Can You Wash Leather Shoes In The Washing Machine?

So, you’ve got a pair of leather shoes that are in need of a good cleaning, but you’re not quite sure how to go about it. Maybe you’re wondering if you can just throw them in the washing machine to get the job done.

Well, the short answer is no, you shouldn’t. Washing leather shoes in the washing machine can cause damage and ruin their beautiful appearance.

But don’t worry, there are alternative methods you can use to effectively clean and maintain your leather shoes. Let’s dive into some helpful tips and tricks to keep your favorite kicks looking their best.

Can You Wash Leather Shoes In The Washing Machine

Can You Wash Leather Shoes In The Washing Machine?


If you’re a proud owner of a pair of leather shoes, you may find yourself wondering if it’s possible to wash them in the washing machine. After all, throwing your shoes in the machine seems like a convenient way to get them clean and save time.

But before you start loading up your shoes with the rest of your laundry, it’s important to understand the nature of leather and the potential risks involved in machine washing.

Understanding Leather

Leather is a material made from animal hide that has been processed and treated for various uses, including footwear. It is known for its durability, breathability, and stylish appearance. However, leather is a delicate and porous material that requires specific care to maintain its quality.

Different types of leather, such as full-grain, top-grain, and suede, have varying properties and characteristics. While some types of leather can withstand machine washing to an extent, others are more prone to damage.

It’s essential to understand the specific type of leather used in your shoes to determine the best cleaning method.

The Dangers of Washing Leather Shoes in the Machine

Machine washing leather shoes can have detrimental effects on their texture, appearance, and overall quality. The combination of water, agitation, and detergent in the washing machine can cause irreversible damage to the leather.

One of the most significant concerns is the potential change in the leather’s texture and appearance. Machine washing can lead to the leather becoming stiff, losing its original suppleness, and developing wrinkles or cracks. Additionally, the harsh environment of the washing machine can cause color fading and bleeding, resulting in a less vibrant shoe.

Another issue is the risk of damage to stitching and adhesives. The agitation in the machine can weaken the threads used in the shoe’s construction, leading to loosened or broken stitching. Adhesives used to bond different parts of the shoe may also come undone, causing structural integrity problems.

Furthermore, leather has a natural tendency to shrink or warp when exposed to excessive moisture. Machine washing may lead to misshapen shoes that no longer fit properly. These risks make it important to explore alternatives to machine washing for leather shoes.

Alternatives to Machine Washing

When it comes to cleaning leather shoes, there are safer alternatives to machine washing that can preserve their quality and extend their lifespan. Hand cleaning techniques using mild soap or specialized leather cleaners can effectively remove dirt and stains without compromising the leather’s integrity.

Furthermore, using leather conditioners after cleaning can nourish the leather and restore its moisture, preventing it from drying out and cracking. If you’re not confident in your ability to clean your leather shoes properly, you can always seek professional cleaning services that specialize in delicate leather footwear.

When You Can Wash Leather Shoes in the Machine

While machine washing leather shoes generally poses risks, there are situations where it can be done safely. Several factors determine whether machine washing is a viable option for your specific pair of shoes.

First, you need to consider the type of leather your shoes are made from. Some types, like full-grain leather, are more resistant to moisture and can withstand machine washing better than others. Checking the manufacturer’s recommendations is crucial, as they usually provide guidelines on cleaning methods for their specific products.

It’s also important to assess the condition and level of dirtiness of your shoes. Machine washing is best reserved for moderately dirty shoes that do not have delicate embellishments or decorations. If your shoes have intricate details or are heavily soiled, it’s safer to clean them using alternative methods.

Steps to Safely Wash Leather Shoes in the Machine

If you’ve determined that your leather shoes can be safely machine washed, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

  1. Prepare the shoes by removing any loose dirt or debris.
  2. Check the shoe’s interior for removable insoles or inserts and take them out.
  3. Place the shoes in a mesh washing bag to protect them and prevent unnecessary agitation.
  4. Select a gentle cycle on your washing machine with cold or lukewarm water. Avoid using hot water, as it can damage the leather.
  5. Use a mild detergent specifically designed for delicate fabrics or leather. Avoid using harsh chemicals or bleach.
  6. Start the washing machine and allow the cycle to complete.
  7. After the cycle finishes, remove the shoes from the bag and inspect them for any damage or color bleeding.
  8. Let the shoes air dry naturally. Avoid using direct sunlight or heat sources, as they can cause the leather to shrink or crack.
  9. Once the shoes are completely dry, apply a leather conditioner to restore moisture and suppleness.
Can You Wash Leather Shoes In The Washing Machine?

Drying and Conditioning Leather Shoes

Proper drying and conditioning play a crucial role in maintaining the quality of your leather shoes after cleaning. Air drying is the recommended method to prevent any damage caused by excessive heat or sunlight.

To aid in the drying process and help the shoes retain their shape, consider using shoe inserts or stuffing them with newspapers. This will prevent them from losing their original form and minimize the risk of wrinkles or creases.

After the shoes are dry, apply a quality leather conditioner to replenish the moisture and prevent the leather from becoming brittle. Conditioning also helps to restore the natural shine and flexibility of the leather, keeping it soft and supple.

Preventing Damage to Leather Shoes

Preventing damage to your leather shoes starts with regular maintenance and cleaning routines. Wiping away dirt and stains promptly can prevent them from setting into the leather and causing long-term damage.

Avoid excessive exposure to moisture by wearing appropriate footwear in wet conditions or using protective sprays or sealants on your leather shoes. These products create a barrier that repels water and reduces the chance of stains or damage.

Proper handling and storage practices also contribute to the longevity of your leather shoes. Avoid tossing them into a pile or cramming them into tight spaces, as this can lead to deformities or pressure marks. Instead, use shoe bags or boxes to store your shoes in a clean and organized manner.

Can You Wash Leather Shoes In The Washing Machine?

Cleaning Specific Types of Leather Shoes

Different types of leather require varied cleaning methods to ensure optimal results and minimize the risk of damage. For suede leather shoes, it’s best to avoid machine washing altogether. Instead, use a suede brush or eraser to remove dirt and stains gently.

For patent leather shoes, a damp cloth or sponge is usually sufficient to wipe away any dirt or smudges. Use a patent leather cleaner specifically formulated for this type of leather for more stubborn stains.

Nubuck leather shoes require specialized care, as they are prone to water stains and discoloration. These shoes should be cleaned with a nubuck cleaner or a mild soap designed for delicate materials.

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Proper Storage of Leather Shoes

Proper storage is crucial in maintaining the quality and longevity of your leather shoes. Before storing them, make sure to clean any dirt or debris from the shoes, as these can attract pests or cause staining over time.

Choose a storage location that is cool, dry, and well-ventilated. Excessive humidity or heat can damage leather and promote the growth of mold or mildew. If possible, avoid storing leather shoes in plastic bags, as they can trap moisture and lead to the development of mold.

Using shoe bags or boxes is an excellent way to protect your leather shoes from dust and damage caused by other items in your closet. Make sure to stuff the shoes with tissue paper or bubble wrap to help maintain their shape while in storage.

Taking proper care of your leather shoes ensures they remain in excellent condition for years to come. By following the right cleaning techniques, carefully selecting the cleaning method, and storing them correctly, you can enjoy your leather shoes for many seasons.


  • Maria

    Maria Kennedy, the culinary genius behind "Grocer and Grind" blog, unites a love for cooking, local markets, and sustainability. Her practical recipes and grocery tips cater to all, while her passion for eco-conscious choices shines through. Join Jane on her flavorful journey, savoring life one bite at a time.

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