How to Wash Tennis Shoes

Get the most bang for your buck by learning how to wash tennis shoes or sneakers. You can hand or machine wash, depending on the material.

Tennis shoes get a lot of wear and tear. Over time they accumulate dirt that keeps them from looking their best, but you can bring them back to life in a few simple steps.

How to Wash Tennis Shoes Or Sneakers

Here are the best ways to wash tennis shoes.

How to Wash Tennis Shoes or Sneakers in the Washing Machine

Most fabric tennis shoes or sneakers can go in the washing machine. Check the care label on your shoes for specific instructions before you start.

If you have leather or suede tennis shoes, don’t put them in the washer. Instead, you can hand wash, which we’ll cover below.

Step 1: Prepare the Shoes

Before washing, scrape as much mud off the shoes as you can. Use a spatula or soft-bristled brush to remove dirt without causing damage. 

After you’ve scraped dirt, remove the shoe laces and insoles. (Some insoles are not removable. If yours won’t budge, leave them be.)

Step 2: Clean the Insoles

If your shoes have removable insoles, it’s time to freshen them. If they don’t, skip to the next step. 

Clean your insoles with baking soda and water. Doing so will help remove dirt and deodorize.

  • Fill a bowl with water
  • Add a tablespoon of baking soda and stir
  • Dip a cloth into the mixture and use it to wipe the insoles
  • Next, wipe the insoles with a cloth dampened in water only
  • Set aside to dry

Step 3: Spot-Treat Stains

Use a laundry stain spray or towelettes to treat stains before placing your shoes in the washer. The earlier you treat stains, the better success you’ll have. 

Step 4: Wash the Shoes and Shoelaces

Place your tennis shoes and shoelaces in a pillowcase with a zipper or a mesh laundry bag. Wash them on the regular cycle with warm water and your choice of laundry detergent. 

If you’re using a top-load washing machine, add a few towels. Not only will this balance the washer, but it will provide scrubbing action.

Step 5: Air Dry

After washing, remove the shoes and pat off excess moisture with a white towel. 

Place your shoes on a rack to air dry. If you want to use your dryer, go for the “air-dry” setting. Depending on heat and humidity levels in the home, it can take about 24 hours for tennis shoes to dry.

How to Hand Wash Fabric Tennis Shoes

No washing machine? No worries. You can clean your fabric tennis shoes by hand washing them. Here’s how.

(Use this method for fabric tennis shoes only – not leather or suede.)

Step 1: Prepare the Shoes

Knock mud off the shoes using a plastic spatula or soft-bristled scrub brush. Then remove the shoelaces and insoles. (If the insoles don’t budge, they aren’t removable. Let them be.)

Step 2: Wash the Insoles

If you have removable insoles, fill a bowl with water and add a tablespoon of baking soda. Wipe the insoles with the mixture and rinse using a microfiber cloth dampened in water. Set them aside to dry.

Step 3: Wash in a Sink, Bucket, or Bathtub

Fill a basin with warm water and a couple of teaspoons of laundry detergent. 

Important tip: Be wary of using a colored laundry detergent on white shoes. If you go overboard, it will be hard to rinse the detergent. All you need is a couple of spoonfuls.

Submerge the shoes and shoelaces. Then, use a soft-bristled brush (like an old toothbrush) to scrub away stains.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

Rinse well with cool water. Pat excess water off the shoes using a white towel. Then set the shoes on a rack to dry.

If you have a dryer with an “air-dry” setting, you can use it to speed up the process. But don’t dry your shoes with heat since it can cause warping. 

How to Wash Leather Tennis Shoes

Putting leather shoes in the washing machine can cause cracking. The good news? Cleaning them by hand is easy.

Step 1: Knock Dirt off the Shoe

Use a soft-bristled brush to knock mud off the shoes.

Step 2: Wipe with a Damp Cloth

Dampen a microfiber cloth and wipe the shoe until you’ve removed most dirt.

Step 3: Spot Treat Stains

You can use a Magic Eraser to remove stains or baking soda mixed with water for scrubbing action.

Tip: I use the Pink Stuff Miracle Paste to clean my white leather tennis shoes and make them look brand new with little effort. To use it, add some to a paper towel, wipe your shoes, and then rinse off with a damp cloth. (Spot test first to ensure it doesn’t cause scratches.)

Tips for Tennis Shoes Cleaning 

  • There’s no set frequency on how often to wash tennis shoes. Wash them whenever they start to look too dirty for your liking.
  • If you deal with athlete’s foot, treat the inside of your shoe with an antifungal spray often. Doing so will also help reduce bad smells.
  • Replace stained shoe strings. A new set of shoestrings will improve the look of your tennis shoes.
  • Speed up drying by placing the shoes outside if it’s sunny. If it’s cold out, put the shoes in a room with a fan, heater, or dehumidifier.