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Washing sneakers is much more difficult than simply wiping down leather shoes – the mix of synthetic materials, textures and laces attract dirt, so keeping them clean requires a bit more effort and care.

Despite this, and unlike the rest of your shoes which are probably leather or suede, most sneakers can withstand tumbling and puck hits. However, the first thing to do is read the laundry symbols on the sneakers and maybe look online to see what the brand recommends on how they should be washed. And keep in mind that there are some that still require the gentleness of hand washing, depending on the exact material and type of dirt accumulated on your shoes.

“Not all materials are safe to be washed in the washing machine. For example, rubber, suede or vinyl sneakers may not react well to the harshness of the washing machine or laundry detergent,” explains Sarah Dempsey, cleaning expert at My Job Quote. (opens in a new tab). “Nylon, cotton, and polyester shoes are generally much more durable and likely won’t be affected by the washer.”

Here we walk you through the steps of washing sneakers to keep yours looking like new.

Wash sneakers in the washing machine

If your sneakers don’t have any leather parts and can be machine washed, here’s what to do.

1. Wipe off as much mud as possible

Before tossing your dirty sneakers in the washing machine, be sure to first remove the dirt and anything stuck to the soles with a soft brush and then a damp cloth. This helps to ensure that any unnecessary dirt or grit does not enter the washing machine.

2. Take out the soles and laces

Remove parts that can be removed to ensure the sneakers are properly cleaned inside the washer. This includes the laces, which should be soaked separately in a solution of Oxi Clean White Reviver (opens in a new tab)or put them in a wash that matches your lace color – using a mesh laundry bag (opens in a new tab) to keep them together and untangled, and your washer protected.

3. Layer them with other clothes

You don’t want your sneakers or even your washing machine damaged. Loading them with other items, such as old towels, will help protect both. Use mesh laundry bags like these from Amazon (opens in a new tab) will keep your sneakers together in the washing machine, minimizing the risk of damage to them or your washing machine.

4. Wash sneakers in cold water

While it may be tempting to wash sneakers on hot, using cold water for washing, or at least on the coldest setting, will ensure their colors don’t fade or shrink. or do not shrivel up.

“Some washing machines have a built-in mode specifically designed for washing shoes,” says cleaning expert Sarah Dempsey. ‘If yours has one, make sure you select that appropriate washing option. Hot water can affect shoes by warping them or discoloring them, so you should always wash shoes cold.

Using liquid detergent is preferable to using powder, as the liquid dissolves well, while the powder can get stuck in the crevices of the shoes.

How to wash sneakers by hand

Hand wash sneakers in a bowl

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If your sneakers have leather parts, it is much safer to wash them by hand.

1. Remove the laces, wipe off the mud

Remove laces and insoles from dirty sneakers before wiping off as much mud as possible from the bottom and top.

2. Gently brush and wipe the outside of the sneakers

Now put some liquid detergent in lukewarm water and use the solution to work on the synthetic parts of the sneakers with a soft brush – a toothbrush and a soft cloth will do. Start with the least dirty areas of the sneakers before moving on to the dirtiest parts.

Rinse sneakers and repeat with clean water and more detergent if needed. Really stubborn stains can be treated with Vanish Oxi Action Gel (opens in a new tab), then rinse again. Mr Clean magic erasers (opens in a new tab) can be used to remove scuff marks on rubber parts of sneakers.

“For small scratches, especially on suede or leather, we recommend borrowing your child’s eraser from their school bag. Using small, circular motions, gently apply the eraser to the affected area to buff away scuff marks, buffing away any debris with a clean cloth when complete,” says Luke Goodyear, Operations Manager at Shoe Cleaning and Restoration Service, Shoe Lab. (opens in a new tab) for Sports Direct (opens in a new tab).

‘For areas that have suffered more damage, take your baking soda from the kitchen and mix 1-2 tablespoons with enough lukewarm water to create a paste consistency. Once the paste is ready, apply to a cloth and rub gently on the affected area. Once you are happy with the surface, use a damp cloth to go over the area and remove any excess paste.

For the leather parts of the sneakers, avoid getting them too wet. You can do this by replacing the brush with the soft cloth alone – a microfiber cloth (opens in a new tab) (these are Amazon’s best values) is ideal, but be sure to constantly refresh the hot water/non-biological detergent mixture so you don’t get dirty water into the leather.

Tackle Velcro? “Velcro fasteners can get accumulated with dust, hair, string, grass and other delicate objects,” says Luke Goodyear. “One way to remove them is to grab your tweezers and pick out any obvious bits of dirt, before using a comb or an old toothbrush to remove any other dust or debris. You can also use a small wire brush to remove dirt from the Velcro.’

“If your shoes are suede, they should be kept out of water. A suede brush is the best way to clean suede sneakers,” says cleaning expert Sarah Dempsey. [Ed: this is Amazon’s most highly rated suede brush (opens in new tab).] “This is a type of brush with very soft bristles that help remove dirt, scuffs and water spots without compromising the shoe. Gently brush your suede shoes with the suede brush in different directions until the stain is removed.Once you have finished cleaning the shoe, you will then need to brush all of the suede in one direction to help preserve the fuzziness of the material.

3. Clean the inside of sneakers

“A lot of people tend to focus on the overall look of shoes and forget about cleaning the inside, which is crazy,” says Shoe Lab’s Luke Goodyear.

“One way to fix this is to apply a mild soap, such as washing up liquid, to a damp cloth and work it into the inner shoe. It’s important not to saturate the shoe when doing this, so be sure to give the rag a good ringing before you begin and to air dry the shoes for at least 24 hours before putting them back on.

How to dry sneakers

Line drying sneakers

(Image credit: Alamy)

1. Do not tumble dry them

Only sneakers that air dry. Put them in the dryer and the heat might melt some rubber parts and shrink the shoes.

“It’s not recommended to use the dryer to dry your sneakers as it can warp them. It’s always best to let them air dry,” says Sarah Dempsey, cleaning expert at My Job Quote. you need your sneakers to dry quickly, wrap them in old towels and place them in the dryer on a very gentle setting. This will help them dry quickly and the towels will help keep them from getting damaged.

2. Do not dry them in the sun

You can dry your sneakers outside but away from direct sunlight, otherwise the colored parts may fade.

3. Don’t let them stay wet for too long

Drying sneakers indoors? Stuffing them with newspaper and changing them when they start to get damp is a good way to speed drying because the paper absorbs most of the excess water. Placing them on a high shelf in a room where there is a heated dryer or dehumidifier will help dry them out without damaging them. Or you can try our bed sheet hack that quickly dries clothes indoors.

Can I wash my Nikes in the washing machine?

As with any branded shoe, there are usually tips on the website with cleaning tips. Nike, along with other well-known brands, will not recommend cleaning the sneakers in a washing machine, instead advising you to hand wash them and let them air dry.

How to wash sneakers in the washing machine so as not to damage them?

To machine wash sneakers so they don’t get damaged, first check the washing label, which may simply advise you to wash them by hand. If you’re going to machine wash them, put them in a mesh laundry bag with other clothes to prevent them from being thrown into the washer, which could damage them and the drum. Use a delicate wash cycle and a cold or cold wash, and also keep the cycle short. Let them air dry.


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