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How to Wash Shoes in the Washing Machine

A simple search on “Can you put shoes in the washing machine?” will throw up a lot of conflicting advice on whether shoes can be washed in the machine or not. Some say it will ruin your shoes, while others say it will destroy the machine! We consulted our shoe cleaning experts at Love Your Shoes and provided you with the ultimate solution.

To answer, “Can you put shoes in the washing machine?” the answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. That probably was not the answer you were looking for, so here’s some context.

Shoes in Washing Machine

The model of your washer

A major determining factor is your washer itself. Many older machines do not have the advanced technology that later models do, nor the ability to customise the washing cycle. So if you’re using an old-fashioned device, it’s better to refrain.

Care Instructions on Shoes

The care instructions

Secondly, the care instructions on the shoe are important. Don’t try it if the care instructions tell you that the shoe cannot be machine-washed! Doing so would seriously compromise the durability of your shoe and the machine. 

Generally speaking, fabric shoes are considered safe, while materials like leather, suede, vinyl and rubber are better off with a shoe cleaning specialist. You can also try to hand wash them following our instructions for cleaning white shoes. Also, if your shoe has a lot of embellishments like sequins or glitter, you may want to avoid tossing them into the machine.

Even for shoes considered safe for machine cleaning, it’s not as simple as taking them off your feet and tossing them into the machine. Here is a step-by-step process to take you through how to clean your shoes in the washing machine.

Also Read: How to deep clean Suede shoes at home

Step-by-step Instructions to wash shoes in the washing machine

Step 1: Clean shoelaces and insoles separately

Firstly, remove the shoelaces and/or insoles. Cleanse the laces with a soft toothbrush or put them in a firmly zipped mesh bag to prevent them from tangling and twisting in the drum. Use laundry detergent and a soft brush to scrub the laces for persistent stains.

Unless otherwise specified in the cleaning instructions, insoles should be hand-washed, as machine-washing them can leave them soggy and compromise their durability. If your insoles are not machine-washable, you can clean and deodorise them by wiping them with a gentle brush or damp, soapy towel. Use a dry sponge to absorb the excess water, sprinkle baking soda on the insoles and let it lie overnight to deodorise and absorb any leftover moisture. In the morning, brush off the excess powder with a hard-bristled brush. After the insoles have dried, they can be reinserted into the shoes.

Cleaning Shoelaces
Cleaning Shoe Soles

Step 2: Scrub the bottoms of the shoes by hand

If your shoes have a significant amount of mud or debris embedded in the soles, use a gentle brush to remove as much of it as possible. A toothbrush or toothpick can be used to remove dirt gently from the creases. After eliminating most of the grime, use a shoe cleaner or a soft brush to remove scuff marks from the sides. Skipping this step can leave your machine extremely muddy as the fine dirt particles will be harder to remove when wet inside the machine.

Step 3: Place the shoes in a pillowcase or mesh garment bag

After cleaning the soles, put them in a mesh garment bag or a pillowcase, along with a few old towels or worn-out bed sheets. The goal is to prevent them from tumbling about in your washing machine. Make sure you use old clothes to balance the load as newer clothes can leach excess dye and stain your shoes. Use a cold, gentle cycle so the shoes are not tumbling forcefully in the drum and damaging it.

Shoes in Mesh Bag
Cleaning Shoes in Washing Machine

Step 4: Wash the shoes on a gentle cycle

Your safest bet is to follow the care instructions of the manufacturer. If this is unavailable, err on the safe side and use a delicate, cold water cycle with a slow or no-spin option. A hot water cycle can shrink the shoe or cause the colour to bleed. Using liquid detergent or laundry pods is advisable as powdered detergent may clump together in cold water without dissolving correctly. They can also leave patches on the shoe.

Step 5: Drying the shoes

After washing, remove shoes and laces from mesh garment bags and air dry. Clean rags or paper towels can help absorb the extra moisture and dry shoes properly. If possible, put your shoes in the sunlight to speed up drying. Though air drying shoes might take a few days, it’s a safer alternative to a dryer, which can damage or distort them. Some machines have a dryer rack that can be safely secured inside the drum. It ensures that the shoes remain in place throughout the drying cycle and do not tumble around the drum. To use, wrap shoes in old towels and dry on delicate. Check on your shoes often to ensure they aren’t destroyed or shrunk by the heated air.

Shoes for Air Drying
Shoes for Air Drying

Step 6: Re-insert the insoles

After ensuring that everything is thoroughly dry, reinsert the insoles into the shoes and re-knot the laces. The only thing left to do is venture out into the world wearing brand-new shoes!

How Love Your Shoes Can Help

If you have an expensive pair of shoes or do not feel confident about whether you can successfully wash your pair in the machine, call us today. We have experience with designer shoe cleaning, uggs cleaning and many more styles. If you’ve had a bad experience with a washing machine, our shoe repair and footwear colour restoration experts can help. Fill out our online quote form now and let us know what you need.

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