How to Clean Smelly Sneakers in the Washing Machine
Oct 05, 2023
By Andrea BarnesAug. 11, 2023
If you break into a cold sweat when you’re asked to remove your stinky sneakers at the airport or a friend’s house, it could be time to rethink how you treat odor in your shoes.
Here’s how to wash away the stench by using your washing machine →
Before you start, confirm that your sneakers will tolerate being machine-washed. This mainly comes down to the materials your sneakers are made of — cotton, polyester, and canvas are all washer-safe. Experts generally agree that washing machines are better for odor removal than for stain removal. Try to remove tough stains, such as mud or motor oil, by hand before resorting to the washing machine.
Begin by removing the laces from the shoe — this will help ensure that all of the grime washes away. Using a small scrub brush, remove any excess dirt or gunk from the soles.
Place a small amount of abrasive all-purpose cleaner (we used Soft Scrub) on the non-fabric parts of the shoe (sole, toe, heel), and use a microfiber cloth to wipe away any stains.
If the fabric insoles of your shoes are removable, remove them. Place the insoles, laces and shoes into a mesh garment bag to minimize the noise of the tumbling shoes. You can add two towels to the washing-machine drum for further muffling. To help fight odors and enhance cleaning, add a tablespoon of oxygenated bleach (we used Dirty Labs) directly to the machine.
Choose a delicate cycle to gently wash your shoes. The slower spin cycles (or sometimes no spin cycle at all) also help reduce noise. Select the coldest temperature available for the wash. A cold cycle will still remove odors, as modern laundry detergents contain enzymes that work regardless of water temperature. Add a liquid detergent to the machine’s dispenser, which dissolves better than powder in cold water.
After the wash cycle ends, don’t throw your shoes in the dryer. Air-drying your sneakers is a better approach, as glues, rubber and foam used to make shoes are generally temperature-sensitive. Air-dry outdoors, on the ledge of an open window or in front of a fan. Avoid drying shoes in dark and damp areas where mildew can flourish, lest you undo your efforts.
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