Can You Wash Shoes in a Washing Machine?

Shoes made of canvas or fabrics such as nylon or polyester can be machine washed. However, ones that are made from suede leather, vinyl, or rubber should never be machine-washed.

For the ones that qualify to be machine washed, you should always place them in a mesh bag and wash them in a cold water cycle with slow spin settings (more on that later).

Not all shoes are made the same, so it’s important that you read the care label (usually printed on the soles or prescribed in the packaging).

Key Takeaways

  • Shoes made of fabrics such as nylon, polyester, denim, canvas, etc. can be machine washed as long as the care label recommends machine washing.
  • Shoes made from rubber, leather, suede, vinyl, satin, or shoes with embellishments like beads or buckles should never be machine washed.
  • For the ones that are washer-friendly always use a mesh bag or pillowcase to protect the shoes and washer from damage.
  • Always wash your shoes on a gentle cycle and in cold water settings.

Types of shoes that are machine washable

In general, athletic shoes or regular wear shoes made from fabric such as nylon, polyester, canvas, or cotton can be machine washed as well as hand washed.

These fabrics are durable and are less likely to get damaged by laundry detergent.

In most cases, shoes that are labeled as machine-washable are typically made from certain fabrics that can withstand the washing process without getting damaged.

Here are the types of shoes that can be safely machine washed:

Athletic Shoes

Athletic shoes, such as running shoes, gym shoes, and sneakers, are generally machine washable.

These shoes are often made from breathable fabrics like nylon, polyester, or mesh, which can handle the gentle washing cycle.

For best results, remove the insoles and laces before washing.

Canvas Shoes

Canvas shoes, including casual sneakers and espadrilles, are great candidates for machine washing.

Canvas is a sturdy fabric that holds up well in the washing machine, making it easy to clean.

Fabric Casual Shoes

Casual shoes made from other fabrics like denim, cotton, or polyester are also suitable for machine washing.

These shoes are often designed for comfort and can handle the washing process.

Flip Flops and Sandals

Some flip flops and sandals with fabric or rubber straps can be machine washed.

However, it’s essential to check the care labels to ensure they are safe for machine washing.

Washable Slippers

Certain slippers made from machine-washable fabrics like cotton or fleece can be cleaned in the washing machine.

Mesh Sneakers and Slip-Ons

Shoes made entirely from mesh, such as some slip-on sneakers, are designed to be breathable and easy to clean in the washing machine.


It’s important to note that even if a shoe falls into one of these categories, always check the care label or manufacturer’s instructions before machine washing. Some specific models or shoe variations within these categories may have unique care requirements.

Types of shoes that are not machine washable

Here are a few types of shoes that are not machine washable in most cases.

  • Dress shoes
  • Beaded or buckled shoes
  • Shoes with heels
  • Shoes made of rubber
  • Leather sandals
  • Boots
  • Shoes made of suede
  • Shoes made of vinyl

Note: It’s advisable to read the care label before washing any type of shoe.

How to wash shoes in the washing machine with pillowcases or mesh bags?

How to wash shoes in washing machine

By placing your favorite machine-washable sneakers or shoes inside a mesh bag or pillowcase, you not only preserve their condition but also prevent damage to your washer.

Here’s how you can get your shoe machine washed in 8 easy steps.

Step 1: Read the Care Label

It’s important that you spend a quick 60 seconds going through the care label before deciding on the washing method.

If the care label recommends machine washing, you are good to go, or else stick to the hand wash or spot cleaning method.

Step 2: Pre-Clean the Shoes

In order to dislodge the loose dirt and debris from the shoes, bang them together. Next, brush any dirt and mud off your shoes with an old rag or soft brush if they are too dirty.

Step 3: Pre-treat the shoes

The next step is to pre-treat the stained areas with a mild detergent diluted in a bowl of water.

Here’s how to do it.

  • Take a bowl and pour some water into it, followed by adding a teaspoon of mild detergent powder. Alternatively, you can also use liquid detergents.
  • Next, dip a sponge into the cleaning solution and blot the stained areas.
  • And then, start working on the stained areas using a soft microfiber cloth or soft brush.
  • The next thing to do is to clean the bottoms (soles) of the shoes with a toothbrush and some warm soapy water.
  • Once done with the pre-treating process, gently rinse the areas that you worked on.

Note: Make sure to remove the insoles and laces before starting this process. Shoes with laces should be washed separately from other items.

Step 4: Put the shoes in a pillowcase or mesh bag

This step is crucial because the bags will protect the shoes as well as the washer.

So, place the shoes in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase after separating the laces and insoles.

Step 5: Place the pillowcase or mesh bag in the washer

Simply place the pillowcase or mesh bag that has the shoes in it along with a couple of towels for padding inside the washer.

Placing towels in the washer along with a pillowcase or mesh bag containing shoes reduces banging during agitation.

Step 6: Set the Right Wash Cycle Settings and wash your shoes

The next and most important step is to set the right wash cycle settings.

Here are the ideal washing machine settings to wash your shoes.

  • Wash Type: Delicate or Gentle
  • Soil Level: Normal
  • Spin Speed: Low
  • Water Temperature: Cold
  • Pre-Wash: Not Needed

Once you have these basic settings in place, you can run the wash cycle.

Step 7: Remove the shoes and wash the laces and Insoles

Now, wash the insoles using the same settings.

Just put them in a mesh bag or pillow case and run the wash cycle.

Step 8: Dry your Shoes

The last step is to dry your shoes along with the laces and insoles.

It’s best to air dry your shoes naturally by either hanging them or laying them flat.

