Can you put moldy shoes in the washing machine? The short answer is: it depends. Not all shoes are suited for machine washing, especially if they are made of delicate materials like suede or leather. However, for shoes that can be machine washed, doing so can help remove mold. It’s crucial to pre-treat them and use the right settings to ensure the mold is killed and doesn’t spread.

Moldy shoes are more than just an eyesore; they can pose serious health risks if not dealt with promptly. Mold spores can cause allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and other health issues. Therefore, it’s not only about keeping your shoes looking good but also about protecting your health.

Cleaning moldy shoes the right way is of utmost importance. It helps preserve the quality of your footwear and ensures you’re not unknowingly contributing to poor indoor air quality or putting your health at risk. Whether you’re a shoe manufacturer dealing with returned moldy inventory or an individual looking to salvage a favorite pair of shoes, understanding the proper techniques for mold removal is key.

This infographic outlines the steps to assess whether your moldy shoes can be machine washed, including checking the material, pre-treating the mold, and selecting the right washing machine settings. - can you put moldy shoes in the washing machine infographic pillar-3-steps

Assessing Your Shoes for Mold

Before you even think about tossing your shoes into the washing machine, it’s important to assess the level and type of mold present. This step is crucial because it helps you decide the best course of action for cleaning and can prevent further damage to your shoes or health.

Visual Inspection

Start with a good look at your shoes. Mold can appear as discolored spots in various shades like green, black, brown, or white. These spots might look fuzzy and are often found in patches or circular shapes. Pay special attention to areas that are prone to moisture, such as the inside soles or the spaces between the toes.

Smell Test

Next, give your shoes a sniff. Mold has a distinct musty smell. If your shoes have been stored away or haven’t been worn in a while and they come out smelling less than fresh, mold might be the culprit. This smell is a clear signal that your shoes need some attention.

Material Type

The material of your shoe will greatly influence your cleaning method. Leather and suede, for example, require different care than canvas or synthetic materials. Leather is porous and can absorb mold spores, making the cleaning process more delicate. Canvas and synthetic materials might tolerate more vigorous cleaning methods but still require careful handling to avoid damage.

What to Do Next:

  • Leather Shoes: For leather shoes, brushing off the surface mold and then wiping them down with a vinegar solution is a gentle yet effective method. Remember to condition the leather afterward to prevent it from drying out.

  • Canvas or Synthetic Shoes: These might be more forgiving and can often be cleaned with a mixture of water and vinegar or a mild detergent. However, always check the manufacturer’s care instructions first.

  • Suede Shoes: Suede is particularly sensitive to water and requires a dry cleaning method. Using a soft brush to remove surface mold and then applying a suede cleaner is recommended.

After assessing your shoes for mold, you’ll have a clearer idea of whether they can be cleaned at home or if professional help is needed. The goal is to not only clean the mold but also preserve the integrity of your shoes. Proceeding with the right cleaning method for your shoe type is key to achieving both objectives.

Moving on, we’ll dive into preparing your shoes for the washing machine, ensuring they’re treated with care to effectively remove mold without causing damage.

Preparing Your Shoes for the Washing Machine

Before you toss your moldy shoes into the washing machine, there are crucial steps to ensure the mold is effectively removed without harming your shoes or the machine. Let’s break it down:

Removing Loose Mold

First things first, you want to get rid of any loose mold. This is best done outdoors to avoid spreading mold spores inside your home. Use a firm bristled brush to gently scrub the moldy areas on your shoes. If you’re dealing with a lot of mold, consider wearing a disposable mask to protect yourself from inhaling spores.

Drying Out

Mold thrives in damp conditions, so dry out your shoes as much as possible before the wash. If your shoes are excessively wet, leave them in a well-ventilated area or in direct sunlight for a few hours. However, be cautious with leather or suede shoes, as direct sunlight can cause them to fade or crack. For these, a cool, dry place with good air circulation is best.

Pre-treatment Solutions

To boost your chances of completely eradicating the mold, pre-treat your shoes with a mold-killing solution. A mixture of equal parts water and vinegar can be effective. Simply apply the solution with a soft cloth to the affected areas. For tougher mold stains, a paste made from baking soda and water can be applied and left to sit for a few hours before washing. These natural solutions are generally safe for most shoe materials but do a spot test first to ensure they won’t cause damage.

