Tips on How to Clean and Wash Your Shoes

Updated on November 13, 2019
ReuVera profile image

I used to wonder why my shoes deteriorated in the washer. I've since discovered tricks to keep them clean and in shape.

I used to hand wash my clothes, socks, and underwear, and would only use the washing machine for bedding, curtains, and towels. Now, I put everything into my washing machine. I even throw in my sport shoes. If you want to do the same, the following tips will help your shoes last longer and keep their shape!


How to Clean Your Shoes in the Washing Machine

If your shoes are not too expensive, if you don't really care about the shape, and if they are very dirty and foul-smelling, then you can throw them into your washing machine.

  • Before you toss them in the machine, check the material. Only wash them if they are made of cotton, nylon, or polyester. Do not wash them if they are made of satin, silk, leather, or suede.
  • Take the laces and insoles out. Insoles can be ruined in water. You may wash the laces with your regular laundry, but put them in a small mesh bag to prevent tangling.
  • Pull out the tongue. (Not yours—the tongue of the shoes!)
  • Place the shoes in a mesh bag or in a pillowcase. This will make it easier on the drum of your machine.
  • Set your machine to a gentle cycle and use cold water. Use your regular detergent.
  • After taking them out of the washer, wipe them with paper towels.
  • Stuff the shoes with paper towels to preserve the shape. Replace the paper towels when they are soaked.
  • Dry the shoes in a well-ventilated room or in complete shade. Never put them in the sun.
  • Reinsert the insoles and put the laces back on when they are completely dry.
  • Sprinkle a bit of baking soda inside the shoes to keep them smelling fresh.

Additional Tips to Keep Your Shoes Clean

  • If your shoes have nylon or mesh tops, you can periodically spray them with a silicone spray. This protects them from accumulating dirt and also makes them water-resistant.
  • If the upper is made of smooth leather, try using shoe creams or polishes. Before polishing, remove dust and dirt with a damp cloth. Wait for the shoes to dry before polishing.
  • If the upper is made of suede leather, regularly brush it with a soft brush or a dry rubber sponge to wipe away dust. If there are stubborn stains, remove them with a commercial stain remover for suede. Do not immerse suede shoes in water.
  • All other types of shoes (or ones that are very dirty) may be hand washed in cold water with a mild detergent.

How to Hand Wash Your Shoes

  1. In a large bowl, mix cold water with fabric detergent (approximately 4 cups of water and 1tsp of detergent). Use mild detergent.
  2. Clean the bottom of the shoes, including the sides. You may use a toothbrush to clean the grooves. If the water gets too dirty, replace it.
  3. Remove the laces and the inserts.
  4. Pull out the tongue.
  5. Wash the laces. Squeeze them to remove excess water and hang them to dry.
  6. Wet a soft brush or a small soft rag in the detergent water. Tap the brush or wring the rag to remove excess water. Gently clean the upper. Then you can clean the tongue. Repeat until the upper is clean. Spot clean any areas that require additional attention.
  7. Clean the inserts the same way.
  8. Wipe the shoes with paper towels.
  9. Stuff the shoes with paper towels to preserve their shape.
  10. Put the shoes on a waterproof surface to dry and replace the paper towels when they get soaked.
  11. Never put shoes to dry under direct sunlight.
  12. Put the inserts and laces back on when everything is completely dry.
  13. Sprinkle some baking soda inside the shoes. It will keep them smelling fresh.

Never Put Your Shoes in a Drying Machine

Never use a drying machine to dry your shoes. It might melt the soles.

The best way to extend the life of your shoes is to clean them on a regular basis to prevent dirt build-up. Regularly wipe your shoes with a wet cloth and brush dry dirt off of them. This way, you won't have to heavy wash them.

How to Take Care of Your Skechers Shape-ups

In an online forum I found a while back, two people wrote that they washed their Shape-ups in a washer, and their shoes did not shrink and or lose their shape. However, one lady said that she also used the washer, and her Sketchers were completely bent out of shape. Sketchers generally uses plastic materials on the front and bottom of their shoes. If you put them into a washing machine, the structure and form may change. So if you decide to wash your dirty Shape-ups in a machine, do it at your own risk and follow the care tips I've provided above.

Questions & Answers


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      • ReuVera profile imageAUTHOR


        6 years ago from USA

        Well, neoprene in itself is a water resistant material, it doesn't "breathe" so moisture accumulates and evaporates slowly unless you work to eliminate it. Bacteria and other microorganisms from your feet can generate odors in those moist conditions. Just rinse your sandals often with pure water or with a weak soap solution, not much soap, just a little bit. If your shoes are really stinky, use some deodorizer solutions, which you can buy in shoe stores. After you washed the shoes, shake off water very well, then stuff your sandals with fabric towels, or paper towels or even newspaper. If you wish, you may use a hair drier, or put the sandals out into wind, but not in the direct sun. It is easy to clean neoprene/rubber shoes, just do it often.

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        I have two pair of Skecher's sandals. They are made of neoprene and rubber. They have a terrible odor from perspiration on my feet. What do you suggest to get rid of the odor?

      • thelyricwriter profile image

        Richard Ricky Hale 

        8 years ago from West Virginia

        I always wash mine by hand. I appreciate the tips. This is a very useful article. I agree with Powerpoe1. They don't make things like they use too. Everything is made with cheaper materials so companies profit more. My Nike shoes use to last for years, now I am lucky to get one. Great hub. Voted up!

      • profile image

        Agefellow Gamunorwa 

        8 years ago

        please I need formulations for making self shine shoe age fellow polishes all colors of leather shoes.please post your suggestions on this e-mail,

        thank you for your ideas and participation.

      • Powerpoe1 profile image


        8 years ago

        Thanks for the tips! Things made today,is not the same quality as in the past. I don't care how much you pay for it.~ The Good Ole Days!...bring them back~

      • mysisters profile image


        9 years ago

        Great Hub. The best thing to use is Oxy Clean. It works great!

      • Alternative Prime profile image

        Alternative Prime 

        9 years ago from > California

        Great tips,

        We all know how difficult it can be to keep shoes clean and then to remove the dirt or other material once they get all messy. Excellent Hub containing really useful info.

      • jeremysharon profile image


        9 years ago

        value of clean shoes

        clean and need shoes a showing personality of human being and importance to clear the shoes. So you have to use best quality of detergent with your hand and washing machine. Your shoes clean means your identify also clear.

      • ReuVera profile imageAUTHOR


        9 years ago from USA

        I always wash my good shoes by hand. I throw into a washing machine only shoes that are not too expensive and those that will not last long any way.

        Thank you, girls, for reading and commenting.

      • sheila b. profile image

        sheila b. 

        9 years ago

        These are good tips. I especially like the ones for washing by hand.

      • sjk6101983 profile image


        9 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

        Here's a little trick my grandma told me works for white dress shoes, even though you wrote about Shape-Ups from Sketchers: try vaseline around the shoes, put the shoes on a chair, and let them dry for a day. I don't know who told her it, but it does work.


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