How to Wash Tennis Shoes (Simple Guides)

Just like any other sport, tennis requires special apparel that supports the player’s movement in the field. One of the most important is tennis shoes. Unlike sneakers or running shoes, tennis shoes are sturdier and have flat soles with different patterns designed for different court surfaces. In addition, tennis shoes are mostly made from lightweight and breathable materials with rubber soles that help with flexibility, body support, and shock absorption.

These days, tennis shoes are not only for the titular sport but also for daily occasions. Tennis shoes are often described as casual, comfy, and match almost every outfit in your wardrobe. Even if you’re just an average Joe or Jane who doesn’t exercise that much just like me, tennis shoes can be a great fashion choice!

How often you should wash the shoes

how to wash tennis shoes

From my experience, it’s best to wash your shoes whenever you notice dirt or stains on them. Some even suggest that once every two weeks is the ideal choice, especially when you’re wearing tennis shoes frequently or on outdoor courts to prevent build-up dirt and for easier cleaning.

Now that you know how often you should wash the shoes, let’s take a look at what cleaning kits are needed for washing tennis shoes and how to do it. Keep reading to see the rest of this article.

A. Material you need

A specially formulated soap for cleaning shoes.

  • Apron

A protective garment to protect your cloth from dirt and keep them clean while washing shoes.

  • Premium brush

A brush with soft bristles made from animal hair, which is ideal for cleaning various materials of the upper shoes, such as canvas, suede, leather, synthetic leather, mesh, knit, and nubuck.

  • Medium brush

A sturdy brush for cleaning the midsole from stubborn dirt

  • Standard brush

A strong-bristled brush that’s perfect for cleaning the super dirty outsole.

  • Small brush or toothbrush

Use this type of brush to clean the inside and nook of the shoes which can’t be reached by other brushes. 

  • Microfiber cloth

A durable cloth with high water absorbance for wiping dirt from shoes. I feel more satisfied using the microfiber ones compared to the regular clean cloth.

  • Shoetree

A pair of foot-like shaped devices to put inside the shoes and keep their shape.

  • Washbowl

A water container for mixing the shoe cleaner with water for the cleaning process.

B. Which cleaning kits to use for each part of the shoes?

  • Upper

True to its name, this part is on the top part of the shoes. Delicate materials are often used to make this part. To prevent damage and scratches, It’s best to use a soft-bristled premium brush to scrub the part gently.

  • Midsole

This part can be found in the side sole of the shoes. Shoe midsoles get dirty and scuffed more often because of frequent use. To solve this issue, use an all-purpose brush, also known as the medium brush.

  • Outsole

The outsole is located at the very bottom of the shoes. This part has direct contact with various surfaces and sometimes dirt gets stuck on the crevices. I advise using a strong and stiff-bristled standard brush to get rid of the dirt and make the outsole clean

C. Steps to wash tennis shoes

  • Prepare the tennis shoes

Take a pair of dirty tennis shoes for washing.

  • Prepare the cleaning kits

Prepare the cleaning kits mentioned above: shoe cleaner, apron, set of brushes, microfiber cloth, shoetrees, and washbowl. Pour some part of the shoe cleaner into the water and mix well.

  • Take the shoelaces off

Before washing the shoes, it’s important to take care of the shoelaces. Take them off and soak the laces in the cleaning solution. Hand wash the laces thoroughly and rinse them before setting the laces aside.

  • Put the shoetree on each shoe

Shoetrees are important to keep the shoes in shape and prevent creases while washing. Before putting them in, pull the insoles from the shoes and put the shoetrees in. From what I’ve done, don’t force remove the insoles if they’re glued permanently because you can damage the shoes.

  • Dry clean the shoes

Use a premium brush to dust the upper shoe off from dirt and debris. Brush the surfaces gently, especially if your tennis shoes are made from soft materials.

  • Wash the outsole and midsole

Dip the brush into the cleaning solution and start the washing process. Remember to use a standard brush for the outsole and a medium brush for the midsole. Scrub the outsole and midsole vigorously to get rid of stubborn dirt, stains, and scuff marks. When you’re done, take the microfiber cloth and wipe the suds off. I recommend you wash the sole again if you still notice visible stains.

