Can You Wash Shoes In The Dishwasher?

By Cory White
Can You Wash Shoes In The Dishwasher?

When it comes to cleaning shoes, we often explore various methods. But have you ever considered using the dishwasher?

Washing shoes in the dishwasher is not a recommended practice as it poses particular risks and can damage both your shoes and the dishwasher. Instead, there are safer and more efficient alternatives to cleaning your shoes properly.

In this post, I will discuss the risks and dangers of washing your shoes in the dishwasher, offer alternative cleaning methods, and essential tips and insights to keep your shoes clean and fresh. Let’s go!

Risks and Dangers of Washing Shoes in the Dishwasher

Washing shoes in the dishwasher comes with risks and dangers that could lead to potential damage to both the shoes and the dishwasher. Some of these hazards include:

  • Shoe warping. The heat and water pressure inside the dishwasher can deform your shoes, leading to an uncomfortable or ill-fitting pair.
  • Discoloration. The dishwasher’s harsh cleaning process and detergents can cause colors to fade or bleed, spoiling the appearance of your shoes.
  • Breakdown of adhesives and materials. The intense environment inside the dishwasher may weaken the glue and other bonding agents used in the construction of your shoes, causing them to fall apart or become less sturdy.
  • Damage to the dishwasher. Shoes may contain small parts, such as eyelets or hidden metal components, which can scratch or clog the interior of the dishwasher, ultimately impacting its performance.

Why Dishwashers are Not the Ideal Choice

dishwasher heating element

Dishwashers, although highly efficient for cleaning kitchenware, are not an ideal choice when it comes to cleaning shoes. There are several reasons why dishwashers and their detergents can cause harm to various shoe materials, including leather:

Harsh Detergents

Dishwasher detergents contain strong chemicals that can be too abrasive for delicate materials like leather. These detergents can strip the leather of its natural oils and cause it to fade, crack, or stiffen over time.

Heat Drying Cycle

The high heat levels in the dishwasher’s drying cycle are not suitable for various shoe materials, including leather and synthetic components. Prolonged exposure to this intense heat can cause materials to shrink, crack, or even melt.

Water Pressure

The forceful spray of water used in the dishwasher may cause shape distortion in footwear, impacting comfort and proper fit. Furthermore, this pressure may be too intense for delicate materials like leather and suede, potentially causing irreparable damage.

Appropriate Alternatives to Dishwasher

handwashing shoes

Instead of using a dishwasher, there are more appropriate and safer alternatives to clean your shoes. By choosing the right cleaning method, you can preserve the quality and appearance of your footwear. Some of these alternatives include:

Washing Machine

For certain types of shoes, like canvas or fabric sneakers, a washing machine can be an effective method. Be sure to use a gentle cycle with cold water and consider placing the shoes in a protective laundry bag to prevent damage to both the shoes and the machine.

Hand Washing

One of the safest ways to clean most shoe types is hand washing. Using gentle soap and cold water, you can carefully and thoroughly clean your footwear without causing harm. This method is particularly suitable for athletic shoes and shoes with delicate materials.

Specialized Cleaning Products

For materials such as leather or suede, consider using products specifically designed for these materials. These cleaning solutions are formulated to be gentle yet effective, ensuring your shoes are cleaned without compromising their quality.

How to Wash Shoes Without Ruining Them

shoes being air dried

To wash your shoes without ruining them, it’s crucial to follow the proper methods and take the necessary precautions. Here are some steps and tips to ensure that your shoes stay in good condition while being cleaned:

  1. Determine the shoe material. Before washing, identify the material of your shoes, such as canvas, leather, suede, or synthetic. This will help you choose the right cleaning technique for that particular material.
  2. Remove dirt and debris. Begin by brushing off excess dirt, mud, and debris from your shoes, using a soft brush or cloth.
  3. Choose the right cleaning method. Based on the shoe material, select the appropriate cleaning method – washing machine, hand washing, or specialized cleaning products. Each method would need specific care, like a gentle cycle or cold water usage.
  4. Remove laces and inserts. Take out laces and insoles, washing them separately to ensure thorough cleaning and prevent any tangles or damage to the shoes.
  5. Use gentle detergents. When washing, use gentle, color-safe detergents that are compatible with your shoe material. For leather and suede, opt for specialized cleaning products.
  6. Dry naturally. Avoid using direct heat or placing your shoes in a clothes dryer, as this can cause damage. Instead, let your shoes air dry in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight.

Different Cleaning Techniques for Different Shoe Materials

cleaning leather shoes

Cleaning shoes effectively requires understanding and using the appropriate techniques based on the shoe material. Here are some guidelines to follow when cleaning specific shoe materials:


Use a soft brush or cloth to remove surface dirt, and then apply a leather cleaner with a microfiber cloth in a circular motion. Wipe away the excess cleaner and let the shoe air dry. Finish by applying a leather conditioner to maintain the material’s flexibility and softness.


Start by brushing off surface dirt and stains with a suede brush or eraser in a back-and-forth motion. Avoid using water, as it can cause damage. For stubborn stains, use a suede cleaner specifically designed for the material. Allow the shoes to air dry, and then re-brush the suede to restore its texture.


Remove excess dirt with a soft brush and then place the shoes in a protective laundry bag. Wash them in a washing machine on a gentle cycle with cold water and gentle detergent. Air-dry the shoes, in a well-ventilated area.

Additional Tips for Keeping Shoes Clean and Fresh

rotating shoes

Maintaining the cleanliness and freshness of your shoes is an essential part of shoe care. Here are some additional tips to help you effectively take care of your footwear and keep them looking their best:

  • Rotate your shoes. Wearing different pairs of shoes on alternate days helps them air out and reduces the accumulation of odor and moisture.
  • Use shoe trees or inserts.  Placing shoe trees or inserts inside your shoes when they’re not in use can help preserve their shape and absorb any moisture.
  • Spot clean quickly. Address spills, stains, and dirt immediately to prevent them from entering the material. This will make the cleaning process easier in the long run.
  • Store properly. Keep your shoes in a dry, cool, and well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. This will minimize the risk of fading, mold, and mildew.
  • Use odor-control products. To keep your shoes smelling fresh, consider using odor-preventing products such as sprays, insoles, or deodorizing balls.


To sum things up, washing shoes in the dishwasher is not a recommended practice as it poses particular risks and can damage both your shoes and the dishwasher. Instead, there are safer and more efficient alternatives to cleaning your shoes properly.

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