How to Wash Shoes in the Washing Machine and by Hand

white tennis shoes in load of laundry in front load washing machine

Kinga Kreminska/ Moment/ Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 15 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5-10

Shoes—especially sneakers—take a beating and eventually they need to be washed. So whether you have a favorite pair of Converse sneakers or Allbirds, you can wash them at home in a washing machine or by hand to remove dirt, stains, and odor.

Detergent  Enzyme-based laundry detergent
 Water Temperature  Cool to warm
 Cycle Type  Gentle cycle or wash by hand
 Drying Cycle Type  Air-dry only
 Special Treatments  Use a mesh washing bag in washer

Before You Begin

Before you toss your shoes in the washing machine, take the time to read the cleaning instructions on the care tag. If the tag is long gone, visit the manufacturer's website for more information. You don't want to ruin your shoes.


If your shoes have any type of suede or leather trim or have been treated with a water-repellent, they should not be washed in a washing machine—hand wash them instead. This is also true for any shoes embellished with trim, beading, or rope soles. The agitation action of the washer is too harsh and spending too much time in the water may loosen the glues used in construction.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 washing machine
  • 1 large sink or plastic tub
  • 1 microfiber cloth
  • 1 soft-bristled nylon brush
  • 1 drying rack


  • 1 bottle enzyme-based laundry detergent
  • 1 bottle enzyme-based stain remover (optional)
  • 1 container oxygen-based bleach
  • 1 melamine eraser
  • 1 bottle dishwashing liquid
  • 1 box baking soda
  • 1 bottle laundry disinfectant


How to Wash Shoes in a Washing Machine

  1. Remove the Laces and Insoles

    If your shoes have removable shoelaces, the laces should be washed separately to get them and the tongue of the shoes clean. They can be added to the mesh laundry bag before tossing the shoes in the washer. Or, you can wash them by hand in some warm, soapy water.

    Remove any detachable insoles and hand wash or replace them.

  2. Use the Best Laundry Products

    You can use your regular laundry detergent to wash shoes. It's best to use an enzyme-based detergent that will break the bond between the stain molecules and the fabric. If the shoes look dull, add a scoop of powdered oxygen-based bleach to the washer drum.

    If you are concerned about Athlete's foot or another fungus, add a disinfectant to the wash water. Follow product directions for the correct amount to add per load.

  3. Select the Washer Settings

    Select the warm or cold water temperature. Choose the gentle cycle because it has a lower final spin cycle speed. This will help prevent damage to the soles of the shoes and can help prevent your washer from becoming off-balance.

  4. Pretreat Stains and Remove Loose Soil

    If the shoes have visible stains, pretreat the areas. Put just a dab of laundry detergent or an enzyme-based stain remover on the stain and work it into the stain with a soft-bristled brush—an old toothbrush works great. Allow the detergent to work for at least 15 minutes to break apart the soil before adding the shoes to the washer.

    If the shoes are muddy, rinse them off with a garden hose or in a utility sink before putting them in the washer. The mud can clog the washer and cause it to malfunction. Rinse off the mud with a garden hose or in a utility sink before washing.

  5. Add the Shoes to the Washer

    If the shoes have laces, pull up the tongue so that the cleaning solution can easily reach every surface. Place the shoes (and laces) in a mesh laundry bag before adding them to the washer. Shoes can be washed with similar-colored and similar-weight laundry like towels or jeans.

  6. Drying the Shoes

    When the washer stops, remove the shoes and air-dry them in a spot away from direct sunlight and heat. Never place shoes in a hot automatic clothes dryer. The intense heat can cause glues to melt and the shoes will fall apart.

How to Hand Wash Shoes

  1. Create a Cleaning Solution

    Mix one teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent with two quarts of warm water in a sink or plastic tub.


    If you don't have any laundry detergent, use dishwashing liquid to make your cleaning solution.

  2. Prep the Shoes for Washing

    • Remove the laces, if appropriate, and fill a small bowl with the cleaning solution. Place the laces in the solution to soak.
    • Rinse off any mud or loose soil from the shoes.
    • Use a dab of detergent to pretreat visible stains. Work in the detergent with your fingers or with a soft-bristled brush. Allow it to work for at least 15 minutes before washing the entire shoe.
  3. Wash the Shoes

    • Submerge the shoes in the soapy solution and allow them to soak for about 15 minutes.
    • Dip a microfiber cloth in the detergent solution and use it to scrub the outside and inside of the shoe. Pay attention to the soles as well.
    • If the soles are very dirty, use a melamine sponge (Mr. Clean Eraser) to remove scuff marks from the rubber.
  4. Rinse Well and Dry

    • Empty the cleaning solution. Refill the sink or tub with cool water.
    • Rinse the shoes, changing the water if necessary, until no more suds appear.
    • Rinse the laces and allow the shoes and laces to air dry away from harsh sunlight and direct heat.

Tips for Washing Shoes

  • If hand washing shoes, do not submerge shoes with rope-covered soles or trim in the water. Use a damp cloth or sponge dipped in soapy water to gently wipe away soil from the rope. Work in a small area at a time, changing the water frequently to avoid redepositing soil, and always rinse away any sudsy residue.
  • To help shoes retain their shape while they dry, stuff the toes with nylon mesh or paper towels. Change the paper towels frequently as they absorb moisture.
  • Add one cup of baking soda to the washer drum or one-half cup to the hand-washing solution to help combat odor.