Is it Safe to Put Shoes in the Dryer?

shoes in the dryer

Ever wanted to clean a dirty pair of shoes but weren’t sure if it was safe for them to go in the dryer? Or can you remember a time you wore your favorite Vans and got caught in the rain? If you are worried about damaging them by drying them in your machine so you can wear them again the next day, you aren’t the only one. So I decided to dig deep into this topic and came up with this.  

So is it safe to put shoes in the dryer? The answer is that with the right technique and settings, most shoes are able to go into the dryer. However, it’s possible to damage your shoes or the machine if not done properly.

 Throwing a pair of heavy shoes right into the dryer can cause internal damage that can cost you a lot of money to repair. And throwing a pair of expensive shoes that aren’t meant to be dried can ruin the fabric permanently.  

How to Dry your Shoes the Right Way

dry your shoes the right way

There are a set of steps and precautions you should take when throwing your shoes into the dryer. For example, you shouldn’t actually throw your shoes into the dryer and just press a bunch of buttons. Specific settings to keep the shoes from shrinking are the kinds of details you will want to pay attention to below. Here’s a step-by-step list to make sure your shoes and machine come out alive. 

#1 Check the label in your shoes

look for shoe lables

Typically, there is a label inside your shoe that will offer information like what size dimensions it is, the materials used to construct the shoe, manufacturer origin, and so on. Look for the drying symbol, which simply looks like a square if you don’t know what it looks like.  

If the square has a circle inside it, then that means you can machine dry. If there is an X through the circle, that means you can’t machine dry. Some labels get more creative and offer the square with the circle inside and a dot inside that circle, which means dry on low temperatures.  

If there’s no label, don’t stress. I will list materials you can and can’t dry below.  

#2 Don’t forget the basics of normal drying

Just because you’re doing something out of the norm by drying shoes instead of clothes in your dryer doesn’t mean you can forget the basics. You wouldn’t want to go through the whole process to find out the shoes didn’t dry properly or come out the way you wanted.  

The Basics

  • If the article is soaked (either from washing or outside water), drain some of the water before putting it into the dryer. 
  • Remove the lint from the lint filter to keep the machine from having to work harder to dry your shoes and improve air quality.
  • Throw in some fabric softener sheets to make your shoes smell good. 

 It might seem like a lot of work for shoes, but if you’re going to take the time to machine dry them in the first place, why not do it right?   

#3 Fill your Machine and Shoes with Towels

Fill your Machine and Shoes with Towels

You don’t what your shoes to be tumbling around the machine at the risk of warping your shoes, or your dryer. Take large and small towels to fill the dryer to absorb the shoes just in case they do, in fact, get knocked around a little.  

Also, if you stuff small rags inside your shoes to help with the drying and help prevent any sort of shrinking while drying. Small things scarves or handkerchiefs, or even socks can be good alternatives for this.  

#4 Knot your Shoes and Hang them from the Door

Hang Shoes From Dryer Door

The best way to keep your shoes from slamming around inside is to tie your laces together, so the shoes are connected. Remove the laces from the shoe except for the last hole. You want to make sure that the laces are not tied in loops or bow ties like you would normally tie your shoes. This will result in an odd way of drying. Instead, knot them together at the ends of the laces.  

Now that they are tied together at the end, drape them inside the dryer, leaving some of the lace out of the machine, so you shut the door, and the knot can prevent them from dropping inside the dryer. It doesn’t matter whether you have a top-load dryer or a front-load dryer. As long as the shoes are hanging, it’s OK. 

#5 Put the Correct Settings On

You will want to set the dryer to the Air Dry setting. If that isn’t an option, put on your dryer to the lowest temperature. You definitely don’t want to overheat or over dry your shoes due to the fact that they will shrink while drying.  

The machine might have an automatic setting for 60 minutes. But it’s recommended that you check your shoes every 15 minutes. You’ll have to keep judging the dryness of your shoes because depending on how powerful your dryer is and how wet the shoes were, to begin with, it will help determine how long they take.  

Here’s a video of how I washed and dried my own shoes.

What Types of Shoes can you Dry?

Types of Shoes can you Dry

Drying your shoes in your drying machine can make life a whole lot easier. It’s quick and efficient and doesn’t require too much effort. If your shoe label does, in fact, say machine approved, then go ahead and think no more. But sometimes we aren’t lucky enough to have this, so here are the materials that are generally machine safe.  


Shoes that are made out of canvas are typically safe. The rough cloth-like material is most similar to tents or sails. Most times, they have a rubber sole and metal or plastic for the wholes to wind the laces in and out of. Canvas shoes are machine safe and the perfect example of a shoe made of canvas is Converse. Think about easily how high-tops bend in general. We don’t have to worry about the shoe warping because of its flexible nature already. 


With sustainability gaining more and more speed, consider Reebok’s organic cotton and corn shoes that came out in August of 2018. A lot of our shirts are made of cotton and easily going into the dryer, so shoes made of the same material are a safe bet. The one thing to look out for is cotton does shrink, so it is important to stuff your shoes to prevent this.   


Also, the materials you will see on the inside tags of your clothes are nylons and polyesters. A lot of running shoes have these blends due to their stretchy material. With nylon being a little less popular than polyester or cotton these days, it’s more used as a cross-blend to enhance comfort. If there is nylon in your product, a lower temperature is a must as some nylons melt easily. Polyester on the other hand is quick-drying but can be apt to shrink at higher temperatures. 

Materials you Cannot Put in the Dryer

Materials you Cannot Put in the Dryer

How many times have we disregarded washing instructions and ended up sorry we didn’t pay more attention? I know for sure I have. But on the other hand, there has been a handful of times where my stuff turned out OK, so instead of taking the time to hand wash and hand dry the valuables, I gambled, again and again, doing it the wrong way. 

