Tips for Cleaning Canvas to Restore Its Beauty

Get your canvas looking like new by learning how to hand or machine wash bags, shoes, and totes - even outdoor furniture and tents.

Published December 13, 2022
Sneakers in the washing machine

So you grabbed your favorite canvas shoes from the closet and noticed a stain. Isn't that the worst? Good news! Cleaning canvas is painless and oh-so-easy. You'll be reunited with your favorite sneakers in no time flat. Whether it's shoes, bags, a tent, or outdoor furniture, these tips for how to clean canvas will keep all the things you love the most in tip-top shape.

Simple Methods to Clean Stains on Canvas

We have a lot of canvas in our lives, from totes to tents. So, when you encounter a stain, you need a quick way to remove it. Try these methods to pretreat or spot treat most canvas stains.

Stain Cleaner Method
Grass stains Fels Naptha or dish soap Scrub and rinse (repeat as needed).
Mold or mildew Rubbing alcohol Mist area and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. Wash.
Oil Cornstarch Apply to area and let sit for 1 hour. Scrub with dish soap and rinse.
Mud or dirt Laundry detergent Brush away excess dirt, scrub with detergent, rinse

How to Clean Canvas Shoes, Totes, and Backpacks

canvas sneakers

Your canvas sneakers are looking a little crusty. Maybe your canvas carry-on has seen better days. You don't want to get side-eye from your friends when you carry around a dingy bag. You also don't want to shell out for a new one. It's a good thing canvas is 100% washable. So, the only choice is whether to wash it by hand or throw it in the washer.

Hand Wash Machine Wash

Bags that will lose their shape

Shoes, canvas grocery bags, backpacks

How to Hand Wash Canvas

We love canvas bags because they're so easy to care for, and so durable. Think reusable grocery bags. So, most of the time, you can machine wash it. However, some bags or shoes might lose their shape if you just chuck them in the washer. So, you'll need a gentler hand.


  • Dry bristle brush and/or toothbrush
  • Bucket
  • Dish soap (blue dawn recommended)


  1. Completely remove anything extra from the bag or shoes. (For example, pull out shoelaces, get everything out of the bag, etc.)
  2. Take a dry bristle brush and brush off the shoes or bag to remove any loose dirt. Use a dry toothbrush to get in those hard-to-reach areas, like around the eyes for shoelaces.
  3. Fill a bucket or tub with cold water and add dish soap.
  4. Dip the toothbrush in the water.
  5. Scrub the stained areas first using a circular motion.
  6. Fels Naptha or Dawn works for those stubborn stains. Just run the toothbrush across the bar or dip it in the detergent and scrub the canvas. (It's completely okay to get the canvas saturated.)
  7. Allow the solution to sit on the canvas for 15 minutes.
  8. Rinse under cold water.
  9. Repeat as needed.
  10. Dry completely (see below).

How to Machine Wash Canvas

How to Machine Wash Canvas

You can wash most canvas (shoes, backpacks, grocery bags) in the washer as long as it won't lose shape. Wash bags inside out.


  • Bristle brush
  • Laundry detergent
  • Hydrogen peroxide (optional - for white canvas)


  1. Shake out any loose debris or crumbs.
  2. Use the bristle brush to remove any loose dirt.
  3. Pretreat stains as needed.
  4. Wash canvas with like fabrics only.
  5. Use a normal cycle and warm or cold water. (It's helpful to check the care tag for the best water temp and cycle.)
  6. Add the recommended amount of detergent for your load.
  7. If your canvas is white, you might also want to add ¼ cup of hydrogen peroxide to brighten it.
  8. Remove your canvas from the machine immediately and dry (see below).

How to Dry Canvas

Dryers aren't so kind to canvas. They can cause it to shrink. For your floppy bag, this might not be a big deal. But for your shoes, always go for the air dry.

  • Bags: Lay down a towel and roll it up to remove as much water as possible. Allow it to air dry flat or on a line.
  • Shoes: Leave near an open window or circulating air.

How to Clean Canvas Cushions & Pillows

Patio furniture is meant to endure the elements, so it's pretty tough. That means it only needs to be cleaned twice a season. Clean it on a porch or in an area where you won't make mud. If that's not an option, lay down a tarp.


  • Mild laundry detergent or dish detergent
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Fabric protector (optional)


  1. Shake out the cushions, pillows, or covers to remove loosened dirt.
  2. Smack against a railing or concrete to knock out any stuck-on dirt.
  3. Add ½ cup of laundry detergent to 2 gallons of warm water in a bucket to make cleaning solution.
  4. Use the sponge and bristle brush to scrub down all areas of the outdoor furniture with the solution. Start with the dirtiest areas first and work your way around.
  5. For deep stains, pour some detergent directly on the stain and scrub. (Use dish soap on greasy stains.)
  6. Spray down any mildew with equal parts rubbing alcohol and water and allow it to sit for 15 minutes.
  7. Give everything a final scrub in clean water.
  8. Rinse everything with a garden hose.
  9. Allow it to air dry completely.
  10. Add a fabric protectant with water repellant, according to the instructions.

Simple Ways to Clean Canvas Tents and Canopies

Tents and canopies are a different breed when it comes to cleaning. Why? Because it's so, so, so important that you make sure they are completely dry before putting them away after cleaning. Any moisture can lead to the downfall of your tent, and sometimes, it will void the warranty. When you're forking out that kind of dough for a tent, you want to make sure you don't ruin it.



  1. Take the bristle brush and remove as much dirt as you can.
  2. Take a dry microfiber cloth to get any remaining dirt.
  3. Rinse with water if needed.
  4. Scrub again.
  5. Apply your mold remover to any areas of mildew or mold.
  6. Rinse with the hose.
  7. Allow it to dry completely before putting it away.

Most tents have a water-repellant seal on them. So, you don't want to use soap on them if you can avoid it.

Tips for Washing Canvas

You've mastered the ancient art of washing your canvas. Take a little victory spin. Just because you're a master doesn't mean you can't keep growing. Soak up a few tips for canvas cleaning perfection.

  • Store your canvas bags flat or stuff them with paper to keep their shape.
  • Ensure all canvas is thoroughly dry before storing.
  • Use a protective spray to help keep the canvas stay fresh and stain-free.
  • Avoid using soap on any canvas with a water-repellant seal.
  • Avoid placing outdoor furniture or tents in areas with tree sap.
  • Avoid bleach or white vinegar, which can weaken the canvas.

Keep the Canvas in Your Life Clean

Whether you are toting, camping, or wearing your canvas, you don't want it to look dingy. Keep it clean and ready for your next adventure with a few must-have tips. Grab your trusted tools and get cleaning.

Tips for Cleaning Canvas to Restore Its Beauty