Remember: Not all shoes are suited for machine washing. Leather, suede, and some delicate fabrics might be damaged by water and mechanical action. For these, hand-cleaning with the pre-treatment solutions and a soft cloth is your best bet.

After you’ve taken these preparatory steps, your shoes are ready for a safe and effective wash in the machine. This careful preparation not only helps in removing the mold but also in preserving the longevity and appearance of your shoes.

Next, we’ll explore the right way to wash moldy shoes in the machine, including selecting the correct settings and detergents to ensure a thorough clean.

The Right Way to Wash Moldy Shoes in the Machine

When it comes to washing moldy shoes in the machine, there are a few critical steps and choices to make to ensure you get rid of the mold without damaging your shoes. Let’s break it down:

Hot Water Setting

The first thing to consider is the water temperature. Hot water is effective at killing mold spores, but it’s crucial to check your shoe’s care label first. Not all materials can handle high temperatures without getting damaged. If your shoes can take it, aim for a water temperature around 60°C (140°F). This temperature helps to kill mold spores effectively.

Detergent Choice

Choosing the right detergent is key. Opt for a mild detergent that’s tough on stains but gentle on shoes. You don’t want something so harsh that it ends up damaging the fabric or fading the color of your shoes. A liquid detergent is often a good choice as it’s less likely to leave residue behind.


Adding a disinfectant to your wash can help ensure all mold spores are killed. Here are three safe options:

  • Vinegar: Add half a cup of white vinegar to your wash cycle. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant that can kill mold spores without damaging your shoes.

  • Baking Soda: Baking soda can be used alongside detergent to help remove odors and kill mold. Add a quarter cup into the detergent drawer.

  • Bleach: For white or very light-colored shoes, a small amount of bleach can be effective. However, this is a last resort due to its harshness. Always do a spot test first.

Washing Cycle Duration

The duration of the washing cycle is also important. A longer wash cycle may be more effective at removing mold, but it can be harder on your shoes. A medium-length cycle—around 30 to 40 minutes—is often a good compromise between cleaning effectiveness and protecting your shoes.

Remember: Before you throw your shoes in the machine, remove any loose dirt or mold with a brush and ensure they’re as dry as possible. This helps prevent the spread of mold spores during the wash.

After washing, do not tumble dry your shoes. Instead, let them air dry in a well-ventilated area or, if possible, in direct sunlight to further help kill any remaining mold spores.

By following these steps, you can safely and effectively wash moldy shoes in your washing machine, bringing them back to life and ensuring they’re clean and healthy to wear again. Just remember to check your shoes’ material and care instructions first to avoid any damage.

Next, we’ll dive into aftercare and how to prevent future mold growth on your shoes, ensuring they stay fresh and clean for as long as possible.

Aftercare and Preventing Future Mold Growth

After you’ve washed your moldy shoes in the washing machine, the next steps are crucial to keep them mold-free. Here’s how you can ensure that your shoes remain in good condition:

Drying Techniques

  • Air Dry: Always let your shoes air dry completely before wearing them again. Avoid direct heat sources like radiators or hair dryers, as they can damage the shoe materials.
  • Sunlight: If possible, let them dry in indirect sunlight. While direct sunlight can kill mold spores, it can also fade and damage some materials. A balance is key.

Moisture Control

  • Silica Gel Packets: Place silica gel packets inside your shoes when you’re not wearing them. These packets absorb excess moisture, keeping your shoes dry and less hospitable to mold.
  • Cedar Shoe Trees: Insert cedar shoe trees into your shoes after each wear. Cedar naturally absorbs moisture and odors, helping to keep your shoes fresh.

Storage Solutions

  • Metal Shoe Rack: Use a metal shoe rack for storage instead of piling your shoes on the floor or in a wooden cabinet. Metal racks promote airflow around the shoes, reducing moisture buildup.
  • Avoid Plastic Bags: Never store your shoes in plastic bags. Plastic traps moisture, creating an environment where mold can thrive.

Regular Shoe Care

  • Clean Regularly: Regular cleaning removes dirt and sweat that can feed mold. Wipe down your shoes with a dry cloth after wearing and use appropriate cleaners as needed.
  • Condition Leather: If your shoes are made of leather, condition them regularly to keep the material supple and less prone to cracking, which can allow moisture and mold to penetrate.

