Why Are My Black Shoes Turning Orange Or Brown?

No one likes to see their dusky black shoes turn into a reddish-orange color. But why are your black shoes turning orange, sometimes brown?

Your black shoes have turned orange because of one of three reasons:

  1. Long-term exposure to the sun causes sun damage.
  2. Exposure to bleach removes the dye from the fabric.
  3. Lawn rust leaves an orange powdery substance on your shoes.

In this post, let’s discover some of the reasons why your black shoes turn orange, including simple ways on how to fix and prevent them from happening in the first place.

Why Are My Black Shoes Turning Brown or Orange?

A reddish-orange or brown color usually happens to black fabric or canvas shoes. The orange discoloration can happen due to sun damage, exposure to bleach, or lawn rust.

Let’s explore all three possible causes in greater detail:

1. Sun damage

A big chance why your black canvas shoes turned brown or orange is sun damage.

If you have been wearing your shoes in the sun for several months, chances are the black-colored fabric or canvas will turn into bronze or a brownish tint.

UV rays and sun damage can crack leather and fade colors on shoes.

In fact, all shoes are prone to sun damage, especially canvas and suede shoes like Vans or Converse. It does not matter whether the shoes are high-quality or low-quality.

A great example of sun damage (light damage) is shoes on display in retail stores.

The color of the shoe on display will noticeably look faded than the other shoe, especially if the shoe has been on the shelf for a long time and experienced plenty of light exposure.

There is no easy way to restore them, but there is a way to prevent sun damage in the future.

How to fix sun-damaged shoes

The best thing to do when trying to fix sun-damaged shoes is to put the darker pair out in the sun for a few days, getting it to the point where it matches the faded shoe.

You can also take the sun-damaged shoes to a local cobbler, where there are a few in every city. They should be able to figure something out for you on the spot.

In short, you have two options. Either let a competent cobbler spray on new dye to the faded shoes, or you can just embrace the wear as a mark of character.

To prevent sun damage on shoes, reduce their exposure to the sun. A great way to do this is to rotate your shoes often. Try to wear different shoes on different days of the week.

By doing so, you prolong the life and color of the shoes substantially.

2. Exposure to bleach

Another reason why your black canvas shoes turn orange is because of bleach. If you have dropped bleach accidentally on your shoes, the shoes will inevitably turn orange.

Bleach removes the dye from the fabric, leaving only the bare fabric.

Other parts of the shoes, like the midsoles and the branding, which are often made of rubber, will not change color to orange because they are not dyed.

Only the dyed canvas will have a reaction with the bleach.

One friend of ours who was a manager at a pool was tasked to clean a toilet. While wearing his black Vans, he accidentally dropped bleach on his shoes while trying to disinfect the tiles.

As a result, his black Vans shoes, which are made of canvas, turned orange due to the bleach.

Black shoes turned orange due to bleach.

You also need to be careful with sanitizing rugs when you go to public places.

Most public places are starting to put sanitizing rubber rugs filled with bleach or other disinfectant chemicals for safety and health precautions.

Because these sanitizing rugs may contain bleach, exposing your black canvas shoes to them can turn the black color into orange sooner than later.

If you don’t want your black shoes to turn orange, you should be careful when going to public places like the grocery store. Or better yet, don’t wear your favorite canvas shoes.

Also, if you have accidentally dropped bleach on your black fabric sneakers, don’t leave them out to dry in the sun, otherwise, the shoes will definitely turn white.

How to remove bleach stains from black shoes

Unfortunately, you can’t just wash bleach from the shoes as if it were a stain. When you spill bleach on colored fabric, it removes the dye, leaving the bare fabric.

Here are three ways to remove bleach stains from black shoes:

1. Re-dye the shoes

If you want to bring your black shoes back to their original color, you can re-dye them.

Fortunately, there are black canvas and suede black dye that are easy to apply. The dye comes with a dauber to apply the dye, but you can also use a paintbrush.

For canvas shoes like Converse and Vans, we recommend using the Angelus black dye because of its positive reviews and easy-to-use product.

Just be sure to follow the instructions on the product carefully.

2. Color the spots with a black Sharpie pen

Sometimes, the solution is simpler than you think.

One easy way to fix bleached black shoes is to color the sports with a black Sharpie pen. For shoes, it’s best to use the large chisel-tipped Sharpies for faster application.

Sharpies are permanent markers, so they work great to cover bleach stains on black shoes.

3. Make a design on your shoes

Last but not least, you can just own the bleach spots and treat them as a DIY project.

An alternative to full bleaching of your shoes is a lower-strength bleach gel pen. This allows you to draw on your shoes, incorporating the original bleach spots into your own design.

Orange stains caused by bleach can actually look good on black shoes.

You can also let your shoes stay orange and rock them. Contrary to popular belief, orange canvas shoes are pretty cool too since they are very unique. 

3. Lawn rust

Last but not least, your black shoes can turn brown or orange due to lawn rust.

Lawn rust is a powdery substance caused by a fungal disease, usually orange or rusty in color. It appears in spots or completely coats a grass blade, which can brush off easily.

Lawn rust. Photo Credit: FLamiot

According to the University of Illinois, lawn rust usually happens in late summer or early fall when grass growth is slower, when the soils are dry, and the conditions are very humid.

While it is safe to walk on a lawn with rust, the soft, powdery substance easily rubs off of the blades and can cover your shoes, clothes, and lawn tools like mowers.

So if you have been walking through a lawn, and noticed that your shoes have turned reddish-orange in color, you have experienced lawn rust. 

How to remove lawn rust from shoes

If you have walked through a lawn recently during late summer or early fall, then you know that the orange powdery substance on your shoes is caused by lawn rust.

Here are three simple tricks on how to remove lawn rust from your shoes:

1. Use lemon juice

The simplest DIY option to remove lawn rust from shoes is to mix lemon juice and salt.

Once you have the solution inside an easy-to-use bottle, test it on an inconspicuous area first to see how the shoe material will react.

Then, apply the mixture to the orange stain and place the shoes under the sun. Moisten the shoes regularly with lemon juice until the stain disappears and brush off residual salt.

2. Use plain white vinegar

Another simple option to remove lawn rust from shoes is to use plain white vinegar.

Just like the lemon juice method, apply the vinegar to an invisible area of the shoes to test how the material will react. Apply the vinegar on the shoes and wipe it with a cloth.

3. Bring the shoes to a professional

If you don’t want to risk any more damage to your shoes because you love them so much, your best bet is to bring them to a professional shoe cleaner.

They will diagnose the problem and choose the best method to take. Chances are, they should be able to clean the lawn rust from your shoes.

Final Words

Now you know why your black canvas or fabric shoes are turning orange.

By figuring out the cause, you can properly determine the right course of action and hopefully restore your beloved sneakers back to its original black color.

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