The Ultimate Guide on How to Clean Fabric Shoes

Do you have some fabric shoes in your footwear collection that look like they are past their best? Are you wondering whether to consign them to shoe heaven? Before you do, take a look at our step-by-step guide on how to clean fabric shoes.

It may be your favorite white canvas shoes, a pair of suede boots, some fabric dress shoes, or some rope and cork wedges. Whatever the fabric, with a little effort, you can restore them.


Cleaning Fabric Shoes

Shoes can be made from many fabrics. Just like anything else you wear, no matter how careful you are, over time they get dirty.

Unfortunately, you can’t just toss them in the washing machine like you would your clothes. The glue that holds the shoes together won’t hold up and leather linings or adornments can get damaged.

Cleaning fabric shoes needs to be done by hand, taking care not to damage them.

What You Need

  • Paper towels.
  • Soft toothbrush.
  • Soft shoe brush.
  • Warm water.
  • Dishwashing soap.
  • Small bowl.


This is how you should clean your fabric shoes;

  1. Make sure your shoes are dry, especially if there is mud or dirt on them.
  2. Use the soft shoe brush to gently brush off the dry dirt and mud.
  3. Wipe the shoes over with a piece of dry paper towel to remove any remaining surface dust or dirt.
  4. Mix one teaspoon of dishwashing soap with two cups of warm water in the small bowl.
  5. Dip the soft toothbrush in the water and soap solution, remove it, and shake off any excess water.
  6. Lightly scrub the fabric in small sections at a time.
  7. Work your way over all the fabric of the shoes. This will help stop spotting and keep the color of them consistent.
  8. Work in the same direction all the time, with the grain of the fabric.
  9. Moisten some paper towels in clear, warm water.
  10. Wipe this over the shoes to remove any soap residue.
  11. Continue this process until all the soap has been “rinsed” off.
  12. Take some dry paper towel and blot the shoes dry.
  13. Allow the shoes to air dry away from direct sunlight or heat.


Pro Tips

  • Be careful not to over-wet the fabric.
  • It may take several sheets of paper towel to rinse the fabric.
  • Stuff the shoes with dry paper towels or a clean soft cloth to help them hold their shape as they dry.


Cleaning White Fabric Shoes

White fabric shoes are undoubtedly more prone to getting dirty than any others. You can guarantee the minute you step out of the door with them on, things will conspire against you being able to keep them clean.

How to Clean Fabric Shoes

It could be your tennis shoes, sneakers, or the latest pair of Converse or Vans. Knowing how to clean them will keep them bright and white longer.

What You Need

  • 2 old toothbrushes.
  • 3 small bowls.
  • Laundry detergent.
  • Baking soda.
  • Clean cloth or paper towel.

The Method

  1. Remove the laces from the shoes (if they have them).
  2. Place the laces in a bowl with a few drops of dishwashing soap and some warm water.
  3. Leave them to soak.
  4. Once cleaned, remove and dry.
  5. Make sure your shoes are dry, especially if there is dirt or mud on them.


Cleaning the Soles

  1. Tap the shoes together at the soles to remove excess dirt from the treads.
  2. Use one of the toothbrushes to clean out any remaining dirt from the tread or creases between the soles and uppers.
  3. Using the second bowl, mix together equal parts baking soda and water to form a paste.
  4. Dip the toothbrush in the paste and gently massage it into the soles of the shoes.
  5. Once you have covered and cleaned all the soles, use a damp cloth or paper towel to remove the paste.


Cleaning the Uppers

  1. Add a few drops of laundry detergent to the last bowl with some cold water.
  2. Make sure it’s mixed together well.
  3. Take the second clean toothbrush and dip it in the solution.
  4. Using circular movements, clean the shoes making sure you move from the outside in on any stains.
  5. Using a clean cloth or paper towel, use fresh water and wipe off any residual soap solution.
  6. Repeat steps 12 to 14 until all the shoes are clean.
  7. Stuff your shoes with paper towels or old cloths to help them retain their shape.
  8. Air dry them away from direct heat or sunlight.


