Last Updated: July 10, 2021

Waiting for your trainers to dry isn’t the most exciting exercise to ever engage in, especially when you plan to rock them the next day.

Find out whether or not you can toss them in the dryer to speed up the process, or if better techniques exists that don’t require the heat bombardment of the shoe in a small, tumbling confinement.

Due to how complex shoes are nowadays, it’s better to avoid putting them in the dryer. The heat from the dryer can take a toll on specific elements used in the manufacture of those shoes causing them to shrink, bleed, melt or distort.

The tumbling effects from the dryer can also cause delicate items and embellishments such as sequins to fall off, thus reducing the overall aesthetics, that’s in addition to the damage caused to the appliance itself courtesy of the shoes tumbled.

Why you should avoid putting shoes in the dryer

Shoes have come a long way from their very basic nature in the B.C’s.

Nowadays, they’re complex, having a variety of materials that make up the overall composition, and these materials undeniably differ in their mechanical and heat properties.

Some like natural rubber can be stable at temperatures similar to the high or low heat effects produced by a dryer, others like leather, suede, and some synthetic plastics just never farewell under such conditions, or even less.

Now because different parts of a shoe can have different kinds of material used for it, for example the soles can be made out of natural rubber, polyurethane, leather or resin, the vamp (the main part of the shoe starting behind the toe, going around the eyelets and then towards the back of the shoe), can be made out of either of the materials, too, plus rubber, PVC, cotton and other plant based materials, while the decorations and items over at the top can constitute mechanically delicate and heat susceptible materials such as the strap buckles, zippers, elastic and buttons which can disintegrate from spinning or high heat in the dryer, it’s never a good idea to stuff complex cover shoes in the dryer.

The result can turn out to be a distorted item months later, if not at that very moment, given consistency with such practice.

Another thing i can use to discourage you from putting shoes in the dryer is the very fact that the heat of the dryer has the capacity to melt the gum holding certain parts of the shoe together.

So instead of having a shoe that is thoroughly dried out, you might end up with a shoe screaming to have sushi stuffed inside its mouth.

On that note however, shoes that are made with really simple materials, sometimes as basics as a single heat-durable material such as treated rubber or two heat durable materials such as nylon and rubber, it may be safe to use the dryer to get rid of moisture from those shoes.

Additionally, if you must experiment, you should only try it out with your set of cheap shoes or those you never cherished for a single moment ever since you had them.

Summary: Shoes are complex and this makes it difficult to predict how a shoe will respond to the dryer over time, if not after one drying session.

The one rule that should govern whether or not you can put shoes in the dryer

As far as machine drying shoes is concerned, it’s by default an emphatic no, unless the manufacturer says otherwise.

Be on the lookout for green light in the form of symbols (a rectangle with a circle drawn in it) or a written instruction that supports such practice. Afterwards, how then to properly machine dry the shoes is discussed in details below.

Adding to that, you also want to pay careful attention to the kind of symbol you’re getting from the manufacturer. If it’s a Square with:

  • a circle in it, it means to dry at any settings.
  • a circle with one, two or three dot(s) in it, it means to dry on low, medium and high heat respectively.
  • with a completely shaded circle, it means to dry without any heat applied i.e tumble dry the shoes; you might as well just put the shoes in the spinner immediately after washing them in the washer.
  • a circle having an extended cross over it means to avoid the dryer like the plague.

Washing instructions, if printed, are typically printed on the tongue of cover shoes which is where your laces normally go over.

For some shoes (other cover shoes like canvas, trainers and those that aren’t covers), there might be specific instructions printed on a card that comes with the shoe in the box, or on the sole, or you might have to look up the manual containing the instructions online. Or, forget about machine drying it at all.

How to dry shoes without the dryer

To dry shoes, air drying is the best. Some shoes like athletic shoes can tolerate direct sunlight and even benefit from its disinfecting properties, others like leather, suede, Nubuck and ship skin shoes are best dried away from sunlight but in a well-ventilated room.

Here is a list of shoes and how to properly air dry them.

  1. Leather: following the best practices for cleaning leather, the resulting shoes after cleaning shouldn’t be completely wet, rather, only a few partly wet parts here and there rid of stains or dirt with a damp brush or cloth. So simply opening the shoes properly and letting the air dry them should do the trick. Avoid at all cost, the practice of air drying leather under direct sunlight as it can cause fading, or sometimes cracking.
  2. Patent Leather: same procedure as leather.
  3. Faux Leather shoes: same procedure as leather.
  4. Fabric shoes i.e. sneakers: Stuff shoes with dry paper towels and dry in a well-ventilated room or outside but still away from direct sunlight. The stuffed material helps the shoe better retain original shape. Similar to leather, fabric shoes should only have a few spots cleaned i.e the fabric parts, as they are the most prone to dirt and stain accumulation. Avoid dipping the entire shoes in the washer to avoid loosening areas held by glue.
  5. Suede: Like leather, suede’s are best cleaned by regular care with brush, spot and scuff treatment. So they aren’t supposed to be wet everywhere after cleaning. To air dry them, avoid direct sunlight and leave them for up to 24 hours or more in their drying place.
  6. Wood based shoes (i.e. rope or cork wedges): Air dry away from sunlight to avoid breakage overtime.
  7. Athletic shoes: These, following the recent conventional practices, can be put inside the washer for cleaning. Or, completely submerged inside a bucket of water and cleaned by hand. Whichever way, we are still going to have a really wet shoe at the end of the day, which might be tempting to spin in the spinner and then put in the dryer. This might be a good idea for low heat, but in general, just avoid such practice to avoid long term implications. Dry wet athletic shoes under direct sunlight or in a well-ventilated room. Either way works. Don’t forget to disinfect the insole with a disinfectant cleaner before placing back inside the shoe.
  8. Slippers: Dry them by airing under sunlight if they don’t have any leather or suede additions. Opt for a well-ventilated corner otherwise.

Summary: Nearly all shoes, with the exception of athletic shoes and the like are preferably cleaned by hand rather than machine washed. Leather, suede, slippers, fabric shoes and wood based shoes require dampened brushes or clothes to be cleaned, and sometimes a little water, and also respond better to spot treatments. Depending on the shoe also, direct sun drying might be a bad idea. Air drying shoes can take up to 2 days in some cases like heavily cleaned leather.

Final Verdict:

Most shoes are never meant to be machined dried in the dryer so putting them in the dryer can cause some serious damages like cracking, melting, bleeding, distortion or shrinking which could either be a short or long run impact depending on the type of shoes, the quality of shoes and many other factors.

Shoes like leather, rope shoes and other wood based shoes, suede, fabric shoes and athletic shoes do not typically fare well under heat application and can produce surprising result when put in there. More heat tolerate and mechanically strong shoes like all rubber shoes or nylon could prove game for the dryer on the short term but not over time.

In general, the best way to dry shoes is to air dry them for several hours, and if it’s taking forever to do that, it only means you’re washing them wrongly or are caring for them the absolute wrong way!

We’ll have a comprehensive guide very soon teaching you how to properly wash every type of shoes, but till then, keeping washing them by hand and avoid the dryer like the plague!