is it safe to clean shoes with a washing machine 3
is it safe to clean shoes with a washing machine 3

Have you ever wondered if cleaning your shoes in a washing machine is safe?

It’s a common question among shoe enthusiasts and those looking to freshen up their footwear.

While it may seem like a quick and easy solution, there are a few factors to consider before tossing your favorite kicks into the washing machine.

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of using a washing machine to clean your shoes and some alternative methods that may be better suited for certain types of footwear.

So, before you hit that spin cycle, let’s find out if cleaning your shoes with a washing machine is safe.

Pros of cleaning shoes in a washing machine

Efficient and convenient

Cleaning your shoes in a washing machine can offer efficiency and convenience. Rather than spending time scrubbing and handwashing each shoe individually, you can toss them in the machine and let it do the work for you.

This can save you valuable time and effort, especially if multiple pairs of shoes need cleaning.

Thorough cleaning

A washing machine can thoroughly clean your shoes, especially those heavily soiled. The agitation and rotation of the machine can help to loosen dirt, stains, and odors, resulting in a more effective cleaning process.

This can be particularly beneficial for athletic shoes or casual sneakers that accumulate dirt and grime during everyday wear.

Saves time and effort

Cleaning shoes by hand can be labor-intensive, requiring scrubbing and possibly multiple rounds of washing. Using a washing machine can significantly reduce the time and effort you need to clean your shoes.

Load them into the machine, select the appropriate settings, and let the machine do the hard work. This can free up your time for other tasks or activities.

Cons of cleaning shoes in a washing machine

Potential damage to shoes

While cleaning shoes in a washing machine can be convenient, there is a risk of potential damage. The mechanical action of the machine, especially if set on high or with a strong spin cycle, can cause excess agitation and potentially damage the shoes.
This could lead to tearing, deformation, or detachment of shoe components such as soles, stitching, or embellishments.

Color fading or bleeding

Another potential drawback of cleaning shoes in a washing machine is the risk of color fading or bleeding. Certain shoe materials or dyes may not be colorfast, meaning they can bleed or fade when exposed to water and detergent.

This can result in a loss of vibrancy or even color transfer onto other shoes or clothing items in the machine.

Shrinking or warping

Certain shoe materials, such as certain types of fabric or leather, can be prone to shrinking or warping when exposed to water and heat.

This can be a concern when cleaning shoes in a washing machine, especially if the machine has a high-temperature setting or is left to air dry in a hot environment. Shrinking or warping can result in the shoes’ poor fit or distorted shape.

Is It Safe To Clean Shoes With A Washing Machine?

Factors to consider before cleaning shoes in a washing machine

Material of the shoes

The material of your shoes is an essential factor to consider before cleaning them in a washing machine. Some materials, such as canvas or synthetic fabrics, are typically more suitable for machine washing due to their durability and resistance to water.

However, materials like leather, suede, or delicate fabrics may not fare well in a washing machine and could be best hand-washed or cleaned using alternative methods.

Type of washing machine

Different types of washing machines have varying settings and capabilities, which can impact the outcome of cleaning your shoes. Front-loading machines, for example, are generally more gentle on shoes due to their tumbling action, while top-loading machines with agitators can be more aggressive. Understanding the settings and features of your specific washing machine can help you choose the most appropriate approach for cleaning your shoes.

Condition of the shoes

The condition of your shoes should also be considered before cleaning them in a washing machine. Machine washing may further exacerbate the issues if your shoes are heavily damaged, with loose soles, detached parts, or excessive wear and tear.

It is essential to assess the overall condition of your shoes and determine if they are suitable for machine washing or require additional repairs or maintenance before cleaning.

Step-by-step guide to washing shoes in a washing machine


Before you begin cleaning your shoes in a washing machine, it is essential to prepare them properly. Remove loose dirt or debris by gently tapping the shoes or using a soft brush. This will help prevent excess dirt from clogging the machine or causing additional shoe damage during washing.

Removing dirt and debris

For shoes with stubborn dirt or stains, it is recommended to pre-treat them before washing. You can use a mild detergent or stain remover specifically designed for the material of your shoes. Follow the instructions on the product and apply it to the affected areas, allowing it to sit for a few minutes before washing to loosen the dirt or stains.

Choosing the right cleaning products

The appropriate shoe cleaning products are crucial to avoid damage and achieve the best cleaning results. Use a mild detergent that is suitable for the material of your shoes. Avoid harsh chemicals or bleach, which can cause discoloration or damage to the shoes. Consider using hypoallergenic or fragrance-free detergents if you have sensitive skin or allergies.

Lacing and securing the shoes

Before placing your shoes in the washing machine, removing the shoelaces and any detachable insoles or inserts is recommended. This will prevent them from tangling or causing damage to the shoes or the machine. If the shoes have Velcro straps, ensure they are securely fastened to avoid getting caught on other items in the machine.

