Up until recently, most people have been cleaning shoes by hand using different kits, especially when it comes to expensive and favourite shoes. However, that can be quite tedious and there’s always a chance that you’ll miss a spot or won’t be able to get the dirt completely out. To help you out, we’re here to simplify the process of cleaning shoes in the washing machine for you, using only a few basic items so that your shoes are good as new!
Is it ok to wash shoes in the washing machine?
Here’s the question that’s probably bugging you the most; is it even safe, for both your machine and your sneakers, to use a washing machine to clean your shoes? The answer to that is yes for your machine, and for shoes, it depends on the material they’re made of. If they’re composed of, or use, animal products like leather or suede, there’s a high chance that they’ll sustain damage from the water and from being thrown around in the machine. However, shoes that are made of synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, rubber, etc. will be fine and are perfectly ok to wash in the machine multiple times.
You should check with the directions of the manufacturer before making a conclusive decision about whether or not you should use a washing machine for your shoes. It is also recommended to look up reviews from others who have the same shoes or get an expert opinion regarding the specific material of your shoes. Sneakers are generally a combination of synthetics, plastics, rubber, etc., and are thus safe for such a cleaning process.
Step-by-step process of washing sneakers in the washing machine
This might sound like a daunting task but it’s actually quite simple and straightforward and you can get started after you have just a few things. Here’s what you’ll be needing:
- A mesh bag
- Any pretreatment solution or baking soda
- An old toothbrush
- Some old towels/ t-shirts
- A clean cloth
You can also buy a shoe cleaning kit and get everything you need in one place.
This is a small step that most people skip but it’s one that can make all the difference between properly cleaned shoes and others that look like they still have some stains on them. First of all, tap the shoes against each other over a dustbin so that any excess mud, dust, debris, etc. falls off. You can also swipe over the shoes gently with a clean cloth. Now, use a stain remover or a pretreatment solution and spread it over the shoes. If you don’t have one, you can easily make one using baking soda or vinegar, and water. Spread the solution over the sneakers, specifically over any stains using a toothbrush. This will help really pull out any dirt and make the stains easier to remove later on. Once the solution is dried, simply wipe it off with a cloth.
Remove the laces
It is important to do this as leaving the laces on can cause them to tangle around the shoes or interfere with the machine’s mechanism. Another reason is proper cleaning; the eyelets are more exposed to the water and detergent mix this way and are thoroughly cleaned. Otherwise, there’s a chance that dirt might stay lodged in these small spaces and will be a nuisance later. Once removed you can place them in a little mesh bag and throw them in the machine along with the sneakers so they get cleaned too.
Wash insoles by hand
If the insoles are removable, and more importantly, if they have a gel inside them or are orthotics (i.e. made for a specific purpose or need like shoes for people with flat feet), you should wash them separately. Throwing them in the machine could make them water-logged which means that not only will they take a long time to dry, but you could also ruin their quality and defeat their purpose. It’s best to just gently clean them using a brush and a soapy solution and absorb any excess with a sponge. This will take away the odor too without causing any permanent damage.
Prepare the load for the machine
Now for the main step! Place your sneakers inside a mesh bag, or if you don’t have that you can place them inside an old pillowcase, from which water can seep through easily and reach the shoes. This stops the shoes from being pushed around too harshly, reduces both the impact and the friction they face inside the washer, and ultimately reduces any potential mangling, damage, or harm. To this end, you can also provide a buffer by placing some old towels, t-shirts, covers, etc. in the machine with your mesh bag.
Another important thing is the setting of the washer. There are two important things to consider here:
- The wash cycle should be gentle i.e., The machine should not be spinning too fast, or else it will increase friction and the rough pushing around might ruin the sneakers.
- The water should be cold. Warm water generally is not a good option as it can warp the shoes, melt any adhesives holding the shoe together (risking its structural integrity), and can even cause the colors to fade.
Make sure that your settings are following these two guiding rules and you should be fine. It is also essential to add an average amount of detergent to the load, overdoing it can later cause stiffness so resist any temptation to do so even if you think it might be better.
Air-dry the shoes
Once washed, do not place the shoes in the dryer. Like warm water, the heat from the dryer can not only greatly damage the adhesives but can also warp the shape of the shoes and cause the sneakers to shrink in size a bit.
It’s best to let the shoes air dry, which might take a day or so. You can speed up the process by placing some cloth inside the shoes to soak up extra moisture. To increase the surface exposed to air and allow more air to circulate in the interior, flip out the tongue over the toe box of your sneakers.
Re-lace the shoes and insert soles
After the shoes have completely dried, place the insoles in them and re-lace the shoes. And that’s it, you’re done! You can now enjoy your clean, fresh, and spotless shoes.
What else can you do?
This is a general method to clean your sneakers. Depending on the specific materials used in your sneakers, the manufacturer, etc. you can make changes and customize the cleaning method. In some cases, it might even be better to clean the entire shoes by hand and not just the insoles to maintain the composition and preserve their design (not damage any embellishments, paint, etc. in customized shoes). You can explore clean products that are designed particularly for this purpose, but this method should suffice in most cases.