How to Wash Shoes in Washer: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Wash Shoes in Washer: A Step-by-Step Guide


Washing shoes doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With the convenience of modern appliances, learning to wash shoes in washer machines has become an accessible option for many. This method is not only about saving time; it’s also about achieving a level of cleanliness that’s hard to match with hand washing.

Whether you’re dealing with an old pair of running sneakers or your everyday walk-around shoes, using a washing machine can help revive them.

When it comes to keeping your favorite sneakers looking fresh, effectiveness is key. The right approach ensures your shoes come out clean without compromising their structure or appearance.

But before tossing them in with your laundry, it’s essential to understand the specific needs of your footwear.

A pair of white sneakers placed on top of a modern washing machine in a laundry room setting.

Benefits and Precautions of Using a Washing Machine for Cleaning Shoes

Here are the benefits and precautions of using a washing machine for cleaning shoes:

  • Convenience: A washing machine can handle the dirt and grit from your shoes with ease, making it a simple solution for busy lifestyles.
  • Effectiveness: Designed to penetrate fabric and flush out impurities, washing machines can remove tough dirt and odors from your sneakers.
  • Precautionary Measures: To safeguard against damage, always adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions and select the appropriate settings on your appliance.

To guide you through this process, consider the following:

  1. Proper Washing Techniques: By following each step carefully, you can ensure that your sneakers emerge from the wash cycle in top condition.
  2. Avoiding Common Pitfalls: Recognizing potential issues before they arise can help maintain the integrity of your footwear.

Understanding Shoe Materials and Care Instructions

Let’s delve into what makes a shoe suitable for machine washing:

  • Material Matters: Shoes crafted from canvas, nylon, cotton, and polyester are generally safe to machine wash. However, those made from leather, suede, or containing delicate materials like rubber or vinyl must be treated differently.
  • Check Labels: Always consult the care tag on your shoes for specific cleaning instructions — it’s there to help you avoid mishaps during the wash cycle.

The focus here is not just on cleaning but on maintaining longevity and appearance. Adhering to each step ensures that while you enjoy clean shoes, they continue to support and comfort your feet as intended.

The aim of this guide is clear: To equip you with comprehensive knowledge so that each time you decide to wash shoes in a washer, you do so with confidence.

You’ll learn which settings are ideal for different shoe types and how to prep them for the wash. Furthermore, this guide will highlight drying techniques post-wash that best preserve shoe quality.

Remember these key points as you prepare for the process:

  1. Identify shoe material.
  2. Check for machine wash compatibility.
  3. Gather necessary supplies (mesh garment bag, soft brush).
  4. Select suitable washer settings.

Embrace this new addition to your laundry routine knowing that cleanliness and shoe care can go hand-in-hand effortlessly when done correctly.

Understanding Shoe Materials and Care Instructions

Before we start washing your shoes, it’s important to have a good understanding of your shoes. Specifically, you need to know the materials they’re made of.

This will help determine the best way to clean them. Different shoe materials require different cleaning methods. Some can handle being machine-washed, while others should only be cleaned by hand.

Identifying Your Shoe Materials

To begin, turn your shoes upside down and examine them closely. Look for a label or tag that provides information about the shoe material and how to care for it.

If there’s no label, you may have to do some investigation work. You can either use your sense of touch or refer to the product description if you bought them online.

Here are some common shoe materials:

  • Canvas: Canvas is sturdy and lightweight, making it perfect for casual shoes and sneakers. Most canvas shoes can be safely washed in the machine unless stated otherwise on the care label.
  • Polyester and Nylon: These synthetic materials are known for their durability and resistance to damage. They can usually withstand being machine-washed without any problems.
  • Leather and Suede: Cleaning leather and suede requires extra caution. Leather can be easily harmed by water and should never be machine washed, while suede can lose its texture if not cleaned correctly.

Tip: Always check the manufacturer’s care guidelines before putting your shoes in the washer, especially if they’re made from leather or suede.

Understanding Care Instructions

Next, let’s talk about care instructions. These are typically found on a small label inside the shoe or on its packaging.

The purpose of these instructions is to provide guidance on the best way to clean and maintain your shoes’ quality over time.

Pay attention to symbols on the label:

  • A tub of water symbol means your shoes are machine washable
  • A crossed-out tub of water symbol indicates that they should not be washed in a machine

If you’re unsure about anything, reach out to the manufacturer or visit their website for clarification.

