7 Step for Washing and Drying Your Shoes [ 7 Easy Stain Removal Options]

Wash & Dry Shoes

If you’ve ever wanted to clean your shoe thoroughly, you may have been tempted to wash and dry your shoes using a washer and dryer. I remember doing this very thing with my tennis shoes when I was a teenager.

Sometimes it’s fine to wash your shoes and dry them in a dryer. You’ll need to be very careful about the type of shoe you wash and the setting you use on your washer and dryer.

It’s easy to think that shoes would be fine in the washer and dry, but they can also destroy them. I’ve had the experience of placing my shoes in the washer and then placing them in the dryer and somehow the shoes were stained and the soles started to separate from the shoe.

Steps for Washing and Drying Your Shoes

steps to wash and dry your shoes

These are the steps I took to wash and dry my shoes. This video details how I did it and how I cleaned my work shoes step by step.

Additional tips and cleaning methods are explained in the article, as well as all the steps outlined in the video.

8 Questions to Ask Before You Wash your Shoes

Cleaning your shoes can range from easy to difficult. Take a good look at your shoes and decide what you want to do. Here are some things to think about.

  • How dirty are your shoes?
  • Are their stains?
  • How clean would you like your shoes?
  • How much time are you willing to take to clean your shoes?
  • What materials are your shoes made of?
  • How much risk are you willing to take?
  • Is it OK if your shoes shrink a bit?
  • Is it OK if your shoes have some signs of wear?

When you’ve decided on how much time or how clean you want your shoes, this will help you plan for the steps you’ll need to take next.

Canvas shoes are good candidates for a washing machine. Leather shoes (article) are not a good candidate for the washing machine.

If your not sure if you should wash your shoes, think about how your shoes would survive completely emerged in water for a couple of minutes. Most synthetic materials, like you ones on running shoes, will do fairly well.

Your shoelaces and insole can be removed before washing your shoe. This can help speed things up and help clean them more effectively.


If your shoes have anything on them that is greasy, paint, gas, chemicals, or questionable materials, don’t place them in the washing machine. These types of items tend to persist and transfer. They might get on the next set of items washed in the washing machine.

Remember that your shoe fabric can shrink somewhat depending on the setting you use.

Washing Your Shoes

Get ready to wash your shoes by deciding if the laces and insole (article) will be removed and dumping out any sand or particles left on the inside of your shoe.

1. Remove Excess Dirt

remove excess dirt from shoes

If your shoes have excess dirt on them, wait for the dirt to dry and clap them together outside to help remove some of the dried-on dirt.

Get a shoe brush and remove the remaining dirt as much as you can. Having too much dirt in the washing machine will leave your shoes less clean or a nice dull dirty color.

When all of the dirt is removed you can check the soles for any dirt that is stuck. Use a stiff bristle brush or some tool to get into the crevices of the tread.

You can then pretreat your shoes by soaking them in water and a bit of laundry detergent for 30 minutes. After that, you can remove stains easier.

2. Remove Stains First

remove stains from shoes

Decide if you want to scrub any stains with an old toothbrush or fingernail brush. You can also pretreat the stains and wait a while before washing them.

For best results, you’ll need to scrub or blot your shoes thoroughly before washing to help loosen any stains. But for certain stains, you’ll need to blot not scrub.

7 Ways to Remove Stains

  • Soaking your shoes in water and detergent can help with protein stains and most others.
  • If you’ve got juice, eggsberries, blood, grass on your shoes, soaking them in water with an enzyme treatment can help.
  • For ink on shoes, try rubbing alcohol to blot the stain and repeat until the area is clean.
  • If you’ve spilled some wine on your shoes, try equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar to blot out the stain.
  • If you’ve spilled coffee on your shoes, try rinsing them off immediately. If not, soak them in water and detergent for as long as needed to help remove the stain.
  • If the stain persists try soaking your shoes in warm water and a spoon full of laundry detergent and one of white vinegar, or lightly rub the stain with alcohol and rinse with water.
  • If your shoes have an oil stain of different types, try using corn starch to soak up the oil. Wait for up to an hour and then try soaking the stained area with equal parts of water and vinegar.
    • Blot the area and see if the stain comes out. If not, you’ll want to avoid putting them in the washer and try hand washing to avoid cross-contamination.

Remove Your Laces

If you would like your shoelace to look really nice, make it a point to remove them and hand wash them.

You can soak them in water and detergent for 30 minutes to help remove more dirt and stains. Use a stain stick or other treatments if needed.

After the soaking, you can use a brush to agitate them or use your hand to scrub them together for a minute or two before rinsing.

Alternatively, you can wash your laces separately from your shoes put them in a mesh laundry bag.

Remove and Clean Insoles

I think it is best to remove your insoles. They can be fairly delicate and don’t get as clean when left inside the shoe.

Your insoles can be made of fabrics and foam. I would recommend soaking them in a solution of water and soap. If needed you can use a brush to scrub them lightly.

