Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

How to Ensure Your Shoes are Cleaned and Not Damaged in a Washing Machine!

Adriana Aziz
October 19, 2022
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Normally, when you think about the best way to clean your shoes, putting them into a washing machine doesn't seem like a great idea at all! Surprisingly enough, however, you most definitely could. It works extremely well, and it's easier than you would imagine.

Regardless of the types of shoes you own, they all need a good cleaning from time to time to keep them in good, wearable condition. Being exposed to spills, dirt, and dust, they can get stained fairly easily, especially if worn regularly. With that in mind, addressing mishaps as they happen can help immensely. If you can wipe away any dirt or absorb any spills immediately, it makes the washing process a whole lot easier, prevents bad odour from building up, and can even extend the life of the footwear itself. Remember, a good cleaning of all your footwear on a regular basis will go a long way.

While it might seem like an intimidating task to carefully clean your shoes, using a washing machine can help speed the process up quite a bit. With that said, there is more to it than just throwing the shoes in the machine and waiting out the wash cycle. 

Can You Really Wash Your Shoes in a Washing Machine?

woman hand washing red converse all stars in a blue basin

The first thing one ought to consider is what the shoes are made of. Not all shoes will be able to survive a wash in the machine, so it's a good thing to know what you're working with. 

Read below to learn what type of shoes can be machine-washed, and what can’t:

Do Not Machine-Wash

Leather, suede, and vinyl should never be put into a washing machine. In that same breath, embellishments and sequin work on your shoes can get severely damaged in a wash as well, and is therefore not recommended. All these types of shoes require careful cleaning by hand to make sure they are still intact by the end of it.

Do Machine-Wash

On the other hand, you have canvas, cotton, and synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester. Since these materials are more durable and can handle detergent very well, they are safe to wash in a machine.

If you can verify the materials used in the shoes from the label on them, you will know whether they can be machine-washed, or not. Always try your best to adhere to the instructions on the wash label or else, you might end up damaging your footwear.

What You'll Need

With all that out of the way, let's get a few things together before we begin:

  • Mesh bags
  • Liquid laundry detergent
  • Old toothbrushes
  • Nylon brush
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Toothpick
  • Cotton swabs
  • Old towel

Step-by-Step Instructions to Clean Shoes in Washing Machine

woman putting red converse all stars in a wash safe mesh bag into front loader washing machine

With the information above firmly in mind, you are now prepared to follow the steps below to wash your shoes in the washing machine.

Remove Laces

Start by removing the shoe laces. You'll want to wash the laces separately since they tend to collect quite a bit of dirt over time. Moreover, removing them allows dirt to get washed away more easily from both the laces and shoes. Begin by taking 1 teaspoon of laundry detergent, and mixing it in warm water. Soak the laces in a bowl of this soapy solution for an hour to help loosen and extract dirt. From there, scrub the laces well with an old toothbrush and rinse them under running cool water. Air-dry them thereafter.

Brush the Dirt Away

Take another toothbrush (ensure that it is completely dry), and begin gently brushing all the dust off the shoes. If necessary, you can use a toothpick to poke dirt out of the soles of the shoes as well. This dislodges any stuck particles and can help get rid of them easily in the wash.

Treat the Stains

Before washing, it's a good idea to treat the stains on the fabric. Using distilled white vinegar, you can help get rid of most blemishes. Apply some of the vinegar to the fabric using a cotton swab, and then begin gently brushing the area with a nylon brush to begin removing the stain. If you're working with white fabric, you'll need a different mix of 2 teaspoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons dishwashing liquid, and 2 tablespoons of water. Apply this mix to the stained area and allow it to sit for up to 4 hours. You can then brush the stain a little before putting it in for a wash.  

Remove & Clean Insoles

At this point you'll want to clean the insoles, too. Washing them in a machine could be a problem as they could take far too long to dry. Instead, wipe the insoles with a detergent water-soaked sponge to draw out any dirt. Wipe them down with a water-soaked cloth to rinse after. Finally, sprinkle some baking soda across the insoles as they dry to accelerate the drying process and neutralise any lingering odours.

Place Shoes in the Mesh Bag

Now you must place your shoes into a mesh bag to prevent them from flailing around in the wash, and hitting the machine drum too often. A good idea would be to add a few colourfast towels to the load when washing your shoes in the machine. This will help balance the drum as it washes, without staining the shoes in the process. 

Set Up the Wash Cycle

Next, set the right wash cycle on the machine. As much as possible, try to use a slow speed or no spin setting. Set it to gentle wash, and use cold water unless specified otherwise. Using a liquid laundry detergent for this wash is recommended as it won't leave residue after the wash.

Air-Dry After

Finally, once your wash cycle has been completed, take the mesh bag out, and remove your shoes from it. Initially, you could stuff some paper towels inside the shoes to absorb as much moisture from the fabric while also helping them retain their shape. After an hour or so, remove them and allow the shoes to air dry. Ensuring the room is well ventilated, and exposing the shoes to some indirect sunlight can help dry them quicker. While the shoes will take some time to dry even outdoors, be sure to check on them from time to time to ensure that they are not suddenly exposed to direct sunlight as, if enough time has passed, they could fade a bit in the process. 

With this in mind, washing your shoes shouldn't be much of a task going forward. The key is to be careful with your footwear and follow the wash-care instructions as per the label. Ensure that they are completely dry before use or storage, and always treat dirt, stains or spills immediately to make cleaning easier. These crucial cleaning and care tips will surely help you extend the life of your favourite shoes, and keep them looking as good as new, too! 

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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