How to clean shoes in the washer (without ruining them)

Casual shoes are washer-friendly... with these tips.

Alina Bradford CNET Contributor
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
2 min read

After a good machine wash, these shoes look almost as good as new.

Alina Bradford/CNET

Stepping in a mud puddle doesn't mean you need to handwash your shoes. You can get them clean quickly in the washing machine, instead. There are some important tips to follow to keep your shoes from falling apart in the washer, though. Here's what you need to know.

What shoes to wash

Some shoes are perfect for machine washing while others aren't. Canvas and pleather (fake leather) casual shoes are best, typically.  

Leather shoes are a no-go in general unless they are already beat and you don't mind if the upper is creased. Skip machine washing more formal shoes like heels and don't try this trick with boots.


If your shoe has any black scuffs around the sides, go over the area with a damp magic eraser sponge. Sometimes the washing machine has a tough time removing these types of stains, but they come right off with a little sponging. Here's how to make your own magic eraser sponges to save some money. 

Add some cushion 

Next, put your shoes into the washer drum, evenly spaced around the edges. In the middle, put two large bath towels. This will cushion the shoes as they bounce around in the machine.

Pick the right settings

Many tennis shoes, slip-ons and runners are constructed by gluing pieces together. So, be extra careful with the washer settings to prevent shedding your shoes. 


  • Warm water setting to prevent cracking or melting of the glue
  • Gentle cycle to softly swish the shoes clean
  • Extra rinse to remove any soap residue

Finishing up

Finally, add just enough laundry soap for a small load and skip the fabric softener. It can leave a residue that may attract dirt to your freshly washed kicks. 

Once the load is done, smooth out any crinkles in the fabric with your fingers. Then, stuff the shoes with balls of newspaper. The newspaper will help them dry in the proper shape and will absorb excess moisture. 

Do not put your shoes in the dryer. You'll want to air dry them, which could take a few hours, but be patient. 

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