Insoles are not likely to get as dirty as the outside of the shoe. Since you may not want to wash them another method to try is to soak them with alcohol which will remove any bacteria and bad smells. Let them air dry and they will likely be ready to use fairly quickly.

If you want another method for deodorizing your insoles or shoes, try a mixture of half water and half vinegar and spray or soak them.

3. Protect Your Shoes While Washing

protect shoes in washer

If you’ve removed your shoelace and insole, then the next step to protect your shoe in the washer is to use a bag. You can buy a bag (Amazon Link) or use your pillowcase.

You’ll need to zip up or tie your pillowcase so it doesn’t open.

Place some towels or other bulky clothing inside the mesh bag or pillowcase, as well as the washing machine to soften any wear and tear on your shoes while the washing machine is working.

The towels will also help the washing machine more effectively clean your shoes.

4. Washing Effectively

washing shoe settings

The next step is to use the best setting for your shoes.

If you’re not too worried about your shoes but think shrinking might occur, then using warm water should be fine. Otherwise, use cold water and take it easy on the detergent.

Only use half or less of the detergent you would for a normal load. Use liquid detergent to ensure no detergent collects in the shoes.

Using a gentle cycle will help your shoes stay more protected, but if you don’t care too much about how your shoe looks, you just want them clean, try a regular cycle.

See if you can place the spin cycle on low. If you think you need a second rinse cycle, this might help get rid of excess soap.

Alternatives to Washing

Hand Washing

For fast results and the least chance of damage to your shoe, it might be better to wash everything by hand.

It will take some effort but will be quicker and you’ll probably end up with good results.

  1. Getting a scrub brush or toothbrush and soap or detergent is the first step.
  2. Place the soap and water in a container and mix well.
  3. Dip the toothbrush or scrub brush in the water and start scrubbing your shoes. Decide how much scrubbing is needed and how vigorously you need to scrub. (Don’t scrub too hard. Stains won’t come out without proper methods. See – Types of Stains)
  4. After you’ve scrubbed your shoes, all you’ll probably need to do is wipe them with a rag. If soap is still present you can wet a rag and wipe more thoroughly.
  5. Let dry. Since your shoes were not completely emersed in water, the will likely dry faster than when washed in a dryer.

Add Baking Soda

If your shoes are clean but the insole is smelly, one option is to use baking soda. Sprinkle enough baking soda inside your shoe and let it sit for 12-24 hours. You can get some smell out in a few hours, but the longer it’s in your shoes, the better.

Use Rubbing Alcohol

If you mix half isopropyl alcohol and half water and spray it on and inside your shoes, this will help kill bacteria and clean your shoe.

Spray or rub into areas to be cleaned and wipe off the dirt on the outside of the shoe. Let the spray soak in and dry naturally.

Use Vinegar

Try soaking your shoes in a large enough container of vinegar and water to accommodate your shoes. Use two cups of vinegar for every three gallons of water. Let your shoes soak in the solution for about an hour. Take your shoes out and let them dry out thoroughly.

Charcoal Inserts, Dryer Sheets, or Tea

If you’re looking for a way to get rid of odor without having to wash your shoes you could try a couple of options.

Charcoal insert

Use charcoal shoe inserts to absorb moisture and odors. You can buy these relatively cheap and when they start to lose effectiveness, just put them in the sun for several hours to recharge them.

Dryer Sheets

If you’d like a simple way to make your shoes smell good, try dryer sheets. Place a dryer sheet into each shoe and let them sit overnight.


After your done with your tea bag, reuse it. Clean it off first, by washing it under some water. Let it dry out thoroughly. Now that it’s dry you can place it in your shoe to start absorbing moisture and odor. The more you have the more effective it will be.

Drying Your Shoes

Most shoes will do well with drying on the line or in the dryer with the right settings. To ensure your shoes don’t get misshaped place newspaper inside them if you’re not using a dryer, and a shoe tree (Amazon Link) inside them after they’re finished drying.

Line Drying Vs Using the Dryer

If you want to get your shoes dried quicker you’ll want to opt for a warm sunny windy day. Since you most likely can’t control the weather, trying a dryer is a good option.

Heat on shoes will eventually start to cause the soles to separate. The glue that holds most soles together gets melted or soft and can’t hold the sole on anymore.

Using low heat in a dryer can be effective with some preparation.

Line Drying and Non Heat Methods

If you have the time, line drying your shoes is a good option for keeping your shoes in a healthy condition.

Placing your shoes in a place where you can get plenty of air, but not in cold conditions. Shoes can start to weather if left outside for too long. Try drying outside in warm breezy weather if possible. Don’t leave out in sun for long. Try to find a shady spot.

Don’t forget to open your shoes up so they can get the best air circulation and take out the insoles if you haven’t already.

A Newspaper

Place some newspaper inside the shoes while you dry them will help absorb moisture and help your shoes retain their normal shape.

Depending on conditions, your shoes will dry in hours to days.

If time is an issue, try one of the following methods for air drying.

A Fan

Get out your fan that blows air best. Place it in a warm area, preferably inside, and set it up on a flat surface. You’ll need to attach your shoes to a carabiner or hook and attach them to the front of the fan.

