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How to clean your Kids’ Converse and Vans sneakers

Do your kids LOVE their Cons and Vans? My kids live in theirs and I am forever having to find new ways to keep them looking their best. With muddy puddles, playground mishaps and general run of the mill play, they can get to look pretty grubby. Luckily, I have a few tried and tested methods to clean your kids Converse and Vans shoes so they look as good as the day they got them… well, almost!

NB: These cleaning hacks can be applied to any canvas shoes as well, not just the Cons.

Before you try any of these methods, be sure to patch test the cleaning product on a small area of the shoe first such as the tongue of the shoe that is covered. This will ensure it won’t stain or damage your Connies or Vans.

Our tried and tested methods for cleaning Converse, Vans and other canvas shoes:

Washing Machine

I know what you are thinking, the washing machine isn’t usually your first thought when thinking about how to clean a pair of shoes. But, with canvas shoes, it is actually one of the most effective places to get them clean. There are a few tricks you need to be aware of though just to make sure your shoes come out in better condition than when they went in.

  • Place them in a wash bag – this helps prevent the shoelaces from getting tangled
  • Wash them with towels or bedding – bulkier items in the machine with them will help stop the shoes from banging around too much.
  • Tie the shoelaces up – this will also help keep them untangled
  • Don’t put the machine on too hot. Cold or warm water will suffice.
  • Leave them out to airdry on a rack. This could take just a day in summer or a few days during the cooler winter months.

Spot Clean

If you don’t need to clean the whole shoe, then spot cleaning is a good way to get them fresh and make sure they are dry enough to wear the next day. The best products to use for spot cleaning are:

  • Napisan – make a paste with napisan and water and spot clean the soiled area with a clean cloth or toothbrush for stubborn stains. Wipe over with another clean damp cloth until clean.
  • White toothpaste – toothpaste is a great cleaner and works really well on white canvas shoes and the soles. Use a toothbrush and spot clean the soiled areas. Make sure you wipe off cleanly. Your shoes will smell fresh too!
  • Stain remover – Your trusty spray stain remover will work wonders on spot stains on your canvas shoes. Use as you would on any other garment, but remember to test first!

Cleaning the soles

If the tops of your shoes are ok and you just need to clean the soles, then these cleaning tricks will work a treat on the rubber around the shoe.

  • Gumption – A great universal cleaner, gumption on the rubber soles will clean of all the dirt and bring them back to an acceptable shade of white.
  • White toothpaste and toothbrush – Toothpaste is a scary cleaner when you think about it, but it works great on what were once white rubber soles. Brush in a circular motion as you would your teeth and then rinse clean.
  • Stain Remover – As well as the canvas part, this also works on the soles.
  • Magic erasers – not only good for cleaning walls, magic erasers are also good for restoring rubber soles and removing scuff marks and built up grime.


Sometimes shoes are just plain grotty and when they look beyond dirty you need to pull out all stops to get them back again. Soaking the shoes in Napisan then washing them in the machine is a great way to get them back to their former glory.

  • Soak overnight in a bucket of napisan and water (as per directions on the tub)
  • Then place in the machine (following the washing machine guidelines above) and wash on a gentle cycle with other heavy items.
  • Remove and place on a rack to air dry

And just in case you needed proof, my friend Jess used method number 4 on her kids’ Converse shoes and to say they came up a treat is an understatement.

Not too bad! Clean Converse All Star Shoes. Photo credit: Jess Hales.

Can you believe these shoes once looked like this?

Before the clean! Have you seen this before? Photo credit: Jess Hales

How to Keep Canvas Shoes Clean

Prevention is almost always better than the cure and this is certainly true for keeping your kids’ canvas shoes clean. You’ll be able to keep them looking fresh and new for much longer than if you just cleaned them when they get filthy.

Before your kids start wearing their new kicks, spray them with a stain and water repellant that’s suitable for canvas. This can help to reduce the amount you’ll need to clean them over their lifetime. Check the repellant’s instructions, you might need to reapply this every few months.

When your kids come back from playing outside and inevitably have a stain, remove it as soon as possible before it becomes stubborn. For small stains, you can spot clean it with a toothbrush and some hydrogen peroxide or any of the cleaning products for spot cleaning we mentioned above. 

If the shoelaces are starting to look a bit grubby and a clean just isn’t doing the trick, a new set of laces can go a long way in making them look brand new again. 

Soaking your kids’ canvas shoes in some soapy water every few months or so can keep them looking fresh and clean much longer too.

Shop our range of Converse and Vans  shoes and let’s see how dirty your kids can get them!

Note: This article is a guide only and results can vary. While these methods worked well for us, please ensure you spot test products on your shoes first. We accept no responsibility for any damages incurred.