Simple Ways to Give Dirty Shoes the Boot

I have only owned my new sneakers for a month. But they look like I’ve had them since high school. I’m not sure if it is because I wear them 19 hours a day / 7 days a week, or if it is because I live in a rural area with lots of mud and dirt. Either way, they are gross, and I need them looking good again.


I remember the expression on a friend’s face when she saw me pull my sneaks from the washing machine. “You wash your tennis shoes?” Why not? They get clean, don’t they? And you too can clean your shoes the same way you clean any other washable garment. Just follow these simple rules for best results:


Know your materials – Most tennis shoes can be washed in a washing machine. (Shoes that contain suede leather or cheaper versions of pleather should probably avoid the washer.) For an idea of how they will hold up in the wash, wet an inconspicuous area with a wet wash rag and some liquid dish soap. If it dries looking funky, they weren’t meant to get wet.


Know your machine – Shoes are best washed on the shortest cycle with cold water and a regular amount of laundry soap. Some people swear by adding a little BIZ or some stain-lifting additives, but it’s not really necessary.


Skip the dryer – I know that it is possible to dry some shoes on a tumble-dry low heat setting and not ruin them. But why risk it? Since the only types this really works well on are canvas or cotton types, just settle for air drying. Putting some wadded up newspaper into the toes of the shoes and then setting them out for a day is the most carefree method.


Help the drying process, if you must – What if you don’t have a day to wait? Shoes can be placed next to a dehumidifier with the toes pointing up. If you don’t have a dehumidifier, put the shoes on their side in your refrigerator next to the bottom vent. (The fridge condenser removes water.)


Some other tips:


If you absolutely are not convinced that washing your shoes in the washer is the way to go, consider using a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to remove grime on the outside of the shoe. (Whitewall tire cleaner also makes a splendid shoe cleaner.) If it’s more an issue of odor that you’re concerned with, just remove the shoe insole and throw those in the wash. (Or replace them completely with new insoles containing odor guard.)


Don’t ever place shoes in the dishwasher. Never try drying them in the oven. And if you wear Etonics (yeah, I know… some of us have actually owned a pair) never, ever dry them. You will end up with something like this:

mangled sneaks

It's easy to give your kicks a good washing now and again, and with the proper care, they can look great for years!

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Andrea Karim's picture

I wash all my athletic shoes in the washer AND dry them in the dryer with the dog towels. I think they actually last longer this way, because they smell a LOT better. Sure, they're a little tight for a while, but after that, just clean and stank-free.

Linsey Knerl's picture

My hubby wanted me to emphatically mention NOT TO DRY baseball caps.  His somehow magically end up in the dryer... and they never fit on his noggin again... LOL

Guest's picture

I just would never have the balls to wash month old shoes. I use conventional shoe methods during the "useful" life of the shoe (approx. 6 months to 1 year), then consider washing the shoes. Basically, I don't do it until the decision is wash them in the washer, or buy new shoes.

And for sanity's sake, a top loading washer is better than a front-loader for this, to avoid the rhythmic banging as they roll around.

Guest's picture

after you have washed your shoes - shove baking potatoes into them while they dry. this is also a good way to enlarge one or both shoes, i have one foot that i a smidgen larger than the other, so i soak my new shoe and shove a potato into it to widen it.

Guest's picture

I always wash my sneakers. Never pay more then $20 for a pair. It is true that you get what you pay for, but you can find quality sneaks at Payless or Walmart. I like to buy skateboarding shoes for $20 a pair. For some reason, they look expensive. I receive complements all the time. Here are my current pair of kix:

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Myscha Theriault's picture

Hey Linsey, if you can snag it while it's wet, turn a small to medium sized saucepan upside down on your counter and put the handle through the space between the plastic sizer and the hat. Stretch the hat down over the top and arrange to straighten out wrinkles. Let it dry naturally this way. That's how my Mom used to dry my Dad's Dickies hats that he wore with his work clothes . . . when he wasn't wearing a hard hat that is.

Linsey Knerl's picture

You may have saved my marriage yet!  LOL

Myscha Theriault's picture

It's all about the little things, isn't it? You know, the sandals we bought for the around the world trip were of washable leather. The brand is called Keen, I think. We tossed them in the washer a few times. They came out fine. Didn't dry them, though.