The Importance of Knowing Your Shoes

Understanding your shoe materials and care instructions is not only about keeping your shoes in good condition.

It’s also about making sure they continue to give you the comfort and support you need. So before you start cleaning, take a moment to familiarize yourself with your shoes.

Now that you have a better understanding of your shoes and what they require, let’s move on to getting them ready for the washing machine.

Step 1: Preparing Shoes for the Washing Machine

Before you start washing your shoes, it’s important to prepare them properly. This involves two methods: removing laces and insoles, and using a mesh garment bag for delicate materials.

Method 1: Removing Laces and Insoles

The first thing you should do is take off the laces and insoles from your shoes. This ensures that every part of your shoe gets thoroughly cleaned and prevents any potential damage to these delicate materials during the wash.

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. To remove the laces, simply unthread them from each eyelet of your shoes. If they’re heavily soiled, you might want to consider replacing them altogether or washing them separately in a small laundry bag.
  2. Insoles can usually be pulled out with a little bit of force. However, some shoes have non-removable insoles. In such cases, be careful not to soak them too much as it may cause them to peel or disintegrate.

Both laces and insoles can harbor germs and odors, so giving them some attention during your cleaning process will result in fresher-feeling shoes.

Method 2: Using a Mesh Garment Bag for Delicate Materials

If your shoes are made of delicate materials or have embellishments that might get damaged in the wash, it’s best to use a mesh garment bag for protection.

Here’s why:

  1. A mesh garment bag acts as a shield for your shoes against the harshness of the washing machine. The tiny holes allow water and detergent to pass through without letting your shoes get tangled with other items.
  2. Simply place your de-laced and de-soled shoes inside this bag before throwing them into the washer. If you don’t have one on hand, an old pillowcase will do the trick as well.

Note: While a mesh garment bag offers considerable protection, it’s not foolproof. Always refer back to the shoe’s care instructions or manufacturer’s guidelines, especially when dealing with sensitive materials like leather or suede.

Properly preparing your shoes before washing not only ensures an effective cleaning process but also protects both the shoes and the washing machine from potential damage. So take your time with these steps and make sure you do them right. It’ll be worth it in the end!

Step 2: Cleaning Shoe Soles and Treating Stains

A key step in preparing your shoes for a wash cycle is making sure the soles are clean. This involves using a soft brush or toothbrush to gently scrub away any dirt or grime. It’s important to concentrate on the treads of the shoe, where dirt can often become compacted.

  • Use a soft brush or toothbrush for this purpose.
  • Focus on the soles, especially the treads.

Once you’ve removed as much loose dirt as possible, it’s time to tackle any stubborn stains. Here’s where a shoe cleaner comes into play. Apply only a small amount directly to the stain, then use your brush to work it into the material.

  • Apply shoe cleaner directly to stubborn stains.
  • Use your brush to work the cleaner into the stain.

After treating with shoe cleaner, always rinse thoroughly to ensure no residue remains. This prevents potential damage during the machine wash cycle.

  • Rinse thoroughly after applying shoe cleaner.

General cleaning of the soles may not be sufficient if you’re dealing with specific types of stains such as grass or mud. These may require different treatment methods.

  • Specialized cleaning methods may be required for specific types of stains.

Below are two methods that can guide you on how to effectively clean shoe soles:

Method 1: Using Mild Soap Solution or Shoe Cleaner for General Cleaning

This method is perfect for everyday dirt and grime. Simply create a solution of mild soap and warm water. Dip your soft brush or toothbrush in this solution, then scrub at the soles of your shoes until they’re clean.

  1. Create a mild soap solution.
  2. Dip your brush into the solution.
  3. Scrub the soles of your shoes.

Method 2: Treating Stubborn Stains or Scuffs

For this method, you will need a shoe cleaner or mild detergent. Apply it to any stubborn stains on your shoe soles. Use your brush to work the cleaner into the affected areas.

For particularly tough stains, allow the cleaner to sit on the shoes for a few minutes before scrubbing. Rinse thoroughly with water when you’re done.

  1. Apply shoe cleaner or mild detergent to stubborn stains.
  2. Use your brush to work the cleaner into the stain.
  3. For tough stains, let the cleaner sit for a few minutes before scrubbing.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with water after cleaning.

Remember, proper care and cleaning of your shoes not only extend their life but also keep them looking their best!

