How to Dry Shoes in the Dryer

How to Dry Shoes in the Dryer

Every so often, it will become necessary to wash and dry your shoes. While there are many ways to do this, putting your shoes in the dryer is one of the fastest and easiest ways to dry them. However, if you’ve done any research online, you’ve probably seen advice that tells you not to use your clothes dryer. What’s the deal with how to dry shoes in the dryer, then?

Well, as long as you do it properly, it’s possible to dry your shoes in the dryer. That being said, we still don’t recommend you do it with delicate shoes or shoes you care about, but if you need dry shoes yesterday, your clothes dryer won’t let you down! In this article, we’ll teach you how to dry shoes in the dryer so that you’re less likely to damage them, along with several other tips and tricks.

Check the Label

Before you do anything else, the first thing you should do is check to see whether your shoes’ manufacturer says they can go in the dryer or not. If your footwear has a label that says this, it is most likely on the inside of the tongue or heel. The symbol for drying is a square, and tumble drying is a circle within a square. If either of these is crossed out, you shouldn’t put the shoe in the dryer.

The care label on a shoe isn’t a perfect translation of what’s safe for the footwear, but it’s an excellent place to start. However, there are many different symbols to know, so make sure to research these symbols thoroughly before attempting to machine wash or dry your shoes.

Safe Fabrics

If you can’t find the shoe’s care label or the shoe doesn’t say anything about drying, some fabric awareness can help you decide how to dry shoes in the dryer instead. If your shoes are made of a majority of any of the following, they should be safe to send through your tumble dryer:

  • Nylon
  • Canvas
  • Polyester
  • Cotton

However, avoid any natural, animal-based fabrics, like leather or suede. While this seems self-explanatory, these materials will dry too much in a tumble dryer and could crack or peel.

Dryer Settings

Some modern dryers will come with the convenience of “air-dry” settings. These settings are ideal for drying shoes or other non-tumble items. However, while these settings will help you, they’re not required to dry your shoes in the dryer.

If your machine doesn’t have an air-dry setting or anything similar, use a delicate, cold, or low setting. If your appliance has independent temperature settings, turn them down as cold as you can to prevent shrinkage and damage.

Placing Shoes Safely in the Dryer

Understandably, it’s not the best thing to let your shoes bounce around independently in your dryer. Not only does this constant bouncing damage your shoes, but it can scuff the inside of your dryer, too. However, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to overcome this if you know them ahead of time!

Placing Shoes Safely in the Dryer
Placing Shoes Safely in the Dryer

If your dryer has a drying rack in it, first of all, you should use it to dry your shoes. A drying rack should be a removable or collapsible shelf inside your dryer drum that can hold certain things (like sneakers). However, if you don’t have a drying rack in your clothes dryer, don’t give up just yet!

If your shoes have laces, tie the laces of both together at the ends in a large, loose knot. Then, shut your dryer door with the knot hanging outside of the dryer. If your dryer closes, this will suspend your sneakers against the door of the dryer, drying them with cold air while keeping them from bouncing around. While this is a somewhat inefficient method of shoe drying, it should get the job done faster than open-air drying.

If your shoes don’t have any laces, though, you may be in for a bit of a dilemma. You can always throw your footwear in a dryer-friendly laundry bag with some towels or other clothes to keep them from bouncing too much, but it could still result in damage. Whether you choose to tumble dry them at this point will be entirely up to you. A shoe bag or set of connected suction cups can accomplish similar things and are available on the market today.

Alternative Drying Solutions

Sometimes, you may not be sure what your shoes are made of, you may not have the items to dry them safely, or you might not trust the drying process. Fortunately, there are many other ways to dry your shoes that don’t require the use of a tumble dryer! If you need an alternative shoe-drying solution, check out the methods we list below.

