Person scrubbing the soles of a shoe with a toothbrush.

Can you wash shoes in the washing machine?

Yes, washing your shoes in the washing machine can save you time and effort in keeping your favorite sneakers clean and ready to wear. Not sure how to get started? Follow this guide to learn how to wash sneakers and other shoes to keep your family dressed to impress.

Shoes drying on a rack after washing the sneakers in the washing machine. Shoes drying on a rack after washing the sneakers in the washing machine.

Which shoes are machine washable?

Shoes made with materials like canvas, nylon, cotton and polyester are usually safe to wash in a washing machine. These materials are durable and shouldn’t be damaged by laundry detergent. Find out what to do if your shoes or clothes have oil or grease stains. Before you begin cleaning, check your shoe’s care instructions for washing recommendations.

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 , or sports shoes with rubber or metal cleats, 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 wash your shoes in the washer.

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:

Tools needed
  • A rag or soft brush, like an old toothbrush 

  • A sponge
  • Old towels

Supplies needed
  • Liquid laundry detergent

  • Baking soda

  • A mesh garment bag

  • Shoe cleaner

Time estimate

Washing your shoes in the washing machine takes about 45 minutes to one hour with a delicate washer cycle. Keep in mind that shoes will also need to air dry at least overnight for a complete dry.

Once you have all of your materials together, you can begin cleaning your shoes using the steps below. Be mindful to always follow the care instructions for your shoes before washing them.

Dirty shoes with shoe laces removed. Dirty shoes with shoe laces removed.

Step 1. Remove the laces and insoles

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

Step 2. Wash the laces

To keep laces from being tangled or wrapped around any parts in the drum, wash them in a mesh garment bag that’s securely closed. For stubborn messes, laundry detergent and a soft brush can be used to manually scrub the laces as well.

Step 3. Wash the insoles by hand

Wash your insoles by hand, 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:

  • Wiping them down with a soft brush or rag and slightly soapy water

  • Using a sponge to soak up as much of the excess moisture as possible

  • Sprinkling the insoles with baking soda and letting them sit overnight to deodorize and soak up remaining moisture

  • Brushing off the baking soda in the morning

After the insoles have dried, you can place them back in your shoes.

Preparing shoes to wash in the washing machine. Preparing shoes to wash in the washing machine.

Step 4. Clean the soles

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.

Putting shoes in a garment bag to wash in the washer. Putting shoes in a garment bag to wash in the washer.

Step 5. Place the shoes in a mesh garment bag

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

Shoes washing in a washing machine. Shoes washing in a washing machine.

Step 6. Prepare the load

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

Step 7. Wash the shoes

Set your washing machine on a delicate, cold water cycle with a slow or no-spin option. Use liquid detergent or laundry pods because powder detergent can get stuck in the shoes if it doesn’t dissolve properly.

Shoes drying outside. Shoes drying outside.

Step 8. Drying the shoes

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 keep their shape as they dry. If possible, place your shoes in an area where they’ll receive lots of sunlight. This can help speed up the drying process.

Your shoes may take a few days to air dry, and using a dryer is not recommended because the heat and tumbling can damage or warp shoes. But, if you have a dryer rack, like in this Whirlpool® electric dryer, you can use your appliance if you’re in a pinch. This rack attaches inside the drum and stays in one place throughout the cycle. To use, 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.

Step 9. Re-insert the insoles

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!

A Whirlpool® front load laundry pair in Chrome Shadow A Whirlpool® front load laundry pair in Chrome Shadow

How can I wash my shoes without ruining them?

Check your shoe’s care instructions to determine if their material is machine washable. If so, remove the laces and insoles to wash separately. Next, place your machine-washable shoes in a closed garment bag and wash on a gentle cycle with cold water. Let them air dry after this cycle.

Some types of shoes should only be washed or brushed by hand. To keep the out-of-the box look and prevent damage, these types of shoes should never be placed in a washing machine:

  • Leather

  • Suede

  • Vinyl

  • Rubber

For dressier shoes with delicate materials, embroideries or sequins, take your shoes to a shoe repair shop or specialist to maintain their condition for weddings and other formal events.

Will shoes break the washing machine?

Shoes are unlikely to damage the washing machine if they are washed in a mesh garment bag or pillowcase on a cold, gentle cycle. This helps to prevent them from forcefully tumbling throughout the drum and causing damage.

Do shoes shrink in the washing machine?

Shoes may shrink in the washing machine if they are washed on a hot water cycle. When washing your shoes, always follow the care instructions. Generally, shoes should be washed on a cold, gentle cycle to prevent shrinking and damage.

After washing, air dry your shoes overnight. Exposing your shoes to high heat in the dryer can cause them to shrink and become damaged.

Yellow and orange laundry in a dryer. Yellow and orange laundry in a dryer.

Can I put sneakers in the washing machine with clothes?

It is recommended to add a few old towels or garments to the drum to help balance out the load when washing your shoes. Be mindful to use older towels and clothes to prevent dye transfers and stains that can occur with newer fabrics.

What setting should I use to wash shoes in the washing machine?

Wash your shoes in a gentle, cold water cycle with a slow or no-spin setting. Remember to place them in a closed mesh bag with the laces and insoles removed. This helps preserve the condition of your favorite sneakers and protect your washer from damage. When in doubt, check the care tag for specific washing instructions.

Now that you know how to wash shoes, are there other accessories that need a good cleaning? Comforters, pillows and backpacks can also be safely washed to get them like-new and ready to use.

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