The Ultimate Guide to Washing Your Shoes

Washing shoes is an important part of keeping them in tip top condition.

Washing Machine

I never use to wash my shoes because I thought I was going to destroy them and decrease life span.

Turns out I gave it a try and I was wrong.

Now I make it a habit to clean wash my shoes on the regular and they all last longer than before, which is a big win in my eyes.

So now I want to show you my entire process and why you need to wash your shoes regularly.

Enjoy 🙂

Is It Okay to Wash Shoes?

It is certainly okay to wash shoes but different washing techniques are for different shoes.

For example: Nike recommends their shoes be done by hand, while other types of fabric sneakers will be fine in the washing machine.

Fortunately I have got you covered and explained how to properly wash your shoes and what method works best for what type of shoe.

Keep in mind that there will always be some risk involved and if you use these methods, I take no responsibility for any damaged shoes.

However, I have fine tuned this process to eliminate any type of damage from happening as much as possible.

Why Do We Need to Wash Shoes Regularly?

Overall it is to increase the lifespan of our shoes.

In my opinion, shoes are one of our most important pieces of clothing.

You can have the most basic outfit with t-shirts worth $5 and pants worth $20, but shoes that are worth $200+ and you’re still going to look high class.

That’s why I think it’s important to invest in great shoes and keep them looking fresh for as long as possible.

Using the Washing Machine

Best for: Fabric sneakers and cheap shoes you don’t care about getting damaged.
Risk of damage: High

Not all shoes can be washed in the washing machine but this is still a viable option.

The best candidate are fabric sneakers since they won’t shrink and cheap shoes that you don’t care about getting damaged.

For example: Everyday shoes, working or running shoes.

On the other hand, your going out shoes might be more expensive and new so will need to be hand washed instead.

So now we have got that out of the way, you need to do some things before throwing your entire shoe collection in the washer.

Step 1: Remove insoles and shoe laces

Step 2: Zip your shoes in a laundry bag to stop them banging around in the washer

Step 3: Place laces in a pillowcase to prevent tangling

Step 4: Put 5 towels in the washing machine to balance out the load. However, make sure they are old towels as new towels have lint that may rub off onto the shoes

Start 5: Use liquid detergent, not powdered. Add vinegar for odor removal and pine oil to disinfect

Step 6: Start the washing machine on a cold-water, delicate wash (to prevent warping)

Step 7: Now you have started washing your shoes and laces, it is time to hand wash the insoles by hand in a solution of water and laundry detergent

Washing Shoes in the Sink

Bathroom Sink

Best for: Canvas shoes, more expensive shoes you don’t want getting damaged in the washer
Risk of damage: Low

Washing shoes by hand is the safer route, but the downside is that there’s more work involved.

The method here is to create a solution of laundry detergent and cold water, then scrubbing to remove dust, dirt and scuffs.

Step 1: Fill the sink with cold water, but just enough to put your shoes in and soak

Step 2: Place 1/4 cup of laundry detergent while the water is still flowing

Step 3: Scrub the soles, sides and fabric with a scrubbing brush

Step 4: Take out the insoles and scrub them in a circular motion

Step 5: After you’re happy that both shoes are clean, replace the dirty water with clean water and give them another good rinsing

Washing Shoes by Hand

Hand Wash

Best for: Brand new, expensive shoes, especially suede or leather
Risk of damage: Extremely low

Washing shoes by hand is the ultimate precaution to not damaging new shoes.

This method is for shoes that are very expensive and/or brand new, or shoes that you don’t want to take any risk damaging.

There’s very little effort involved because the main goal here is to remove scuffs and dirt marks, that’s it.

Step 1: Create a solution of warm water and laundry detergent in a bucket

Step 2: Use a scrubbing brush or cloth to wipe off all dirt, scuffs and stains

Step 3: To take this step even further you can use a toothbrush to reach areas the cloth and scrubbing brush cannot get to

Step 4: When you’re finished and happy the shoes are clean enough, soak excess detergent from your shoes with a wet sponge

Step 5: Use a dry towel to wipe your shoes down and remove excess water

Washing Shoes in the Dishwasher

Best for: Everyday shoes, running shoes, work shoes
Risk of damage: Extremely high

Possible damages are: shrinkage, cracks to finishes and soften adhesives.

Yes you can wash shoes in the dishwasher, but I think you and I agree that the #1 rule here is to wash them by themselves.

Do NOT make the mistake of washing your dirty ass shoes with the dishes you eat off of 😛

There is a very fine process you have to follow to ensure longevity of the shoes and minimize risk of damage when washing your shoes in a dishwasher, so I suggest you follow along very carefully.

Step 1: Scrub off as much dirt as you can beforehand with a scrubbing brush. The goal here is to remove clumps of dirt to stop the dishwasher getting clogged up

Step 2: Remove the insoles and wash them by hand

Step 3: Laces do not have to be removed as long as you keep them away from spinning bits and drains. Although I recommend removing these just to make sure this doesn’t happen

Step 4: Wash with cold water and dry with cold air. Heat washing and drying your shoes is definitely a recipe for disaster

Step 5: Use a mild dishwasher soap. Bleaching agents and aggressive soap will cause damage

Step 6: Once finished, remove shoes and clean the dishwasher filter

Drying Your Shoes

Hang Drying Shoes

So now you’ve done the deed and now those shoes are looking brand new again, it’s time to dry them and make them wearable.

