close up of blue and purple laces

How to Clean Your White, Colored, or Leather Shoelaces

Shoelaces come in all sorts of materials these days, and that means there is a variety of ways to care for them. Gone are the days when shoelaces were always flat, limited to basic colors, and guaranteed to be made from cotton or leather. Nowadays, your shoelaces might be made from cotton, leather, nylon or polyester. They may be flat or round, rough or smooth, and just about any color or combination of colors you can imagine. Knowing how to care for the variety of laces in your cupboard will ensure that they last you a long time, and always look fresh and new.

The best way to care for your laces, and to ensure their longevity, is to start from the minute you buy the shoes. To prevent the laces from ever getting to the stage where drastic measures are needed to get them bright and clean again, start by treating the brand new laces with fabric protector. This will help minimize the absorption of dirty liquids and dust, and will make them easier to clean when the time comes.

So, how often should you be cleaning your laces then? As often as possible. For the best results, brush off your shoes and laces after every wearing. If the laces get particularly dirty during one of your escapades, remove them and brush them off as soon as you get home. The more willing you are to care for your shoelaces on a daily basis, the less effort you will have to put in later, to get them properly clean.

Firstly, do not try to clean your laces on the shoes, even if you are planning to clean your shoes at the same time. Often the material of your shoes will need a different washing method to the laces, and if your shoes are a different color, washing them together could cause the dye from your shoes to stain the laces.

Once you have carefully removed them from the shoes, brush the laces off with a scrub brush or old toothbrush to remove loose dirt and dust. If there are some stubborn bits of dirt stuck to the laces, try removing them by running water over them from the faucet at full pressure. Once you have completed these steps, you can continue on to one of the following methods, depending on which type of laces you are trying to clean.

How to Clean White Shoelaces

shoes with white shoelaces

The most difficult laces to revive once really dirty are white ones. White shows every stain and bit of dirt, and when you look at your white laces, you may believe it’s completely hopeless. But don’t give up yet… there is always hope. Try these tips for cleaning white shoelaces before tossing them in the garbage.

The easiest way to clean your shoelaces is to throw them in the washing machine. This method will work for laces that are not too badly soiled. Place the laces in a mesh laundry bag and put them through a normal wash cycle with a strong detergent. You can wash them alone, or with a load of white laundry.

To add a little bit of extra cleaning power to this method, and to protect your laces from the harsher method below, you could try wetting your laces, and rubbing them with a bar of soap before washing them in the machine.

If machine washing does not have your white shoelaces looking clean and fresh, or if they were just too dirty to begin with, try the following method:

Please be aware that this method only works for cotton or synthetic laces. Do not clean your leather laces this way. We will cover leather laces later in this article.

  1. Make a cleaning solution of one tablespoon of bleach in 34 oz. (1 liter) of water. If you want, you can add a small amount of soap or detergent to aid in the process.
  2. We recommend wearing gloves for this method so you don’t irritate your skin with the bleach.
  3. Place the shoelaces in a small mesh laundry bag and put them in the bleach solution.
  4. Allow the shoelaces to soak for a few minutes, but not for too long, or the bleach will make the laces go yellow.
  5. Agitate the laces in the solution using a spatula, and then remove them from the solution and rinse them off.
  6. Place the shoelaces, still in the laundry bag, in the washing machine. If the laces are looking nice and white already, simply wash them on a hot wash with normal detergent. If they could do with further whitening, add half a cup of bleach to the wash cycle.
  7. Do NOT tumble dry your laces. The dry heat will cause the aglets to crack and break, and damage the fibers of your shoelaces.
  8. Hang the shoelaces out to dry, and make sure they are completely dry before returning them to your shoes.

NOTE: Some sources say that the type of bleach used should differ according to the material of the laces being washed. Synthetic laces may be sensitive to regular chlorine-based bleach, and should only be washed with an oxygen-based one. If you are unsure of what your laces are made from, a general rule of thumb is that flat laces are made from cotton, and round laces are made from synthetic materials.

If the first method didn’t work, and you don’t want to use bleach on your white laces, you can try the following options:

  • Clean them with a paste of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, in a ratio of 2:1. Apply the paste using an old toothbrush, and allow the laces to lie in the sun until dry. Once dry, rinse the paste off completely, and allow the laces to air dry again.
  • Use stain remover and hot water to clean your laces.
  • Soak the laces in one gallon of water and half a pint of hydrogen peroxide before washing and air drying.
  • Rub the laces with baking soda, and allow it to soak in for 10 minutes, then rinse and air dry.
Here’s a quick and easy method for making your shoelaces white again.

How to Clean Colored Shoelaces

shoes with blue shoelaces

Colored laces don’t show dirt as much as white laces, and they are therefore easier to clean. They also cannot be washed with bleach, as this will remove their color, so rather use the method below for your colored shoelaces:

  1. After removing the shoelaces from the shoes and brushing them down, as recommended at the start of this article, soak them for a few minutes in warm, soapy water. You can use dish soap, liquid detergent, or your favorite liquid soap.
  2. Scrub the laces with a toothbrush, being careful not to damage the aglets.
  3. Rinse the shoelaces in clean water, and repeat the process if necessary.
  4. Air dry the shoelaces completely before lacing up your shoes again.

How to Clean Leather Shoelaces

Leather shoe with leather sholaces

Cleaning your leather shoelaces requires a different method and a bit more care. Leather can become brittle and fragile if it gets wet and is not treated properly afterwards, so be sure to care for your leather shoelaces properly both when wearing and cleaning them.

Related: How To Clean Leather Shoes & Boots: The Complete Guide

The good news is that leather is less absorbent than the other materials we have discussed, and your leather shoelaces should not have as much dirt and grime soaked into them. This method works for leather laces of any color, including white:

  1. After removing them from your shoes, brush the leather laces off with a scrub brush or toothbrush.
  2. Soak the laces in clean water for a short while to get them pliant.
  3. Then gently wash them in saddle soap and warm water. Do not soak them in this mixture.
  4. Once you are done washing them, lay the laces out to dry on newspaper or a drop cloth in a dry place. Do not put them in the sun.
  5. Once the shoelaces are completely dry, apply a natural oil to them, such as olive oil or coconut oil, with a clean cloth.
  6. Allow the oil to soak in.
  7. Be careful of drips of oil coming off the laces. They may contain some of the color from the leather, which will cause stains on many surfaces.
  8. After an hour of drying, wipe the laces off with a rag to remove excess oil.
  9. Allow them to dry completely then, away from any sunlight, before using them again. If you do not allow them to dry completely, they may stain your shoes.

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Now your shoelaces should be beautifully clean and looking as good as new again. If not, we have only one more suggestion: buy a new pair of shoelaces, and make sure you take better care of them this time!