How to clean dirty sneakers in the washing machine

How to clean dirty sneakers in the washing machine

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I’m a runner, so my sneakers are really important to me. That’s why I hate it when they get dirty. Luckily, sneakers are easy to clean— and to make it even easier, you can learn how to wash shoes in a washing machine! Not only will it keep you looking sharp, it can extend the life of your shoes.

Whether you just finished a Tough Mudder or simply want to freshen up your comfy kicks, it’s important to do some prep work to keep your sneakers from getting damaged in the wash. Here’s how to get your sneakers or tennis shoes looking bright and clean in under 40 minutes. If you want to remove unpleasant smells from your sneakers, that may take additional effort.

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What You Need:

• Dirty sneakers!

• A washing machine

• Liquid detergent—read our guide to find the best

• 3 tablespoons of baking soda

• A pillowcase or wash bag

• A sneaker brush cleaner

• Several towels

Prep Time Needed: Overnight

Total Time Needed: Approximately 40 minutes, depending on the washer

Difficulty: Easy


  1. Check the care instructions. Most sneakers are made from fabrics like canvas, nylon, polyester, or cotton, and should hold up against laundry detergent and a wash cycle. However, rubber boots and leather or suede shoes may not hold up as well. The care label should walk you through what you need.

  2. The night before, sprinkle your pair of sneakers with 3 tablespoons of baking soda in each shoe and leave it in overnight. Remove in the morning.

  3. Remove the laces and insoles. If you want to clean the laces, put them inside a pillowcase or mesh garment bag to prevent them from getting tangled. Place the bag in the washer. Set the insoles aside.

  4. Wipe as much mud and debris off your sneakers as possible with a brush cleaner or an old toothbrush.

  5. Place your shoes in a garment bag. You don’t want them pinballing around inside the washer, damaging themselves and the rest of your laundry.

  6. Add your shoes to the washer along with some towels, preferably around 4 to 6. The towels will help to balance the load and prevent your shoes from loudly slamming against the inside of the washer.

  7. Using liquid detergent (not powdered) run the washer on a delicate cycle with cold water. Depending on your washer, the wash time may vary from 30 to 40 minutes.

  8. Remove the sneakers from the washer and allow them to air dry. NEVER put shoes in the dryer, as the heat may warp them or damage the glue that holds them together.

How to Hand Wash Sneakers

You may prefer to clean your shoes by hand–or you may just have shoes that could be harmed by a machine washing cycle. In any case, it’s not a big deal. You may need to spend a little more time giving your shoes TLC, but you can still get them clean.

Take out your laces and insole to clean separately, then brush away excess dirt. Fill your sink up with warm water and a little bit of laundry detergent, then let your shoes soak in the sink for about half an hour. You can continue to clean them with a brush cleaner or a toothbrush to make sure they’re shiny. Again, let them air dry–you don’t want to go to all this effort and then ruin your shoes with heat!

Washing Other Kinds of Shoes

With so many other types of shoes out there, you may need to try a few other things. Suede shoes are best handled with a suede brush, and should generally be kept away from water whenever possible. Shoes made of silk, or shoes that have a lot of embellishments like sequins, should be taken to a professional shoe repair and cleaning shop. And if you’re doing a lot of walking in the winter, check out our guide on how to remove salt stains.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to clean dirty sneakers in the washing machine

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