Step 3: Washing Shoes in the Machine

When it comes to cleaning shoes in a washing machine, selecting the right settings is paramount to avoid damaging your footwear. Here’s how to navigate the process:

Selecting the Appropriate Cycle and Water Temperature

  • Cold/Gentle Cycle: Opt for this setting on your washing machine to prevent damage. The cold water helps ensure that the glue holding your shoes together doesn’t dissolve, while the gentle cycle minimizes agitation.
  • Water Temperature: Always use cold water. Hot water can warp your shoes and cause colors to bleed or fade.

Choosing the Right Detergent or Soap for Shoe Laundry

  • Mild Detergent: Less is more when it comes to detergent. A small amount of a mild detergent works best. It effectively cleans without being too harsh on shoe materials.
  • Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Skip bleach and other strong chemicals. They can degrade fabrics and cause irreversible damage.

Washing Machine Cycles: Dos and Don’ts

  • Do Not Overload: Place your shoes in alongside a few old towels to balance the load without overstuffing.
  • Secure Fastenings: If using a mesh bag or pillowcase, ensure it’s securely fastened to prevent shoes from falling out during the cycle.

Post-Wash Care

  • Inspect After Washing: Once the cycle is complete, inspect your shoes for any remaining stains or areas that may need additional cleaning.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your shoes come out of the wash as clean and intact as possible. Remember that different types of shoes may have their own specific requirements; always check the care instructions provided by the manufacturer for the best results.

Interior pictures of a Stylish modern Washing Machine in a laundry area.

Step 4: Drying Methods for Shoes

After thoroughly washing your shoes, the next step in the process is drying. There are various ways to dry shoes properly and it’s essential to do this with care to maintain their longevity.

Air Drying Shoes Naturally

One method is air drying. It’s important to place them in a well-ventilated area – preferably somewhere cool and dry. Direct sunlight and heat sources should be avoided as these can damage the material of the shoes.

Steps for Air Drying Shoes Naturally:

  1. Remove any excess water from the shoes gently.
  2. Place the shoes in a well-ventilated area.
  3. Let them air dry naturally.

Remember to turn the shoes occasionally during this process to ensure all parts get enough air circulation for proper drying.

Using a Drying Rack or Airflow-Enhancing Methods

Another option that helps maintain the shape of the shoes while they dry is using a drying rack. This technique also promotes better air circulation around the shoes.

Steps for Using a Drying Rack:

  1. After washing, remove any excess water from the shoes.
  2. Place each shoe on a separate section of the rack.
  3. Allow them to air dry naturally.

Speeding Up The Drying Process: Stuffing with Newspaper

To speed up the drying process, you can stuff your shoes with newspaper which helps absorb moisture from inside out, maintaining their shape as they dry.

Steps for Stuffing Shoes with Newspaper:

  1. Crumple up pieces of newspaper.
  2. Stuff them into each shoe ensuring that they reach all corners.
  3. Replace the newspaper every few hours as it absorbs moisture and becomes damp.
  4. Continue this process until shoes are completely dry.

This method speeds up drying and prevents unwanted odors from forming inside your freshly cleaned shoes.

Key Considerations When Drying Shoes

  • Air drying is generally the safest method for all types of shoe materials. It may take longer, but it ensures that your shoes are not subjected to damaging heat.
  • If using a drying rack, ensure that the shoes are securely placed to prevent them from falling off and getting damaged.
  • When stuffing with newspaper, avoid overstuffing as it might distort the shape of the shoes. Also, remember to replace the damp newspaper regularly.

Effectively drying your shoes after washing is just as important as the cleaning process itself. By following these methods, you can ensure that your shoes stay fresh and maintain their shape for a long time.

The key is to take your time and let them dry naturally, while avoiding any potential damage from heat or sunlight.

In essence, understanding the best practices for drying different types of shoes will help prolong their lifespan and keep them in top condition for longer periods.

Whether it’s air drying, using a drying rack, or stuffing with newspaper, each method has its own advantages and can be effective when done correctly.

Special Considerations for Specific Shoe Types

When it comes to washing shoes in the washer, it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. Different materials demand specific care to avoid damage and extend their lifespan. Here’s a closer look at how to handle various shoe types:

Leather Shoes

Leather is a premium material that requires a gentle touch:

  • Avoid the washer: Leather shoes should never be placed in the washing machine.
  • Cleaning by hand: Use a soft cloth and mild soap to carefully clean the surface.
  • Conditioning: After cleaning, apply a leather conditioner to keep the shoes supple and prevent cracks.

