How to Wash Shoes in a Washing Machine

pair of blue canvas shoes in front loading washing machine with door open

Is it OK to wash shoes in the washing machine?

Tossing your favorite sneakers in the wash sounds convenient, but washing your shoes the wrong way could cause damage and cost you the pair. You can wash shoes in a washing machine, but knowing how to pre-treat them and get them dry is also important.

For fresh kicks all the time, see this step-by-step guide on how to wash shoes and what makes FLAT SOCKS® the best sock inserts for keeping shoes clean and odor-free.

Keep Your Shoes Fresh with FLAT SOCKS

Cleaning your shoes properly helps control problems like ugly stains and lasting shoe odors. A thorough cleaning can help make your shoes last longer, too. One of the hardest things about keeping those shoes clean is having sweaty feet.

Even if you don’t struggle with foot sweat, leaving your shoes unwashed for too long can cause a buildup of odor causing bacteria and even fungi. Normal socks won’t do anything to help control this. That’s why FLAT SOCKS are the best sock alternative.

gray tennis shoes with blue FLAT SOCKS shoe inserts on wood floor

Want to stop wearing socks for good or need a no-show sock for sweaty slip-ons? FLAT SOCKS shoe inserts help wick away moisture and control odor, keeping feet comfy and shoes fresh. Machine washable and dryer safe, FLAT SOCKS shoe inserts can help prevent shoes from smelling funky so you don’t have to wash them so often.

What types of shoes are machine washable?

Before you put your shoes in the washing machine, always check the tag for care instructions. Not all shoes are machine washable, especially shoes made of delicate materials.

The types of shoes that should be safe to wash in a washing machine are shoes made of canvas, nylon, cotton, or polyester. These include most athletic shoes like sneakers and tennis shoes as well as many slip-ons and casual canvas shoes.

Shoes that are not machine washable include leather, suede, and nubuck shoes or boots and shoes with embellishments like beading, embroidery, rhinestones, or buckles. Foam flip flops, sheepskin boots, and heavy-duty work boots are other examples of shoes that are not washer safe.

How to Wash Shoes: A Step-by-Step Guide

Just like in our guide on how to wash socks, this easy instruction for how to clean shoes in a washing machine covers important steps. Unlike FLAT SOCKS, you can’t just toss your shoes in the wash and forget about it. It takes some prep to look (and smell) this good, so pay attention if you want to wash your shoes the right way.

white tennis shoes soaking in soapy water

1. Check Care Instructions

The best way to find out how to wash your shoes is to check the care instructions on the tag. These are usually located inside the sneaker’s tongue or somewhere along the heel or ankle. For specific brands like Sketchers®, HeyDude™, or New Balance®, you may be able to find cleaning instructions on the manufacturer’s website.

2. Remove Laces & Insoles

Remove the shoelaces and place them inside a mesh garment bag with your FLAT SOCKS. This keeps the laces from wrapping around any part of the drum. If your laces are filthy, pretreat them in a soak of 1:1 white vinegar and water before washing.

If your shoe’s insoles are removeable, take them out and spot clean them using a clean, damp rag and mild detergent. Insoles that are too worn should be replaced with new insoles like insoles with arch support.

3. Brush Away Dirt & Debris

Get rid of dirt or other debris on the soles using either a rag or an old toothbrush. This pretreatment step helps get your shoes clean on the first wash. You can also wipe away scuff marks using some dish soap and warm water or a shoe cleaner.

person brushing dirty shoe soles over a sink

4. Place Shoes in a Mesh Bag

Put your shoes in a mesh garment bag either separate from or with the laces. Washing shoes in a mesh bag achieves a more thorough cleaning. It also helps stop the shoes from tumbling throughout the wash and potentially damaging your washer.

person placing shoes in mesh bag in washing machine

How do you wash shoes in the washing machine without a mesh bag?

If you do not have a mesh garment bag and want to wash your shoes, shoelaces, or FLAT SOCKS, you can substitute a mesh bag with a pair of tights or an old pillowcase with a zipper. Both help keep the items contained and allow water and detergent to soak through.

5. Put Shoes in Washing Machine with Towels

Always wash your shoes with a few old towels or sheets for extra cushion and to balance the load. Avoid washing shoes with clothes in case of dye transfer or stains. Remember, overloading your washing machine will not make shoes cleaner and may damage what’s inside.

6. Wash Shoes on Delicate, Cold Cycle

Add a liquid detergent or dissolvable eco-friendly laundry strip to the washer. Then, wash the shoes and towels on a delicate wash setting in cold water with low or no spin. On a delicate wash, it may take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to wash your shoes.

person turning cycle selector knob on washing machine

How do you clean white shoes?

When cleaning white shoes, never use bleach. Instead, remove stains and brighten white tennis shoes by pouring a cup of white vinegar into the wash once the shoes have been submerged in the water.

7. Air Dry Your Shoes

With the wash cycle over, remove the shoes from the mesh bag. Reshape them by hand or stuff them with clean paper towels to help absorb excess moisture. Let your shoes air dry, preferably hanging or in a sunny area on the floor. Some pairs may take a few days to dry.

clean blue tennis shoes hanging on a clothesline

Can you put shoes in the dryer?

In most cases, you should not dry your shoes in the dryer. Putting your shoes in the dryer can ruin adhesives and warp their shape. If your dryer has a shoe rack, you can wrap the shoes in a towel, place them on the rack, and dry them on a no heat or air fluff setting. Check periodically for signs of damage.

How often should you wash your shoes?

Wash your shoes whenever they are dingy, smelly, or start to accrue dirt or stains. This might mean washing shoes in a washing machine every two weeks or once every few months. How often you need to wash shoes depends on what activities you do, your environment, and the kind of shoes you wear.

Brush away dirt daily so you don’t track debris in from outside, especially if you wear shoes in the house. A seasonal deep clean is good for conditioning delicate materials and seeing if it’s time to replace your shoes. Athletic shoes, work shoes, and hiking boots should be cleaned more often due to increased wear and moisture build up.

Keep Shoes Clean & Stink-Free with FLAT SOCKS

Dirty shoes ruin a good outfit and shoes that stink might as well be a deal breaker in any social situation. Use these steps to wash your shoes and wear FLAT SOCKS shoe inserts to keep your kicks feeling and smelling fresh.

woman sitting on bench holding white shoes with tan FLAT SOCKS inside

FLAT SOCKS is not affiliated with Sketchers®, HeyDude™, New Balance® or any other shoe manufacturer. Reference and trademarks used above are examples of shoe types that FLAT SOCKS are designed to work with.


How to Wash Shoes in the Washing Machine. (2022). Whirlpool.

Putting Your Shoes in the Washing Machine. TruEarth.