Selecting the appropriate settings

Consult the instructions manual of your washing machine to determine the most suitable settings for washing shoes. Generally, using a gentle or delicate cycle with low water temperature is recommended. Avoid using high-speed spin cycles, as these can cause excess agitation and potential damage to the shoes. If your machine has a shoe-specific or sports shoe setting, opt for that to ensure a more gentle and tailored cleaning process.

Adding shoes to the machine

Place your shoes in the washing machine, ensuring they are evenly distributed to maintain balance during the wash. Avoid overloading the machine, as this can hinder the cleaning process and damage the shoes. If you are washing multiple pairs of shoes, consider washing them in separate loads to minimize the risk of tangling or transferring dirt or color.

Washing the shoes

Start the washing cycle and allow the machine to complete the designated cleaning process. It is advisable to stay nearby during the washing process to ensure the shoes are correctly cleaned and address any issues. Avoid interrupting the cycle by opening the machine prematurely, as this can disrupt the cleaning process and potentially damage the shoes.

Drying the shoes

After washing, remove the shoes from the machine and inspect them for any remaining dirt or stains. Repeat the washing process or perform spot cleaning to address any lingering issues.

To dry the shoes, avoid exposing them to direct heat sources such as radiators or sunlight, which can cause excessive drying and potential damage. Instead, air-dry the shoes in a well-ventilated area at room temperature.


Once your shoes are dry, performing aftercare to maintain their condition is essential. For fabric or canvas shoes, you may consider applying a fabric protector spray to help guard against future stains or water damage.

Leather or suede shoes may benefit from conditioning or waterproofing treatments to restore their suppleness and protect them from moisture.

Is It Safe To Clean Shoes With A Washing Machine?

Alternatives to washing shoes in a washing machine


If you are hesitant to use a washing machine, handwashing your shoes can be a viable alternative. Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water and a mild detergent suitable for the material of your shoes. Gently scrub the shoes using a soft brush or cloth, paying extra attention to any stains or soiled areas. Rinse the shoes thoroughly, squeeze out excess water, and allow them to air dry.

Spot cleaning

Spot cleaning can be a practical option for minor stains or small areas requiring cleaning. Dampen a clean cloth with water and a small amount of mild detergent. Gently dab the stained area, avoiding excessive rubbing or scrubbing. Rinse the area with clean water and allow it to air dry. Spot cleaning is beneficial for leather or delicate shoes that may not be suitable for machine or handwashing.

Using a shoe-cleaning kit

Investing in a shoe cleaning kit can provide a comprehensive range of products and tools specifically designed for shoe maintenance. These kits often include specialized brushes, cleaning solutions, and protectants tailored to different shoe materials. Follow the instructions provided with the kit to effectively clean and care for your shoes without needing a washing machine.

Seeking professional cleaning services

It may be worth considering professional cleaning services if you are unsure about cleaning your shoes or have particularly delicate or expensive shoes.

Shoe repair or cleaning establishments often have the expertise and specialized equipment to clean and restore many shoe types. However, research and choose a reputable service to ensure your shoes’ safety and proper care.

Tips for cleaning specific types of shoes in a washing machine

Canvas shoes

Canvas shoes are generally more resilient and can withstand machine washing. However, removing any excess dirt or debris and pre-treating any stains before washing is advisable. If the shoes have rubber soles, it is recommended to wrap them in a towel or place them inside a pillowcase to protect them during the washing process. Use a gentle cycle with low water temperature and air dry the shoes.

Running shoes

Running shoes can accumulate dirt, sweat, and odor over time, making proper cleaning essential. Before washing, remove any loose dirt or debris and remove the insoles if possible.

Use a gentle cycle with low water temperature and avoid using bleach or harsh chemicals. To maintain the shape and cushioning of the shoes, it is recommended to fill them with crumpled newspaper or cloth and air dry them.

Leather shoes

Leather shoes require special care to prevent damage or discoloration. Before washing, remove any dirt or stains using a soft brush or cloth. Fill the shoes with tissue paper or shoe trees to help maintain their shape during washing.

Use a gentle cycle with cold water and a mild detergent suitable for leather. After washing, apply a leather conditioner or polish to restore the softness and luster of the leather.

Suede or nubuck shoes

Suede or nubuck shoes are delicate and require extra caution when cleaning. Before washing, brush the shoes gently with a suede brush to remove any dirt or stains. Use a specialized suede cleaner or a mild detergent diluted with water.

Use a soft cloth or sponge to apply the cleaning solution in gentle circular motions. After cleaning, allow the shoes to air dry naturally and brush them again to restore the nap.

Is It Safe To Clean Shoes With A Washing Machine?

Preventing damage when cleaning shoes in a washing machine

Using a laundry bag or pillowcase

Consider using a laundry bag or pillowcase to protect your shoes from excessive agitation or potential damage in the washing machine. Place your shoes inside the bag or pillowcase and secure them with a knot or zipper before placing them in the machine. This will help to contain the shoes and prevent them from getting tangled or causing damage to the machine.

