Can Washing Machines Wash Shoes? Exploring the Dos and Don'ts

Can Washing Machines Wash Shoes? Exploring the Dos and Don’ts

When it comes to cleaning our belongings, the convenience of a washing machine is hard to beat. It efficiently tackles our laundry, leaving our clothes fresh and clean. But what about shoes? Can washing machines handle the task of cleaning our beloved footwear as effectively? It’s a question that has sparked curiosity among many. 

In this blog post, we will delve into the topic and explore whether washing machines can truly wash shoes. We’ll uncover the dos and don’ts of washing shoes in a washing machine, ensuring that you have all the information you need to keep your shoes looking their best without compromising their quality. So, let’s dive in and discover the secrets to achieving clean, fresh shoes with the help of your trusty washing machine.

Can Washing-Machines Wash Shoes?

Washing machines can potentially wash shoes, but it depends on several factors. The feasibility of using a washing machine for shoe cleaning varies based on the shoe material and construction, the manufacturer’s guidelines, and the condition and level of dirtiness of the shoes. However, it’s important to consider the potential risks involved. 

Aggressive spinning and tumbling in the washing machine can damage the shoe’s construction, and color fading or bleeding may occur. Shoes with built-in support or cushioning may lose their effectiveness, and improper drying can lead to odor or mildew issues.

Exploring the Feasibility of Using Washing Machines for Shoe Cleaning

  • Shoe Material and Construction: Different types of shoes are made from various materials such as canvas, leather, or synthetic fabrics. Understanding how these materials react to water and agitation is crucial in determining if they can withstand a washing machine cycle.
  • Manufacturer’s Guidelines and Recommendations: Shoe manufacturers often provide care instructions that specify whether machine washing is safe for their products. Checking these guidelines is essential to ensure you don’t risk damaging your shoes.
  • Shoe Condition and Level of Dirtiness: Assessing the condition and dirtiness of your shoes is important before deciding to wash them in a machine. Heavily soiled shoes or those with delicate embellishments may require alternative cleaning methods.

Understanding the Potential Risks and Considerations

  • Damage to Shoe Construction: Aggressive spinning and tumbling in the washing machine can cause damage to the shoe’s structure, such as loosening adhesives, deforming shapes, or separating layers.
  • Color Fading or Bleeding: Vibrant or non-colorfast shoes may experience color fading or bleeding when exposed to water and detergents. This can result in a loss of the shoe’s original aesthetic appeal.
  • Loss of Support and Cushioning: Shoes with built-in support or cushioning, such as athletic sneakers, may lose their effectiveness if repeatedly exposed to water and machine agitation.
  • Odor or Mildew Issues: Improper drying of shoes after washing can lead to lingering odors or even the growth of mold and mildew. Proper drying techniques are crucial to prevent these issues.

While washing machines may seem like a convenient option for cleaning shoes, it’s important to weigh the risks and considerations involved. Before tossing your shoes into the machine, consider the factors mentioned above and evaluate the feasibility of using this method for your specific pair of shoes.

Dos and Don’ts of Washing Shoes in a Washing Machine

Now, let’s explore the recommended practices for washing shoes in a washing machine, as well as the common pitfalls to avoid. By following these guidelines, you can effectively clean your shoes without compromising their quality.


  • Removing Shoelaces and Insoles: Before washing your shoes, remove the shoelaces and insoles. This step allows for better cleaning and helps prevent tangling or damage during the washing process.
  • Placing Shoes in a Mesh Laundry Bag: To protect your shoes and prevent them from getting entangled with other items in the machine, place them inside a mesh laundry bag. This bag will provide a barrier while still allowing water and detergent to penetrate for effective cleaning.
  • Using a Gentle Cycle and Cold Water: Select a gentle cycle on your washing machine to minimize the intensity of agitation. Additionally, use cold water instead of hot water to prevent color fading or shrinking, especially for shoes made from delicate materials.
  • Choosing a Suitable Detergent: Use a mild detergent specifically designed for delicate fabrics or shoes. Avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach as they can damage the shoe’s material and colors.
  • Air-Drying the Shoes Properly: After the washing cycle is complete, remove the shoes from the machine and allow them to air-dry naturally. Avoid using direct heat sources such as radiators or sunlight, as they can cause material deformation or discoloration. Stuff the shoes with newspaper or use shoe inserts to help retain their shape during drying.


  • Washing Certain Types of Shoes: Not all shoes are suitable for machine washing. Avoid washing shoes with delicate materials, intricate embellishments, or those labeled as “dry clean only.” Examples include leather shoes, suede shoes, or shoes with glued parts.
  • Using Hot Water or Harsh Detergents: Hot water can cause shrinkage or damage to shoe materials, so it’s best to stick to cold water. Similarly, avoid using strong detergents or bleach, as they can fade colors and weaken the shoe’s construction.
  • Overloading the Machine or Washing Shoes with Other Garments: Overloading the machine with too many shoes or washing them with other garments can lead to uneven cleaning, tangling, or damage to both the shoes and other items. It’s best to wash shoes separately to ensure proper cleaning and protection.

By following these dos and don’ts, you can maintain the quality and cleanliness of your shoes while using a washing machine. However, always remember to check the manufacturer’s guidelines for specific shoe care instructions to ensure the best cleaning method for your shoes.    

Alternative Shoe Cleaning Methods

Now, let’s explore two popular alternative shoe-cleaning methods: handwashing techniques and spot cleaning. These methods allow for more precise and targeted cleaning, ensuring that your shoes remain fresh and in great condition.