Pro Tips

  • You can use an old electric toothbrush if you have one to clean the uppers of your shoes. This will make cleaning quicker and easier for you.
  • Make sure you rinse off all the detergent, it can mark your shoes if you don’t.
  • Try not to get the inside of your shoes wet when cleaning them.
  • Make sure you work inwards on stains so you don’t spread them.
  • If your laces don’t come out clean, you can always change them out for a new pair.


You can read more about cleaning white mesh shoes in our in-depth guide.

This video shows you another method to clean white canvas shoes using hydrogen peroxide and soap.


Cleaning Fabric Dress Shoes

Dress shoes could be made from fabrics like suede, velvet, or satin. These each present their own challenges when it comes to cleaning them.

Clean Fabric Shoes dress


Cleaning Velvet Shoes

Velvet shoes need special care when cleaning. The method we have detailed above for fabric shoes is not suitable for them.

For velvet shoes, use a soft bristled brush like this one from Miscly to lift the pile and remove dirt and dust. You might be able to remove stains with a dry cleaning solvent. Make sure you patch test on an area that can’t be seen before using any cleaning product on velvet.


Cleaning Satin Shoes

Satin shoes can mark easily and also retain watermarks. Special care should be taken when cleaning them.

What You Need

  • Clean cloths.
  • Cold water.
  • Gentle hand soap.
  • Clean hand towel.

The Method

  1. Wipe the shoes down with a dry cloth to remove any dust or dirt.
  2. Following this, use a cloth dampened with cold water and blot any stains.
  3. Make sure if you are working on a heel to start at the top and work down with the grain of the fabric.
  4. If there are any stubborn stains which won’t come out with water alone, then use a tiny amount of gentle hand soap.
  5. Rub this on a cloth to form a lather and then blot the stain with the soap.
  6. Using a damp cloth, pat all the soap away immediately. You can apply light pressure to make sure it is all removed.
  7. Dry the shoes using the clean hand towel. If you are unable to get all the water out, use a hairdryer on the lowest heat setting to dry the shoe.


Pro Tips

Be sure not to rub the fabric, this can cause water streaks and damage it.


This video shows you another method of cleaning satin shoes with a specialist cleaning solution.


Cleaning Suede Fabric Shoes

Suede is a type of leather. It is the brushed underside of the animal hide. It is a lot more delicate than full-grain leather which comes from the outer skin of the hide.

It’s best to use a specialized suede brush and cleaner on suede shoes. You can find out more about suede and how to clean and care for it in our article Nubuck vs Suede.


Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Protect My Fabric Shoes?

Stain repellents can be purchased for many types of fabric. They will help keep them clean and can also give them a level of waterproofing.

It is important to remember that any treatments should be applied to clean shoes. It’s best to start right out of the box when you first get them.

One like this from Scotchgard is suitable for most fabrics. They also make one which is specifically for suede and nubuck.

Make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions for any protective spray you buy before use.


Can I Wash Fabric Shoes?

You can clean them with soap and water as we have outlined but you should not put them in the washing machine. They often have leather or suede accents and glue that holds them together. Putting them in the wash will possibly damage them.


Can I Dry Fabric Shoes in the Dryer?

Just like the washing machine, this one is off limits. The heat might shrink the fabric or affect the integrity of the shoe. Always let shoes air dry in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or heat.


Cleaning It Up

Fabric shoes are becoming more and more popular, whether it’s the latest heels, dress shoes, casual deck shoes, or sneakers. Keeping them clean and protecting them will prolong the use you get out of them.

Now you know how to do this without damaging your shoes. So rummage through your wardrobe and get cleaning. There must be some shoes you consigned to the back because they were dirty.

We hope you enjoyed our guide and found it informative. Please leave us a comment and don’t forget to share so others can learn how to clean fabric shoes.


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