Note: You can put newspaper or tissue paper inside the shoes while drying to boost the drying process.

Also Read: How to Wash Allbirds Shoes?

How to wash shoes in the washing machine without a pillowcase or mesh bag?

It’s highly recommended to use a mesh bag while washing your shoes in the washing machine. If you don’t have a mesh laundry bag, simply use a pillowcase.

With that said, if you still wish to wash your shoes without using a mesh bag, you can simply separate the insoles and laces from the shoes and pre-treat them using mild detergent.

Next, place the shoes in the washer and set the washer to run on a delicate cycle with cold water settings.

While washing without a mesh bag, don’t forget to put at least 2 towels along with the shoes.

Doing this will help to prevent damage to your shoes as well as the washer.

Effectively hand washing shoes that are not machine washable

There are no special prerequisites or prep work needed to wash non-washer-friendly shoes.

With these types of shoes, there is only one option and that is spot cleaning.

Instructions to clean non-washer-friendly shoes

Step 1: Separate the laces and insoles from the shoes and hand wash them.

Step 2: Dilute vinegar or lemon juice with water and soak a cloth or soft toothbrush in it.

Step 3: Remove the stains from your shoes by gently working on the affected areas.

Step 4: Wipe the shoe with a dry cloth and let it dry.

Note: If you are spot cleaning leather shoes, you can use a leather shoe cleaning solution.

Dealing with specific stains or odors from shoes

To remove specific stains or odors from shoes during machine washing, follow these steps:

Pre-treat Stains

Before placing the shoes in the washing machine, pre-treat any stubborn stains.

Create a solution of mild detergent and water and gently scrub the stained areas using a soft brush or cloth.

Deodorize with Baking Soda

To eliminate odors, sprinkle baking soda inside the shoes before washing them.

Baking soda helps absorb and neutralize unwanted smells.

Use Vinegar for Odor Removal

For particularly strong odors, add half a cup of white vinegar to the washing machine during the rinse cycle as vinegar is highly effective in combating foul smells.

Separate Shoes

Wash shoes separately from other items to prevent any damage to the shoes or the washing machine.

Use a Mesh Bag or Pillowcase

Place the shoes in a mesh laundry bag or pillowcase to protect them and the washing machine from potential damage during the wash cycle.

Set Gentle Cycle

Choose a gentle or delicate wash cycle with low spin settings to prevent excessive agitation, which could damage the shoes.

Cold Water Setting

Always use cold water for washing shoes, as hot water can damage certain shoe materials.

Dry Properly

After washing, allow the shoes to air dry naturally.

Avoid using the dryer, as high temperatures may cause the shoes to shrink or lose their shape.

Stuff with Newspaper

While drying, stuff the shoes with newspaper or tissue paper to help them retain their shape and speed up the drying process.

Use Odor Absorbers

Once the shoes are dry, consider placing odor-absorbing products like activated charcoal or baking soda sachets inside them to maintain freshness.

Do not ignore the care label

Remember to always check the care label of the shoes before machine washing to ensure they are suitable for this cleaning method.

If the care label recommends against machine washing, follow the appropriate spot-cleaning or hand-washing instructions for that specific shoe type.

What type of shoe cleaners work best for pre-treating stains?

When pre-treating stains on shoes before machine washing, you can use gentle detergents that are suitable for the material of the shoes.

Here are some specific brand recommendations for gentle detergents:

Sneaker LAB Sneaker Cleaner

This cleaner is formulated to clean and refresh sneakers, making it suitable for machine pre-treatment of athletic and fabric shoes.

Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner

Known for its effectiveness on various shoe materials, this cleaner is a safe choice for pre-treating stains on a wide range of shoe types.

Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel

This gel-based cleaner is designed to clean all types of footwear, removing dirt and stains without compromising the shoe’s waterproof properties.

Final Thoughts

Machine washing your shoes can be a bit risky, especially if the care label has faded and you don’t know the correct approach.

So, if you are not sure about the right approach, stick to hand washing to be on the safe side.

Lastly, when you opt to machine wash your shoes, make sure that you use either a laundry mesh bag or a pillowcase.

For extra care, use a couple of towels. This will help to prevent any damage to your washer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a fabric shoe machine washable?

Shoes made of fabric can be cleaned in the washer in most cases. However, it is strongly recommended to read the care label before deciding on the washing method.

Can you put shoes in the washer and dryer?

Shoes should be washed in cold water and air dried naturally. Therefore, drying your shoes at high temperatures can cause them to shrink and damage them.

How to wash shoes in a top-load washing machine?

The process of washing your shoes in a top load washer is similar to washing them in a front loader. You should place your shoes in a laundry mesh bag and use a delicate cycle, cold water, and slow spin settings to clean them.

Can I machine wash canvas shoes?

Yes, canvas shoes can be machine washed as long as the care label recommends this method of washing.

What should you not wash shoes with?

When washing your shoes, it’s recommended to wash them alone and not mix them with other things. In general, shoes are hard and heavily soiled, so if you wash any other items along with shoes, there are chances that your shoes will damage the other item or get damaged.

Hemant Sarkar is a seasoned techie with a diploma in computer science and an impressive track record of over 15 years in dealing with speakers, kitchen appliances, and various home appliance-related issues. He is widely recognized for his exceptional expertise in repairing dryers and washing machines from all major brands. In addition to his appliance repair prowess, Hemant maintains engaging blogs on topics related to music and speakers. For any inquiries or assistance regarding appliances or tech-related matters, you can reach out to him at: hemant (at)