What we don’t realize is that the first time we do something, we may not see the theory why we shouldn’t care for the item a certain way. Who cares if my shoes shrink a little? I will just stretch them out over and over again. Well, I learned over time we start to see the breakdown of materials. That’s why I want to go over the materials we can and can not put in the dryer and why.  


Taking care of your suede shoes dates back to the 1950s and possibly even further than that. There’s a reason why Presley, Perkins, and other artists sing about the iconic fashion and why ruining them would be a catastrophe. The truth is you have a pair of shoes that are suede and wet; you will want to care for them immediately.  

When suede gets wet and dries, it becomes stiff. If you dry your shoes in freezing temperatures outside, it can easily break off permanently damaging your shoes. On the other hand, if you dry your shoes with heat, it can also cause the suede to warp and crack. It’s recommended to air dry in the shade.  


Heat and leather are a definite no-go. When Leather gets hot, it can also warp as the materials relax and stretch in heat. If your leather shoes are losing their form and bouncing around in your dryer, you can expect wrinkles, creases, indents, and more. When the leather finally dries, it will have already taken on a different shape. And on top of that, it is possible with some leather shoes for the dye to run in extreme temperatures.  


A lot of sneakers these days are enhancing your comfort by having gel soles or foam. Whether it’s giving you more cushion or a bounce in your step, you lose this comfort when exposing these materials to heat.

Depending on the heat level you use foam soles may easily come apart in the dryer. The glue holding the sole will start to separate and as well as if you let your shoe thump around in the drum.  

Gel, on the other hand, is easy to understand that when it gets overheated, may melt and dry the way it’s been warped. This is obviously detrimental to running shoes or sneakers as we rely on specific forms of the sole for comfort. Heat can also cause the gel to harder and lose its bounce, becoming uncomfortable to walk on.   


Sequins_Sparkles_Delicates shoes

This one is something that can sneak up on us but makes a whole lot of sense when we step back and think about it. Plainly said if your shoes have sparkles, sequins, lace, or intricate things that can easily come off, they will.

That’s what makes the shoe special in the first place. So putting it in the dryer with forceful air and the potential to bang around a bit will ruin them. Consider air-drying instead.  

While there is a risk of damaging your dryer, you are more likely to run into the problem of ruining your shoes if they aren’t meant for machine drying. This defeats the whole purpose of drying your shoes if you won’t be able to wear them the next day. So take care of them by watching out for these materials.   

Potential Damage to the Machine

First and foremost, shoes without laces should not go in the dryer both for the sake of the shoes and for your dryer. There are several things that be damaged over time from your shoes, bouncing off the walls inside your dryer.

It’s not to say that the first time they go in that your machine will fall apart. Hopefully, your dryer is a little more durable than that. But the more banging that goes around, the more likely you are to dent the walls, break the motor, the drum belt, etc.  

Hopefully, you check to make sure you empty out your shoes before you throw them in. Especially if you went hiking and things like large clumps of dirt, rock, leaves can find their way inside.

Even just one rock slipping into the rim can cause the cylinder to slip off the pulley and burn out from trying to force the machine. And you certainly don’t want a rock to break the front glass if that’s the type of washer you have. 

What’s more likely here is that your shoelaces can get caught depending on what your dryer’s rim looks like. That’s if your shoes aren’t hung up properly like instructed. And another concern is if your sneakers are flying around inside, it can cause dents to the drum. Doesn’t sound like a big deal?

Well, the more warped the cylinder becomes, the more likely it’s going to start to bump into other parts of the machine inside, causing huge internal damage.   

The thing about drying machines is that typically when one part isn’t functioning, the whole thing can’t operate. And if it does operate chances are it won’t be for long as friction builds up inside and burns out whatever parts are trying to work. It’s easier to just take the time to do it right than risk an expensive mistake. 

Alternatives to Machine Drying

Alternatives to Machine Drying

If you aren’t on a time constraint, then consider skipping the tumbling machine for a less risky way or drying your shoes. Or, if you can’t use a machine because of the materials used to make your shoe, then these are safe and good alternatives for getting the job done.

Air Drying

This time air drying won’t be the setting on your machine but actually the real deal. Fresh air will do just fine if you don’t want to keep them inside.

As long as you can find a shady spot to avoid the sun because over time, the rays can discolor shoes. As long as it’s not below freezing out (hello icicles for shoes) or there’s no rain in the forecast, your pair will be just fine outside for a day.  

In Front of a Fan

There are two ways to do this. One is quite simple and requires little to no effort at all. And the second one is for the go-getters that have to go the extra mile.  

1)   This is almost comic how easy this is. Set the fan up and place the shoes in front of them. 

2)   Hang the shoes off the fan by making small “S Hooks” out of the wire from a clothes hanger.

From here, you will:

  • Cut out two 6-inch pieces of wire
  • Use pliers to bend the wire into an S
  • Hang the S hooks off the fan with enough space between them so each shoe can sit next to each other.
  • Make sure the hook doesn’t lean to far inside the fan to prevent damage.
  • Place the shoe on the other end of the hook with the inside of the shoe facing the blades inside the fan, so they dry properly.
  • Make sure the laces also do not get inside the fan to avoid damaging the shoe or the blade.  


Rice is one of the oldest tricks in the books when it comes to drying things out. Just like you can dry your waterlogged phone out, you can also dry your shoes in rice. Two ways to do this, so choose whichever you prefer.

The first is to fill a big container with a lid full of brown or white rice and simply put the shoes in and secure the lid. The second is to fill socks full of rice and tie off the openings, so the rice doesn’t spill out. Remove your insoles and put the rice socks in. This should take a few hours, depending on how wet the shoes were. 

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