How to Keep White Shoes From Turning Yellow

For many of us, owning a fresh, crisp pair of white shoes is the ultimate fashion statement. Whether it’s a classic pair of white sneakers, pristine white leather loafers, or stylish white sandals, there’s something undeniably chic about clean, bright white footwear. However, anyone who’s ever owned white shoes knows that keeping them looking their best can be a real challenge.

One of the most common issues with white shoes is that they tend to turn yellow over time. This discolouration can happen for a variety of reasons, from everyday wear and tear to improper cleaning and storage. But the good news is, with the right care and maintenance, it’s possible to keep your white shoes looking as fresh and bright as the day you bought them.

Keep White Shoes From Turning Yellow

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the common causes of yellow discoloration on white shoes, and provide you with a step-by-step action plan for preventing and removing that pesky yellowing. By the end, you’ll be equipped with all the knowledge and strategies you need to keep your white shoes looking their absolute best.

What Causes White Shoes to Turn Yellow?

Before we dive into the solutions, it’s important to understand what’s causing your white shoes to turn yellow in the first place. Knowing the root causes will help you take the most effective preventative measures. Here are some of the most common culprits:


One of the primary reasons white shoes turn yellow is a natural process called oxidation. When the materials in your shoes (such as leather, canvas, or synthetic fabrics) are exposed to air and sunlight over time, the oxidation process begins to break down those materials, causing discolouration.

This is why white shoes tend to yellow the most on areas that get the most exposure, like the toe box, sides, and heel counter. The more your shoes are worn and the more they’re exposed to the elements, the faster the oxidation will occur.

Dirt and Grime Buildup

Another major factor in the yellowing of white shoes is the accumulation of dirt, grime, and other environmental pollutants. As you wear your shoes, microscopic particles of dirt, dust, and even oil from your skin can get embedded into the material, gradually causing the white colour to become dingy and discoloured.

This issue is especially prevalent in high-traffic areas like city streets, where shoes are constantly exposed to car exhaust, pavement residue, and other airborne pollutants. The more your white shoes come into contact with these environmental contaminants, the faster they’ll start to yellow.

Improper Cleaning

Sometimes, the way you clean your white shoes can contribute to the yellowing problem. Using the wrong cleaning products, techniques, or water temperature can set the stains and discolouration, making the issue worse over time.

For example, using harsh chemical cleaners or scrubbing too aggressively can break down the delicate materials in your shoes, accelerating the oxidation process. Similarly, washing your shoes in hot water can cause the colors to fade and the materials to warp, leading to premature yellowing.

Sweat and Body Oils

The natural oils and perspiration from your feet can also play a role in the yellowing of your white shoes. As you wear your shoes, these bodily fluids can seep into the material, discoloring the white over time.

This is particularly problematic for shoes made of natural materials like leather or canvas, which are more absorbent and porous. Synthetic materials like rubber or plastic tend to be less susceptible to this issue.

Improper Storage

Even when you’re not wearing your white shoes, how you store them can impact their color. Exposing your shoes to direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, or high humidity levels can all contribute to the oxidation and discoloration process.

Additionally, storing your white shoes in a damp, humid environment can encourage the growth of mold and mildew, which can also lead to unsightly yellow stains.

Preventing Yellow Discoloration on White Shoes

Now that we’ve identified the main culprits behind the yellowing of white shoes, let’s explore some proven strategies for preventing this discoloration in the first place.

Clean Regularly

One of the most effective ways to keep your white shoes looking fresh is to clean them regularly. This helps remove any dirt, grime, or other contaminants that could lead to yellowing.

When cleaning your white shoes, be sure to use a gentle, non-abrasive cleaner specifically designed for the material of your shoes. Avoid using harsh chemicals or scrubbing too vigorously, as this can damage the delicate fabrics and cause more harm than good.

For canvas or mesh shoes, a simple mixture of warm water and mild soap can work wonders. For leather shoes, use a specialized leather cleaner and conditioner to keep the material supple and prevent cracking.

Be sure to clean all high-exposure areas, like the toe box, sides, and heel counter, and don’t forget to clean the soles as well. A clean, well-maintained pair of white shoes is much less likely to yellow over time.

Protect from Sunlight and Heat

As we mentioned earlier, exposure to sunlight and heat can accelerate the oxidation process, leading to faster yellowing of your white shoes. To prevent this, try to limit the amount of time your shoes spend in direct sunlight or high-heat environments.

When you’re not wearing your white shoes, store them in a cool, dry place, away from any windows or heat sources. You can also invest in a shoe storage box or bag to further protect your shoes from light and heat exposure.

If you do need to wear your white shoes in direct sunlight, consider using a shoe protectant spray or cream to create a barrier against UV rays and oxidation. These products can help extend the life of your white shoes and keep them looking their best.

Avoid Excessive Wear and Tear

The more you wear your white shoes, the faster they’ll start to show signs of wear and tear, including discoloration. To help prevent this, try to limit the amount of time you wear your white shoes and rotate them with other pairs in your collection.