  • Wash the outer and inner upper of the tennis shoes

Moving on to the next part: the upper. Use a premium brush dipped into the cleaning solution to clean the outer upper. As for the inner part, you can use a small brush or toothbrush to clean the narrow and hard-to-reach parts. Wash and blot the upper rigorously.

After you’re done, wipe the scum off with the microfiber cloth and do the process again until it’s all clean. My advice is to never use a standard brush for cleaning the upper shoes to avoid scratched or damaged shoes.

  • Detailing

Wet the microfiber cloth with water, then use it for wiping the dirty detailed area of the shoes, like the aglets. I’ve tested using paper towels and regular cloths to clean the details, but for me, microfiber cloth yields the best result. This is because it has great water and dirt absorbance.

  • Dry the shoes

After ensuring all parts of the tennis shoes is clean, put them in front of a fan for about one to two hours. Dry the shoelaces as well. I don’t recommend drying the shoes under direct sunlight or any heat source to prevent warping that affects the comfort.

  • Finishing  

Take the shoetrees off and put the insoles back (for removable insoles only). Also, don’t forget to put the shoelaces back on. Now your tennis shoes are clean and ready to wear again.

D. Cleaning leather or suede shoes

Leather shoes

As you might know, leather shoes are often described as elegant and fancy, although they also have a downside. Leather is permeable, which can absorb dirt and stains faster than other materials. Afraid not, here is how to clean leather tennis shoes based on some trials and errors that I have done.

  • Knock the shoes off to remove big clumps of dirt or mud.
  • Take a damp clean cloth and wipe it to remove the first layer of dirt.
  • Pour some leather shoe cleaner into a soft brush.
  • Scrub stains and scuff marks lightly in a circular motion. Repeat the process if necessary.
  • Allow the shoes to dry entirely before applying a leather conditioner with a clean cloth.

In my case, using a dedicated leather shoe cleaner is the safest option because the cleaning agent doesn’t contain hazardous chemicals that can be harmful to the material itself. After using the product, it’s safe to say that my leather tennis shoes are as clean as new. 

If you don’t have a leather shoe cleaner, use a mixture of vinegar and olive oil (1:2 ratio) as a substitute and then follow the same process. I have to mention that you can replace the vinegar with baking soda and the result is just the same.

Suede shoes

Another type of leather that is commonly used as shoe material is suede. Unlike leather which has a polished surface, suede is more fuzzy. Just like other shoes, suede tennis shoes also need careful and gentle maintenance because their material is delicate. If you’re looking for a way how to clean suede tennis shoes, here is the tutorial based on my experiment.

  • In a small bowl, add a small part of the shoe cleaner into the water and mix until homogenous.
  • Take the laces off and soak them in the cleaning solution.
  • Wet the brush and pour some shoe cleaner into the bristles.
  • Scrub the shoes in a circular motion. Make sure to scrub them thoroughly and carefully.
  • Wipe the excess with a clean towel and repeat the process until the stains are no more.
  • Leave to air dry and put the laces back.

I have to say after testing this method, my shoes are looking clean and fresh. In my opinion, it’s better to use products that are specialized in cleaning suede because it’s safer and won’t leave damage.

How to wash tennis shoes in washing machine

Washing tennis shoes in a washing machine can be a great solution if you don’t have much time to sit down and scrub the brush all over the shoes by hand. Using the machine can be less messy and save so much time. Here’s the tutorial on how to do it.

  • Read the instruction care tag carefully to make sure your tennis shoes are safe to wash in the machine. Some fabrics type can withstand the tumbling in the washing machine.
  • Remove the shoelaces and insoles from the shoes. I urge handwashing them with mild dish soap or liquid detergent because the insoles’ material is delicate while the laces can get tangled inside the machine.
  • Remove dirt or debris from the shoes with a brush.
  • Put the shoes inside a laundry bag before putting them into the machine. You can also add some towels to the washing machine along with your shoes. This method is to prevent excessive banging that might cause the shoes to change shape.
  • Fill the tube with cold water and use liquid detergent as the cleaning agent. Run the cycle in gentle mode and wait until finished.
  • Take the shoes out and dry them along with the insoles and shoelaces in a room with excellent ventilation. To speed up the drying process, use a fan to dry them.
  • Assemble the shoes back and now you’re ready to rock your tennis shoes!