Professional Help: NuShoe Inspect & Correct

  • Seek Professional Services: For valuable or delicate shoes, consider professional cleaning and mold removal services like NuShoe Inspect & Correct. They specialize in restoring shoes to their original condition, ensuring thorough mold removal and prevention.

By implementing these aftercare and prevention strategies, you’re not just saving your shoes from mold; you’re also ensuring they look and feel great for longer. Regular attention and proper storage go a long way in keeping your footwear in top shape. Prevention is always easier than cure, so take these steps to avoid mold growth on your shoes in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cleaning Moldy Shoes

Cleaning moldy shoes isn’t just about keeping them looking good; it’s also about protecting your health. Here, we’ll tackle some of the most common questions you might have about cleaning moldy shoes, especially when it comes to using the washing machine.

Can all types of shoes be washed in the machine?

No, not all shoes can safely go into the washing machine. It depends on the material. Leather or suede shoes, for example, could be damaged by water and detergent. These materials need special care, often involving brushing off the mold and treating them with specific products designed for leather or suede.

For shoes made of canvas or synthetic materials, the washing machine might be a safe option. Remember to remove any loose mold outside to prevent spreading spores inside your home. A gentle cycle with hot water and a disinfectant like vinegar can be effective. However, always check the care label on your shoes first.

How often should I clean my shoes to prevent mold?

Mold prevention doesn’t necessarily require frequent cleanings. Instead, focus on keeping your shoes dry and well-ventilated. If your shoes get wet, make sure to dry them thoroughly before storing them. Using silica gel packets or cedar shoe trees can help absorb moisture and keep your shoes dry.

However, if you live in a particularly humid climate or if your shoes are exposed to moisture regularly, consider giving them a thorough clean every few months or as needed. Prevention is key, so keep an eye on your shoes’ condition and storage environment.

What are the health risks associated with wearing moldy shoes?

Wearing moldy shoes can pose several health risks, especially for individuals with allergies, asthma, or weakened immune systems. Mold spores can cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, and respiratory issues. In some cases, moldy shoes can also lead to foot infections, particularly if you have cuts or scrapes on your feet.

It’s important to address mold on your shoes promptly, not only to protect the shoes themselves but also to safeguard your health. If you’re unsure about how to clean your moldy shoes safely, or if the mold is extensive, consider seeking professional help from services like NuShoe Inspect & Correct. They can provide expert care and advice on dealing with moldy footwear.

By addressing mold on your shoes promptly and taking steps to prevent future growth, you can keep your footwear in great condition and avoid potential health risks. When in doubt, consulting with professionals like NuShoe Inspect & Correct can provide peace of mind and ensure your shoes are well-cared for.


Importance of Timely Cleaning

Let’s face it, finding mold on your favorite pair of shoes is never a pleasant surprise. It’s not just about the look – mold can pose real health risks, from allergic reactions to respiratory issues. That’s why acting fast is crucial. The longer mold sits on your shoes, the harder it becomes to remove and the greater the risk it poses to your health and the longevity of your shoes.

Cleaning moldy shoes in the washing machine can be an effective solution for certain types of shoes, but it’s not always the best or only step you should take. The goal isn’t just to remove the mold but to prevent its return. This means drying your shoes properly, using moisture control methods like silica gel packets, and storing shoes in a way that promotes air circulation.

NuShoe Inspect & Correct

When the situation looks grim, or you’re unsure about the best way to tackle mold on your shoes, that’s where NuShoe Inspect & Correct comes in. We’re not just a stopgap solution. Our team is dedicated to not only removing mold but restoring your shoes to their former glory. We understand the value you place on your footwear and offer services that go beyond simple cleaning. Our process includes thorough cleaning, antimicrobial treatments to kill and prevent mold, and refinishing treatments that make your shoes look brand new.

Why choose us? Because we understand shoes. We know that each pair is an investment—not just in style, but in your comfort and health. Our process is trusted by footwear manufacturers and retailers, making us a top choice for anyone looking to rescue their shoes from mold.

In conclusion, dealing with mold on your shoes promptly and effectively is key to protecting both your footwear and your health. Regular cleaning, proper storage, and moisture control are your first lines of defense. And when you need a little extra help, NuShoe Inspect & Correct is here to ensure your shoes come back looking and feeling great, mold-free and ready for whatever steps lie ahead. The best way to deal with mold is to prevent it from happening in the first place, but when it does strike, you know who to turn to.