Hang them out to dry – Hanging your shoes out to dry is simple and effective but the downside to this is it takes a very long time to dry (usually a day).

The other problem is the sun. Drying under direct sunlight can bleach colors and damage certain fabrics.

My recommendation? Hang them under a shade, safe from the sun.

By the fire – One method I highly recommend is hanging your shoes by the fireplace. It’s simple and easy and doesn’t take much time to dry.

Using the dryer – The dryer is a little risky because extreme heat can damage and warp the shoes, which is definitely not what we want happening.

If you’re going to use the dryer, make sure it’s on the lowest heat setting and only in for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Newspaper – Be sure to finish off ALL drying processes by stuffing newspaper inside the shoes and leaving overnight. The newspaper will absorb excess moisture and make them wearable again.

How to Neutralize Leftover Odors

These techniques are bound to work and make your shoes feel and smell clean.

However, in some instances the insoles are still left with odors. That’s especially true in running or working shoes.

Fortunately there are a couple of things we can do to remove this leftover odor once and for all.

Smelly Insoles

Easy fix: Enclose the insoles in a bag with baking soda. Shake the bag around to spread out the baking soda evenly and leave over night.

Longer fix: Add a mixture of vinegar and lukewarm water, a ratio of 2:1 is good. Leave for a few hours.

Come back and add baking soda and tea tree oil. Let it soak for another couple hours.

Smelly Shoes

There are a few things we can do to neutralize smelly shoes.

My favorite is to place a dryer fabric softener sheet into each shoe and leave overnight.

Another method is to sprinkle baking soda on the inside of the shoe and leaving overnight.

For a full list of deodorizers you can go here.

So What Method Should You Try?

Well at the end of the day it all comes down the type of shoe and how much risk you want to take.

The biggest risks are washing machine and dishwasher, because you simply cannot see what’s happening.

Plus if exposed to hot water and done incorrectly, can warp and damage shoes permanently.

Those methods are more preferred for everyday shoes, work shoes or running shoes since these get replaced often anyway.

Other shoes like your going out shoes, leather, Nike, etc, should be hand washed.

Sink washing has minimal risk involved but hand washing has pretty much no risk.

Risk meter (highest to lowest):

  • Dish washer
  • Washing machine
  • Washing in the sink
  • Hand washing


Washing your shoes is great because it keeps them feeling brand new and looking like a million dollars again.

However, keep in mind that there are risks involved when it comes to washing shoes.

If I want you to take at least one thing from this article, it would be that hot water and heat destroy shoes.

As long as you keep that in mind, you’ll know how to wash your shoes the right way without any damage.

Well thanks for reading!

Please share your thoughts and opinion on shoe washing in the comments below 🙂

8 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Washing Your Shoes”

  1. I love your advice about the washing of shoes. I basically live in Sketchers because to me they are the most comfortable shoes on the market. I always wash them in the machine and they seem to be doing just fine, but after reading your advice, I will take a few more precautions with them next time, like not using powdered washing powder and I will try the adding of vinegar and pine oil, as well as put them in a laundry bag or pillowcase, which I haven’t been doing.

    • Good choice Michel!

      I’m surprised your shoes haven’t been riddled with laundry powder yet.

      Man, that is a pain to get out. Definitely avoid that!

      But you must be doing something right if you haven’t damaged the shoes yet 🙂

  2. Washing either my clothes or my shoes isn’t my cup of tea. I just feel like I don’t have the talent for the job and I’d be better off trying to make huge money and just pay someone else to wash the shoes for me. But after reading this article about washing your shoes, I think I am going to give it a try like you did. 

    Can you suggest of a strong detergent whether it be in powder form or in liquid form wherein I can just put some amount in a basin with water and all I have to do is dip or rinse the pair shoes and VOILA! Both are cleaned?

    • There is no special detergent mate, just your basic laundry detergent will do just fine.

      And sadly you can’t get away with just dipping it in water 😛 You have to scrub it and get all the dirt and grime off haha

      Nice try though.

  3. I’ve learned somewhere that people subconsciously pay attention to our shoes first before other parts of the body. If this is true, then it only makes sense that we take good care of our shoes by cleaning them from time to time.

    I never thought that washing machine can be a tool for cleaning footwear since I usually do it by hand. So I’ll be considering your advice here to learn some extra tips and tricks. Thanks a bunch!

    • You’re welcome Dominic..

      Check if your washing machine has its own shoe rack, this will make it much easier and stop your shoes from getting damaged.

  4. I had thought of washing my shoes before, but was always hesitant because I didn’t want to damage them. Now I’m kind of glad I didn’t go with the washing machine for the job. Even though my shoes are running sneakers, I still don’t want them to get damaged. I never thought of putting my shoes in the dishwasher though. I think a sink wash would be the best way to go for me. Thanks for this post. I learned something new today!

    • Hey Steve,

      You made the right choice by not putting them in the washing machine. You could damage them permanently in a matter of minutes.

      Good job on doing your research as you have saved yourself lots of money in the long haul.

      Thanks for the comment, and I wish you all the best.


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