How to Wash Dirty Sneakers With or Without a Machine

Soiled sneakers sitting on the inside of a washing machine

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 20 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 2 - 6 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5-10

We love our sneakers. And because we do, we wear them everywhere and, eventually, they get dirty and need to be washed. So whether you are a Converse, Allbirds, basic canvas, or leather sneaker fan, you can learn to wash them with or without a machine using just a few basic supplies and following these easy steps.

 Detergent  Regular laundry detergent
 Water Temperature  Cool or warm
 Cycle Type Gentle or delicate cycle or hand wash
 Drying Cycle Type  Air dry only
 Special Treatments  Use mesh laundry bag in washer

Before You Begin

Before you begin, don't forget to read the care tag: Some sneakers should only be spot cleaned and not submerged in water for extended periods which may loosen the glues used in construction.

Be sure to remove the insoles and clean them separately or just add new ones, and remove the shoelaces to wash them separately or replace them.

Never place sneakers in a hot automatic dryer. High temperatures can melt some of the glues used in construction. If your sneakers 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—handwash them instead. Handwash any shoes embellished with trim, beading, or rope soles.

How Often to Wash Sneakers

How often to wash sneakers depends on where and how often you wear them. Stains should be removed immediately by spot cleaning or washing the sneakers. For sneakers worn only occasionally, give them a good cleaning at least once per season and spot-clean any specific stains. Sneakers worn multiple times weekly should be cleaned every other week in the washer or by hand to keep them smelling fresh.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Washing machine
  • 1 Sink or medium plastic tub
  • 1 Microfiber cloth
  • 1 Small, soft-bristled nylon scrub brush
  • 1 Drying rack


  • 1 container Enzyme-based laundry detergent
  • 1 container Oxygen-based bleach
  • 1 Melamine eraser
  • 1 box Baking soda
  • 1 container Non-bleach laundry disinfectant


How to Wash Sneakers With a Washing Machine

  1. Remove Laces and Insoles

    • Remove the laces and wash separately by hand or add them to the mesh laundry bag before tossing the shoes in the washer.
    • Remove any detachable insoles. Handwash the insoles or replace them.
    Removing laces and insoles from sneakers

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Use the Best Cleaning Products and Washer Settings

    • Use an enzyme-based laundry detergent that contains the necessary ingredients to break the bond between stain molecules and the sneaker fabric. If white sneakers are looking dingy, add a scoop of powdered oxygen-based bleach to the washer drum.
    • If you have athlete's foot or another fungus, add a disinfectant to the wash water. Follow product directions for the correct amount to add per load.
    • Select the warm or cold water temperature and the gentle cycle to help prevent damage to the soles of the shoes. The slower final spin speed will also help prevent your washer from becoming off-balance.
    Selecting cleaning products and washer settings

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Remove Loose Soil and Pretreat Stains

    • If the sneakers are muddy, rinse them off with a garden hose or in a utility sink before putting them in the washer.
    • Pretreat visible stains on the sneakers. Work a dab of laundry detergent 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.
    Removing dirt and loose soil from sneakers with an old toothbrush

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  4. Wash the Sneakers

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

    Pulling the tongues up and preparing to wash the sneakers in a mesh bag

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  5. Dry the Sneakers

    • When the washer stops, remove the sneakers and air-dry them in a spot away from direct sunlight and heat. Never place shoes in a hot automatic clothes dryer.
    • To speed up the drying time, stuff the sneakers with microfiber towels for about an hour to help absorb moisture. Remove the towels and allow the sneakers to finish drying.
    Letting the sneakers air dry

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

How to Wash Sneakers Without a Machine

  1. Prep Sneakers and Mix a Cleaning Solution

    • Remove the laces, if appropriate, and fill a small bowl with warm water and a few drops of laundry detergent. Place the laces in the solution to soak.
    • Rinse off any mud or loose soil from the sneakers.
    • Use a dab of detergent to pretreat visible stains. Work the detergent into the stain with a soft-bristled brush. Allow it to work for at least 15 minutes before washing the sneakers.
    • Mix a solution of one teaspoon of liquid laundry detergent with one gallon of warm water in a sink or plastic tub.
    Preparing the sneakers and mixing a cleaning solution

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  2. Hand Wash the Sneakers

    • Submerge the sneakers 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 sneakers.
    • If the edges of the soles are very dirty, use a melamine sponge (Mr. Clean Eraser) to remove scuff marks from the rubber.
    Submerging the sneakers into the wash basin

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

  3. Rinse and Dry

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

    The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Additional Tips for Washing Sneakers

There are a few rules you should follow to ensure successful sneaker washing:

  • To help sneakers—especially canvas ones—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 sneaker odor.
  • Sneakers should be fully dry before wearing them—this can take as long as two days.
  • Never use fabric softener when sneakers. It may leave a residue that attracts soil or discolors the sneaker.