Fed up of scrubbing? Here's how to wash white shoes in the washing machine

White converse sneakers being put into the washing machine.
(Image credit: Getty)

Fallen victim to a muddy puddle or someone stepping on your clean sneakers? You'll want to know how to wash white shoes in a washing machine. 

Whether you simply wear them to the gym or dressed up for the office, keeping your white sneakers as clean as possible is an easy way to look more put together. However, if they're made from canvas material instead of leather then it can be hard to know exactly how to get them looking good as new. 

Luckily, we're here to confirm that you can indeed put them in the washing machine. All it takes is a little bit of prep and knowledge of your washer cycles before you can throw them in and relish in the joy of bright white trainers once again. 

Can you put shoes in the washing machine?

Yes! It feels wrong to put something substantial in your washing machine, but it shouldn't cause any damage to the drum. We wouldn't advise throwing any big boots in there but sneakers should be fine. Steer clear from putting materials such as leather, suede, vinyl or metal in the machine as this will leave it looking less than brand new. 

Although it's easy to clean your tennis shoes by putting them in the washing machine, there are still some considerations to take to ensure that your washing machine isn't damaged, as well as your shoes. 

Which washing machine setting should you use?

Some newer spec machines might have a setting designed for shoes, however, the general consensus is to stick to a gentle wash. Opting for a lower-speed cycle will prevent your shoes from being beaten around the drum, which hopefully will minimize the noise, too. 

Gentle cycles are often hidden under the names of 'wool wash', 'delicates', or 'hand wash', so keep an eye out for these settings if you're unsure how to set your machine to a slower speed. We also recommend using cold water for your cycle. Not only is this better for the environment, but it will also decrease the change of canvas shrinking. Your machine might have a cold water eco setting, or you can change this manually. 

How to wash white shoes in the washing machine

1. It's all in the prep 

Washing white shoes in the washing machine is a simple feat, but not as easy as just throwing them in. You'll want to undertake a bit of prep work to ensure that you're getting a thorough clean, and protecting them from any further damage. 

2. Remove laces and insoles

Laces can easily become stuck in the inner working of your washing machine, so it's best to remove them before you put your shoes in. This also makes the eyelets much more accessible so you don't have any dirt left hanging around. 

However, laces can get filthy quickly from rain, puddles, or even just from touching them frequently. We recommend placing them into a small mesh bag to prevent them from getting tangled up but still allowing them to easily get washed in the same load. 

It's also a good idea to remove any insoles as these can be ruined by water. 

What the expert says...

Ava Bardot, Cleaning Expert at BeanBags.co.uk, recommends, "In a spray bottle mix two parts white vinegar and one part water and spray this onto your shoes. Leave this to soak before using an old toothbrush to scrub away any dirt and wipe them using a microfibre cloth."

3. Spot clean stains 

Targeting stains before the official cleaning begins is one of the easiest ways to instantly upgrade the final product. Using the washing machine to clean shoes is great for a general wash, but it might not attack worn-in stains as well as you would hope. 

Start by taking a soft-bristled brush and some washing-up liquid to clean off any excess mud and dirt from the soles. If you have any dirty marks on the canvas, try to give this a light scrub with warm, soapy water to dislodge any surface-level muck.

4. Place in a mesh bag if necessary 

Just like we recommended for your laces, you can also pop your shoes into a larger mesh bag. If you don't have one of these, an old pillowcase will also do the trick. Again, this adds an extra layer of protection to the shoes and the drum, and will hopefully make less of a disturbance when you click 'start'. 

Ava Bardot, Cleaning Expert at BeanBags.co.uk, also recommends to "add some towels to the wash too, as this will prevent the shoes from banging loudly against the drum."

5. Press 'Go'

The next thing to do is to set your cycle. Remember what we recommended above: cold water and a gentle wash. 

Eco cycles often take longer to finish as they use less water at a slower speed, so have to spin for more time. Take this into consideration if you want to be able to wear your fresh shoes shortly after. They're likely to take a while to dry, too! 

6. Remove and dry

When the cycle ends, remove your shoes from the drum and mesh bag (if you used one) and set them aside to air dry. Leave for as long as they take to completely dry, before reinserting the insoles and laces. 

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Holly Cockburn
Former Features Editor

Holly is the former Features Editor at Top Ten Reviews where she focused on creating informative, how-to advice. She has a degree in English Literature and previously worked as a copywriter at Howdens, specializing in kitchens and trend-led interiors. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her exploring the best London bars and brunch spots, or planning the next budget-friendly city break. 

With contributions from