When you’re heading out with friends or family, you want to look your best from head to toe. Sometimes, that last bit can be a bit of a challenge - especially if your favorite pair of shoes is looking a little worse for wear. Fortunately, cleaning shoes doesn’t have to be hard. If your shoes are machine washable, then washing your shoes in a washing machine can help you save time and achieve great results. Not sure how to get started? Our guide can show you how to wash sneakers and other shoes in the washing machine so you can dress to impress.

 A side-by-side, front load washer dryer set in a laundry room.

Which shoes are machine washable?

Before you begin cleaning, check your shoes care instructions for specific recommendations. Generally, canvas shoes and athletic shoes made with materials like nylon, cotton and polyester are safe to wash in a washing machine. These materials are durable and shouldn’t be damaged by laundry detergent. 

 

While there are some shoes that lend themselves well to machine washing, many other types of footwear require hand cleaning or specialized care. Shoes made of materials like leather, suede, rubber and vinyl should not be placed in your washer.

 

If your shoes are made of delicate material (like silk) or feature beading, embroidery, sequins or other embellishments, take them to a shoe repair and cleaning specialist to avoid damaging them. Always double check your care instructions to make sure it’s safe to put your shoes through a washer and dryer cycle.

 

 A pair of sneakers sitting on a rack inside a dryer.

How to wash shoes in your washer – a step-by-step guide

Washing shoes in a washing machine isn’t difficult, but it does take some preparation. Before you get started, check the care and cleaning instructions for your shoes to ensure they’re washer/dryer safe. Next, make sure you have the following tools and materials on hand:

  • Mesh garment bags

  • Liquid laundry detergent

  • A soft brush, like an old toothbrush 

  • A cream cleaner

  • Old towels

Once you have all of your materials together, you can begin cleaning your shoes using the steps below.

  1. First, remove the laces and/or insoles from your shoes.

  2. Your shoelaces can be washed in the washing machine, as long as you put them into a mesh garment bag that is zippered or secured shut. This will keep your laces from getting tangled up in the washing machine or wrapping around moving parts. If your laces are especially dirty, you can clean them manually with laundry detergent and a soft brush.

  3. Wash your insoles separately unless otherwise stated in the care instructions. Machine washing your insoles could leave them waterlogged, which means they could take days to dry. If your insoles are not machine washable, you can clean and deodorize them by hand. Use a soft brush or rag to gently wipe down your insoles with slightly soapy water. Next, use a sponge to soak up as much excess moisture as possible. Once that’s complete, sprinkle the insoles with baking soda and let them sit overnight to deodorize and soak up remaining moisture. In the morning, brush off the baking soda. You can place your insoles back in your shoes once they’re completely dry.

  4. If your shoes have excess mud or debris in the soles, use a soft brush to remove as much as possible. You can also use a toothbrush or toothpicks to carefully remove debris from tight areas. Once the dirt is removed, you can also clean away scuff marks by using a rag or soft brush to apply a shoe cleaner. Gently rub the cleaner onto the scuffs, then wipe away with a damp rag.

  5. After cleaning the soles, place your shoes in a mesh garment bag to keep them from banging around in your washer.

  6. Place the bag into the washing machine, along with a few old towels to help balance the wash load. Make sure the towels are old – newer ones could leach excess dye that could stain your shoes.

  7. Set your washing machine on a delicate, cold water cycle and select a slow or no-spin option. Powder detergent can get stuck in shoes if it doesn’t dissolve properly, so use liquid detergent instead.

  8. Once the wash cycle is complete, remove your shoes and laces from the mesh garment bags and let them air dry. You can stuff your shoes with clean rags or paper towels to absorb excess moisture and help your shoes keep their shape as they dry. If possible, place your shoes in a cool area where they’ll receive lots of sunlight. This can help speed up the drying process.

  9. Your shoes may take a few days to dry. While using a dryer is not recommended unless you have a dryer rack – the heat and tumbling can damage or warp shoes – you can use your appliance if you’re in a pinch. Wrap your shoes in old towels to protect them, and set your dryer to a delicate or air fluff setting. Stop the cycle frequently to check on your shoes and make sure they don’t get damaged by the tumbling or warm air.

  10. Once everything is dry, place your insoles back in your shoes and restring the laces. The only thing left to do is head out with your like-new footwear!

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