Make sure the shoelace (article) side is facing the front of the fan, so air can enter the shoe. This might take a while depending on the fan and your house temperature. The upside is there is no risk of shoe damage.

Your Window A/C Unit

Your A/C unit can also work, although you may not be able to attach your shoes to hang in front of them.

Make sure the fan is blowing and not the cold air. If your A/C a heat pump make sure the air is not too hot. About 105 degrees air temperature is plenty.

Set up your shoes with the shoes in an open position with the A/C facing the shoelaces, and so air can circulate inside the shoe.

A dehumidifier

Place the shoes in front of the dehumidifier fan and this will help them dry out faster than in humid conditions.


All you have to do with this method is stuff your shoes with newspaper. Ball up pieces of newspaper and push them firmly into the shoe. Replace the newspaper every couple of hours. This may take about a day. This may or may not be more effective than drying on the line outside depending on the weather.

A Towel

Some shoes will come out of the washer with little moisture. If that’s the case, try using a towel or old rag towel and stuff it inside your shoe to remove the excess moisture.

Roll your towel and stuff it inside your shoes, so that it has contact with all the inside surfaces as much as possible.

This helps the shoe maintain a normal shape and will usually only take a couple of hours to help shoes dry.


If other options are not available try rice. You will need a large enough bin to encase both your shoes. Place your shoes in the bin and add several cups of rice. Place the lid on top to seal everything in.

A plastic bag that is tied off with your shoes and rice can also work.

The rice will soak up the moisture in your shoes. It will take about 2 or more hours depending on the wetness of your shoes. A

5. Using the Dryer

dry shoes with dryerWhen you’re in a hurry, try using the dryer. But only use heat if you can risk that there might be some warping caused to your shoe soles. The heat over time can cause the glue to loosen and your sole to separate.

You can minimize or avert any damage by setting the dryer to low heat. If you wrap your shoes in a towel and place them in a mesh bag or pillowcase, this will soften the wear from tumbling the shoes and distribute the heat more evenly throughout the shoe.

In addition, try stuffing your shoes with dry socks to help your shoes retain their shape and possibly help them dry faster.

Setting the spin to low or gentle also helps prevent shoe damage.

Each shoe is made differently, so results will vary. Using caution with all the settings and the dryer timer will help mitigate any damage that might occur.

Another way to dry your shoes in the dryer is to place them in a mesh bag that fits over the dryer door. The shoes will sit on the inside of the dryer and straps will fit over the door.

The shoes will not have any contact with the hot metal dryer drum and still get enough warm air to dry quickly. It also reduces the wear or damage that may be caused by tumbling in the dryer.

Always make sure to put the setting on low heat to ensure your shoes don’t warp.

If you want, try the air fluff setting, where there is no heat. Your shoes can dry out but at a much slower rate, all depending on how wet they are.

6. Set a Timer

30 Minutes - Red Kitchen Egg Timer Next To A Windows And Flowerpots

Check your shoes regularly to see if they are dry. Setting a 30-minute timer is a good way to check on how well they have dried in 30 minutes.

Then you can determine how much longer you want to place them back in the dryer.

Hang Your Shoes

If you don’t have a mesh bag or don’t want to buy one, try a similar method. Tye your shoelaces at the end and place both knots on the outside of the dryer door, and close the door while hanging your shoes on the inside of the dryer door.

Your shoe will get dry in the same way the mesh bag helps out.

Shoe Dryer

A better choice than a dryer might be to use a shoe dryer device. You can buy these in several different types. It uses low heat and dries your shoes from the inside. You can use it inside and it helps to dry your shoes in about 3-8 hours. (Amazon Link)

Place your shoe over the plastic tubing, where the warm air comes out. For faster results get a shoe dryer device with a fan.

I like this option because I can use it after I run to remove any moisture from my shoe, or if my shoes get wet in the rain.

7. Insert Shoelaces and Insoles


Replace the shoelaces and insoles after you have cleaned them. I washed my shoelaces along with my shoes in the mesh bag it is used to wash my shoes. The laces did fine in the washer and on low heat in the dryer.

The insoles I washed separately. Insoles might do fine in the mesh bag with the shoes, but it seemed easier to wash them separately and avoid having any issues with them falling apart, etc. 

Thanks for visiting Helpshoe.com

Additional Questions

How do I dry my leather shoes?

It’s best to use gentle air-drying methods. You can try a shoe/boot dryer device for fairly quick results. Stuffing newspaper in and wrapping it around your leather shoes also works well. Don’t forget to condition them after they’re dried.

What’s the best method for keeping my shoes clean?

For leather shoes, conditioning them weekly will keep them protected from moisture and dirt. For leather, canvas, and synthetic materials, a water sealant will help keep moisture and dirt at bay. Wipe them down weekly.


I enjoy many types of outdoor activities including running, hiking, and walking. I was a former elementary school teacher for 17 years and now enjoy writing and sharing my love of the outdoors.

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