Why Did My White Vans Turn Brown After Washing?

Do you remember how you gorgeously gazed at your white Vans when you first got them? Do you still look at them the same way?

White sneakers are always beautiful when first acquired but they seem to experience a change in color over time, especially after washing. Why is this so?

There are many possible reasons that could have made your white Vans turn brown or even any other color.

Some of these reasons why Vans turn brown after washing are:

  • Oxidation
  • Bleaching
  • Using detergent
  • Sweat and dirt


Oxidation can be described as the chemical change that occurs when oxygen and another substance are combined together. Your footwear is bound to turn yellow or brown due to oxidation.

This is, in fact, a natural process. Due to the amount of oxygen in and around our environment, it is absolutely normal for your white Vans to go through a discoloration process.

Let us consider a metal. The moment a metal is exposed to water – which contains oxygen in its chemical makeup – it automatically develops rust around it which changes the color of the metal. That is the power of oxygen.

The discoloration effect oxygen has on metal also applies to your white Vans. So, the oxidation factor is a natural and unstoppable one.

Your white Vans are sure to have a change in color when you wash them due to the presence of oxygen.


A lot of people use bleach on their shoes to wash away the stains but they do not know that bleach makes their shoes turn brown over time.

Washing your white Vans with bleach will cause it to create yellow or brown stains that can never be washed away.

Not all cleaning supplies are suitable to be used on shoes, especially white shoes.

Using Detergent

Most of us, if not all of us, use the same detergent to wash both our clothes and shoes. What we do not consider is that many of these detergents might be great for our clothes but be detrimental to the health and coloration of our Vans.

It is therefore advised that we only use detergents that are designated for shoes on our Vans.

Detergents can also cause discoloration for your Vans when you do not rinse them well after washing and you put them out to dry in the sun with the detergents still on them.

This way, the sun will let the detergent dry on the Vans which will then make them turn yellow or brown.

Sweat and Dirt

For some of us who wear our Vans for long hours in a day and almost every day of the week, it is normal for sweat and dirt to have accumulated on our beloved Vans.

If you do not wash your Vans often, dirt and sweat will accumulate on them and would become difficult to wash off. That is why you see those yellow or brown marks on your white Vans.

Dirt and Sweat can be difficult to wash off, especially when they have gone deep into the Vans. One of the best ways to completely clear off the yellow marks they leave is to use toothpaste that has a whitening function.

Ignoring shoe insoles

Let me ask, do you wash your insoles when you wash your Vans? I bet you can not say yes.

The insole is the most active part of your shoes and this is why it is first to turn yellow.

Many times when we wash our shoes but fail to wash the insoles, the dirt that is left in the insole can cause the shoe to turn yellow or brown while you are drying them.

If you have got to wash your Vans, then make sure you get all the dirt because they can come back to discolor the entire shoe again.

How do you get brown stains out of White Vans?

It is absolutely normal for your white Vans to get stained. You do not have to worry about why there are brown stains on your shoes, rather, you should focus on how to get them out.

To get stains out of your shoes, especially canvass requires you to wash it manually. Unlike clothes that you can toss into the washing machine, shoes require a more hands-on approach.

Here are the top three (3) ways to get rid of the brown stains in your white Vans:

Use soapy water

You can get rid of all stains on your white Vans with a basic homemade solution of water and soap.

To perform this method, you will need dish soap, warm water, a soft cloth, and a container.

The steps to follow are;

  • You pour the dish soap and warm water into the container. Any kind of liquid dish soap is okay to use. Mix up the water and dish soap till you have a soapy and foamy content.
  • Dip the cloth into the mixture and rub it on stained area of your white Vans. Ensure that you rub firmly so as to get the stubborn stains out.
  • After cleaning out all the stains, wash the sneakers with clean water and wipe off with a clean, dry cloth.

Mixing bleach with warm water

I know we have established that bleaching can cause yellowing to your white Vans but that is because a lot of people do not dilute the bleaching solution well enough.

Bleach does help to get stains out of your white Vans but it is important that you dilute it well with warm water to prevent it from making your shoes yellow.

To perform this method, you need the following; bleach, warm water, bowl, old toothbrush, and clean cloth.

The steps to follow are;

  • Pour the bleach and warm water into a bowl in the ratio of 1:5. Stir the liquids till they have mixed well together.
  • Dip the toothbrush into the bleach and water mixture and rub it on the areas with the brown stains on the white Vans.
  • After doing this, dampen the cloth with cold water and use it to wipe away the residue, and let the shoes out to dry.

Using Vinegar and Baking Soda

This is another simple and natural way to take those brown stains completely out of your white Vans.

The combination of vinegar and baking soda creates a powerful cleaning solution that removes grimes, dirt, and stains from many materials.

Materials that are needed for this method are; hot water, baking soda, white vinegar, a bowl, and a toothbrush.

The steps to doing this method are as follows:

  • Start with the hot water in the bowl and add the baking soda and white vinegar to it. Stir together till the ingredients mix very well and become a paste.
  • Dip the toothbrush into the mixture and gently apply the paste to the stained areas.
  • After applying the paste to the stained areas, put the sneakers out in the sun for up to three hours to dry.
  • After the paste is dried on the Vans, put your hands inside the shoes and slap them together so the paste (which would have become powder because it is dried) falls off the shoes.
  • Once you have all the paste off the Vans, you will see that all the stains have been cleared.

The beauty of your white Vans lies in how it can stay spotlessly white. The moment you have any stain on it, its beauty begins to diminish.

However, you do not have to worry about that anymore as the tips listed above are sure to clear all the stains on your Vans, no matter how tough they are.

What are the ways to clean your white Vans without turning them brown?

A lot of times, we are the cause of the discoloration that happens to our white Vans. This happens when we clean them the wrong way.

Many of the cleaning agents we sometimes use to clean our Vans tend to have long-term side effects, which may include the browning of the Vans.

The best way to clean your white Vans without turning them brown is to use the dish soap and water method of cleaning.

How do you do that?

  • First, pour in mild dish soap (liquid or detergent) into warm water and mix. Then, you wash your shoes in the mixture but make sure the laces are removed and washed separately.
  • After washing, rinse and let them dry in the sun. Make sure the Vans are completely dry before putting the laces back on them.
  • Before you wear the Vans, spray them with water and stain repellent (like this one at Amazon) to help them stay cleaner for longer.
  • Lastly, promptly dab stains that later appear with a mix of soap and water so they are easier to remove when you want to wash.

This method is the best method that guarantees that your white Vans will stay white for as long as possible.


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