Suede Shoes

Suede has a unique texture that needs special attention:

  • Brushing: Use a suede brush to remove dirt and fluff up the nap.
  • Protection: Apply a suede protector before and after cleaning to shield against water damage.
  • Spot cleaning: For stains, use a suede eraser or cleaner, avoiding the washer entirely.

Knit or Mesh Sneakers

Knit sneakers are popular for their comfort but delicate in structure:

  • Preparation: Remove excess dirt with a soft brush before washing.
  • Mesh laundry bag: Protect knit sneakers in the wash by using a mesh bag.
  • Gentle cycle: Choose a gentle cycle with cold water, and don’t forget to remove laces and insoles.

Canvas or Fabric Shoes

Canvas shoes are usually more forgiving in the wash:

  • Pre-treatment: Scrub off any loose soil with a brush or cloth before washing.
  • Wash cycle: Use cold water on a gentle cycle, protecting with a mesh bag if needed.
  • Air drying: Always air dry canvas shoes, avoiding direct heat which can warp the fabric.

By following these guidelines for each specific shoe type, you can ensure that your footwear stays clean while retaining its shape and material integrity.

Remember, always err on the side of caution when dealing with delicate materials and when in doubt, opt for hand cleaning over machine washing.

Dealing with Odor Issues in Shoes

Smelly shoes are a common problem, but you can easily get rid of the smell by using the right methods. The key is to address the root cause of the odor and use products that are specifically made for eliminating foot odor.

Causes of Odor Build-up in Shoes

Here are some reasons why shoes can develop a bad smell:

  1. Bacteria and Sweat: The main cause of shoe odor is bacteria that grow in warm, damp environments like the inside of your shoes.
  2. Not Cleaning Regularly: If you don’t clean your shoes often enough, the smell can get worse over time.
  3. Material Type: Certain materials, such as synthetic ones, don’t allow your feet to breathe well, which can lead to more odor.

Baking Soda: A Natural Odor Absorbent

Baking soda is a safe and effective way to neutralize odors.

Here’s how you can use baking soda to get rid of shoe odor:

  • Sprinkle baking soda inside the shoes and let it sit overnight to absorb the odor.Make sure to cover the entire inside surface of the shoe with a generous amount of baking soda.
  • Gently tap the shoe to spread the baking soda evenly.
  • Leave it like that overnight so that the baking soda has enough time to absorb the odors.
  • Remove excess baking soda in the morning.Shake out the shoes or use a handheld vacuum to remove any leftover baking soda.

The longer you leave the baking soda in your shoes, the better it will work at absorbing odors.

Enhancing Baking Soda’s Effectiveness

For extra odor-fighting power, mix a few drops of essential oil with the baking soda before sprinkling it in your shoes.

You can use essential oils like tea tree, lavender, or peppermint to add a pleasant scent and enhance the odor-fighting properties of baking soda.

Odor-Fighting Insoles and Inserts

Consider using odor-fighting insoles or inserts to help keep your shoes smelling fresh.

These products are designed to reduce odors and keep your shoes fresh. They often have antimicrobial properties or contain activated charcoal, which can absorb moisture and eliminate bad smells.

Vinegar: A Potent Odor Eliminator

If your shoes are machine washable, adding a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle can help eliminate odors.

Vinegar is a natural disinfectant that can kill the bacteria causing the bad smell in your shoes. Here’s how you can use it:

  • Check if your shoes are machine washable.Some shoes, especially delicate ones or those made of certain materials, may not be suitable for machine washing.
  • Add a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle.Pour vinegar directly into the washer drum or detergent dispenser.
  • Run the wash cycle as usual.Use a gentle cycle with cold water and mild detergent.
  • Let your shoes air dry completely before wearing them again.

Alternative Methods for Stubborn Odors

For stubborn odors that can’t be washed, you can try using a mixture of water and vinegar to spray inside your shoes.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle.
  2. Lightly mist the interior of each shoe without soaking them.
  3. Place them in an open area with good airflow to dry completely.

By following these steps, you can effectively manage smelly shoes and keep your footwear fresh. Remember, regular maintenance combined with targeted treatments can prevent odors from becoming overwhelming.

Final Tips for Maintaining Clean and Fresh-Smelling Shoes

Maintaining the cleanliness and freshness of your shoes is an ongoing task that requires attention to detail and understanding the best practices for shoe care. Here are some strategies to keep in mind:

Assess Cleaning Frequency Based on Shoe Type and Usage

  • Casual Wear: For shoes worn occasionally, a deep clean every few months might suffice.
  • Daily Wear: If you wear the same pair every day, consider a more frequent cleaning routine.
  • Exercise Shoes: Workout sneakers may require weekly attention due to sweat and odor buildup.

