Two Ways to Wash Your Shoes Plus Additional Tips (2024)

Shoes—especially sneakers—take a beating and eventually knowing how to wash them is a must. So whether you have a favorite pair of Converse sneakers or Allbirds, you can wash them at home in a washing machine or by hand to remove dirt, stains, and odor. This does require some special instructions in order to keep your shoes in good shape. Read on to learn what those are.

Special Materials

If your shoes have any type of suede or leather trim or have been treated with a water-repellent, they should not be washed in a washing machine—hand-wash theminstead. This is also true for any shoes embellished with trim, beading, orrope soles. The agitation action of the washer is too harsh and spending too much time in the water may loosen the glues used in construction.

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What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 washing machine
  • 1 large sink or plastic tub
  • 1 microfiber cloth
  • 1 soft-bristled nylon brush
  • 1 drying rack


  • 1 bottle enzyme-based laundry detergent
  • 1 bottle enzyme-based stain remover (optional)
  • 1 container oxygen-based bleach
  • 1 melamine eraser
  • 1 bottle dishwashing liquid
  • 1 box baking soda
  • 1 bottle laundry disinfectant


How to Wash Shoes by Machine or Hand
DetergentEnzyme-based laundry detergent
Water TemperatureCool to warm
Cycle TypeGentle cycle or wash by hand
Drying CycleAir-dry only
Special TreatmentsUse a mesh washing bag in washer
How Often to WashEvery few weeks / As needed

Two Ways to Wash Your Shoes Plus Additional Tips (1)

How to Wash Shoes in a Washing Machine

  1. Remove the Laces and Insoles

    Wash shoelaces (if removable) separately in a mesh laundry bag in the washer, or wash them by hand in warm water with a touch of detergent. Remove any detachable insoles and either hand-wash or replace them.

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  2. Choose Your Laundry Products

    Choose which laundry detergent to use. You can use your regularlaundry detergent to wash shoes or an enzyme-based detergent that will break the bond between the stain molecules and the fabric. If the shoes look dull, add a scoop of powderedoxygen-based bleachto the washer drum.


    If you are concerned aboutathlete's footor another fungus, add adisinfectantto the wash water. Follow product directions for the correct amount to add per load.

    Two Ways to Wash Your Shoes Plus Additional Tips (3)

  3. Select the Washer Settings

    Select the warm or cold water temperature. Choose the gentle cycle because it has a lower final spin cycle speed. This will help prevent damage to the soles of the shoes and will keep your washer from becoming off-balance.

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  4. Pre-treat Stains and Remove Loose Soil

    Pre-treat visible stains with just a dab of laundry detergent or an enzyme-based stain remover. Work it into the stain with a soft-bristled brush—an old toothbrush works great. Allow the detergent to work for at least 15 minutes to break apart the soil before adding the shoes to the washer.

    If the shoes are muddy, rinse them off with a garden hose or in a utility sink before putting them in the washer. The mud can clog the washer and cause it to malfunction. You can also rinse off the debris with a garden hose or in a utility sink before washing.

    Two Ways to Wash Your Shoes Plus Additional Tips (5)

  5. Add the Shoes to the Washer

    Pull up the tongue of the shoe if it's a laced style so that the cleaning solution can easily reach every surface. Place the shoes (and laces) in a mesh laundry bag before adding them to the washer. Shoes can be washed with similar-colored and similar-weight laundry like towels or jeans.

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  6. Dry the Shoes

    Remove the shoes when cycle is complete and air-dry them in a spot away from direct sunlight and heat. Never place shoes in a hot automatic clothes dryer. The intense heat can cause glues to melt and the shoes could fall apart.

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How to Hand-Wash Shoes

  1. Create a Cleaning Solution

    Mix one teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent with two quarts of warm water in a sink or plastic tub.


    If you don't have any laundry detergent, use dishwashing liquid to make your cleaning solution.

    Two Ways to Wash Your Shoes Plus Additional Tips (8)

  2. Prep the Shoes for Washing

    • Remove the laces, if appropriate, and fill a small bowl with the cleaning solution. Place the laces in the solution to soak.
    • Rinse off any mud or loose soil from the shoes.
    • Use a dab of detergent to pretreat visible stains. Work in the detergent with your fingers or with a soft-bristled brush. Allow it to work for at least 15 minutes before washing the entire shoe.

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  3. Wash the Shoes

    • Submerge the shoes in the soapy solution and allow them to soak for about 15 minutes.
    • Dip a microfiber cloth in the detergent solution and use it to scrub the outside and inside of the shoe. Pay attention to the soles as well.
    • Use a melamine sponge (Mr. Clean Eraser) if the soles are dirty to remove scuff marks from the rubber.

    Two Ways to Wash Your Shoes Plus Additional Tips (10)

  4. Rinse Well and Dry

    • Empty the cleaning solution. Refill the sink or tub with cool water.
    • Rinse the shoes, changing the water if necessary, until no more suds appear.
    • Rinse the laces and allow the shoes and laces to air dry away from harsh sunlight and direct heat.

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How Often to Wash Shoes

How often you need to wash your shoes depends on how often they're worn and to where. If you wear them daily, aim for a schedule of every couple of weeks. If you wear them intermittently, you can wash them whenever they start to look dirty or dingy. If you have an occasion where the shoes become caked with mud or something from the ground surface, wash them as soon as possible to prevent staining.

How to Take Care of Your Shoes and Repair Them

If you love a pair of shoes you'll want to care for them well so they can be worn for a long time. Keep them away from moisture as much as possible as this can cause bacteria to grow that will break down the shoe materials. Don't store them in areas where they can gather dust that would make them look old and dull. Additionally, use shoe bags made of breathable fabric for storage as opposed to plastic or cardboard shoe boxes that don't allow for air circulation.

If your shoes have a tear you can attempt to fix it by sewing a patch onto the area or using an adhesive to plug the hole. If you notice loose stitching or broken threads, it may be best to take the pair to a shoe repair service to see what can be done.

Tips for Washing Shoes

  • Don't submerge shoes with rope-covered soles or trim when washing by hand. Use a damp cloth with soapy water to gently clean the rope. Work in small areas, changing the water frequently, and always rinse away sudsy residue.
  • To help shoes retain their shape while they dry, stuff the toes with microfiber cloths, nylon mesh, or paper towels. Change the stuffing frequently as they absorb moisture.
  • Add one cup of baking soda to the washer drum or one-half cup to the hand-washing solution to help combat odor.
  • Before you toss your shoes in the washing machine, take the time to read the cleaning instructions on the care tag. If the tag is long gone, visit the manufacturer's website for more information. You don't want to ruin your shoes if they have materials that should not be washed by machine.


  • What if you don't have a mesh laundry bag for your washer?

    If you don't have a mesh laundry bag to put the shoes in when you run them through a cycle, use any empty pillow case that can button, tie or zip closed.

  • How do you remove odor from shoes that otherwise look clean?

    Sometimes your shoes appear fresh but are anything but. To remove unwanted odors, try sprinkling a generous amount of baking soda or place a sachet of activated charcoal inside the shoe and let it sit overnight. This will absorb the odors.

  • Can shoes be dry cleaned?

    It depends on the material. If the shoes are leather or suede it would be a good idea to consult with your dry cleaning service. For sneakers and shoes made of canvas, mesh, or knit materials, dry cleaning is usually not recommended as the solvents could weaken the construction of the shoes.

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Two Ways to Wash Your Shoes Plus Additional Tips (2024)


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