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How to Clean Your White Vans and Keep Them Looking Fresh

What's not to love about white Vans? They’re super chic, trendy, and versatile, able as they are to work with almost any outfit. Need something to complement casual cuffed jeans and a loose tee? Throw on some white Vans. Want a classier look with chinos and a button-down shirt? Grab the Vans. The only downside to these effortlessly stylish skate shoes? They take more than a little bit of effort to clean.

But worry not, stylish guys. If you’ve avoided these all-white beauties for fear that you wouldn’t be able to keep them looking pristine, this guide is for you. In it, we walk you through exactly how to clean your white Vans so they always look brand new.

Difficulty

Moderate

Duration

15 minutes

What You Need

  • Cleaning brush/wash cloth, Bleach or laundry detergent

How to Clean White Vans Quickly and Easily

White Vans are so versatile, you can wear them almost anywhere. That comes with drawbacks, though: You tend to accumulate a lot of dirt and debris along the way. Start by removing that grime, first and foremost.

Step 1: To start, brush off any visible dirt or dust you see on the shoe. I recommend doing this with a clean towel, but you could also use a loose-bristle brush. It’s advantageous for you to remove as much residue as you can before you apply the wet ingredients, so make sure to inspect every nook and cranny.

If your Vans have laces, this is a great time to remove those and put them to the side. We’ll clean those noodly little gems a little later on, but you should feel free to give them a quick brush as well.

A man sitting on a concrete seat, wearing white sneakers.
Tom Rogerson/Unsplash

Step 2: Now that we’ve brushed off the noticeable debris, it’s time for the deep clean. This step is more nuanced, and is up to you. Luckily, you have a couple of options here. If you notice that there are only a few dirty spots, you might be able to get away with simply using a Clorox bleach pen. As you would on any other white garment, apply the bleach liberally, rub it in, and then quickly wipe it away with a wet towel. You don’t want it to sit for too long as it could affect the overall look of the shoe.

If your sneakers need a deep clean all over, you’ll want to ditch the pen and make a cleaning agent of your own. There are a lot of different recipes floating around the Internet, but my personal favorite combines two parts of baking soda with one part hydrogen peroxide in a bath of warm water. You can make as big of a batch as you want, but the 2 to 1 ratio here is key.

Once you’ve made your concoction, apply it all over your shoe with a clean cloth. After rubbing it in, let it sit for a few minutes to ensure that the ingredients are able to break up the stains. Then, remove with another wet towel. Make sure you remove all of the cleaning solution; otherwise, you could discolor your shoes.

Step 3: After you wipe off the cleaning solution, give your soles a thorough scrub. There’s likely a lot of grime caked onto the outer and bottom soles of your shoe, so you’ll want to wipe them clean as best you can.

For this task, I like to use a magic eraser. This product is a true godsend and should help break up any debris with ease. You could also use an old toothbrush, a coarse towel, or whatever other cleaning implement you prefer. The Vans website itself recommends waiting for the canvas exterior to completely dry before attacking your soles with either white vinegar, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, or acetone. Truly, it’s up to you to decide what agent will get your soles back to their distinctive, bright white look.

A pair of striped black and white vans.
Nathan Keeney/Unsplash

Step 4: Thought we forgot about the laces, huh? Thankfully, these little guys are easy to clean, so are great to leave off until the very end. What I do is throw my dirty laces into a bowl of warm water mixed with a mild laundry detergent. I clean them by hand, rubbing any dirty spots out and letting them soak until they’re totally clean.

Keep in mind, there are other nuanced ways to go about cleaning your sneakers, but we think the tried-and-true ways are the best. For instance, if you've read through this guide and decided that you’ll save yourself the hassle by throwing your Vans in the wash, shy away from doing so.

While it’s a tempting proposition, I suggest that you don’t. Machine washing may be able to cleanse your shoes, but it could also warp their structure. Plus, a machine wash could also dull the white appearance of your shoes. Long story short, stick to hand-washing to preserve the integrity of your favorite kicks.

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Beau Hayhoe
Beau Hayhoe is a freelance men's style writer, consultant and PR pro based in Brooklyn. Beau's menswear and gear writing has…
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