How to Wash Shoes in Washing Machine Without Mesh Bag

Are your favorite sneakers, running shoes, or casual kicks looking a bit dingy? Don’t worry – you don’t need to spend a fortune replacing them or taking them to an expensive shoe cleaner. With the right technique, you can wash shoes in the washing machine at home and get them looking fresh and clean again. And the best part? You don’t even need a special mesh bag or shoe washing accessory.

Washing shoes in the washing machine may sound risky, but it’s actually a simple and effective way to deep clean canvas, mesh, cloth or other washable shoes. As long as you take a few precautions, your shoes should come out spotless without getting damaged in the machine. Here’s everything you need to know about how to wash shoes in the washing machine without a mesh bag.

How to Wash Shoes in Washing Machine Without Mesh Bag

Benefits of Machine Washing Shoes

Before we get into the step-by-step process, let’s go over some of the key advantages of cleaning your shoes this way:

  • Convenience – Tossing shoes in the wash is much easier than hand washing them or spot cleaning.
  • Deep Cleaning – The washing machine’s agitation, hot water, and detergent will remove embedded dirt and stains that are hard to get out otherwise.
  • Save Money – Paying for specialized shoe cleaning can add up. Machine washing at home is very cost effective.
  • Refresh Old Shoes – Breathe new life into worn but still wearable shoes by getting them truly clean.
  • Control Over Cleaning – You can customize the wash cycle, temperature, and cleaning products used.

Can All Shoes Go In the Washing Machine?

Not all shoes are meant to be machine washed. The general rule is that you can wash shoes made from materials like:

  • Canvas
  • Mesh
  • Cloth/Fabric
  • Some leathers (check care instructions first)

You’ll want to avoid washing shoes made from materials that could get damaged by the agitation and moisture, such as:

  • Suede
  • Certain dress leathers
  • Foam
  • Rubber

If a shoe has excessive glue or adhesives holding it together, it’s also better to skip the washing machine. When in doubt, check the care tag or manufacturer’s instructions. It’s also a good idea to spot test an inconspicuous area of the shoes first before doing a full machine wash.

Here are some examples of common shoe types and whether they are generally machine washable:

Shoe TypeMachine Washable?
Canvas SneakersYes
Mesh Running ShoesYes
Leather Dress ShoesNo
Suede BootsNo
Cloth FlatsYes
Rubber Rain BootsNo

How to Prepare Shoes for Washing

Assuming your shoes are machine washable, follow these steps to get them ready:

  1. Remove Laces & Insoles
    • Take out the laces and removable insoles/inserts from the shoes.
    • The laces can be washed separately in a small mesh bag if needed.
    • The insoles should be replaced after washing the outer shoe.
  2. Brush Off Dry Dirt/Debris
    • Use a shoe brush or old toothbrush to remove any caked-on dirt and debris from the outsoles and uppers before washing.
    • This will prevent the debris from getting ground in further during the wash cycle.
  3. Treat Tough Stains
    • For any set-in stains, make a baking soda paste with water and use a soft brush to gently scrub the paste into the stain before washing.
    • You can also try using a small amount of pre-treatment stain remover.
  4. Check Pockets
    • Make sure to empty out any loose items or unwanted objects from the shoes.

Bonus Tip: Use a Washing Machine Cleaner

If your washing machine is on the dirtier side, consider using a washing machine cleaner before running the shoe wash cycle. Residue and grime in the machine can potentially transfer to your shoes. This Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner is highly rated and septic safe.

The Washing Machine Method

Now you’re ready to wash! Here’s the recommended way to clean shoes in a standard washing machine without a mesh bag or specialty accessory:

  1. Choose the Right Cycle
    • Select a delicate or casual wash cycle with cold water.
    • Avoid using very hot water which could cause shrinking, fading, or warping of shoes.
    • The delicate cycle will provide enough gentle agitation to get shoes clean without being too rough.
  2. Wash in Small Loads
    • Only wash one or two pairs of shoes at a time, along with a few small, towel loads to balance out the machine.
    • Washing too many pairs together could cause them to beat against each other and get damaged.
  3. Use Liquid Detergent
    • Powdered detergent can leave residue inside the shoes.
    • Stick to a mild liquid detergent and only use about half the recommended amount to avoid over-sudsing.
    • non-toxic detergent is ideal for shoe washing.
  4. Skip Bleach & Fabric Softener
    • Don’t use chlorine bleach, which can discolor shoes.
    • Also avoid fabric softener, as it can cause materials to yellow or leave behind a coating.
  5. Add Towels for Cushioning
    • Put a couple of thick, clean towels or rags into the machine to act as cushioning and help balance the load as it spins.
  6. Wash on Gentle/Delicate
    • Run the gentle or delicate cycle with cold water.
    • Warm water may cause shrinking or bleeding of dyes.

Drying and Refreshing Shoes After Washing

Once the wash cycle is complete, you’ll want to make sure your shoes get fully dry and fresh again before wearing:

  1. Air Dry
    • Remove the damp shoes and inserts from the washing machine and stuff the toe boxes with wadded up paper towels or clean rags. This will help maintain the shoe’s shape as it dries.
    • Set the shoes out to air dry at room temperature away from direct heat or sunlight.
  2. Rotate Positioning
    • Every few hours, rotate the shoes to expose a different side to the air. This will ensure even drying.
  3. Replace Laces & Insoles
    • Once totally dry, replace the clean laces and inserts before wearing the refreshed shoes.
  4. Deodorize if Needed
    • If shoes are still holding onto any funky odors after washing, try sprinkling some baking soda into the insides and letting it sit overnight before shaking out prior to wear.

Drying Tip: Use a Fan or Dehumidifier

To speed up drying time, position a fan to blow air directly into the shoes. Or, place the drying shoes in a room with a dehumidifier running to pull moisture from the air more quickly.

Tips for Machine Washing Shoes Safely

Now that you know the basic process, keep these additional tips in mind for the best results when washing shoes without mesh bags:

  • Use a Front-Loading Machine – Front loaders tend to be gentler than top loaders during the spin cycle.
  • Wash Colors Separately – Don’t mix light and dark colored shoes to avoid dye bleeding.
  • Skip the Dryer – Never put shoes in the dryer, even on air dry setting. The heat can cause warping, shrinking, and over-drying of materials.
  • Clean Machine Afterwards – Wipe down the machine tub after washing shoes to remove any leftover dirt or debris.
  • Only Wash When Very Dirty – Don’t wash shoes too frequently, as it can cause premature breakdown of materials.
  • Be Gentle – Avoid overstuffing the machine or using harsh, lengthy cycles that could be too tough on shoes.
  • Use Cold Water – Hot water can potentially cause shrinking, fading or other damage. Stick to cold water on a delicate cycle.

With the proper techniques and precautions, washing shoes in the washing machine without specialty accessories is definitely possible for many types of casual shoes. Just be sure to sort shoes appropriately, use the gentle cycle, and allow them to air dry thoroughly afterwards. Your sneakers, flats, and other machine-washable kicks will be looking their best again in no time!

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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