Step-by-Step Guide: How to Wash Shoes in The Washing Machine

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Wash Shoes in The Washing Machine

We know how frustrating it can be when your favorite sneakers get dirty and smelly. You don't want to throw them out, but you also don't want to wear them in that condition. We are going to share with you an easy way to keep your shoes looking and smelling fresh – by washing them in the washing machine.

Washing shoes in the washing machine might sound a bit strange, but it's actually a safe and effective way to clean your shoes, as long as you follow the right steps. We'll guide you through the entire process, from checking if your shoes are machine-washable to drying them properly after the wash. So, let's dive in!

Which Shoes are Machine Washable?

machine washable shoes

Now, We want to be upfront with you – not all shoes are suitable for machine washing. Certain materials like made of leather, suede, or shoes with fancy decorations should be cleaned differently or taken to a professional. But for most everyday sneakers made of materials like canvas, nylon, cotton, or polyester, tossing them in the washing machine is a perfectly safe option.

Of course, there are some important steps you need to follow to ensure your shoes come out looking great and your washing machine stays in good condition. But don't worry, I'll walk you through the entire process step-by-step. By the end of this guide, you'll be a pro at washing your shoes in the washing machine!

How to Properly Wash Your Shoes in the Washing Machine

Washing your shoes in the washing machine is actually pretty simple once you know the right steps to follow. Here's a quick 7-step guide to get you started:

What You'll Need

Before we get started, let me quickly go over the things you'll need to wash your shoes in the washing machine. 

  • a mesh garment bag or an old pillowcase: These will protect your shoes from getting damaged as they tumble around in the washer. You'll want one bag for each shoe.
  • an old brush or cloth and toothpick: You'll use this for scrubbing off any caked-on dirt or mud from the soles before putting your shoes in the wash.
  • mild laundry detergent: I recommend using a detergent sheet, as powder detergents can sometimes leave residue in your shoes and isn't very environmentally friendly, same goes for liquid detergent. Our personal favorite is the laundry detergent sheets from Lucent globe - they're super convenient and work great!
  • some baking soda or stain remover: if you're dealing with tough stains or bad odors, These can help pre-treat problem areas.
  • clean dry towels: You'll use these to help cushion your shoes in the washer, and also to help them keep their shape as they air dry afterward.

Step 1: Check if Your Shoes Are Machine-Washable

The very first thing you need to do before washing your shoes in the machine is to make sure they are actually machine-washable. Different shoes are made from different materials, and some materials just can't handle the tumbling and spinning of a washing machine.

The easiest way to check the care label on your shoes. This little tag will tell you if the shoes are safe to put in the washer or not. As a general rule, shoes made from fabrics like canvas, nylon, cotton, or polyester are usually okay to machine wash. But shoes made from leather, suede, vinyl, rubber, or with fancy decorations like beads should not go in the washing machine.

Step 2: Remove the Laces and Insoles From Your Shoes

Once you've confirmed your shoes are machine-washable before you put shoes in the washing it's time to prepare them for cleaning. Start by removing the laces and insoles from the shoes. This will allow the shoes to get fully cleaned inside and out during the wash cycle.

For the laces, you can either hand-wash them separately in some warm water with a bit of detergent, or secure them inside a mesh bag to wash in the machine. The mesh bag will prevent the laces from getting tangled.

As for the insoles, it's best to hand-wash these. The materials insoles are made of, like rubber or foam, may not hold up well in the agitation of the washing machine. Use a small scrub brush and some soapy water to get them clean, then let them fully air dry before putting back in the shoes.

Step 3: Scrub Your Soles to Remove Any Caked-On Dirt or Mud

scrubbing soles of shoe

Before tossing your shoes in the washing machine, you'll want to give the soles a good scrub to remove any caked-on dirt, mud or debris. The soles are usually the dirtiest part of the shoe, so giving them a pre-clean will help the washer do a better job.

Take an old brush or cloth and use it to gently scrub the bottom of the shoes under some running water. Pay extra attention to the grooves and ridges where dirt can really get stuck. You can also use a toothpick or cotton swab to get into any tiny nooks and crannies.

If your shoes are really muddy, take your shoes outside and you may want to use the garden hose to rinse off as much of the mud as possible before scrubbing. Getting rid of that initial layer of grime will make the cleaning process much easier.

Step 4: Place your shoes in a mesh bag

shoes in mesh bag

Once your shoes are prepped, it's time to get them ready for the washing machine. You'll want to place each individual shoe into its own mesh bag or a pillowcase. These bags are really important because they prevent your shoes from getting damaged as they tumble around in the washer.

