We’ve all been there. We’ve bought a pair of shiny new, gorgeous white tennis shoes only to get them covered in mud our first day wearing them.
When we get home, we find ourselves at a loss. Did we just throw $40 down the drain or is there a way to fix our shoes?
As long as you pre-wash your shoes with a bit of water, you can easily throw them in a washing machine. Just place them in a mesh or cloth bag before putting them in the washer.
What Shoes & Sneakers Are Safe to Put in the Washing Machine?
Before we jump into the hows of washing your shoes, let’s make sure we cover the whats. After all, not every shoe is machine-washable, and putting the wrong type of shoes in the washer could cause a problem.
Most of the time, the original shoebox will state whether or not you can wash them in the machine. If you don’t have the box on hand, however, you can go off a few general rules of thumb.
For the most part, athletic shoes and canvas shoes made out of cotton, polyester, and nylon are machine washable. In contrast, rubber, leather, suede, and vinyl are not safe materials for putting through the washer.
Some shoes feature sequins, beading, and embroidery. These types of shoes also shouldn’t go through the washing machine as they can fall off or get damaged by the cycle.
Phase I: How to Pre-Wash Your Tennis Shoes
The first step to washing your shoes in the washing machine is to pre-wash them. That’s to make sure that you get the majority of the dirt off before you throw them in the washing machine.
Another reason, not less important, is to not make your machine smelly! Our soles carry ALL kinds of gunk you can imagine. Last thing you want are tiny particles of this dirt getting stuck to your undies!
1. Remove Surface Debris
The first step to pre-washing your shoes is to wipe them down with a damp rag. Don’t scrub the shoes, just gently wipe your shoes off so that you can get the majority of the dirt off them.
Then, bang the shoes together to dislodge any other loose dirt. This should get sand out of the shoes as well as loosen off any dirt that’s stuck on the outside.
2. Clean the Soles
After you’ve wiped off the shoes, it’s time to bust out an old toothbrush and clean the soles of the shoes. Use a little bit of warm, soapy water to help loosen up the dirt and dislodge the dirt.
Unlike the above step, you’ll want to apply force here. The harder you scrub, the more dirt you’ll be able to remove from the shoes.
(Where there’s a toothbrush, there can be toothpaste too, with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide as in the video below. But it’s more of a quick weekly fix for white soles than a thorough clean-up.)
3. Rinse the Shoes
Next, you need to rinse off the soles of the shoes to get rid of any leftover soap. Gently wash only the hard soles and avoid getting any canvas or fabric parts of the shoes wet.
4. Remove the Laces
Next, it’s time to remove the laces and the insoles of the shoes. You’ll place these in the washing machine separate from the shoes.
The reason why it’s important to take out the laces is that dirt can get stuck in the eyelets. By taking them out, you make it easier to flush out any debris that’s caught there.
Phase II: How to Wash Your Tennis Shoes in the Washing Machine
Once your shoes are pre-washed, you’re ready to put them through the washing machine itself. There are a few steps you’ll need to take to do so correctly.
5. Put Them in a Bag
To start washing your shoes, place them in a pillowcase or a mesh bag. Doing so protects the shoes and prevents them from getting damaged in the machine’s tumble cycles.
Make sure that you secure the top of the bag so that the shoes don’t tumble out. If you’re using a pillow case, you can secure the bag with a rubber band.
6. Pad the Washer
Next, place the bag in the washing machine and add some padding around the shoes to cushion them. Pillows and towels are great items to wash with your shoes as they’ll help provide padding.
7. Wash the Shoes
Once the shoes are bagged up, you can turn on the machine. Add the shoe laces and insoles to the washer, although they don’t need to be in the bag with the shoes.
Make sure that you use a gentle cycle for the shoes. Also, make sure to use a cold cycle that doesn’t have a lot of spin. This prevents the glue in your shoes from weakening or melting.
Remember that you shouldn’t use fabric softener when washing your shoes. The residue from the softener can actually attract more dirt, leaving them worse than they started off.
8. Dry the Shoes
After you’ve washed the shoes, it’s time to let them dry. Take the insoles, laces, and shoes out of the washer and place them in a sunny, warm, and open-air area where they can dry for at least 24 hours.
You can help speed up the drying process by stuffing the shoes with a few balls of newspaper. Or even put some rice inside! Whatever you do, just make sure not to put them into the dryer as this can damage the shoes.
What’s the Right Machine Setting?
The right setting works both ways: it means you won’t damage your shoes OR the machine drum.
The best settings for washing shoes are to use the delicates setting or the hand wash setting. These settings use a larger amount of water, which will help get the dirt off your shoes faster.
The reason why these settings are important is also that they have low to no spin speeds. This keeps your shoes from bouncing around the drum too much. Drums don’t like getting beaten by hard objects!
What’s more, you want to make sure that your machine’s gentle setting uses cold water. This prevents colors from ruining or shrinking the fabric of your shoes.
Bonus Tip: Use a liquid detergent or laundry sheets (eco-friendly will do too!) when washing your shoes in the machine. Powder detergent can get lodged into the shoe’s crevices, which will leave you with more residue to clean up when you’re done.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the Type of Washer Affect How Clean My Shoes Will Be?
In general, front loader machines clean your clothes more gently than top loader machines. Plus, they have better temperature and spin control. While you can wash your shoes in both types of washers, front loaders are the best choice for shoes.
Can You Put Shoes in the Dryer?
If you’re tempted to put your shoes in the dryer to help them dry up faster, stop! Dryers can warp some of the fabrics in your shoes or can melt the glue on your shoes causing them to fall apart or melt. Instead, put a few newspaper balls to soak up the moisture, and place them in front of a fan!
Does Washing Shoes Damage the Washer?
Many people believe that washing their shoes in the washing machine will damage the washer itself. If you don’t put the shoes in a bag or add padding, the bouncing around of the shoes can damage the machine’s drum. However, the washer is more likely to damage your shoes than the other way around!