Alternate Methods for Shoe Maintenance

Baking Soda: A staple in shoe care for its deodorizing properties.

  1. Sprinkle inside the shoes
  2. Leave overnight
  3. Shake out excess before wearing

Specialized Shoe Deodorizers: These products are formulated specifically for footwear and can offer a convenient solution for odor control.

Dryer Sheets: Tuck them inside each shoe when not in use to impart a fresh scent.

Gentle Cleaning Alternatives

Rather than always opting for machine washing, consider these methods:

  • Spot-Cleaning: Quickly address spills or marks with a damp cloth and mild soap.
  • Hand-Washing: Gently scrub your shoes with soapy water using a brush or cloth, particularly beneficial for delicate materials.

Air Drying: A Crucial Step Post-Wash

  • Set your shoes in an open, airy space.
  • Stuff with paper to absorb moisture and help maintain shape.
  • Keep away from direct heat sources which can degrade materials.

Understand Your Shoes’ Needs

Different materials react differently to cleaning methods.

  • Canvas: Generally resilient and can handle gentle machine washes.
  • Leather: Prefers spot-cleaning and conditioning over any soaking or machine washing.
  • Synthetics: Often machine washable but check the label to be sure.

Embrace Regular Maintenance Beyond Washing

Regularly inspecting your shoes for wear and tear or potential issues can prolong their life. Use protective sprays or polishes as appropriate for the material type.

Manufacturer’s Care Instructions: The Gold Standard

Always refer to the care label inside your shoes before attempting any cleaning method. These guidelines are provided by those who know your shoes best – the manufacturers.

Test Before You Leap

Before applying any new cleaning method or product:

  1. Choose a small, inconspicuous area of the shoe.
  2. Apply the cleaning agent or method.
  3. Check for colorfastness or material integrity.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can ensure that your footwear remains in top condition while also smelling fresh.

Proper maintenance not only keeps your shoes looking good but can also extend their lifespan significantly.

Remember that consistency is key – a little care on a regular basis goes a long way in preserving the quality of your shoes.


Washing shoes in the washer ─ a phrase that might seem daunting to some, but with proper knowledge and guidance, it can become a regular part of your shoe care routine.

This guide has provided you with step-by-step instructions to successfully clean your shoes in the washing machine without causing any damage. Let’s take a moment to recap the key points:

  1. Understanding Shoe Materials and Care Instructions: Not all shoes are created equally, hence different materials require distinct washing methods. Always ensure to check the manufacturer’s instructions before tossing your shoes into the washer.
  2. Preparing Shoes for the Washing Machine: Start by removing laces and insoles, then place your shoes in a mesh garment bag for protection during the wash cycle. These preliminary steps are crucial for an effective wash and protecting your washing machine.
  3. Cleaning Shoe Soles and Treating Stains: Before placing your shoes in the washer, give them a good scrub using a soft brush or toothbrush to remove dirt from the soles. For stubborn stains, apply some shoe cleaner directly onto them and gently brush them away.
  4. Washing Shoes in the Machine: Once prepared, it’s time to wash! Use a cold/gentle cycle on your washing machine along with mild detergent to get rid of dirt and odors.
  5. Drying Methods for Shoes: After washing, dry your shoes properly using one of two methods ─ air drying in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight or using a drying rack that helps maintain their shape while they dry.
  6. Maintaining Clean and Fresh-Smelling Shoes: Regular cleaning based on usage frequency, using baking soda or specialized shoe deodorizers when needed, and testing cleaning methods before applying them on conspicuous areas will help you maintain clean and fresh-smelling shoes.

The convenience of being able to wash shoes in washer is undeniable; it’s a simple, time-saving method of cleaning shoes.

But remember, convenience should never come at the cost of damaging your favorite pair. Always take into account the material and washing instructions to ensure their longevity.

Keeping your shoes clean not only improves their look but also extends their lifespan. So, don’t shy away from regular shoe care and maintenance.

By following this guide and embracing these tips, you can maintain the cleanliness and integrity of your footwear for years to come.

Incorporating proper shoe care into your routine is not a daunting task; it merely requires some knowledge and caution.

So, next time you think about how to clean your shoes, remember that with the right steps, you can effectively wash shoes in washer without any worry!