Avoiding harsh detergents

Using harsh detergents or bleach can damage the shoes and the washing machine. Opt for mild detergents specifically formulated for delicate fabrics or shoe materials.

These detergents are generally gentler and less likely to cause color fading, staining, or damage to the shoes. It is also advisable to avoid fabric softeners, as they can leave a residue that may affect the texture or appearance of the shoes.

Protecting delicate shoe components

Delicate shoe components, such as zippers, ornaments, or delicate fabrics, may require additional protection during machine washing. Wrap these components in a soft cloth or secure them with tape to prevent them from snagging or getting damaged.

Additionally, it is essential to check the machine for any loose items, such as coins or buttons, which can cause damage to the shoes or the machine during the washing process.

Checking the machine for loose items

Before starting the washing cycle, thoroughly check the machine for any loose items that may cause damage. These can include coins, buttons, or small objects that may have been left in pockets or stuck inside the machine. Removing these loose items can prevent them from becoming lodged in the shoes or causing damage to the machine or other items being washed.

Common myths about cleaning shoes in a washing machine

Machines can clean any shoe

Contrary to popular belief, not all shoes are suitable for machine washing. Certain materials or shoe constructions can be easily damaged or distorted by the mechanical action of the machine.

It is crucial to consider the material, condition, and manufacturer’s recommendations before cleaning shoes in a washing machine. Some shoes may require alternative cleaning methods to ensure longevity and preserve appearance.

Washing machines can fix all shoe problems.

While washing machines can effectively clean dirt, stains, and odors from shoes, they cannot fix all shoe-related problems. Structural damage, such as separated soles, torn uppers, or broken components, may require professional repairs or replacements.

Machine washing should not be seen as a solution for significant shoe issues but rather as a maintenance method to keep your shoes clean and fresh.

Drying shoes in a dryer is safe.

It is important to note that drying shoes in a dryer can pose risks and should be avoided. The heat and tumbling action of the dryer can cause shrinkage, warping, or damage to the shoes.

Air drying at room temperature is generally the safest method for drying shoes, as it allows them to dry gradually without subjecting them to excessive heat or agitation.

Is It Safe To Clean Shoes With A Washing Machine?

Maintenance tips to prolong the lifespan of shoes

Regular cleaning routine

In addition to periodically cleaning your shoes in a washing machine or through alternative methods, establishing a regular cleaning routine can help prolong their lifespan.

Removing dirt and debris after each use, spot cleaning as necessary, and storing them properly can prevent excessive buildup of dirt, stains, or odors and maintain the appearance and condition of your shoes.

Proper storage

Proper storage is essential to protect your shoes and prevent damage when they are not in use. Avoid stacking or squashing shoes, which can lead to misshaping or deformation.

Use shoe trees or stuff them with tissue paper to help maintain their shape and absorb moisture. Store shoes in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat sources, as these can cause fading or deterioration of materials.

Avoiding harsh weather conditions

Exposure to harsh weather conditions like extreme heat, rain, or snow can harm your shoes’ longevity. Whenever possible, avoid wearing certain shoe types in unfavorable weather conditions.

If your shoes become wet, allow them to air dry naturally and avoid using direct heat sources to speed up the drying process, as this can cause damage.


Cleaning your shoes in a washing machine can offer efficiency and convenience, providing a thorough cleaning while saving time and effort.

However, before proceeding, it is essential to consider the potential risks and factors such as shoe materials, washing machine type, and shoe condition.

Following a step-by-step guide, utilizing alternatives to machine washing when necessary, and implementing preventive measures can help maintain the condition and prolong the lifespan of your shoes.

By understanding the proper techniques and considerations, you can effectively clean your shoes while minimizing the risk of damage or disappointment.

Is It Safe To Clean Shoes With A Washing Machine?

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Lucy Markk
Hi, I'm Lucy Markk, your go-to shoe cleaning expert at With years of experience in the industry, I have built a strong reputation as a reliable source for shoe cleaning tips and tricks. Throughout my career, I have received numerous prizes and rewards for my exceptional techniques and knowledge in keeping shoes looking brand new. I take immense pride in sharing my expertise with readers who are passionate about maintaining the longevity and aesthetics of their footwear. Whether you have a collection of high-end sneakers or need guidance on how to care for your favorite pair of leather boots, I am here to help. My writing philosophy revolves around providing practical, easy-to-follow advice that anyone can implement. I believe that with the right care and maintenance routine, you can extend the lifespan of your shoes and keep them looking their best. Besides being a shoe cleaning expert, I am also a dedicated enthusiast in the shoe industry. I understand the love and connection people have with their shoes, which is why I am committed to delivering content that not only educates but also inspires. Thank you for visiting I invite you to explore the site and discover valuable tips and techniques to make your shoes shine. Stay tuned for regular updates and remember, a little care goes a long way in preserving the beauty of your beloved footwear. Best regards, Lucy Markk