Blue or black Vans can keep a secret. When they start to get dingy, you'll be the only one who notices at first. White Vans that start turning yellow, however, are hard to ignore, so these classic kicks require a little more upkeep. White Vans come in both canvas and suede/leather options, and the right cleaning strategy depends on the shoe material.
Cleaning White Canvas Vans
The first step in cleaning white Vans that have started to turn yellow is to take out the laces. Remove any dirt or dried debris that's clinging to the shoes using a brush, your hands or a soft cloth. Next, you may try using a clean toothbrush and warm, soapy water to clean the shoes. This method works for removing minor stains but probably won't eliminate the yellow tint, so your best bet is a deeper cleaning method.
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The best way to clean white canvas shoes that are turning yellow is to use a solution of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of baking soda with 1/2 tablespoon each of hydrogen peroxide and water. Use a clean toothbrush or paintbrush to brush the paste onto the canvas. Wait until the paste is dry to the touch, about 30 minutes or so.
Wipe away as much of the dried paste as you can and then rinse the shoes in cool water. Never put your Vans in the washing machine. Use a little bit of mild detergent to hand wash the shoes if necessary. Let them air dry indoors.
Cleaning White Suede/Leather Vans
Naturally, cleaning leather and suede requires a little more care than cleaning canvas because these delicate materials can be damaged by water. Any damage you do will be obvious on white shoes. So, tread carefully here, and consider buying products that are specially designed for cleaning these materials.
If your white Vans turn yellow and they're made of suede, you can try blotting them with a cloth dampened with white vinegar. Alternatively, brush suede cleaner over yellowed areas following package directions. Vans makes its own cleaner, but other brands are available.
For cleaning white leather Vans, there are a few tricks you can try. Rubbing the shoes with a cloth dampened with water and mild soap might lighten the yellow tint. Brushing the shoes with white toothpaste followed with a damp cloth might work too, or you might opt to choose a specialty leather cleaner.
Cleaning Other Vans
The thick rubber strip around the bottom is a signature of Vans shoes. These rubber strips can be cleaned in the same way no matter the material from which the shoe is made. Vans recommends using masking tape to protect the upper part of the shoe while working on the rubber strip. The company says that white vinegar, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol or acetone followed by water can be used to clean this strip.
If the insides of your white Vans smell less than fresh, go ahead and clean this part of the shoe too. Make a paste of baking soda and detergent and brush it all over the inside of each shoe. Let it dry for 15 minutes and then rinse the shoes thoroughly and let them air dry.
Finally, soak the shoelaces in soapy water and scrub with a brush to loosen any dirt. Place them in a mesh bag and toss them in with a load of light laundry.