Can You Put Shoes in the Washer?

Washing your shoes in the washing machine can be simple, but follow these tips from AHS on how to properly wash your shoes. When it comes to your washer, you don't want to take shortcuts.

Shoes in mesh bag going in washer

There’s nothing quite like a comfortable pair of tennis shoes. With each wear, you break your shoes in, molding them to the shape of your foot and ensuring the perfect fit. However, well-worn shoes do have one not-so-pleasant secret: odor. When your shoes start to smell a little funky, it’s tempting to throw them in the washing machine and let this household appliance do the dirty work for you.

Can you actually clean your shoes in the washing machine? Read on to learn more about putting your shoes in the wash and get some tips to help keep your favorite pair in tip-top condition.

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What Causes Shoes to Smell?

Before explaining how to keep your shoes clean, it’s helpful to understand what causes smelly shoes. Shoes can smell for any number of reasons. First, there’s frequent wear. Shoes absorb sweat from your feet, and if they’re not allowed to dry out properly, you’ll start to notice an unpleasant odor. Try to wear a different pair each day to allow your favorites to properly air out.

Other reasons shoes may smell include not wearing socks (which help absorb sweat), fungus like athlete’s foot, or poor ventilation. Certain materials, such as leather, simply don’t allow your feet to breathe and can trap the sweat the causes odors.

Cleaning Shoes in the Washer

So, now that you know what causes your shoes to stink, it’s time to get back to the main question. Yes, it is possible to put your favorite pair of sneakers in the washing machine, but before you do, there are a few things you need to be aware of:

  • Wash sneakers or tennis shoes – This sounds like common sense, but it’s important to keep in mind. The washing machine is only for certain types of shoes, like tennis shoes or running shoes. Your favorite pair of leather or suede shoes should never go in the washer.
  • Remove laces and insoles – To keep your laces from getting tangled, remove them from the shoes and put them in a separate bag or pillowcase to go in the washer. Your insoles, however, should be washed by hand. Remove them from your shoes and use a solution of warm water and detergent to remove stains and odors. Allow them to air dry.
  • Add towels – Before you throw your shoes in the washer, add a 4-6 old towels. This will keep the load balanced and help prevent your shoes from banging around while the cycle runs. You may also want to put your sneakers in a mesh laundry bag for extra protection.
  • Choose your cycle wisely – Use liquid detergent and cold water to wash your shoes. You should also choose a cycle with a low spin speed if possible. These are usually the delicate cycles. Using a low spin speed will help ensure your washer stays balanced.
  • Disinfect if needed - To prevent fungus like athlete’s foot, try adding a pine oil disinfectant at the beginning of the wash cycle. The disinfectant needs to be at least 80% pine oil, and you’ll need to run the washer on warm water in order for it to be effective.

Following these tips will help prevent damage to both your shoes and your washing machine.

Can Shoes Go in the Dryer?

After the wash cycle is done, it’s time to dry your shoes. A word of warning, though – don’t put your shoes in the dryer. The high temperatures can damage the glue that holds them together, and it may even cause certain fabrics or materials to shrink. Using the dryer can also permanently warp your shoes, which will affect their fit and performance.

So then, how do you dry shoes? To properly dry your shoes, find a cool and well-ventilated space to let them air dry. Generally, you should only wash your shoes when you can allow enough time for them to air dry, but if you need to speed things up a bit, you can put a fan on them. Stuffing some small towels inside your shoes will help them keep their shape as they dry.

Alternative Methods

How do you wash shoes without using a washer? If you can’t put your shoes in the washer, or you simply don’t want to run the risk of damaging them, don’t fret. There are a few easy ways for you to clean your shoes by hand. Try one of the following methods:

  • Hand wash fabric shoes – You can use a solution made of one teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and two cups of warm water to hand wash fabric shoes. Simply scrub the shoes using the solution and a toothbrush, then wipe them off with a paper towel to dry. You can wash your insoles using the same solution.
  • Use vinegar on leather – If you’re dealing with leather shoes, you’ll want to use equal parts cool water and distilled white vinegar. Dip a cloth in the solution, then wipe your shoes down and let them air dry.
  • Deodorize – There are also easy ways to tackle shoe odor. Sprinkle your shoes with baking soda and let them sit overnight to eliminate odors.

Follow the Manufacturer’s Recommended Method

Before you wash your shoes, play it safe and check the tags or the manufacturer’s website for recommended cleaning steps. Some shoes simply aren’t made to go in the washing machine, and throwing them in there may ruin them. Likewise, certain materials require specific handwashing methods. If you follow the recommended steps and use the tips above, you’ll keep your favorite pair fitting great and smelling fresh for months to come.


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