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How to Wash Shoes in a Washing Machine in 4 Simple Steps 

shoes inside dryer

Ever wondered whether it is possible to wash shoes as easily as wearing them? A washing machine is probably one of the most convenient ways to wash your shoes. However, specific considerations must be observed before tossing a pair into the washer. For instance, what type of shoes can go into the washing machine, and what is the procedure?

Not all types of shoes are designed to handle a machine wash. Some turn out much cleaner when hand-washed; therefore, it is essential to play it safe. If you are not sure, look for the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions found under the tongue of the shoe. If not, search the manufacturer’s website and learn more about their recommended cleaning options.

Below is a simplified procedure and all the requirements you will need to ensure the process is more straightforward.

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The 4 Steps for Washing Shoes in a Washing Machine


  • Eraser-style cleaning pad or mild soap and a gentle brush
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • A pillowcase with a zipper
  • A couple of towels
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Cold water

1. Determine Whether the Shoes Are Machine Washable

Not all types of shoes can withstand the sudsy spin in the washer. Any footwear with beads or buckles should not be placed in the washer. This includes dress shoes, heels, leather sandals, and boots.

The type of shoes that withstand a sudsy spin in the washing machine include Keds, classic Chucks, Toms, or any athletic shoe made of nylon or polyester. Shoes made of plastic like flip-flops, garden clogs, and Crocs could be washable in the washing machine, only they might need a rinse in the sink afterward.

Holding a pair of shoes
Image Credit: Jose Fontano, Unsplash

2. Prepare the Shoes for Washing

Suppose your shoes have a very irritating smell—consider adding some baking soda inside the shoe the night before the washing day. The baking soda will take care of the smell and the bacteria causing the smell.

Secondly, look for any stains or dirty spots. Use a toothbrush, soap, or a gentle brush to scrub off the stains. Often, shoes with fabric uppers may have tough spots after wearing them for a while without cleaning. Ensure you always follow the required procedure to get rid of oil, blood, ink, grass, or other usual stains.

Lastly, remove the laces, insoles, orthotics, and liners. You could wash them by hand or along with the shoes in the washer. However, if any of them is not made of fabric, ensure to wash them by hand.

3. Cushion Your Shoes

Place the shoes inside a pillowcase and zip it up. If the pillowcase has no zipper, simply make a knot or use a rubber band. Put your shoes in the washing machine along with several bathing towels. The towels cushion the shoes as they bounce up and down and reduce the noise produced while washing.

Apart from cushioning the shoes and lessening noise, the towels will also aid in making sure that the washing machine is stable and that the activity taking place inside will not alter its balance. Remember, do not wash your other clothes with your shoes simultaneously.

Woman putting pair of sport shoes in mesh laundry bag into washing machine
Image By: New Africa, Shutterstock

4. Choose the Correct Wash Cycle and Detergents

Once the shoes are inside the washing machine, select the gentle cycle option. Add a liquid laundry detergent and run cold water. Avoid using powder detergents as they may not be able to wash off when you are finally done washing completely. Also, avoid using hot water as it loosens the glue that holds the shoes together. A laundry sanitizer may come in handy for extremely smelly shoes that need to be disinfected from bacteria.

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The 5 Helpful Tips for Washing Shoes in a Washing Machine

As already established, you will not toss your shoes in the washer and let the washer do all the work for you. You must do certain things for the entire washing process to succeed. The tips below will guide you as you wash your shoes following the above procedure.

1. Be Careful About What Shoes Go in the Washer

Leather or suede shoes are not designed to be washed in the washer. However, other types of shoes, like sneakers and tennis shoes, can easily survive the sudsy spin in the washing machine. It is essential to figure out whether the make of your shoes is machine washable. You wouldn’t want to damage your favorite footwear and your machine at the same time.

2. Avoid Powder Detergents

Liquid detergents are perfect for washing shoes in a washing machine. Powder detergents tend to get caught in the shoe’s fiber, and dissolving may become a problem.

powder detergent on a spoon
Image By: karunasanghvi, Pixabay

3. Always Remove the Laces

The laces of both shoes may get tangled up. It is best to remove them and place them in a separate pillowcase in the washer. Other removable parts, like the insoles, orthotics, and liners, are also removed, but it is better if they are washed by hand and air-dried.

4. Never Use Hot Water

Hot water will damage the glue holding your shoe together as well as the fabric, and it could even cause shoe discoloration.

5. Choose a Low Spin Speed

Shoes are delicate; spinning them at high speed in the washer will also cause damage to them. A low-speed cycle will also ensure the washing machine stays stable. Another way to ensure your washer stays stable is by placing several towels in the machine. Apart from stability, the towels will also protect the shoes from being hit too much as they spin.

How to Avoid Stinky Shoes

Stinky shoes are among the major reasons you feel like your shoes need to be washed. If it is becoming a problem that forces you to clean the shoes so frequently, below are tips that will ensure there is no more discomfort.

  • Make Use of Socks: Your shoes might smell bad if you do not wear socks. As you go about your usual daily activities, your feet must sweat due to being enclosed in a tight shoe space. If the socks cannot absorb the sweat, it accumulates into your shoes. After a while, the sweat piles up and begins to produce an unpleasant smell. It is better if you wear a clean pair of socks every day to take in the sweat instead of your shoes.
  • Stuff Your Shoes With Dry Clothes or Newspapers: Another reason your shoes are smelly is that you wore them while still wet. As you air dry the shoe, make sure you stuff the shoe with some newspapers or dry clothes. They will assist in hastening the drying process and can absorb any form of odor that may still exist in the shoe.
  • Air Out Your Shoes: Make a habit of airing out your shoes after a long day at work. The best place to place your shoes is at the front door or the utility room. Avoid placing the shoes in a closed closet.
  • Make Use of Special Insoles: Special insoles are types of in-between wear that are placed into your shoes. They are made of a special material designed to get rid of the bad smell from your shoes.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which Is the Best Washing Machine for Shoes?

Two types of washing machines can wash your shoes: the top loader and the front loader. However, among the two, the front loader is believed to be gentler on your shoes since they have better control over their spin. You can easily control the water temperature with the front loader. On the other hand, top loaders are believed to clean by a rougher method.

Washing Machine with laundry
Image By: Steve Buissinne, Pixabay

What Is the Best Way to Dry shoes

The best way to dry washed shoes is to air dry them. Do not be tempted to put them in your dryer. The heat from the dryer will damage the glue holding their soles and other essential parts. Remove the shoes from the washing machine and the pillowcase and place them where they can access fresh air and where the wind will blow into them.

Also, as the shoes air dry, ensure you stuff them with some washcloths, rags, or socks to protect them from becoming shapeless. It may take hours to a whole day for your shoes to be completely dry.

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Shoes can easily be washed in a washing machine as long as proper precautions are observed. Ensure that the shoe is machine-washable before tossing it into the washer. Additionally, ensure to use liquid detergents and cold water. Hot water will damage your shoes, and powder detergent will get caught in the shoe’s fiber and may not dissolve.

Otherwise, following the above advice strictly, you will successfully get your shoes cleaned without causing any damage to your washer or your shoes.

Featured Image Credit: Ana Belen Garcia Sanchez, Shutterstock


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