The mesh bags allow water and detergent to flow through and clean the shoes, while still protecting them from directly hitting the walls of the machine drum. Using separate bags for each shoe also stops them from banging into each other during the wash cycle.

If you don't have dedicated mesh laundry bags, an old pillowcase can work just as well. Simply put each shoe into its own pillowcase and tie the end closed securely with a shoelace or piece of string. The pillowcase fabric will cushion the shoes.

Step 5: Add a Couple of Old, Clean Towels to Protect Your Shoes

In addition to putting your shoes in mesh laundry bags, you'll want to add some old, clean towels to the washing machine. These old towels act as cushions to absorb the noise and movement during the wash cycle.

The towels help create a buffer between your shoes and the walls of the washer drum. This prevents your shoes from getting banged around too much, which could potentially damage them. The towels basically serve as extra padding.

Step 6: Set Your Washing Machine to a Cold and Delicate Cycle 

Now it's time to actually start the washing process! First, you'll want to set your washing machine to a cold and delicate cycle. The cold water is just as effective as warm for cleaning, but it's gentler on your shoes' materials. The delicate cycle uses a slower spin speed to prevent damaging your kicks.

An even better option is pre-measured detergent sheets or packs like Lucent Globe. These dissolve completely in the wash water without leaving any soap residue behind. They're also really convenient since you don't have to measure out the right amount.

Step 7: Air Dry Your Shoes After the Wash Cycle Finishes

Never expose any shoes to high heat. it's very important that you air dry your shoes instead of putting them in the dryer. The high heat from a dryer can actually damage the materials and cause the shoes to warp or shrink out of shape. 

To air dry, simply remove your shoes from the mesh bags and find a well-ventilated area in your home. A spot with good airflow, like near an open window or fan, is ideal. You want to make sure the shoes can fully dry without trapping in moisture.

It may take 24 hours or more for your shoes to fully dry this way, depending on the materials. But trust us, it's worth the wait to ensure your beloved kicks keep their shape and quality. Once completely dry, you can put the insoles back in and lace them up good as new!

How to Handwash the insoles with laundry detergent or baking soda

Hand washing your insoles separately is an easy way to get them fresh and clean. Here's a quick list of steps for each method:

With Laundry Detergent:

  1. Make a solution of warm water and a small amount of liquid laundry detergent or detergent sheets.
  2. Dip an old toothbrush or scrub brush into the soapy water.
  3. Gently scrub both sides of the insoles, focusing on the heel and toe areas.
  4. Rinse the insoles thoroughly under clean water to remove all soap.
  5. Allow the insoles to fully air dry before putting them back in.

With Baking Soda:

  1. Sprinkle baking soda liberally over both sides of the insoles.
  2. Let the baking soda sit overnight on the insoles.
  3. In the morning, brush off any remaining baking soda residue.

Both methods are effective for hand-washing insoles and getting rid of built-up sweat, odors, and grime. The baking soda option is great for deodorizing without any scrubbing required. Just take a few minutes to hand-wash those insoles for fresh-smelling shoes!

Extra Tips: Washing Sneaker with Special Materials

While regular sneakers made of canvas, nylon or cotton can usually go straight in the washing machine, you'll need to take some extra precautions with shoes made of special materials like suede, leather or mesh.

  • For suede shoes, it's best to avoid getting them wet at all costs. The nap of the suede can get stiff and brittle when it gets soaked, causing permanent damage. Instead, use a special suede brush to remove any dirt or stains. For bigger messes, you may need to take them to a professional cleaner.
  • Leather shoes require a very gentle approach as well. Never fully submerge them in water. Instead, dampen a cloth with a mild soap solution and gently wipe away dirt and grime. Be sure to use a leather conditioner regularly to keep the material supple.
  • As for running shoes or any other sports shoes with mesh panels or mixed materials, a combined hand-washing and machine-washing approach works best. Use a soft brush to scrub off exterior dirt first. Then you can put them in a mesh bag and run a gentle, cold cycle in the machine to get the insides clean.

No matter the special material, always check the manufacturer's care instructions first. A little extra care for these delicate shoes goes a long way in keeping them fresh and extending their lifespan!

Key Takeaways

Washing your shoes in the washing machine is totally doable as long as you follow the right steps. Proper shoe care is so important to make your favorites last. With this guide, you can easily keep your sneakers in tip-top shape just by using your everyday washing machine!


FAQ About How to Wash Shoes in a Washing Machine

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

Use the cold, delicate cycle on your washing machine for washing shoes.

How do I prevent my shoes from losing their shape in the washing machine?

your shoes may be losing their shape, but the right washing method to prevent this is to stuff them with clean rags before placing them in the mesh laundry bag.