When you do wear your white shoes, be mindful of the types of activities you’re doing. Avoid wearing them in situations where they’re likely to get extremely dirty, wet, or exposed to harsh chemicals or environments. Instead, save your white shoes for dressier occasions or lighter, everyday wear.

Additionally, consider investing in a pair of shoe inserts or insoles to help absorb sweat and body oils, which can contribute to yellowing over time.

Store Properly

Proper storage is crucial for maintaining the pristine appearance of your white shoes. As we mentioned earlier, exposing your shoes to high humidity, extreme temperatures, or direct sunlight can all accelerate the yellowing process.

When storing your white shoes, keep them in a cool, dry place, away from any windows or heat sources. You can also use shoe trees or other inserts to help maintain the shape and structure of your shoes, preventing any warping or creasing that could lead to discoloration.

If you’re storing your white shoes for an extended period, consider wrapping them in acid-free tissue paper or placing them in breathable garment bags to protect them from dust and other environmental contaminants.

Removing Yellow Discoloration from White Shoes

Despite your best efforts, it’s quite possible that your white shoes will eventually start to show signs of yellowing. When this happens, don’t despair – there are several effective ways to remove and restore the bright, clean appearance of your shoes.

Use a Baking Soda and Water Paste

One of the most popular and effective DIY solutions for removing yellow stains from white shoes is a simple baking soda and water paste. Here’s how to do it:

  • Mix together equal parts baking soda and water to create a thick, spreadable paste.
  • Using a soft-bristle brush or clean cloth, apply the paste to the discolored areas of your shoes.
  • Let the paste sit for 15-20 minutes, allowing it to work its magic.
  • Rinse the shoes thoroughly with clean water, making sure to remove all the baking soda residue.
  • Allow the shoes to air dry completely.

The baking soda in this mixture acts as a gentle abrasive, helping to lift and remove the yellow stains without damaging the underlying material. Just be sure not to scrub too hard, as this could cause the material to become damaged or worn.

Try a Diluted Bleach Solution

For more stubborn yellow stains, a diluted bleach solution can be an effective treatment. However, it’s important to use bleach with caution, as it can be harsh on delicate materials.

  • Mix one part bleach with four parts water in a clean container.
  • Dip a soft cloth or sponge into the solution and gently dab it onto the discolored areas of your shoes.
  • Let the solution sit for 5-10 minutes, then rinse the shoes thoroughly with clean water.
  • Repeat this process as needed until the yellow stains are removed.

Be sure to test the bleach solution on a small, inconspicuous area of your shoes first to ensure it doesn’t cause any damage or discoloration. And always wear gloves to protect your hands when working with bleach.

Use a Commercial Shoe Whitener or Cleaner

If you don’t want to DIY your shoe cleaning, there are a number of commercial products specifically designed to remove yellow stains and restore the bright white color of your shoes.

Look for shoe whiteners, cleaners, or even toothpaste formulated for use on white shoes. These products often contain gentle abrasives, bleaching agents, or specialized cleaning solutions that can effectively lift and remove yellow discoloration.

Some popular commercial products for cleaning white shoes include:

Reshoevn8r Shoe Cleaner– Gentle, non-toxic formula
– Removes dirt, grime, and yellow stains
– Comes with a specialized cleaning brush
Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner– Biodegradable, pH-balanced formula
– Lifts and removes tough stains
– Works on a variety of shoe materials
Clorox Disinfecting Wipes– Convenient on-the-go cleaning option
– Disinfects and whitens shoes
– Safe for use on most shoe materials

Follow the instructions on the product carefully, and test it on a small area first to ensure it doesn’t cause any damage. With the right commercial cleaner, you can often revive your yellowed white shoes to look as good as new.

Try a Magic Eraser

In a pinch, a magic eraser can also be an effective tool for removing yellow stains from white shoes. The abrasive surface of the eraser can help lift and remove discoloration without being too harsh on the material.

Simply dampen the magic eraser and gently rub it over the yellowed areas of your shoes. You may need to apply some elbow grease, but the eraser should help lift the stains and restore the bright white color.

Just be sure to use the magic eraser sparingly and avoid scrubbing too hard, as this can still cause damage to delicate shoe materials.

Maintaining Your White Shoes

Keeping your white shoes looking their best is an ongoing process, but with the right care and maintenance, you can extend the life of your favorite pairs and prevent that pesky yellow discoloration. Remember to:

  • Clean your white shoes regularly with a gentle, non-abrasive cleaner
  • Protect them from sunlight, heat, and excessive wear and tear
  • Store them properly in a cool, dry place
  • Use specialized treatments like baking soda, bleach, or commercial cleaners to remove any existing yellow stains

With a little bit of TLC, your white shoes can stay looking fresh and bright for years to come. So don’t be afraid to embrace the classic, clean look of pristine white footwear – just be prepared to put in the work to keep them looking their absolute best.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.