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How to Wash Shoes in the Washing Machine

Updated
Get your sneaks squeaky clean.

When your shoes are dirty and scruffy, it can be tempting to avoid wearing them. Cleaning them seems like a daunting task, right?

Well, what if we told you there’s an easy way to wash your shoes. We’ll show you how to wash shoes in a washing machine without damaging them.

Keep reading for our five-step method. It will have your kicks looking cool in no time!


Can You Put Shoes In the Washer?

You may have heard mixed advice about cleaning shoes in the washing machine. But we’re here to clarify the truth and bust some myths.

The bottom line is: some shoes can be cleaned in the machine, and some can’t.

Here are some shoes that you can clean in the machine:

  • Canvas shoes
  • Pleather shoes
  • Nylon shoes
  • Polyester shoes
  • Plastic shoes (on a gentle cycle)
  • Sneakers, running or tennis shoes
  • Cotton shoes

Here are some shoes you shouldn’t put through the machine, as they will get damaged:

  • Suede shoes
  • Leather shoes
  • Shoes with embellishments, such as sequins
  • Vinyl shoes
  • Dress shoes
  • Boots
  • Shoes with buckles

Caution

The best way to know whether a shoe is washing-machine safe is to check with the brand. There may be a care label inside the shoe, or there might be advice on the brand’s website.

What Washing Machine Mode Do You Wash Shoes On?

You should wash the shoes on a gentle cycle. Some machines have a specific shoe cycle!

In general, a gentle cycle might be named “hand wash”, “delicates” or “wool”. For example, LG machines have a “gentle care” cycle.

The cycle will be fine as long as it has a low spin speed under 800.

You should also use cold water, so make sure you can set the temperature manually for the cycle you choose.

How to Wash Shoes In Washing Machine

Let’s get into our preferred method for washing shoes in a washer. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully to avoid damage.

  • Time: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

What You’ll Need:

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Brush Excess Dirt

Use your soft-bristled brush to remove excess dirt. Move in gentle strokes across the shoes to loosen the dirt. Clap them together to shake off the dirt.

2. Remove Soles and Laces

Remove the soles and laces from the shoe. Place them in a large basin and fill with a 5:1 solution of water and laundry detergent. Soak them for 20 minutes before gently scrubbing with your soft-bristled brush.

Work extra hard on the stained areas. Rinse well before air drying on a flat towel.

3. Pre-Treat Shoes

Before you toss them in the machine, it’s a good idea to spot clean them. This removes stains and dirt so that your machine can clean the shoes more effectively.

Mix water and a few drops of your laundry detergent in a bowl. Dip your soft-bristled brush in the solution and apply to the shoes, cleaning in circular motions. You can use this for every part of the shoe, including the soles.

Soak a cloth in plain water, wring it out and wipe down the shoe to remove excess suds.

4. Wash Shoes in the Machine

Place your shoes in a mesh laundry bag. If you are without a mesh bag, you can use a pillowcase. We prefer mesh laundry bags because they zip closed, so your shoes won’t fall out.

Put the shoes in the machine, then set your cycle. Remember to use a gentle cycle with a low spin speed and cold water.

Add ¼ of the amount of detergent you normally use. For front load machines, add this to the detergent drawer. For a top load machine, add it directly to the drum.

Toss in two old towels, to add extra padding during the cycle. This prevents the shoes from getting damaged in the cycle.

Begin the cycle.

Top Tip

If you have a top load washing machine, let the machine fill about ¾ full with water before you add the shoes.

5. Remove and Dry

Once the cycle is finished, remove the shoes and let them air dry. If you’re interested in tumble-drying the shoes, we have some tips for that later.

Once the shoes are dry, reinsert the soles and laces.

How Do You Dry Sneakers After Washing Them?

The safest way to dry shoes is by air-drying them. Place them in a warm breezy spot, outside in the shade or near an open window.

It usually takes around 24 hours for shoes to fully dry. However, if it takes longer, the shoes can smell damp and gross.

How do you avoid that? You can speed up the drying process by stuffing the shoes with newspaper, clothes, or a few socks. This will absorb excess moisture and odors.

Can You Wash Sneakers In A Dishwasher?

We don’t recommend it.

Dishwashers get really hot and will likely damage your shoes. The detergents are also highly concentrated and quite harsh so that they can ruin the fabric on your shoes.

