How to Clean Shoelaces of Every Kind

Great shoes can make an outfit, adding extra style to your look. Dirty shoelaces can make your shoes or boots look tired and worn, so knowing how to clean your shoelaces and keep them clean with every step is a must.


Whether you’ve got simple white shoelaces, colored laces, or sturdy leather shoelaces on your favorite shoes, the ways to clean different types of shoelaces slightly differ.


Check out our step-by-step instructions for both machine washing and hand washing your shoelaces to keep the look of your shoes clean and bright.

white sneakers and white shoelaces

Photo via Abbie M


How to clean white shoelaces in a washing machine

Using your washing machine to clean your white shoelaces is an easy way to get them looking like new again.


Be sure that you don’t just throw the laces into the machine’s drum and call it good; doing so can cause them to get tangled and, in worst-case scenarios, clogged in the drain of the machine.


If your white shoelaces aren’t extremely dirty or stained, follow these steps for cleaning them in the washing machine.


Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Toothbrush
  • 2 tablespoons liquid bleach
  • Delicates laundry bag
  • Plastic kitchen spatula
  • Washing machine
  • Laundry detergent


1. Remove the laces

Remove your white shoelaces from your shoes. Use a toothbrush to lightly brush the laces to remove any loose dirt.


2. Pre-soak the shoelaces

Plug your sink drain and fill the sink with about six inches of hot water, adding the bleach as the water is running.


Place the white shoelaces in the laundry bag, then place the bag into the bleach/water solution.


Use the spatula to move the bag through the solution to thoroughly soak the bag and the shoelaces and let the bag sit for five minutes.


3. Drain and rinse

Drain the sink, then rinse the laundry bag, with the shoelaces still inside, under cool running water.


4. Wash in washing machine

Place the white shoelaces, still in the laundry bag, into the washer. Whether you are washing just your shoelaces or adding other white clothing into the load, be sure to set the washer for the correct cycle.


Fill the washer with hot water and, as the washer fills, add laundry detergent and 1/4 cup of bleach to the water. Let the wash cycle complete.


5. Dry the shoelaces

Avoid putting your white shoelaces into the dryer, which can damage the aglets and the fibers of the laces. Instead, air dry them by hanging them over a shower curtain rod or towel rack.


How to Clean White Shoelaces by Hand

You can also clean white shoelaces by hand! If your white shoelaces are very dirty or stained, washing them by hand can actually provide the deeper cleaning needed to remove stubborn dirt. Here's how to do it.


Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Toothbrush
  • 1/4 cup bleach
  • Plastic kitchen spatula
  • 1 tablespoon laundry detergent
  • Delicates laundry bag


1. Remove the laces

Remove your white shoelaces from your shoes. Brush any loose dirt from the laces using a toothbrush.


2. Prepare the cleaning solution

Fill your plugged sink or a plastic bucket with about six inches of hot water, adding the bleach and the laundry detergent as the water is running.


3. Hand wash the shoelaces

Place your white shoelaces in the laundry bag, then place the bag into the cleaning solution.


Use the plastic spatula to move the bag, agitating the bag through the water for two minutes to thoroughly saturate the bag and the shoelaces. Let the bag soak for 20 minutes.


4. Drain and rinse

Drain the sink. Rinse the laundry bag with the shoelaces inside under cool running water for two minutes or until any soap suds are gone.


5. Dry the shoelaces

Air dry your white shoelaces by hanging them over a shower curtain rod or towel rack until they are fully dried.

colored shoelaces in several sneakers

Photo via Jan Howell


How to clean colored shoelaces in a washing machine

Cleaning colored shoelaces requires a different approach than cleaning white shoelaces. You’ll want to get rid of dirt and grime without using bleach (which will lift the colors from the laces).


Read on to learn how to clean colored shoelaces in a washing machine.


Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Toothbrush
  • Washing machine
  • Laundry pretreatment solution (optional)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Delicates laundry bag


1. Remove the laces

Remove your colored shoelaces from your shoes. Always wash shoelaces separately when cleaning your shoes to avoid wet laces potentially leaking colors onto your shoes.


2. Brush away dirt

Use the toothbrush to brush away loose dirt or debris clinging to your colored shoelaces.


3. Pretreat stains

Use a laundry pretreatment solution to spot-treat stains or heavy grime on your shoelaces. Spray the pretreatment on the stains and let sit for 10 minutes.


