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Can you wash shoes in the washer?

Can you wash shoes in the washer? Image of washing machine
(Image credit: Getty)

Our washing machines are unsung household heroes but can you wash shoes in the washer and more importantly, should you? Washing appliances are equipped to deal with everything from workwear and towels to soccer kits. And your washer might be capable of doing more than you think,  especially if you’ve been thinking about whether you can wash shoes in the washer as well as clothes. While some types of shoes are indeed suitable for machine washing, others are best hand washed or just wiped over. Within this feature we’ll be giving you the lowdown on whether your machine is up for this additional job too. 

You may also be wondering if your current washing machine is up to the job. In that case, why not think about replacing it – newer machines will always be more efficient and more economical than older ones and are likely to have features to make your life a little easier. Take a look at our guides to the best front load washing machines and the best top load washing machines to get an idea of the choices out there.

Can you wash shoes in the washer? 

Let’s face it, cleaning shoes is no-one’s favorite household task. If your shoes are looking a bit shabby, it can be tempting to put them in the washer for a quick fix. However, how safe is it for your machine and your shoes to opt for this method of cleaning? 

The main deciding factor as to whether you can wash shoes in the washer is what they’re made of. Anything made of genuine leather, some types of synthetic leather or delicate fabrics such as silk will not react well to the washing machine. Sneakers and athletic shoes take a real beating and giving them a good clean occasionally can make them last longer. Handily, these are also the type of shoe most likely to be suitable for machine washing.

In general, the best bet is to check the label in your shoes before you clean them. Some footwear will say clearly ‘do not machine wash’ on the label, while others will show a ‘suitable for machine washing’ symbol, along with a temperature. If the label has come off your shoes, you may be able to check on the manufacturer’s website. If you are not sure, it’s better to be safe than sorry – clean your shoes by hand in the sink with warm water and a dash of detergent, or play it really safe by using a brush and damp cloth, instead.

Can you wash shoes in the washer: image of washing machine

(Image credit: Shuttershock)

How to clean shoes in the washer

Once you’ve established that you can do it, it’s important to carry out the process carefully. If possible, wait for a hot, sunny day in order to make the drying process easier.. If you are washing filthy, muddy sneakers then scrape off as much dirt as you can with a blunt knife, a brush or a cloth. Take out the laces, so that you get a good clean around the eyelets and take out any foam insoles. It’s best not to wash the insoles at all unless they are very dirty as they take a long time to dry. If necessary, you can wash them by hand in the sink.

Put the shoes into a soft, washable bag. If you wash shoes a lot, it is worth investing in a special zip-up bag to protect your machine. If it’s your first time washing shoes in the washer you can improvise with a pillowcase. Now, you need to put some other things into the machine as well or the shoes will just be thrown around and possibly damage the drum. Something bulky and absorbent like towels or old sweaters will work well and help to balance the drum so that the shoes don’t bang around. For top loading machines, put the shoes at the bottom of the drum and pile the towels on top  

Never wash shoes on a hot wash – it can pull them out of shape and fade the colors. Use a liquid detergent which will work better at low temperatures and won’t clog up in the crevices like a powder detergent might. Put the wash program on the lowest temperature setting and a delicate cycle if you have one.

What should and should not go in a washing machine

(Image credit: Getty images)

The best way to clean shoelaces 

Shabby shoelaces can let down the smartest shoes, and you may be able to restore the old ones to their original glory rather than buying new. Remove the laces from the shoes. If they are very dirty, soak them in warm water in the sink for 20 to 30 minutes with a little laundry detergent. If they are white laces, you can add a little bleach as well. (For cotton laces you can use a chlorine-based bleach, for synthetic laces you’ll need an oxygen-based bleach.) Once they’re done soaking, put them in a fabric bag so they don’t get caught in the drum. You can put them in the same wash as your shoes, or if you’re washing just the laces they can go in a hotter wash with other items.

Can you wash shoes in the washer? Image of family doing washing

(Image credit: Getty)

Can you dry shoes in the dryer?

Putting your clean shoes in the dryer (unless the label specifically says you can) is inadvisable. The heat is too intense and can cause the shoes to stretch or even disintegrate entirely. The best way to dry shoes is outside on a hot day. Hang them up by the heels for a few hours, then swap and hang them by the toes so they don’t distort. Make sure that you won’t need that particular pair of shoes urgently, as the insides may take a long time to dry. Even if you are in a hurry, never try to speed things up by putting shoes on a radiator as they may melt. You can finish off the inside with a hair dryer on a low heat setting if necessary. Once they’re completely dry, put the laces and insoles back in. By the end of this process you should be able to enjoy your shoes being in pristine condition again.

Sara Walker

Sara is an experienced magazine journalist and commercial copywriter. Writing helpful home-related content for Top Ten Reviews, Sara splits her time between the UK and France, alongside her Springer Spaniel.