Pink hightop shoes in a washing machine show one way how to wash tennis shoes

How to Wash Tennis Shoes When You Aren’t a Shoe Company

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These days, good athletic shoes are engineered. Literally, they’re designed to improve speed, comfort, all sorts of things. So when if you’re thinking about washing tennis shoes, it’s important to use methods that won’t ruin them. Unless you’re a shoe company and want to sell more.

I practically live in my tennis shoes. Between walking my dog and sweaty afternoons at the gym, mine get shabby pretty fast. I wash my tennis shoes every month during the summer and every 2 months in winter, then I spot clean them as needed.

Hand-Washing Tennis Shoes

Washing your tennis shoes by hand isn’t much different from washing anything else. Since this is the most gentle method, I find it the best way to wash tennis shoes when they’re new.

1. Brush the soles of your shoes outside to get rid of loose dirt then remove the laces and insoles and set them aside.

2. Hand wash your shoes in a basin of lukewarm water with a small dash of dish soap or liquid laundry detergent.

3. Let them soak a few minutes, then use a brush to gently scrub stains on the interior and upper. Go over the sidewalls and soles, too. Repeat the same process with the insoles and laces.

4. To rinse, refill the basin with cool water and stir in 2 tablespoons of baking soda until it’s dissolved. Add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil for increased odor control. Let your shoes soak in this then blot them inside and out with clean, dry towels.

5. Dry your shoes inside and out with clean towels, then put them in a well-ventilated spot to air dry away from heat and sunlight. This can take up to 24 hours, so give them time before you wear them again.

Pro Tip

Heat is a no-no at every stage of washing and drying your shoes. Even the best tennis shoes are held together in places with adhesives which heat can weaken. It also can warp the midsole.

Machine Washing Tennis Shoes

Some types of shoes like those made of canvas, nylon or polyester can handle the rough and tumble of a machine washing more easily than others. Once mine get demoted from daily wear to lawn duty, I don’t think twice about machine washing them.

To machine wash your shoes, remove the laces and insoles and add them to a mesh bag. Put your shoes in separate bags or pillowcases tied at the top. Use a cold, delicate cycle and mild laundry detergent—no other laundry products. When the cycle ends, blot your shoes with fresh towels and let them air dry away from direct heat and sunlight.

Pro Tip

Keep your shoes smelling fresh between washing by stuffing them with newspapers to absorb sweat, or use homemade shoe deodorizers to eliminate bacteria.

When to Skip Washing

Not every kind of tennis shoe is washable, of course. Leather needs polishing with a matching shade. It’s even tricker to clean suede shoes.

And shoes with sequins, studs, or rope trim aren’t washable because water can damage the glue holding the decorations in place. Spot clean those shoes with a cool, soapy rag once you know they’re colorfast.

Spot Cleaning and Stain Treatments

Of course, just like clothing, the more often you wash tennis shoes the faster they’re going to wear out. So, if you only need to clean a spill or small mess, spot cleaning is the way to go.

  • Mud: Let it dry then brush off loose soil. Use a cool, soapy cloth to remove the rest and then wipe with a fresh damp cloth.
  • Ink: A little rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer on a cotton ball can get rid of ink stains on your shoes. Spot test first.
  • Coffee: Blot with a dry towel then with a cool, soapy rag. Wipe with a clean, damp cloth.

Now, remember when you were a kid and thought new shoes would help you run faster? Imagine all the great things you’re going to accomplish once you’ve washed your shoes to get them fresh as new.

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