How to Clean Sneakers

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If you're looking for how to wash trainers, they most likely need to be washed. Although trainers - and footwear in general - do not require as much cleaning as clothing, regular wear does result in shoes that look (and smell) less than pristine.

Think twice before putting your trainers through the best washing machine. If you do it incorrectly, you will destroy them; and if you were washing them because they were faulty and you were hoping for an exchange, be aware that putting them in a washing machine will almost certainly void your warranty. You should also take care not to damage your washing machine (more on that later).  

Fortunately, with a little know-how, you can restore your trainers to new condition.

sneakers in a mesh bag loaded into a washing machine - amazon

(Image courtesy of Amazon's Vivifying)

Expert advice on how to clean trainers

The most important thing to remember is that learning how to wash sneakers is not the same as learning how to do laundry in general.  

To begin, you must understand the material of your trainers. Experts at Bosch (Opens in a new window) explain that'shoes made from animal products, such as leather or suede, can sustain water damage if washed in a washing machine'  

'On the other hand, trainers made of synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester are more durable and can thus withstand multiple washes in a washing machine. '

Second, you must decide whether washing trainers in the washing machine is appropriate for you or whether hand-washing is preferable. Canvas and other solid fabric trainers are generally safe to wash. However, if your trainers are made of mesh or have a highly textured finish, hand washing may produce better results.  

How to Wash Trainers in the Washing Machine

The big question now is how to wash trainers in the washer. If you insist on washing them, we recommend first checking whether the manufacturer recommends it (Nike and Adidas generally do not).

If you get the thumbs up, the biggest mistake you can make is to just sling them in.  

You must first prepare them - as well as the washing machine. Here's how:

  1. Remove the laces first, then any dirt, stones, or anything else stuck to the soles with a soft brush and a damp cloth. Why are you doing this? A stray pebble can ruin a washing machine, and the cleaner the trainers go in, the cleaner they come out. Persil's experts (Opens in a new window) 'Getting rid of as much dirt as possible from the start will prevent any of it from seeping further into the fabric or making your washing water too muddy.' '
  2. Next, fill the washing machine with old towels or jeans, and place the trainers in a machine-safe shoe bag. (Opens in a new window) This will lessen the impact of the trainers on the drum of the washing machine. To minimize damage, use a delicate cycle and a slow spin speed. Can't seem to find a trainer bag? Instead, a cloth bag with a tie closure will suffice. If you don't have a shoe bag, you can leave the laces in the shoes and trap them as you close the door. This, too, will prevent the trainers from slamming into the spinning drum.
  3. You want to be safe. After removing surface dirt, mix washing detergent with warm water and gently brush it into the trainers, beginning on the insides and working your way out to the soles. Refresh the water and detergent mixture before tackling the uppers of the shoes. Wipe away any excess with an e-cloth. (Opens in a new window)  
  4. It's also important to remember not to dry your trainers in a tumble dryer. Unless you prefer your shoes to be two sizes smaller and misshapen. Instead, air-dry them in a warm, dry, and - if outside - shady location (we'd only put them in direct sunlight if they're all-white). A dehumidifier will help speed up the drying process; otherwise, stuff the trainers with paper (and replace it with fresh paper every couple of hours).
  5. After all that, the trainers are still stinky. Sprinkle baking soda inside and set them aside overnight. Shake them out the next day, and you should be good to go.

Very dirty trainers will occasionally leave marks on your washing machine drum. Don't worry, these are temporary; you simply need to learn how to clean a washing machine afterwards.  

When washing trainers, don't use a lot of detergent in your washing machine. They produce an excessive amount of foam, which can cause your washing machine to malfunction in the middle of the cycle. Use about one-third of the amount of detergent you normally use, preferably powder rather than liquid.  

blue trainer washed with a brush - pink miracle shoe cleaner

(Photo courtesy of Pink Miracle shoe cleaner)

Hand washing trainers

How to Safely Wash Trainers Hand washing is by far the best method, for both your trainers and your washing machine.

Here's how to hand-wash trainers:

  1. Make a paste with a small bowl of bicarbonate of soda and a little water. You can also use a low-cost whitening toothpaste.  
  2. Work the paste into the trainers, both inside and out, with an old toothbrush or (clean) shoe cleaning brush. Leave for a few hours. Use a stain removal powder like Vanish Oxi Advance for tough stains. (Opens in a new window) or a paste like Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner (opens in new tab)
  3. Fill your bathtub halfway with warm water; vigorously rinse the sneakers in the tub, aided by water from the tap or shower.
  4. Wring out your trainers as much as possible (this is easier with flexi-sole or knitted shoes). Air outside in dry weather for at least two days – 72 hours is preferable.  

white plimsolls tennis shoes hanging up on line - GettyImages-122667282

(Photo courtesy of Getty)

How to Dry Sneakers

Now that you know how to wash trainers without ruining them, we'll show you how to dry them. As with washing, read the care label to determine the best course of action.

It's uncommon to find a pair of trainers that can be thrown in the dryer without consequences, so we'll err on the side of caution and recommend hanging your shoes to air dry, avoiding direct sunlight to maintain color. If you don't have access to the outside, hang them in a warm, dry place with a window open. Use our buyer's guide to find a great clothes airer.

Laundrapp's Professionals (Opens in a new window) 'If you're in a hurry to wear them again, try stuffing them with clean paper towels to absorb the moisture,' they add. ' 

Is it necessary to wash my sneakers on the cold cycle?

Not really You've probably heard that trainers should be washed on cold, but this isn't entirely correct. In fact, a cold wash is unlikely to remove stubborn stains. In general, if your trainers are white, you can safely wash them on a 40°C cycle. If they are brightly colored or dark, keep them at 30°C.  

Can Nike trainers be washed in the washing machine?

Nike advises against washing their sneakers in a washing machine. However, we have - with mixed results. The main issue with washing Nikes in a washing machine is that they won't necessarily come out cleaner than before. This is especially true for the Flyknit collection and anything made from texture fabric. These are best washed by hand.  

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