Explained: Is It Ok If You Put Shoes In The Washing Machine?

Have you got a pair of shoes that has become really dirty or smelly? How do you clean them? I’m sure that most of you hesitate to wash them in the washing machine or even hand wash them. 

A pair of shoes on a washing machine's door

Shoes are probably the most smelling item we put on as we wear them frequently, and they absorb sweat from our feet. But these aren’t the only reasons. Poor ventilation, not wearing socks and feet fungus are some serious reasons that lead to smelly shoes. Fortunately, washing them needs no elbow grease from your side. Things are much simpler, as long as they’re washable. You just pop them in the appliance, and that’s all! You have to do it right though, so you don’t wonder later why your washing machine is smelling.

Should I wash shoes in the washing machine?

Washing your shoes in the washing machine depends on the material your shoes are made of, as it happens on anything you wish to wash in the machine. Before you put any of your clothes in the machine, don’t you check the care label first? The same goes for shoes.

However, shoes made of leather, suede or any other animal-based material, or footwear made of silk or satin, it’s better to avoid the machine wash. Some of them can’t be hand washed either as water can ruin them. The best way to clean them is to use specially designed cleaning products

A couple of shoes in a washing machine

Athletic shoes, kids shoes and generally any types of shoes made of cotton, nylon or polyester can be easily popped into the washer. You can also machine wash some PU or PVC shoes, as long as you check out the tags’ washing instructions. Bear in mind, though, that you can still wash in the washer shoes labelled with “Hand Wash Only”. Just set your machine in the right setting

What’s the best way to wash shoes in the washing machine?

But how can you wash shoes in the washing machine without causing any damages? You just pop them in, or is there a safe way? You can’t just put them in the appliance, because you’re running a significant risk of damaging both your shoes and your device. There’s a simple and safe method to ensure the excellent condition of your shoes and your machine

Here’s what you need to wash your shoes in the washing machine safely:

  • A mesh laundry bag or a pillow
  • Laundry liquid detergent
  • 3 tablespoons of baking soda(or sodium bicarbonate)
  • A soft brush or an old toothbrush
  • Some old towels

Some baking soda next to a toothbrush

And this is the step-by-step guide to follow:

Step 1: Check the care label

The first step is to carefully read the washing instructions on your footwear to ensure whether they’re machine washable, hand washable or if they can’t be washed at all. In case they aren’t washable, then the best way to clean them is to take them in a shoe repair or wipe them with a damp cloth. But, if you can wash them, you’ll be informed about the wash cycle and the water temperature.

Step 2: Shoe preparation

You’ve checked the washing instructions and your shoes can, indeed, be washed in the washer. Don’t put them in right away. You should prepare them first. What should you do? 

  1. Remove the laces and insoles
  2. Scrub the surface and beneath the running tap with a soft brush to clear them off any debris. 
  3. Use a toothbrush to clean the eyelets and any other small areas.

Step 3: Deodorise your shoes

Sprinkle three tablespoons of soda in your shoes and leave it overnight. This way you’ll eliminate any foul odours which will ultimately go away while washing them. Before you put them in the machine, remove the soda that is left behind.

Step 4: Protect your shoes 

To prevent your shoes from being damaged, put them in a mesh laundry bag. If you don’t have such a bag, no need to worry; a pillowcase will work just fine. Place both your shoes and laces in the protective bag. Leave the insoles out. 

A pair of shoes in a bag to protect them during cleaning

Step 5: Set your washing machine

Set your appliance on the delicate cycle with cold water. Water temperature above 30 degrees will probably fade their colour and damage their coating, especially if you’re washing PU or PVC shoes. Add the laundry detergent in the detergent drawer or into the drum. Before putting your shoes in the machine, add some towels (4-6) first and then the bag with the shoes. Towels will stop the shoes from hitting over the drum which will reduce the noise and protect your shoes. 

Step 6: Drying

Air drying your shoes should be your only solution. Once you remove them from the machine place them, if possible, somewhere outside to dry for at least 24 hours. You better avoid tumble drying, because the high heat will damage your shoe.  

Note: Avoid machine washing the insoles as they might take a lot to dry. If they aren’t washable, you can clean them and deodorise using soda.

Can I dry my shoes in a tumble dryer?

Drying your shoes is one way, only air-drying them. Putting them in the tumble dryer will ruin them. The dryer’s high heat will make the glue that holds them together melt, taking a significant risk of being completely damaged and affecting their fit and performance. Let alone that some kinds of shoes may also shrink. 

Some shoes air drying outdoors

Thus, a better and safer way to dry your shoes is air drying. Let them dry in a cool and well-ventilated place. The rule of thumb is to wash your shoes when you have the time to allow them to air dry. You should let them dry for 24 hours. If you don’t have the time, you can speed up the drying process. Place them in front of a fan or stuff some towels or newspaper in your shoes to absorb the moisture. This way, you’ll ensure that they dry without losing their shape. 

Will washing shoes in a washer remove the bad odour?

If you just choose to wash your shoes in the washer to get rid of the foul odours, you might not have the expected results. Everything depends on the level of smell. Along with the regular “laundry”, you can apply a couple of other methods to ensure the best results

You can leave them for a short period of time in the sunlight as the sun’s UV rays kill bacteria, or pour some baking soda in to absorb and neutralise nasty odours. The best tip to follow is always to put on socks when wearing shoes.

Shoes you should never wash in a washing machine

As already mentioned, not all types of shoes can be washed in a washer. Shoes made with animal-based material like leather and suede, and delicate coatings like satin and silk, or rubber and vinyl shoes should never be put in the device as they’ll probably be damaged. What’s more, shoes being embellished beading, embroidery, sequins, you better entrust the professionals to take care of these pairs of delicate footwear. 

Alternative methods to wash your shoes

However, if you don’t wash your shoes in the machine, there are numerous other ways to keep them clean.

  • Hand washing: The traditional way to wash clothes, bed linens and shoes. Mix a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid and 2 cups of warm water. Soak a toothbrush in soapy water and scrub the shoes. Then dry them using some paper towels. Insoles and shoelaces can be washed in the same soapy water.
  • Using vinegar on leather shoes. If you want to clean a pair of leather shoes, mix equal parts of cool water and distilled white vinegar. Soak a cloth in the mixture, wipe them and let them air dry.
  • Deodorize: Bad smell is a common issue, especially in running shoes. But, baking soda is there for you. Sprinkle them with a generous amount of the powder and let them sit overnight. This way you’ll get rid of bad, unpleasant smells.

A woman hand washing a pair of white shoes

The most important thing to remember is always to check the washing instructions for the safest cleaning process. Unfortunately, not all shoes can be washed. However, those prone to be rather smelly and dirty like athletic shoes, trainers, or kids’ shoes are machine washable. Thus, don’t hesitate to do so. Read the instructions carefully, place them in a laundry bag while washing and keep your shoes clean and fresh for long.

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