I advise you not to use powdered detergent because the granules might not break down properly into the water and can get stuck into the shoes. Never put your tennis shoes in the dryer to prevent warping and bristling glue that can tear your shoes apart.

How to wash tennis shoes by hand

If you feel the washing machine can’t clean your tennis shoes thoroughly, this next method can be your next choice. Here is how to wash tennis shoes manually.

  • Dust the shoes off with a dry brush to remove dirt and debris from the surface.
  • Remove the shoelaces, then squeeze some dish soap on them and rub the laces with your hands.
  • Rinse the laces with running water, then tap them dry with a clean towel.
  • In a separate bowl, dilute a dish soap with water and mix well until the water turns soapy.
  • Dip a brush into the cleaning solution, then work it into the sole to remove dirt and stains that get stuck. Pat the sole dry with a clean cloth.
  • Wash and blot the upper part of the shoes with a soft brush or a cloth. Make sure to brush the surface gently so you don’t leave scratches. Wipe the excess suds with a clean towel in one direction.
  • Allow the shoes and their laces to air dry completely.
  • Put the shoelaces back before wearing them.

I’ve tried this method, and I must say the result is impressive. Be sure that your shoes are safe to wash with mild dish soap because some materials like leather or suede are more fragile and not compatible with the chemical in the dish soap.

Is it better to wash shoes by hand or in the washer?

When it comes to the method of washing, people argue about which one is better: washing shoes by hand or in the washer. As I see it, each method has its own superiority and flaws. Here are the pros and cons of washing shoes manually and in the washer.

Washing shoes by handWashing shoes in the washer
ProsYou can see which part needs extra treatment.More convenient.
Prolong the shoe’s life and minimize the damage.Less messy compared to washing manually.
Save much power supply and can be done by anyone.Won’t make you tired from all scrubbing.
ConsThe scrubbing activities can be tiring.Can damage shoes with delicate material.
Causing mess.Possible shape change from tumbling and banging.
Takes a long time.Use more electricity

There’s no right or wrong in deciding which method works best for you. From my point of view, washing shoes by hand have better results because I can check every part of the shoes and I can adjust how strongly should I scrub the surface. Again, it’s better to check the shoe material itself before washing them because not all shoes are meant to be washed in the washer.

How to wash shoes in washing machine without mesh bag

how to wash tennis shoes

Honestly, I don’t recommend putting shoes directly in washing machine because you’re risking them for greater damage. Inside the washing machine, your shoes get tumbled all over the place and might be scratched or change in shape. To wash shoes in washing machine without mesh bag, in most cases I use a pillowcase, then follow the same process mentioned before.

How to wash tennis shoes in front load washer

Do you know that different types of washing machines can affect shoes? For some people, including me, front-load washers provide a more gentle way of cleaning that reduces the risk of damage which results in longer shoe life. In addition, a washer with a front load has better control over spin and temperature. If you own this type of washer and want to utilize the machine for washing your dirty tennis shoes, follow these easy steps.

  • Read the wash instruction carefully and make sure that your tennis shoes can withstand the washing machine.
  • Brush the shoes to remove dust, dirt, or debris from the surface.
  • Take the shoelaces off and wash them separately. For me, shoelaces can be washed either manually or in a washer inside a separate bag to prevent tangling.
  • Put the shoes into a mesh bag before throwing them in front load washer. Add some old towels to balance the drum.
  • Add liquid detergent into the washer.
  • Run the cycle at a gentle speed with cold water and wait until it’s finished.
  • Allow the shoes and their laces to air dry. You can stuff some towels or newspaper into the shoes to absorb extra moisture inside.