Handwashing Techniques

When machine washing is not an option, handwashing can be a reliable and effective method for cleaning shoes. Here are some techniques to follow:

  • Prepare a Cleaning Solution: Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water and add a small amount of mild detergent specifically formulated for delicate fabrics. Mix the detergent until it creates a soapy solution.
  • Remove Laces and Insoles: Before starting the handwashing process, take out the shoelaces and remove the insoles from the shoes. This will make cleaning easier and more thorough.
  • Scrub Gently: Dip a soft brush or sponge into the soapy water and gently scrub the shoe’s surface. Pay attention to any stained or dirty areas. Use a gentle circular motion to lift the dirt without causing damage to the shoe material.
  • Rinse Thoroughly: Once the cleaning is complete, rinse the shoes under running water to remove any remaining soap residue. Ensure that all the soap is washed away to prevent discoloration or residue buildup.
  • Air-Dry Properly: After rinsing, pat the shoes with a clean towel to remove excess water. Place them in a well-ventilated area away from direct heat sources to air-dry naturally. Avoid using a dryer or exposing the shoes to direct sunlight, as this can cause material damage or color fading.

Spot Cleaning and Stain Removal Tips

Spot cleaning is an effective method for treating specific stains or dirt spots on your shoes. Follow these tips for successful spot cleaning:

  • Identify the Stain Type: Different stains require different treatments. Determine the type of stain on your shoes, such as grease, mud, or ink, before proceeding with spot cleaning.
  • Use Appropriate Cleaning Agents: Depending on the stain type, select an appropriate cleaning agent. Common options include mild soap, vinegar diluted with water, baking soda paste, or specialized shoe stain removers. Test the cleaning agent on a small, inconspicuous area of the shoe before applying it to the stain.
  • Apply the Cleaning Solution: Dampen a clean cloth or sponge with the cleaning solution and gently dab the stained area. Avoid rubbing vigorously, as this may damage the shoe’s material. Continue blotting until the stain starts to lift.
  • Rinse and Dry: After spot cleaning, rinse the area with water to remove any residual cleaning solution. Pat the area dry with a clean cloth and allow the shoes to air-dry completely.

Is it better to hand wash or machine wash shoes?

The decision between hand washing and machine washing shoes depends on several factors. Hand washing allows for more precise control over the cleaning process, making it a suitable option for delicate or high-end shoes. It allows you to target specific areas and apply the right amount of pressure to clean without causing damage. Additionally, hand washing is ideal for shoes with intricate designs or embellishments that may be susceptible to damage in a machine.

On the other hand, machine washing can be convenient and time-saving, especially for shoes made from durable materials like canvas or certain types of sneakers. However, machine washing may not be suitable for all shoes, particularly those with delicate materials, glued parts, or intricate construction.

To make the best decision, consider the shoe’s material, construction, and any manufacturer’s guidelines. If the shoes are suitable for machine washing and you prefer a quick and efficient cleaning method, machine washing may be a viable option. However, if the shoes are delicate, valuable, or require extra care, hand washing is generally recommended to minimize the risk of damage.

Ultimately, it’s essential to assess the specific characteristics of your shoes and choose the cleaning method that best suits their needs.

Can I put my Nikes in the washing machine?

Nike shoes, like many other athletic shoes, are often made from durable materials that can withstand machine washing. However, it’s important to consider the specific model and any care instructions provided by Nike for your shoes.

In general, most Nike shoes made from materials such as mesh, canvas, or synthetic fabrics can be safely washed in a machine. It’s recommended to remove the shoelaces and insoles before washing and place the shoes in a mesh laundry bag to protect them during the cycle. Use a gentle cycle with cold water and mild detergent to prevent color fading or damage to the shoes.

However, it’s crucial to check the care instructions that come with your Nike shoes. Some models may have specific recommendations or restrictions regarding machine washing. If the care instructions advise against machine washing or if your shoes have delicate features like leather or glued parts, it’s best to opt for alternative cleaning methods such as handwashing or spot cleaning.

Can we wash shoes in a front-load washing machine?

Yes, you can wash shoes in a front-load washing machine. Front-load washing machines are generally considered more gentle on clothing and shoes compared to top-load machines. However, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind when washing shoes in a front-load washing machine.

First, it’s advisable to remove the shoelaces and insoles from the shoes before placing them in the machine. This helps prevent tangling and allows for better overall cleaning. Additionally, it’s recommended to place the shoes in a mesh laundry bag to protect them during the wash cycle and minimize any potential damage.

When washing shoes in a front load machine, select a gentle or delicate cycle to minimize the impact of agitation on the shoes. Use cold water instead of hot water to avoid any potential shrinkage or damage to the shoe materials. It’s also important to use a mild detergent suitable for delicate fabrics.

It’s worth noting that not all shoes are suitable for machine washing, especially those made of delicate materials or with intricate construction. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or guidelines provided with your shoes to determine if machine washing is recommended.

After the wash cycle is complete, allow the shoes to air dry naturally. Avoid using direct heat sources such as radiators or dryers, as they can cause damage or shrinkage. Stuffing the shoes with newspaper or using shoe inserts can help them retain their shape as they dry.


In conclusion, washing machines can be a convenient and effective option for cleaning shoes, but it’s important to follow the dos and don’ts to ensure successful results and prevent damage. Removing shoelaces and insoles, using a mesh laundry bag, opting for a gentle cycle with cold water, choosing the right detergent, and air-drying the shoes properly are essential steps to take.

However, not all shoes are suitable for machine washing, so it’s crucial to consider the shoe’s material and construction. Handwashing and spot cleaning can be alternative methods for delicate or valuable shoes.

By understanding the dos and don’ts of washing shoes in a machine, you can maintain the cleanliness and longevity of your footwear. Remember to always check the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions specific to your shoes. With the right approach, you can enjoy clean and fresh shoes that look their best.

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