4. Place colored shoelaces in a laundry bag

Place your pretreated colored shoelaces into a laundry bag to avoid the laces getting tangled in the washing machine.


5. Wash the shoelaces

Fill your washer with warm water and the recommended amount of laundry detergent for the size load you are washing.


Place the laundry bag with the shoelaces in it into the washing machine and run a standard wash cycle.


6. Dry the laces

Once your colored shoelaces have completed washing, remove them from the laundry bag.


Do not place shoelaces in the dryer, as the heat will damage the shoelace fibers and the plastic alleys on the end of your laces.


Hang the laces over a hanger, shower curtain rod, or towel bar and let dry completely before lacing your shoes.


How to clean colored shoelaces by hand

Hand washing your colored shoelaces is an easy process and doesn’t require filling up the washer for just one pair of laces, saving you time, water, and energy!


Follow the instructions below to get your shoelaces clean and bright again.


Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Toothbrush
  • Sink or medium-sized bowl
  • Laundry pretreatment solution (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons laundry detergent
  • Delicates laundry bag


1. Remove the laces

Remove your colored shoelaces from your shoes. It’s important to clean your colored shoelaces separately from your shoes to avoid any color bleeding onto your shoes.


2. Brush away dirt

Use the toothbrush to brush away dirt or dried gunk clinging to your colored shoelaces.


3. Pretreat stains

If needed, use a laundry pretreatment solution to spot-treat stains on your colored shoelaces. Spray the pretreatment on the stains and let the shoelaces sit for 10 minutes.


4. Place colored shoelaces in a laundry bag

Place your pretreated colored shoelaces into a laundry bag to keep them from getting tangled or knotted.


5. Wash the shoelaces

Fill your plugged sink or a medium-sized bowl with warm water, adding the laundry detergent as the sink or bowl is being filled.


Place the laundry bag with the shoelaces into the sink or bowl. Swish the bag around for two to three minutes to fully immerse the shoelaces in the cleaning solution.


6. Soak the laces

Let the colored shoelaces soak in the cleaning solution for 20 minutes.


7. Rinse the laces

Drain the sink or empty the bowl. Remove the laces from the laundry bag and run them under cool water until the water runs clear and no suds remain on your shoelaces.


8. Dry the laces

Once you have completed hand washing your colored shoelaces, hang the laces over a hanger, shower curtain rod, or towel bar to dry.


How to clean leather shoelaces

Leather shoelaces are easy to clean with the right tools. Caring for your leather shoelaces correctly will ensure these tough laces will last a long time.


Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Medium bowl
  • Saddle soap
  • 3 clean microfiber cloths
  • Coconut oil


1. Remove the laces

Remove the leather laces from your shoes.


2. Remove loose dirt

Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to remove loose dirt from your leather laces. Leather laces do not need pretreating or soaking.


3. Clean with saddle soap

Fill a medium-sized bowl halfway with warm water. Dip the laces into the water, then apply the saddle soap to the laces according to the manufacturer’s directions.


After the saddle soap is applied, submerge a microfiber cloth into the warm water, squeeze out excess water, then use the cloth to wipe the saddle soap from the leather laces. Rinse the cloth as needed.


4. Dry the laces

Place the cleaned laces on a fresh, dry microfiber cloth. Allow them to air dry completely.


5. Oil the laces

It sounds like an oxymoron, but getting the leather laces wet can actually dry them out more, so you’ll need to re-moisturize them to keep them flexible and easy to tie.


Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to apply coconut oil to each lace, a dollop at a time.


6. Air dry

Place the oiled shoelaces on a dry microfiber cloth. Allow them to air dry for at least three hours, wiping off any excess coconut oil after an hour.

white sneakers with red detail

Photo via Barbjarosz


How to keep shoelaces cleaner for longer

Although learning how to clean shoelaces is fairly simple, we can all agree that it's not something you'll want to do very often. Here are some top tips for keeping shoelaces cleaner for longer:

  • Consider wearing an old pair of shoes if you know you’re going to be somewhere muddy.
  • Keep a pair of dark-colored laces on hand to swap out for hiking excursions or yard work where your shoelaces will be exposed to dirt and staining.
  • Treat them with a fabric protector (like Scotchgard) to help repel water and dirt. That way, they’ll need less frequent washing, which will extend the life of your laces.


Do you have shoelace-cleaning tips you’d like to share with the Upstyle community? Let us know in the comments below!

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