinegar mixture. Squeeze the sponge to remove all excess moisture.
- Dab at the red wine spill stain on your canvas shoes. Rinse the sponge, add more detergent solution and continue to sponge the canvas to remove the stains.
- Wet a toothbrush with the detergent and white vinegar solution. Scrub along grooves or seams on your white canvas shoes to remove red wine stains that have settled there.
- Moisten a clean cloth with water. Blot the surface of your white canvas shoes to remove the detergent solution.
- Press a dry cloth into the shoe surface to absorb moisture. Fill the insides of your canvas shoes with newspaper to hold their shape throughout the drying process. Place your shoes in a well-ventilated area to dry.
How to Get Coffee Stains Out of Shoes
Who among us hasn't spilled a cup of coffee all over their entire outfit? Luckily, coffee stains are easy to eliminate just as long as the spot hasn't dried completely. Coffee is also a tannin, which means you'll need an acetic acid component (aka white vinegar) to your stain removing technique. Spilled coffee on your white sneakers or canvas shoes? Here's how to remove the stain with ease:
- Using a paper towel, absorb as much of the liquid as you can from the shoe.
- Rinse the shoe with cold water. If this doesn't eliminate the entire stain, then you'll need to escalate the stain removal process to include an acetic acid.
- Pour white vinegar into a small bowl and dip the edge of a soft, clean cloth into it.
- Dab the stain with the white vinegar soaked cloth and let sit for a couple of hours.
- If the stain is still visible, repeat the process until the stain is eliminated.
How to Get Blood Stains Out of Shoes
Whether you accidentally cut your finger while cooking or you were slapping a bandage on your kid, blood stains on shoes can happen — and unfortunately they can be stubborn. If you get to the blood stain on your shoe right away, it's entirely possible to eliminate it, however. Here's how:
- Grab some hydrogen peroxide and pour it in a spray bottle.
- Spray the affected area liberally. You should hear some fizzing.
- Scrub the stain gently with an old toothbrush.
- Let the mixture sit for about 5 – 10 minutes.
- Rinse the shoe with cold water.
- If the stain is still present, try mixing in a bit of dish soap with hydrogen peroxide and apply to the stain.