How to wash your trainers properly – Which? News

Trainers take a battering, especially if you exercise outdoors. So it’s a good idea to wash them every now and then to remove dirt and sweat. 

There are mixed messages around cleaning them though. Some say avoid the washing machine altogether, while others say it’s fine.

Below we explain eight don’ts that could wreck your trainers, so you can make sure they’re kept in good condition and looking like new.


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Don’t: ignore the label

As always, the first thing you should do is check the label.

It should have information on whether you can wash your trainers in the washing machine or not.

If there’s no label, you can check online (either with the manufacturer or the retailer) to see what the care instructions are.

It’s better to be safe than sorry, so if you aren’t able to find out either way, we would advise handwashing your trainers.

Don’t: leave loose insoles inside

removing trainer insoles to wash them

If you can, remove the insoles so you can properly wash underneath them.

These are often made of a synthetic foam that you won’t want to get too wet, as it will take a long time to dry fully.

You still can clean the insoles with a quick wipe.

Don’t: leave the laces on

Regardless of whether you’re planning to handwash or machine wash your trainers, remove the laces first.

This will not only mean you can really get inside the nooks and crannies to clean them more easily, but also the colour of your trainers won’t leach onto the laces and visa versa.

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Don’t: leave them caked in dirt

Try to get rid of most of the dirt and grime with a brush or cloth before washing them, making sure you scrub the sole and any places where mud accumulates.

You can then handwash them in cold water with a little liquid detergent.

If the label says you can machine wash them, now’s the time to throw them in, but…

Don’t: put them in the washing machine on their own

Trainers will just tumble around and damage the drum and themselves if you don’t add some extras in there with them.

Towels are a good option, as they will absorb the hard impact of the tumbling trainers.

If you want to wash the laces, put them in a fabric bag of some kind (or perhaps a pillow case). This will stop them from getting stuck in the drum holes or rubber seal.

Don’t: put them in a hot wash

You want to make sure the colours on your trainers don’t fade at all, so it’s worth washing cold, even if the label says you can wash it hotter.

If your washing machine doesn’t have a cold wash option, choose the lowest temperature possible, probably 20°C.

You’ll also be saving energy. Our recent investigation into washing at lower temperatures found that washing at 20°C uses 67% less energy compared with washing at 40°C on average.

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Don’t: use a powder detergent

The inside of your trainers won’t have as much water circulating during the wash.

Because of this, powder detergent might not dissolve fully (especially on a cold wash) and it will just get stuck inside, particularly along the seams.

Liquid detergents work better at lower temperatures, and you also won’t have to worry about any issues with them not dissolving.

You won’t need as much as you use in a full wash, though. So consider using just half a cap’s worth.


Find the best detergent and save money by checking out our laundry detergent reviews.


Don’t: dry them on the radiator or use a tumble dryer

Heat could warp the plastic and rubber parts of your trainers and mean they don’t quite fit like they used to.

So radiators and particularly tumble dryers are a no-go.

Instead, hang them up by their back at first, then turn the other way and hang them by the tip.

Outdoors would be best for this, as they will dry quicker, but indoors will be perfectly fine too.

To dry the insides fully, you can use silica gel bags (those little white ‘salt’ bags that come inside some furniture, suitcases and etc. that say ‘do not eat’). These will help to absorb as much moisture as possible.


Find out how to wash your gym clothes and sportswear




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