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How to Wash Sneakers With
and Without a Washing Machine

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May 24, 2024

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Today’s sneakers feature embossed leather, synthetic materials, and other innovative fabrics. The variety of materials makes keeping sneakers clean more challenging than it used to be. To keep your shiny sneakers shining, you’ll need to read the care label and learn how to wash shoes

Then, it’s a matter of understanding the materials and which cleaning methods and products are best. Because The Maids® cleans for health, we recommend using natural, eco-friendly cleaning solutions. Here are proven tips to help you learn how to wash sneakers to keep them clean and long-lasting. 

How to Wash Your Sneakers in the Washing Machine

Most cotton, nylon, or canvas sneakers can be safely cleaned in a washing machine. The manufacturer’s care label provides basic cleaning instructions but doesn’t cover all the details of how to wash sneakers. If your sneakers are made with leather, you can skip this part. Otherwise, use these tips for washing sneakers in a washing machine to get them looking brand new again. 

Disassembling Sneakers

Remove the insoles and shoelaces. Put the laces in a bowl with equal parts distilled white vinegar and water. Let them soak for an hour, then rinse the laces and let them air dry. Use a nylon brush to wash the insoles with warm water and dish soap. Rinse the insoles until the water runs clear. Squeeze out the excess water and let the inserts air dry.

Sneaker Damage Control

Sneakers aren’t cheap, so anything you can do to help them live a long life is a solid investment. Learning how to wash sneakers in a washing machine correctly means protecting your sneakers and washer. Shoes bouncing around in a washer can damage the appliance—and give your sneakers a beating! A mesh laundry bag is inexpensive and ideal for washing sneakers in a washing machine

Pre-cleaning Sneakers

Do your washing machine a favor and pre-clean those dirty sneakers before throwing them into the wash. Clumps of dirt, gravel, and other debris can cause damage to your washer and your shoes. Use a stiff-bristled nylon brush to remove dirt and debris from the uppers, then flip to the soles. Remove caked-on dirt with your brush, rinse the soles, then dry them with a cloth. 

Pre-treating Sneakers

Whether you’re learning how to wash sneakers in a washing machine or by hand, removing grass stains, grease, and other stains is a priority. All you need is baking soda and warm water to tackle stains on sneakers. To make a thick paste, mix baking soda with warm water. You can use your fingers to rub the paste into the stain, and then remove any excess residue. 

Machine Washing Sneakers

The label you read earlier will likely recommend cold water to prevent faded colors and warped fabric. If you use a safe and natural homemade detergent, you won’t have to worry about bleach, fragrances, and toxic chemicals. Add a cup of white vinegar to the washer and wash the sneakers on a gentle cycle.

How To Wash Your Sneakers Without a Washing Machine

Sneakers made with specific materials can’t be machine-washed, so learning how to wash shoes without a washing machine is vital. Most sneakers made with suede, leather, vinyl, and certain types of rubber should be hand-washed. You’ll use many of the same methods and products from above, except the washing machine! Here’s how to wash your sneakers by hand. 

Disassembly and Damage Control

Remove the laces and let them soak in white vinegar and warm water while you continue cleaning. Use a nylon scrub brush, warm water, and dish soap to clean the insoles on both sides. Don’t use hot water because the heat could damage the inserts. Rinse the shoe inserts, squeeze out the extra water, and let them air dry. 

Pre-cleaning and Pre-treating

Use a stiff brush to remove dirt and debris from the uppers, then work on the soles. You don’t need to wipe them down with a cloth but remove all the caked-on dirt. If your sneakers are stained, use baking soda and water to pre-treat them. Wait 10 minutes before washing the sneakers to let the baking soda break down the stain.

Hand Washing Sneakers

Use only warm water and a few drops of liquid detergent as your cleaning solution. Gently scrub the uppers with a soft-bristled brush, then scrub the outsoles and soles. A toothbrush will help remove dirt from tight spaces. Use a damp microfiber cloth to remove the cleaning residue and dirt. Most sneakers made with canvas, cotton, or synthetic materials can be sprayed in the kitchen sink for a more thorough rinse. 


Knowing how to wash shoes is quite an accomplishment, so don’t ruin your handy work by using your dryer. Like hot water, the high heat in a dryer can damage the fabric and other materials. It can also break down the glue holding everything together! Letting your sneakers dry outdoors on a warm day will move the air-drying process along. Indoors or out, stuffing newspaper into the wet shoes will help dry them even faster. 

How to Maintain Sneakers Between Washes

Learning how to wash sneakers in a washing machine or by hand should make you proud when you finally see the results. Now that your sneakers are bright and clean, why not keep them that way longer with a little maintenance? Taking a couple of minutes after you take off your shoes for the day is all it takes. 

Daily Maintenance

Brushing off dirt with a soft brush outside is ideal, but you can do it over a trash can. Use a damp microfiber cloth to remove marks and stubborn dirt on the outsoles and soles. Remove the insoles and let them air out overnight. 

Stain Control

Like other stained items, it’s best to clean your sneakers as soon as possible. White vinegar or a baking soda paste will remove most sneaker stains. A baking soda paste is an excellent stain remover, especially for white shoes. You can use a Mr. Clean® Magic Eraser for scuff marks and stains on rubber outsoles. 

Safe Storage

If you’ve never thought much about how to store shoes when you’re not wearing them, we get it. But have you checked out the price of shoes lately? To help preserve your sneakers, use the original box or a shoe container to protect them from dust and dirt. 

The Maids: Keeping Dirt From Sneaking Up On You Since 1979

Now that you know how to wash sneakers, what’s next? Whether you use our DIY cleaning guides or healthy cleaning services, The Maids is your partner for a cleaner home and shinier shoes! Discover the difference professional maid service can make when you get your free custom cleaning quote today.

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