Last Updated: December 6, 2021

Cleaning sneakers is pretty easy and satisfying when it’s fairly soiled.

Simply take out the insole and wash it separately, then brush around the shoe to remove any visible dirt and use a sponge applied with mild soap to wipe off stains that weren’t removed from brushing.

When it comes to a heavily soiled sneakers however, that’s where we’re left scratching our heads!

No matter what you do and how much you do it, the vibrancy seems to never be restored and there’s always that feeling of dissatisfaction buried deep within your smirks!

So how can you get your trainers all clean and shiny again for your next track race?

You can use the washing machine to clean heavily soiled sneakers, but make sure to use cold water and opt for the delicate wash cycle.

Cold water as a prerequisite

You heard that right! Cold water is a prerequisite for cleaning sneakers in the washer. Hot water can do damage to the fabric especially if it’s made form polyester and nylon yarn, and also loosen gum used to hold certain parts of the shoe.

Avoid shoes made from these materials

Any sneakers having leather finish like suede and nubuck should not be immersed in cold water and cleaned inside a washer. They may absorb water (if not finished properly) and become damaged.

How to wash sneakers in the washing machine

Pre-cleaning and spot treatment

Pre-cleaning is essential because it reduces the amount of dirt to be released inside the washer which may be impregnated into the other items you’ll be washing with the sneakers, for example towels, blankets and sweatshirts put in there for balancing weight.

Plus it’s generally a good idea to limit the amount of buildup passing through the nooks and crannies of your machine isn’t it?

To treat prior to washing, take a shoe brush and wipe all over the shoe to get rid of dirt. When the shoe is extra extra soiled— covered with dirt to the point you could easily mistake it for the garden potatoes, hit it continuously against the trash can outside to release the dirt before brushing.

At this point, you also what to take care of stains that may have accumulated on the sneaker’s fabric. So treat each stain specifically using the appropriate methods and techniques.

Use this guide to treat different type of stains on your shoes fabric.

After treating stains, you want to remove the laces from the eyelets and keep them aside to prevent them from entangling everything inside the washer. Taking them out also exposes the space within the eyelet which can also have buildups too.

At the end of all these, you’re ready for washing.

Machine settings and wash items

Washing

Washing must be done inside cold water and the most delicate cycle to prevent the shoes from wrapping, lessening around edges joined together using gum, hitting the interior of the machine which can cause unwanted noise, and scratch accumulation on both the shoes and the machine.

To wash sneakers, put them inside the washer with cold water and apply small shoe detergent (remove insoles if you want and place them inside the washer).

You can always use your ordinary mild detergent when you don’t have a shoe detergent or cleaner. Place the shoe laces inside a mesh bag (washing bag) and put them inside the washer.

Toss in a large towel or two small towels of any color other than white (make sure they’re kitchen towels or those you never use on your body) and set the machine to run on gentle cycle for 15 minutes.

The towels will help minimize the impact of the banging against the body of the washer and will also get cleaned along the way.

The laces tied up inside the porous mesh bag will get washed, but won’t have the chance to wrap up around other items in the washer which is a good thing.

When you’re done cleaning, run a rinse session and spin dry the shoes and the laces.

Drying

Never dry shoes in the dryer for the same reason you shouldn’t wash them in hot water. The gum used to hold certain parts of the shoe can loosen and therefore result in a damaged shoe.

Additionally, some textile materials used on sneakers such as nylon an polyester just never fare well under heat application, so they may have their fibers destroyed during heating.

You want to make sure you’re air drying your sneakers and only air drying them. You can spread them out with the tongue wide open and the insole removed to promote quick drying. Ensure that shoes are never dried under direct sunlight which can cause fading of shoes and shrinkage in some cases.

For much quicker results, place shoes in front of a blowing fan, an air conditioner or a dehumidifier.

Caring for your sneakers so it doesn’t get dirty always

  • At the end of every exercise, make sure to properly brush and clean sneakers with water or soapy water to remove dirt.
  • Air dry sneakers to remove odor. You can also use a few tea spoons of baking soda for deodorization instead. This works great when combined with the washer. First, de-odorize overnight or for some few hours, then toss the shoes inside the washer to clean.
  • Treat stains immediately they form to prevent them from setting in which can be very difficult to get rid of. Use stain cleaning guides to determine the type of stain you have, the degree of staining and what techniques to use for the stain removal.

Conclusion

Cleaning sneakers in the washing machine is possible and pretty easy. First, deodorize the shoes by air drying them overnight or sprinkling a few teaspoons of baking soda inside, then toss in the washer filled with cold water and trickles of fabric detergent and run on a gently cycle for 15 minutes.

Dry shoes away from sunlight in places full of generous air.