How to wash shoes in top load washing machine

how to wash tennis shoes

Don’t be discouraged if you have a top-load washing machine because it can give your shoes a full spin. Unlike its front load counterpart, this type of machine can do the job more effectively by providing a thorough spin that helps remove dirt and stains from the shoes. If you ask me how to wash shoes in a top-load washing machine, here is the tutorial.

  • Always remove the lace and insoles before washing the shoes. Put shoelaces in a separate bag so they don’t get tangled with the shoes or the machine. As for the insoles, I tend to wash them by hand.
  • Rinse the outer part of the shoes with cold water before putting them in a mesh bag.
  • Throw the bag in top load washing machine, along with some old towels to muffle the banging sound.
  • Add cold water and liquid detergent, then run the cycle at the lowest speed. Wait until finished
  • Take the shoes out and let them dry in a well-circulated room along with the insoles and shoelaces. Stuff the inside with either newspaper or towels to help dry faster.

What is the best way to clean your tennis shoes?

how to wash tennis shoes

Cleaning by hand is arguably the best way to clean tennis shoes. Personally, I hand-wash fabric shoes to extend their lifetime, minimize damage, and preserve the tennis shoes’ quality. I’d say that even though a washing machine helps you do the job without hassle, it can potentially damage tennis shoes in the long run. I prefer to stick to the manual way of washing to keep the shoes last longer and don’t have to buy new tennis shoes anytime soon!

Wash shoes in dishwasher or washing machine

Never wash shoes in the dishwasher! The machine itself has a high-heat drying cycle that can shrink, or even melt some parts of your shoes. Moreover, the detergent from the dishwasher isn’t suitable for cleaning shoes. That’s why I prefer to wash my shoes in the washing machine, or by hand to ensure their lifetime. Simply because I don’t want the dirt from my shoes to get into my cutlery or kitchen appliances, which sounds and seems gross!

Does putting shoes in the washing machine damage it

Whether or not a washing machine can damage the shoes, it depends on the shoe material and the washing cycle setting. I’m convinced that shoes from fabric materials are safe to wash in the machine. For precaution, always put the shoes inside a zipper bag or a pillow case before washing them in a washing machine to decrease the damage.


Is it OK to put tennis shoes in the washing machine?

It’s absolutely OK to use a washing machine for washing tennis shoes, but with some precautions. One major tip from me is to check the tag on how to clean the shoes because some delicate materials like leather and suede are not suitable for washing with the machine. As for canvas, nylon, polyester, and cotton, they have no issues getting tumbled around the washer tube. Make sure you put the shoes in a laundry bag to maintain their shape.

Is it OK to wash Nike tennis shoes?

Yes, it’s totally fine to wash Nike tennis shoes. On its website, Nike suggests washing shoes by hand with a mild cleaning solution and leaving them to air dry. Personally, I also prefer washing tennis shoes by hand because I can check every part thoroughly and don’t miss any spot.

How do you dry shoes after washing them?

There are two ways you can do to dry your shoes after washing them. The first one is drying them in a well-circulated indoors away from sunlight or putting them by the fan. Meanwhile, the second is stuffing the inside of your shoes with dry newspaper. In my opinion, it’s better to combine both methods to achieve the best result.  

Do’s and don’ts 



  • Don’t store tennis shoes in shoe boxes or plastic bags.
  • Don’t dry shoes under direct sunlight.
  • Don’t just clean the outside of the shoes. Make sure you clean all the parts thoroughly, including the inner shoes.

How to care tennis shoes

  • Clean the shoes regularly after playing, especially on the outdoor courts.
  • Use a good cleaning agent (like shoe cleaner) and the proper cleaning technique to avoid your tennis shoes getting damaged.
  • Store the shoes in a room with low temperature.
  • Clean the inside of the shoes as well so they don’t stink.

Summary or Conclusion

In short, it’s important to wash your tennis shoes regularly to maintain their look and prolong their life, thus you save more money from keep buying new tennis shoes. I have compiled some ways to wash tennis shoes, both by hand or using washing machine. Whether you’re in the manual team or machine team, it’s up to your preference to clean the shoes and make them look brand new.