put shoes in washing machine

Putting your shoes in a washing machine was a bad idea back in the day.

The washer’s technology was somewhat ancient and the models available at the time could easily ruin any footwear.

If anything, cleaning dirty shoes by hand was the rule to giving every pair in your closet and shoe rack a perfect touchup.

But technology has so far advanced, so are the laundry washing machines.

And the consensus is that you can wash shoes in a washing machine without ruining them.

So the next time you accidentally step in mud puddle, you don’t necessarily have to clean your shoes by hand washing.

You can simply toss the pair in a washing machine and get them cleaned quickly instead.

But there are rules to consider.

So read this guide carefully so that you don’t miss the most important details – or you could end up ruining your pair of shoes just as easily.

Can You Put and Wash Shoes in a Washing Machine?

Yes, you can throw your shoes in a washing machine and clean them thoroughly if they’re extremely dirty.

But understand that not all shoes are machine washable.

More often than not, the material used to make your shoes will greatly determine whether you can clean them in a washer or not.

Shoes made of cotton, nylon, and polyester can go into a washing machine. Not only are these materials tough and durable, they also can stand up to the damaging effect of laundry detergents.

All sneakers, from the canvas shoes you buy at Nike to the athletic footwear you use for sports such as tennis, are made of machine washable materials.

So you can throw them in the water and give them a perfect cleanup.

Shoes made of animal fabrics such as suede, vinyl, leather and rubber should not go into the washer.

Since the machine can easily damage the fabrics, it’s best to wash such shoes by hands.

One final thing:

To be sure that you can put and wash a pair of shoes in a washing machine, double-check your shoe care label.

How to Wash Your Shoes in a Washing Machine

Now that you know which shoes you can throw into a washing machine and which ones you should wash by hand, I’ll further give a walkthrough on how to wash your shoes in a washing machine within the shortest time possible.

Let’s get to cleaning, shall we?

Tools Recommended for Cleaning Shoes in a Washing Machine

To get started, you’ll need:

  • Laundry liquid detergent
  • Baking soda
  • Pillowcase or mesh laundry bags
  • A soft brush and
  • A towel

Once you have all these cleaning supplies at your disposal, follow the rest of the guide to learn how you should wash your shoes in a washing machine.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Shoes in a Washing Machine

 Before we get started, it’s important to keep in mind that a washing machine can only remove normal level of dirt from your shoes.

Step 1: Prepping Your Shoes for Cleaning

Remove the shoelaces and put them in the mesh laundry bag. You don’t want them tangling up in the washer.

If you like, clean them manually with a soft brush and any laundry detergent.

If your shoes have grass stains or they’re muddy, get a damp rag and wipe out as much dirt as you can.

For stubborn mud that a damp rag won’t clean easily, using running water can make a difference.

Or, you can bang the shoes gently on a hard surface to loosen up the tough mud.

Use a toothbrush and warm soapy water to scrub off dirt from the sole of the shoes. Scrubbing harder will help to get rid of excess dirt.

Remove your insoles and wash them manually with a soft brush and soap water.

Unless instructed by the manufacturer, don’t put your insoles in the washing machine for it can leave them waterlogged and therefore difficult to dry.

Now put baking soda in each shoes and leave them overnight. This will naturally remove odor and even make cleaning the shoes easier. Wash off the baking soda in the morning.

Don’t forget to rinse off any soap residue before putting the shoes in the dryer.

Step 2: Washing Your Shoes in the Washer

Now that you’ve fully prepped your shoes, the next thing is to throw them in the washer and clean them thoroughly.

To do this:

  • Put your shoes in a mesh laundry bag and seal the bag tightly.
  • Before you throw the bag into a top load or a front loading washing machine, choose the cleaning settings that are right for your shoes.
  • Now, take the sealed laundry bag and throw it into the washing machine
  • Choose a cycle with low spin speed or no speed at all to keep either the top load or front loading washing machine balanced
  • Leave the shoes in the washer for 30 to 40 minutes for thorough cleaning

If you’ve used a washing machine before, you know how noisy it can get sometimes.

So I recommend that you wash your shoes along with some towels to keep them from slamming against the walls of the washing machine.

Use cold water when washing your shoes to protect them from fading.

Also, it’s best to use liquid laundry detergent because, unlike powdered detergents, the liquid can easily dissolve in the shoes. 

Step 3: Drying Your Shoes

Turn off the washing machine after 30 to 40 minutes of cleaning your shoes. Then, again, prep them for drying.

  • Remove the mesh laundry bag from the washer, take the shoes out of the bag, and then air dry them
  • Pack old newspapers or clean socks in the shoes to keep them in shape. These materials also absorb moisture, easily speeding up the drying process. 

I don’t recommend putting shoes in a dryer because the heat from the machine can easily damage them.

Machine drying shoes can also melt the glue holding the upper onto the sole, thus ruining the design.

The final step is to remove the old newspaper or socks from the footbed, put the insoles back in, and then lace up the shoes so that they’re ready for reuse. 

What are the Alternatives to Cleaning Shoes in a Washing Machine?

If your shoes are not machine washable or you don’t want to risk putting your shoes in the washer for whatever reason, you can use the following alternative methods to clean them.

 1. Hand Wash Your Shoes Like You Would Your Clothes

Below is how to clean your shoes by hand washing:

  • Unlace the shoes and remove the insoles. Use a soft brush and warm soapy water to scrub the laces and the insoles until they’re thoroughly clean. And then get a soft sponge and use it to soak up excess soapy water from the laces and the shoe inserts.
  • Use a soft brush or toothbrush to remove excess dirt from the outer parts of your shoes.
  • Mix a little liquid detergent with warm water, apply the mixture on a soft cloth, and use it to wipe off dirt from your shoes.
  • Air dry your shoes 

You can use steel wool or add a bleaching agent to a cleaning solution if you’re dealing with shoes that have tough stains.

2. Use Baking Soda

You may not want to wash the whole shoes if they’re just smelly from the inside.

Such a case almost always only requires that you get rid of the odor.

Sprinkle some baking soda in the shoes and leave the pair overnight.

This solution should be enough to get rid of the bad smell from your shoes.

3. Use Distilled White Vinegar to Clean Leather Shoes

Since you shouldn’t to put leather shoes in a washing machine, the best way to clean them is to use a soft piece of cloth and a slightly soapy mixture.

You want to apply leather polish using a soft brush to keep the leather in good condition.

If you like, feel free to use distilled white vinegar.

About the author 

Abigael Destiny

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