1. Newspaper for Drying

Wrapping your shoes or stuffing them with something absorbent is a popular and effective way to dry your sneakers. Usually, people tend to use newspaper because of its availability and absorbency, but you can also use other things like:

  • Rags or towels
  • Fabric scraps
  • Socks
  • Old shirts or pants
  • Microfiber cloth

However, be careful not to wrap your shoes in something and leave them for too long, as this can actually keep your footwear wet and eventually result in mold growth.

If you do use this method, make sure to leave your newspapers or towels on for a night, then remove them promptly the next day. If your shoes are still wet, you may want to consider following up with another method or repeating the process.

2. Outdoor Drying

If you don’t have any well-ventilated areas for drying your shoes in your home, the next best thing is to dry them outdoors. As long as it’s not rainy or humid outside, your footwear will benefit from the fresh air, wind, and sunlight that it’ll experience outdoors. While the outdoors isn’t as predictable from a humidity and temperature standpoint, your shoes will generally dry faster outside on a beautiful day than they would inside.

Outdoor Drying
Outdoor Drying

However, be careful about leaving your shoes to sit in the sunlight. While leaving your shoes to sit in the sun will help them dry faster, it also carries the risk of warping or discoloring your footwear. If you plan to leave your shoes out in the sun, do so sparingly, or leave them to dry in the shade instead.

3. Use a Fan

When you cannot or will not dry your shoes outdoors, using an indoor fan is the next best thing. Using an indoor fan coupled with a well-ventilated indoor area is the safest way to dry your shoes, though not the fastest. Dehydrating your footwear with a fan will keep them from fading in the sun or warping their shape.

If you have a freestanding fan handy, bend a coat hanger and use it to hang your shoes in front of the fan to maximize drying potential. If you don’t have a freestanding fan handy, you can try using the vents from things like:

  • Your home’s furnace
  • Your refrigerator
  • Your computer
  • Any other air-blowing machine in your home

The fans we listed above won’t be as useful as a real fan, but they’re better than letting your shoes dry in stagnant air. Just be careful not to compromise the integrity of any devices by blocking their fans!

4. Use Heat

Heat is another quick way to dry off your footwear when you need them right away. However, do keep in mind that if you choose to dry your shoes with heat, you run the risk of warping their shape, especially if you let them get too hot. However, if you heat them very carefully, your shoes should dry faster than they would in cold air.

A space heater works best for this purpose, but you can use all manner of things, such as radiators, a ductless furnace, or any appliance that gets warm to the touch. Something that forces out hot air works best, but even leaving your shoes on a heated surface can help them dry off a bit quicker.

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5. Use a Rice Bath

You’re probably already familiar with the trick of using a rice bath to get the moisture out of your smartphone. The moisture-wicking properties of rice can be put to use for shoes, too! For this method, find a Tupperware container (or any airtight container with a lid) that will fit your shoes inside. Pour about an inch of brown or white rice in the bottom of the Tupperware, then lay your shoes inside on their sides.

The amount of time your shoes need to spend in the rice bath depends on how wet they were to begin with. If they were soaked, you might need to leave them there overnight, but if they were only damp, a few hours might be sufficient.

6. Shoe Dryers

Believe it or not, machines exist on the market specifically for drying shoes! These tube-like devices work by forcing air inside of your shoes, and they work for other garments like gloves and socks, too. Usually, shoe dryers are only owned by professionals with perpetually wet shoes, but if you find yourself frequently needing to wash and dry your footwear, it may be worth considering purchasing one.

Shoe Dryers
Shoe Dryers

Shoe dryers come in many different types. While the machine we mentioned before is one type, non-mechanical shoe dryers, ostensibly filled with water-absorbing ingredients, also exist. You can buy these reusable inserts for much less than you’d need to spend on a machine, though whether they’re as effective remains to be seen.

7. Cat Litter and Baking Soda

Cat litter and baking soda are two moisture-wicking compounds that can help dry your shoes quickly and easily. However, it’s not a good idea to pour them into or onto your shoes, as you’d have to rewash them after! Instead, fill a pair of old socks with baking soda or cat litter, tie off the tops, then stuff the stockings into your damp shoes.

