Canvas shoes are comfortable to wear, so they end up taking a beating. The dirt builds up after a while until formerly cute shoes end up looking grimy and grungy. The good news is that a simple cleaning can often get shoes made from canvas back to their pristine glory, and it does not take a lot of work to achieve. The trick is to use the right tools in the right ways.
Materials to gather
Establishing a tool kit for cleaning canvas shoes is a straightforward task. Most items are common household items that can serve dual purposes. To have the right things handy, gather the following before getting started:
- A soft-bristled scrub brush
- Mild detergent
- Warm water in a spray bottle
- An old toothbrush
- Paper towels
Remove any laces from the shoes to wash separately in the washing machine. A lingerie bag helps keep them from getting lost or tangled. Knock the soles of the shoes together outside to remove loose dirt and dust, particularly from within the nooks and crannies of the soles.
Use a soft-bristled scrub brush on the dry shoe to dust off any loose dirt that did not shake off earlier. Spray warm water onto the shoes, being careful not to get the shoes extremely wet. Dampen the soft-bristled scrub brush, and add a small amount of mild detergent. Scrub gently, and blot with paper towels. The idea is to keep the shoe from getting too wet, while still cleaning it.
Spray the shoe periodically with a little more warm water to moisten the area for the detergent and to rinse the shoe. Check the shoe thoroughly for stains. If there are none, use an old toothbrush to clean the edge and bottom of the sole with mild detergent.
Bleach is usually not a good choice for canvas; it can cause the fabric to turn yellow in spots. To remove stains, including yellow stains from prior use of bleach, mix baking soda and water to form a paste. Apply it directly to the stain, allowing it to sit for a few hours. Check the stained area, and repeat as needed.
If there are still any stains left, use hydrogen peroxide. To test for colourfastness, dab a small amount in a hidden area. Do not use peroxide if it bleaches the colour out of the canvas. If the shoe passes the colourfastness test, dab a little bit of peroxide straight onto the stain with a cotton swab, and let it sit for a few hours. The cotton swab helps to apply the peroxide specifically to the stained areas. If there is no difference in the stained area, or if the stain is still even slightly visible, repeat the peroxide treatment.
Mould and mildew
Mould and mildew are special cases since they are so stubborn. To remove them from canvas, mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and water. Use a paper towel or washcloth to gently work the solution into the stained area, and check the progress. Once the mould or mildew is gone, spray the shoe with cool water, and blot the area dry.
Prevent mould and mildew by always letting canvas shoes dry thoroughly. After wearing them in wet weather or cleaning them, be sure that they are completely dry before putting them away. Do not put them in plastic bags. That traps moisture, which can encourage mould and mildew growth.
Drying the shoes
Stuff the interior of the shoes with clean paper towels, and then set them in the sun to dry. Check the shoes periodically, and bring them in when they are fully dried.
Do not toss the shoes into the dryer; this can cause all sorts of problems. The high heat and the tumbling action can damage the fabric, the stitching, and the glue that holds the shoes together.
How to buy items to clean canvas shoes on eBay
Sellers on eBay offer all sorts of items that can help you restore a favourite set of canvas shoes. If you are looking for a spray bottle to replace one that does not work well, use the search term "spray bottle". For specific sizes, include those in the search term to help narrow down the selection further in order for you to find the exact item you are looking for. If you need scrub brushes, be sure to specify "soft-bristled" in the search, since metal or harsh brushes can damage the canvas fabric.