By: Alan
| August 10, 2020

Cleaning Sneakers – A How-to Guide

You spent a lot of time picking the right pair of running shoes. You want to keep them in tip, top shape and make them last as long as you can.  How do you wash running shoes? Can you throw them in the washing machine? Do they have to be hand washed? Should you scrub them with a toothbrush? What about the dishwasher? Can you wash running shoes in the dishwasher? Don’t panic! You’ve come to the right place. Here’s our guide on how to wash your running shoes.

How Often Should You Wash Running Shoes?

Running shoes are made to be resilient and to last through wear and tear on the road. This means that they are going to get dirty.  No worries, they are designed to get covered in mud and sweat. They don’t have to be kept sparkling clean. So, your shoes definitely don’t need to be washed every time that you run. You can generally wash your shoes every couple of weeks to once every month depending on how often you use them. However, there are a couple of situations where you should immediately wash your shoes.

Muddy Shoes

Wash your shoes if they are muddy. If your shoes are encrusted with dirt, that can change the traction of your shoes and potentially put you in harm’s way. Dirt and grime can slowly wear away at the fabric of your shoes. Damp and dirty shoes are also a good breeding ground for bacteria that can put you at risk for blisters or infections.

Smelly Shoes

Wash your shoes if they have a bad smell. Running shoes are designed to absorb moisture while you run, which means they soak up lots of sweat and oils from your skin. They also soak up whatever you brush up against on the pavement or on the trail: leaves, dirt, water, etc. Sweat and the warmth from your feet make the ideal place for bacteria to grow. The bacteria is what causes that funky smell. So, if you start to notice a smell, it’s time to wash!

How to Clean Your Shoes

The Dry Brush Method

After every run, it’s recommended that you do a quick shoe clean. When you take your shoes off, first knock off dirt by knocking or clapping your shoes together. Remove the insoles from your shoes and undo the laces. Then when your shoes are dry, brush them down.  You can use a shoe brush or even an old toothbrush. Brush over the upper part of the shoes and the outsole to get the dirt out of the nooks and crannies. This is a quick way to keep your shoes in good shape in between washes!

The Dry Wash

Do you want a fast way to freshen up your shoes? Spray them with some dry hair shampoo and let them sit overnight. The dry shampoo will absorb any odor-causing oils and make them smell good as new! You can even make your own. Mix up about a ¼ cup of cornstarch, ¼ cup of arrowroot powder, and about six drops of essential oils. Store this in a jar or plastic container. You can use a dry cloth or soft brush to apply the mix whenever and as many times as you need to!

Wash and Blot Method

Do you want to hand wash your shoes? After you have gone through the dry brush routine, the wash and blot method is a good way to hand wash your shoes. Mix warm water with a small amount of mild laundry detergent. Remove the laces and insole. Rinse them in the laundry detergent solution, clean water, and air dry them completely.  Take a soft brush and apply the soapy solution to the outside of shoes. Use a soft cloth to blot away the soap. Rinse your shoes with clean water. Let your shoes air dry at room temperature.  We don’t ever recommend putting your running shoes in the dryer or cleaning them with bleach. Harsh chemicals and heat can change the fit of the shoe, damage the rubber, and cause the adhesives to separate. If you want to speed up the drying process, you can also place the shoes in front of a fan. Are you worried that your shoes will lose their shape? Roll up some newspaper or hand towels and stuff them in your shoes. This will help them hold their shape and absorb moisture.

The Washing Machine

Can you wash your shoes in the washing machine? Will the washing machine ruin your expensive shoes? It really depends on the brand of your shoes. Some brands do not recommend using a washing machine to wash their shoes. So, how do you know? Check the tag. The tag is generally located on the tongue of the shoes. If shoes are safe to wash, the tag will say machine washable. If not, they will say something like “hand wash only.” If your shoes are safe to clean in the washing machine, what is the best way to wash them to keep them safe?

  • First, remove the laces and the insoles. Put your laces and insoles in a lingerie bag to keep them from tangling up with the washer.
  • Next, place a couple of towels in your washing machine to provide cushion for your shoes.
  • Set the washer to a cold wash, gentle cycle, and small load.
  • Pour in a mild laundry detergent, half a cup of baking soda, and half a cup of vinegar for shoes that smell and look fresh. Baking soda will help brighten your shoes. Vinegar will make sure to kill all of the bacteria causing odor.
  • When your machine has finished the wash cycle, remove your shoes, laces, and insoles. Lay them out somewhere to dry at room temperature. Make sure the shoes, insoles, and laces dry completely before you put them back together.

The Dishwasher

You may have read that the dishwasher is a good way to wash and disinfect your shoes at the same time.  It can be done, but we don’t recommend it. Dishwashing detergent is made up of chemicals that are harsh on shoe fabric. Dishwashers also get really hot. The drying cycle uses high heat that can ruin shoe leather, shrink your shoes, and also melt them! This is an easy way to destroy your hard-earned and invested money. If you are going to wash your shoes in the dishwasher, make sure you aren’t going to be upset if they end up wrecked. If you still want to attempt this, here are few tips:

  • Make sure your dishwater has a filter that is easy to get to and easy to clean.
  • Use a NO HEAT setting. Dishwashers are made to sanitize your dishes while they dry. Sanitizing your dishes means that the dishwasher gets really, really, really hot! Heat kills shoes!
  • Use a brush and detergent to scrub off any caked mud and rocks from your shoes.
  • Take out the laces and the insoles. They need to be washed by hand.
  • Check your dish detergent and make sure it doesn’t contain any bleach
  • Wash the shoes by themselves on the top shelf of the dishwasher.
  • After the wash cycle, remove your shoes and air dry them.
  • Clean out the dishwasher’s filter. Run an empty cycle to sanitize the dishwasher before you use it for dishes again.
 

Remember that many, many, many people have destroyed their shoes in the dishwasher. We just don’t want you to be one!

Tips to Keep Your Shoes Smelling Their Best

Washing your shoes can keep bad odors at bay, but you also don’t want to over-wash them. There are some things you can do to keep them smelling better for longer in between washes.

  • Don’t keep your shoes in a bag or box. Keep them out somewhere that they can get lots of air and dry out thoroughly between uses.
  • Remove your insoles after you run. Lay them somewhere flat to let them dry out completely between runs.
  • Unlace your shoes and loosen them up to maximize airflow while your shoes dry.
  • Wear sweat proof, breathable socks. A lot of socks are made out of cotton, but cotton socks aren’t the best for running. Even though cotton is a breathable fabric, it soaks up moisture and gets soggy fast. Many companies sell socks targeted at runners to prevent wet and sweaty socks. These socks are made out of wool and ant-microbial materials to keep water away from your feet and away from your shoes. This can help your shoes stay dryer.
  • Sprinkle medicated foot powder in your shoes to help keep them dry and bacteria-free.
  • Try sticking them in the freezer. Freezing your shoes kills smelly bacteria that can’t last in the cold.
  • Put dryer sheets in your shoes after you run. This is an easy smell-good solution!
 

With a good washing routine in place, you can help your shoes stay in their best shape, so you can get the maximum wear!