You can reuse these socks, much like you would the non-mechanical shoe-drying insert we mentioned above. Just allow the inserts to dry thoroughly between uses. As a bonus, cat litter and baking soda will both also act as a deodorizer for your drying shoes.

8. Extra Tips

There are a few extra things you should keep in mind when drying your shoes if you want the process to proceed quickly and efficiently. We’ve listed these miscellaneous tips and tricks below.

  • Make sure to take the insoles out of your shoes when drying them. This will help both the insole and the boot dry faster.
  • Loosen any shoelaces and open up the tongue area of the shoe, if possible. Depending on your shoe and the material it’s laced with, you may want to consider de-lacing the boots and leaving the laces to dry separately.
  • Never dry leather shoes with heat. Doing so can cause them to dry too much too quickly, resulting in cracking or shrinking of the leather.
  • Make sure to remove any dirt, grass, or mud before putting your shoes into a clothes dryer. If you’re air-drying your footwear, you can leave any dirt on the shoes and brush it off when it dries, but you don’t want any soil coming off in your drier and compromising its inner workings.
  • Be very careful when drying shoes with heat. While heat will make your shoes dry faster, it can also melt, fuse, or warp different aspects of the shoe. When using heat, be very careful to monitor your shoes and keep them from getting too hot.

Health Risks of Wet Shoes

Failing to dry your shoes properly after use can end up resulting in several different health hazards. For this reason, drying your shoes thoroughly isn’t just crucial for the longevity of your shoe; it’s vital for your health, too!

Your mom may have told you not to wear wet shoes when you were young because you would “catch a cold.” While this is merely an old wives’ tale, there are some other nasty conditions that wet sneakers can afflict you with.

1. Trench Foot

Trench foot is the most common health affliction that can arise from wearing perpetually wet shoes or socks. While trench foot is unlikely to affect the average adult, people like campers, runners, and professionals who work in wet conditions are particularly susceptible to the disease. Essentially, trench foot is what happens when your foot is too wet for too long, and it results in pain, blisters, and eventually, tissue or toe loss.

If your feet are confined inside a wet or saturated shoe, especially if your socks are also wet, there is nowhere for that water to go. If you leave the shoes on, your body will absorb some of it, but it’s not easy for that water to evaporate on its own. For hikers or runners who are always on their feet or who only have one pair of shoes on hand, this can be deadly.

2. Foot Fungus

Fungus and bacteria love to grow in wet conditions. As such, if your shoes and socks are potentially wet, you’re inviting these hazardous bedfellows into your body! Both athlete’s foot and toenail fungus are unpleasant fungal conditions that love damp or sweaty conditions in shoes. If you keep your shoes and socks clean and dry, these invaders are far less likely to think you’re a good host.

3. Frostbite

While frostbite isn’t directly caused by damp conditions, wetness only exacerbates the effects of frostbite. Water has a natural cooling effect on our bodies, and if our feet and toes get wet, it can speed the onset of frostbite. While you won’t have to worry about this in warm climates, frostbite can quickly cause pain and trauma in the cold. If left to progress, it can even result in amputated toes or limbs.

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Keeping Feet (And Shoes) Dry

Sometimes, you may not have the resources available to you that you might when you’re at home. A backpacker, for example, might only have one or two pairs of shoes with them when they’re out on a multi-day adventure. A marathon runner might be forced to wear the same shoes for several hours until a race is over, even if they’re saturated.

In these conditions, it’s much more important to focus on drying both your feet and your shoes than it is to worry about the longevity of your shoes. Taking breaks to let your feet breathe, having a spare pair of dry shoes (and socks), and being ready for any surprises is the best way to salvage a situation where you can’t dry your shoes fast enough.

Washing and drying your shoes is essential for several reasons, but drying your shoes after cleaning them is arguably more involved than cleaning your footwear in the first place. If you don’t know how to dry shoes in the dryer or otherwise, you could end up permanently damaging or altering them! For this reason and many others, it’s essential to know how to keep your shoes clean and dry, both for your health and for the health of your footwear.