Bleach contains a yellow dye that, when exposed to air, can turn white surfaces yellow. A common occurrence for this mistake is when cleaning white shoes.
If this has happened to you, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re showing you how to remove yellow bleach stains from white shoes.
Sadly though, it may not always be possible to restore the white exterior completely. But hopefully, some of our methods can get you close.
Here’s a quick look at how to remove yellow bleach stains from white shoes using a salt scrub:
- Mix salt with hot water.
- Saturate an old toothbrush.
- Scrub the stain vigorously.
- Leave for 20 minutes.
- Scrub for another couple of minutes.
- Rinse thoroughly with running water and air dry.
Method #1: Cream of Tartar Bath
Cream of tartar is a simple method for removing yellow bleach stains from white shoes. You don’t need a lot, but you may have to go to a specialty store to get it.
What You Need
- A large bucket or container.
- 4 cups of very hot water.
- 0.5 cup of cream of tartar.
What You Do
Step 1. Prepare the Bath
Grab a large container or bucket, and fill it with 4 cups of hot water. Ensure that the box you use is heat-safe and spacious enough to hold the water and your shoes.
The water should be very hot, but not boiling. Let the hot water tap run for a few seconds until hot.
Then take half a cup of cream of tartar and sprinkle it into the water. Use a spoon or other tool to mix the solution.
Step 2. Soak Your Shoes
Place your shoes into the solution. Make sure they’re completely submerged and won’t emerge once you let go.
Leave them for about 30 minutes to soak before checking. If the yellow discoloration is still there, let them sit for another 30 minutes to an hour.
New stains are likely to disappear relatively quickly. However, darker spots that have been there for a while will probably need up to 90 minutes. If the stain persists, repeat the process, or try a different method.
Step 3. Rinse and Dry
Once the stain dissolves, it’s time to rinse your shoes. Place them under running water—tap or hose—and rinse them thoroughly.
Use cold water to remove any remaining cream of tartar residue.
Then set the shoes aside and allow them to dry thoroughly before wearing. Leave them overnight in a well-ventilated room.
You can also use the dryer if your shoe’s care label agrees. Use a low heat setting and dry in intervals of 30 minutes until dry.
Method #2: Salt Scrub
Salt is an ingredient we all have at home, so this method is relatively easy. However, with this technique, it’s crucial that you rinse your shoes thoroughly after. Salt can leave residue behind and even make the material stiff.
What You Need
- Heat-safe bowl.
- 1 cup of very hot water—not boiling.
- 1 tablespoon salt.
- An old toothbrush.
What You Do
Step 1. Get Your Bowl and Water
Get a heat-safe bowl and fill it with about 1 cup of hot water. It doesn’t have to be a big bowl—a soup or cereal bowl is fine.
For the water, you don’t want it to be boiling. Instead, let the hot water tap run for a few seconds until you can no longer touch it. Then fill the bowl.
Step 2. Add Salt
Grab your table salt and add 1 tablespoon to the hot water. Use a spoon or your old toothbrush to stir it until the salt has dissolved.
Step 3. Scrub the Stain
Dip your old toothbrush in the saltwater and proceed to scrub the yellow stains. Ensure that the toothbrush is fully saturated while scrubbing—you want as much solution on the stain as possible.
Scrub vigorously in different directions to loosen the stain. Re-dip the toothbrush every minute or so. It may take a couple of minutes before the stain begins to fade. If the water goes cold, make a new solution.
Lay down a towel or other surface protector while you’re scrubbing. This will keep your table clean, meaning less clean-up once you’re done.
Step 4. Let Dry
Once the stain has faded a bit, allow your shoes to air dry for 20 minutes or until they’re dry to the touch.
This step is crucial, as it helps the saltwater work on the stain. However, if the discoloring has already faded completely, then simply skip to the last step.
Step 5. Resume Scrubbing
Saturate your toothbrush in the saltwater and begin to scrub vigorously again. Go in several directions to loosen up the discoloring.
If the stain doesn’t fade as much as you’d like, repeat the step above—set your shoes aside and allow to dry for 20 minutes before resuming scrubbing.
If you’re happy with the result, continue to the last step. Keep in mind that the stain may never fade completely.
Step 6. Rinse and Dry
Once you’re happy, rinse your shoe under cool running water to remove all salt residue. Then set it aside overnight to dry.
Method #3: Detergent and White Vinegar Wash
An easy way to remove discoloration from canvas shoes, like Converse yellowing, is by using detergent and vinegar.
What You Need
- An empty sink or a large container.
- Lukewarm water.
- 0.5 tablespoon of laundry detergent.
- An old toothbrush.
