From running shoes to basketball kicks, sneakers get dirty. But what’s the best way to clean them? While throwing sneakers in the wash may seem tempting, not all shoes and materials respond well. Read on for specialized techniques to safely wash different types of sneakers.

Should You Machine Wash Sneakers?

Before cleaning, first assess your sneaker’s makeup:

  • Canvas or mesh – Machine washable
  • Leather or suede – Hand wash only
  • Complex construction – Spot clean only

Check labels for washing guidance too. If unsure, default to spot cleaning.

Only sneakers made of hardy materials can withstand machine washing.

How to Wash Canvas Sneakers

For shoes labeled machine washable, follow these steps:

Supplies Needed

Washing Instructions

  1. Remove laces and removable inserts like insoles.
  2. Use a toothbrush with soapy water to clean the grooves around the edges and bottoms first. This prevents dirt transfer in the wash.
  3. Place in a mesh bag and zip closed to prevent damage and color transfer.
  4. Wash alone or with towels on cold gentle cycle with mild detergent and no bleach.
  5. Air dry only – no heat which can damage shoes. Stuff with towels to hold shape.
  6. Disinfect with sanitizer like Lysol Laundry Sanitizer before wearing again.

With some precautions, canvas sneakers can come out looking fresh and new.

How to Hand Wash Leather Sneakers

For leather shoes, avoid the machine entirely:


  • Soft bristle brush
  • Gentle leather cleaner
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Old toothbrush
  • Bath towel

Hand Washing Steps

  1. Mix leather cleaner with warm water per product instructions.
  2. Dip brush in solution and gently scrub upper, sides and soles.
  3. Use old toothbrush for creases and seam cleaning.
  4. Rinse leather thoroughly with clean wet cloth.
  5. Blot dry immediately with microfiber cloths. Never machine dry.
  6. Stuff with towels as shoes fully air dry to retain shape.
  7. Apply protective conditioner once fully dry.

With a delicate touch, leather sneakers can be refreshed safely.

How to Clean Complex Sneakers

For athletic shoes with multiple materials, surfaces, and moving parts avoid any immersion washing to prevent damage.


  • Multi surface cleaner
  • Small brushes
  • Old toothbrush
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Cotton swabs

Cleaning Steps

  1. Remove laces and inserts.
  2. Use appropriate small brush and multi surface cleaner for each shoe material – leather, rubber, mesh, plastic, etc. Avoid excessive water.
  3. Scrub crevices and grooves with an old toothbrush and small swab.
  4. Blot dry immediately with a microfiber cloth. Never soak or immerse shoes.
  5. Stuff shoes with paper or towels to retain shape as they fully air dry.
  6. Clean laces separately by hand in soap and water. Air dry laces laying flat.

Spot clean each sneaker section based on its material needs.

Sneaker Cleaning Tips

Follow these tips for the most effective shoe washing:

  • Pre-treat stains by scrubbing with soapy water before washing to avoid setting them. Rinse soap before washing.
  • Wash right after wear before dirt stains and smells set. Sweat and bacteria make cleaning harder over time.
  • Check labels for any washing guidance and follow exactly. When unsure, spot clean only.
  • Remove inserts and laces so inner areas get fully cleaned and inserts dry faster. Clean laces separately by hand.
  • Use old toothbrush to scrub crevices clean. Avoid neglecting hidden dirty spots.
  • Stuff damp shoes with towels or paper while drying to retain shape.
  • Condition leather after washing with shoe conditioner to restore suppleness.

With some smart strategies, you can get top notch sneaker cleaning results.

How to Sanitize Smelly Sneakers

Beyond dirt, sneakers easily absorb odor from sweaty feet. Remove stink by:

  • Sprinkling baking soda inside shoes overnight to absorb odors, then shake out residue.
  • Freezing shoes overnight – low temps help kill bacteria responsible for smells.
  • Using disinfectant spray like Lysol inside shoes between wears to prevent odors. Avoid heavily saturating.
  • Wear _ moisture wicking socks_ that prevent sweating and odor buildup in shoes.
  • Replace insoles periodically – these hold onto smells. Machine wash removable insoles.
  • Alternate shoe wears to give shoes time to fully dry and deodorize between uses.
  • Expose to sunlight – UV light kills odor causing germs.

Don’t tolerate smelly sneaker stench – banish it for good.

How Often Should You Wash Sneakers?

Only wash sneakers as needed, like when:

  • Noticeably smelly
  • Visibly dirty
  • Heavy staining
  • Worn in rain or storms
  • Muddy conditions
  • Exposure to chemicals
  • About once per season

Overwashing wears out shoes faster. Spot clean stains promptly and air out daily to maximize time between washes.

Sneaker Washing FAQs

Here are some common sneaker cleaning questions:

Can you put any sneakers in the washing machine?

Only shoes specifically labeled machine washable. Stick to spot cleaning for leather, suede, complex designs. Check labels.

Should you wash sneakers inside out?

No need to flip them inside out for washing. Just remove inserts so interior gets thoroughly cleaned.

Can I wash sneakers with bleach?

Avoid bleach which deteriorates fabrics and dyed parts of shoes. Use an oxygen cleaner if brightening is needed.

How do you dry leather sneakers?

Blot wet leather immediately after hand washing. Air dry fully while stuffed with towels before wearing again. Never machine dry leather.

What happens if you put sneakers in the dryer?

The heat destroys glues, warps soles, damages fabrics, and shrinks materials. Air dry only.

How can you disinfect smelly sneakers?

Spray with diluted alcohol or tea tree oil solution. Baking soda or freeze overnight. Use UV light. Replace insoles.

Don’t kick off your shoes in shame – revive them with proper laundering for footwear! Bring your dirtiest, stinkiest sneakers into Laundry Pile in Austin, TX.

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