The only circumstances where you could maybe safely wash your sneakers in the dishwasher is if your dishwasher has an option to use no heat for the washing and drying cycle. Your dishwasher would also need to have an easy-to-clean filter. Last but not least, make sure that you won’t care too much if the shoes do end up getting ruined.

How to Wash Shoes By Hand

You know how to wash sneakers in the washing machine, but what if you don’t want to? Hand-washing them isn’t too difficult! Plus, it will be more gentle on the shoes.

  1. Remove soles and laces: Remove these from the shoes. Let them soak in a bowl of cold soapy water for 20 minutes before scrubbing with a soft-bristled brush. Let them air dry on a towel.
  2. Remove excess dirt: Use a soft-bristled brush to remove excess dirt on the outside of the shoes.
  3. Treat stains: Dab a small drop of mild laundry detergent on the stained areas. Rub it into the shoe before letting it sit for 30 minutes. If your white shoes have yellowed, this step is critical.
  4. Clean in soapy water: Fill up a large basin or sink with cold water and a tablespoon of mild laundry detergent. Dip a soft-bristled brush into the solution and apply it to your shoes in gentle linear directions.
  5. Rinse: Once your shoes are clean, use a damp cloth to wipe the outside of the shoes to remove the remaining detergent residue.
  6. Dry: Wait 24 hours for all parts of the shoe to properly air dry. To speed up this process, remember to stuff the shoes with some newspaper, rags, or socks. Once the shoes are dry, insert the laces and soles. You can now wear your shoes again!

FAQs

Can I Put My Shoes In the Dryer?

Yes, but it might cause damage. For instance, Nike doesn’t recommend using a tumble-dryer. Instead, stick to air drying your shoes while they’re stuffed with newspaper. Turn on a fan nearby to speed up the process.

However, some tumble-dryers are specifically designed to dry shoes with a unique setting. For instance, our Samsung dryer comes with a plastic tray that balances inside the drum.

You can put the shoes on it so that they remain stable and flat for the entire cycle. Then you can use the cold or warm air setting, so it doesn’t get too hot for the shoes.

Voila! Clean, dry shoes, with no damage.

Check if your machine has this ability. Make sure to only put certain shoes in the dryer, such as tennis shoes or running shoes. Don’t put leather or suede shoes in the dryer.

Can I Put Sneakers In the Washing Machine With Clothes?

We recommend putting the shoes in with some old towels. This adds extra padding, but it also doesn’t matter if the shoes damage the towels.

Since shoes are much dirtier than clothes, we don’t recommend cleaning your clothes with shoes in the cycle. This could add new stains or dirt to the clothes. Plus, the heavy weight of the shoes can damage some garments, especially more delicate ones.

How Do You Stop Shoes From Smelling?

Stinky shoes? Here are our top tips:

  • Always wear socks: If you wear shoes without socks, they’re going to get stinky quickly.
  • Make a DIY deodorizer: Mix one cup of cornstarch, ½ a cup of baking soda, and ½ a cup of baking powder. Add a few drops of essential oil, such as tea tree. Sprinkle this deodorizer into your shoes and leave it for eight hours. Dump the mixture into the garbage before vacuuming the shoes. This mixture will deodorize and freshen your shoes.
  • Stuff them while drying: While your shoes may dry quickly without stuffing them, the added newspaper or rags can absorb odors and speed up the drying process.
  • Air out your shoes: When you come home, air your shoes out. Don’t stuff them in a cupboard or closet. Leave them in a utility room or at the front door. You can even stuff newspaper in them between wears. This is a good tip for gym shoes that get stinky and sweaty while you’re working out.
  • Use special insoles: Between wears, you can insert special insoles into your shoes. For instance, some insoles use special materials to eliminate bad odors, so that your shoes always smell fresh.

Machine or No Machine?

Now that you know how to wash your shoes in a washing machine, will you try it? It’s easy, saves you a lot of hassle, and as long as you’re careful — it won’t damage your shoes.

Of course, if you’re not sure about washing shoes in a washer, you can clean them by hand. It’s straightforward, too.

Always remember to check with the brand whether their shoes are safe for the washing machine. Don’t forget to protect your shoes with a pillowcase or a laundry bag.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!