- A washing machine with a gentle cycle.
- 0.5 cup of white vinegar.
What You Do
Step 1. Prepare Your Shoes
Begin by removing the laces from your shoes. Because we’re using the washing machine for this method, shoelaces can easily get tangled and knotted.
Set the shoelaces aside, or place them in a pillowcase to wash along with your shoes.
Step 2. Fill Your Sink or Container
If you have a large enough sink that’s clean, it’s easiest to use that. If not, simply use a large container.
Fill the sink about a quarter way up with lukewarm water. The water shouldn’t be too hot or cold—it should feel comfortable when you touch it.
Step 3. Add Detergent
With a measuring spoon, measure out half a tablespoon of laundry detergent. Then add to the water.
Stir it well until the water becomes sudsy—some foam around the surface. You can also add the detergent while you’re filling up the sink to avoid having to mix it.
Step 4. Soak and Scrub
Place your shoes in the sink and allow them to soak for a minute or so. Then grab your toothbrush and proceed to scrub the stains. Make sure you saturate the bristles thoroughly.
Scrub for several minutes until you see fading. Put your shoe back into the water once in a while to allow it to soak. Once the stain stops fading, move on to the next step.
Step 5. Place In the Washing Machine
Set your washing machine on a gentle cycle, then place your shoes inside—no need to rinse out the detergent beforehand. Start the cycle and allow the drum to fill with water before adding the vinegar.
Once there’s enough water—a few sections—add half a cup of vinegar. Waiting to add the vinegar to when the water is agitated helps break down the stain even further.
Allow the cycle to finish. Once done, remove your shoes and let them dry overnight.
Why Does Bleach Turn White Shoes Yellow?
Bleach is a wonderful weapon to keep in your detergent cabinet. It cleans and disinfects the surfaces it’s applied to.
However, it can quickly cause yellow stains if overused, especially if you dry the item in the sun. The sun acts as another bleaching element due to the ultra-violet rays, causing an overreaction on the surface.
It also causes yellow discoloration when applied to certain synthetic fibers, such as microfibers, nylon or polyester.
When applied, the bleach breaks down and weakens the fibers, which turns the synthetic polymers back into their original yellow color. Most canvas shoes consist of such fibers, explaining why yellow bleach stains are common.
It can also affect natural white fibers, like linen and cotton, particularly if you use too much.
How To Dry White Shoes Without Turning Them Yellow
White footwear can also turn yellow during the drying process—which is a real kick in the gut after you’ve spent an hour carefully cleaning them.
Fortunately, it’s easy to prevent by being a little mindful of where you place them to dry.
For starters, never set your white footwear in the sun to dry. As we saw above, the sun can enhance and even cause shoe yellowing on your freshly cleaned kicks.
Instead, place your shoes in a well-ventilated room on a towel. Insert rolled-up towels, rags or even paper into each shoe—this helps speed up the drying process and preserves the shape of your sneakers.
You can also use the dryer, but be careful. Only do this if the care label states that it’s okay. If your shoes are glued and not stitched, avoid the dryer as it can melt it, causing them to break apart.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Happens if You Clean White Shoes With Bleach?
Cleaning your white trainers with bleach can give you great results, restoring their pristine white appearance. However, you need to be careful. Using too much bleach or drying them in the sun can cause yellowing shoes.
If you’re set on using bleach, most recommend that you mix one part bleach with every five parts of water. In other words, keep the bleach to a minimum. Also, check that your shoes aren’t made of synthetic fiber.
Can You Remove Yellow Bleach Stains?
Removing bleach stains isn’t always possible. It depends on the severity and the fabric affected. Some synthetic fibers might never get their white appearance back.
It’s also essential that you act fast. Leaving the stain to linger can cause it to darken, making it almost impossible to remove.
Can Toothpaste Remove Yellow Blemishes From Shoes?
Toothpaste can remove stains from white shoes. However, it may not be as successful with bleach discoloration.
Apply a small dot on the stain and use an old toothbrush to work it into the fabric. Leave it for 10 to 15 minutes and then wipe off using a damp cloth. Repeat if necessary.
How To Clean White Vans?
If you’re wondering how clean white Vans, you’re in luck. These are canvas shoes, so you can use any of the methods above to remove yellow stains and other smudges.
How to remove yellow bleach stains from white shoes? Although you may not be able to restore their appearance, it’s possible to fade a bleach stain, making it less noticeable.
There are several methods to try, but some of the best are either cream of tartar, saltwater scrub or detergent and white vinegar.
Remember to dry your shoes in a well-ventilated room—not the sun—and rinse thoroughly to avoid leaving any residue behind.