How to Clean Canvas Ballet Shoes by Hand: A Step-by-Step Guide

Learn the best method How to Clean Canvas Ballet Shoes by Hand. Keep your footwear fresh and pristine with our step-by-step guide.

Elegant and graceful, ballet dancers possess an air of refinement that extends to their footwear. Canvas ballet shoes, a classic choice, offer both comfort and flexibility. However, the rigours of dance classes and rehearsals can take a toll on these delicate shoes, leaving them with dirt, sweat stains, and an unpleasant odour.

Maintaining clean ballet shoes isn’t just about appearances. Dirt and grime can shorten the lifespan of your shoes, and a buildup of sweat can create a breeding ground for bacteria. Fortunately, cleaning canvas ballet shoes by hand is simple and effective. With the right techniques and a few household items, you can keep your shoes looking and smelling their best.

What You’ll Need

Before you begin, let’s gather some materials. Here’s what you’ll need to clean your canvas ballet shoes:

  • Mild detergent: Dish soap or a gentle laundry detergent works perfectly. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Small bowl: For creating your cleaning solution.
  • Warm water: Avoid hot water, as it can damage the canvas.
  • Soft-bristled brush: An old toothbrush is ideal for reaching into creases.
  • Clean cloths or sponges: Choose lint-free options to avoid leaving residue.
  • Baking soda (optional): Great for tackling stubborn stains and odors.
  • Calamine lotion (optional): Used by dancers for “pancaking” their shoes to restore a fresh appearance.

Cleaning Your Canvas Ballet Shoes

Cleaning Your Canvas Ballet Shoes
Cleaning Your Canvas Ballet Shoes

Ready to freshen up those ballet shoes? Let’s dive into the simple step-by-step process:

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace

  • Find a flat surface and cover it with a towel or paper to protect against any spills.
  • Remove the laces and insoles (if your shoes have them). Wash the laces separately by hand or toss them in a delicate bag in the washing machine.

Step 2: Create a Cleaning Solution

  • In a small bowl, mix a small amount of mild detergent with warm water. You want a slightly soapy solution.

Step 3: Spot Clean Stains

  • Dip your soft-bristled brush into the cleaning solution and gently dab it onto any visible stains.
  • Work in small, circular motions to lift the dirt.
  • For stubborn stains: Create a paste of baking soda and water. Apply the paste to the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before lightly scrubbing with your brush.

Important Note: It’s always wise to test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of your shoe first to ensure it won’t cause discolouration.

Step 4: Clean the Entire Shoe

  • Dip a clean cloth or sponge in the cleaning solution and wring out the excess water. You want the cloth to be damp, not dripping wet.
  • Gently wipe down the entire surface of the shoe, paying attention to both the inside and the outside.
  • Focus on areas where dirt tends to accumulate, such as the seams and around the elastics.

Step 5: Rinse

  • Dip a fresh cloth in clean water and wring it out thoroughly.
  • Use the damp cloth to carefully wipe away any soapy residue from the shoes.
  • Repeat the rinsing process until no more soap bubbles are visible. This is important to prevent streaks or residue buildup on your shoes.

Drying Your Shoes

  • The Golden Rule: Never toss your canvas ballet shoes into the dryer! Heat can damage the delicate fabric and cause shrinkage.
  • Avoid Sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause yellowing or fading of the canvas.

The Best Drying Method:

  • Gently stuff your shoes with crumpled paper towels or clean cloths. This will help absorb moisture and maintain their shape.
  • Place your shoes in a well-ventilated area to air dry. A spot near a window (without direct sunlight) or a fan can help speed up the drying process.
  • Allow your shoes to dry completely before wearing them again. This can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on humidity levels.

Additional Tips

  • Pancaking: For a competition-ready finish, many dancers “pancake” their canvas ballet shoes. This involves applying a thin layer of calamine lotion to the exterior of the shoes to achieve a uniform, slightly pink appearance.
  • Treating Odors: To combat unpleasant smells, sprinkle a bit of baking soda inside your ballet shoes overnight. Baking soda naturally absorbs odors, leaving your shoes smelling fresh.
  • Prevention is Key: Regularly spot-cleaning your ballet shoes after wearing them will help prevent the buildup of stubborn dirt and stains, making the cleaning process easier in the long run.

When to Replace Your Shoes

While proper cleaning can extend the life of your canvas ballet shoes, there comes a time when even the most well-loved pair needs to be replaced. Here are some signs it might be time for new ballet shoes:

  • Holes or Tears: Any holes or significant wear in the canvas material compromises the integrity and support of the shoe.
  • Stretched Elastics: When elastics lose their tightness, your shoes won’t fit securely, making it difficult to dance properly.
  • Permanently Discolored: If cleaning can’t restore your shoes’ original color and there are permanent stains, it may be time to invest in a new pair.
  • Loss of Support: If the soles feel thin or the shoes no longer provide adequate arch support, it’s a sign they’ve reached the end of their lifespan.

Read More:


Cleaning your canvas ballet shoes by hand is a simple and effective way to keep them looking fresh, hygienic, and long-lasting. By following these easy steps and incorporating a few additional tips, you can ensure your ballet shoes will support you with every pirouette and plié.

Remember, a clean pair of ballet shoes not only boosts your confidence in the studio but also contributes to the overall longevity of your dance essentials.

A Note on Professional Help: While this guide offers a way to tackle cleaning ballet shoes at home, some stains or damage might be beyond your powers. Don’t hesitate to seek the help of a dance shoe specialist or cobbler if needed.

I hope this comprehensive guide has equipped you with all the knowledge you need to keep your ballet shoes in pristine condition!


How do you clean canvas ballet shoes?

The best way to clean canvas ballet shoes is by hand. Use a mild detergent, warm water, a soft brush for stains, and clean cloths for wiping them down. Air dry them thoroughly, and avoid putting them in the dryer.

How do you clean ballet shoes with toothpaste?

While toothpaste can brighten some surfaces, it’s not the best choice for canvas ballet shoes. Stick to mild detergent for a safer and more effective cleaning solution.

How do you make canvas ballet shoes last longer?

  • Regular cleaning: Spot cleaning and occasional handwashing go a long way in keeping them fresh, and preventing stubborn stains from setting in.
  • Proper storage: Put them in a breathable shoe bag and store them away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.
  • Rotate between pairs: If you dance often, having multiple pairs to alternate between helps each pair last longer.

How long do canvas ballet shoes last?

It depends on several factors like how often you dance, your foot structure, and how well you care for them. Generally, a well-maintained pair can last anywhere from a few months to a year with regular use.

Is it OK to wash canvas shoes?

Yes, you can cautiously wash canvas shoes by hand. Avoid machine washing, which is too harsh on the fabric and seams. Always air dry them to prevent damage.

Are canvas shoes washable?

Yes, canvas shoes are washable, but handwashing is always the safest option. If you need to machine wash them, use a gentle cycle, cold water, and put them in a delicates bag to minimize wear and tear.

Is toothpaste good for cleaning canvas shoes?

Toothpaste isn’t ideal for cleaning canvas shoes. While it might have a temporary whitening effect, it can leave residue and isn’t designed to tackle the types of stains ballet shoes tend to accumulate.

How do you clean soft ballet shoes?

Soft ballet shoes, whether leather or satin, require slightly different care. Spot cleaning with gentle detergent and a damp cloth is best. Avoid submerging them in water. Dry them with a clean cloth and let them air dry completely in a well-ventilated place.

Rate this post