Trekking through puddles. Going the distance on the treadmill. Giving your feet a break from sky-high heels. To say we put our trainers through their paces is an understatement.
In fact, you can get anywhere from 300 to 500 miles out of your average pair of sports trainers. And the everyday variety can last for several years. So, knowing how to clean them properly can be worth its weight in running medals.
Check out these handy tips on how to keep your trainers and machine safe, so you don't need any washing machine repairs.
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Which trainers can you wash in the washing machine?
If you live in your trainers, you'll be pleased to know you can probably pop them in the washing machine. Though it does depend on the brand and style of your shoes. They should have a label with washing instructions. But if you can’t find it, just check online or contact the manufacturer for care advice.
If your trainers are made from a delicate fabric (we’re talking silk or suede), it’s better to give the machine a miss. If you’re not sure, it’s sensible to handwash your trainers rather than risk damaging them. And while the label might give you the green light, trainers can’t necessarily be washed on your usual cycle — we cover this more a bit later.
A step-by-step guide on washing your trainers
Follow in our footsteps and your grubby trainers will be box-fresh in no time. Here’s how to clean them in the washing machine.
1. Prepare your trainers for washing
If your trainers have removable insoles, take them out. Some insoles are made from materials that get damaged by the machine. Others are crafted using foam, which takes ages to dry — so they’ll need a light scrub instead of a heavy soak. Not to mention grime often gets caught underneath the insole. Handwashing lets you give both sides a good clean.
Take the laces out to allow the water and detergent to reach any awkward gaps. You might want to put the laces in a pillowcase or laundry bag, so they don’t get tangled with other washing.
Lastly, if your trainers are caked in dirt, remove it with a scrubbing brush. You can use an old toothbrush to reach small areas like the eyelets.
2. Load the drum
Now you can place your trainers in the machine. But don’t let them fly solo… a pro tip is to include some towels in the same cycle to stop them rattling around and breaking the drum.
Wash your trainers with mild liquid detergent. Powder versions tend to get stuck inside the shoes and don’t work as well at lower temperatures. Considering trainers can really smell, you might be tempted to put lots of detergent in. But keep in mind — a little goes a long way. You won’t need as much as you would for a full wash. And you won’t need fabric softener either.
3. Start the cycle
Set the machine to a cold temperature (30 degrees or less) to stop the colours from fading. Even if you prefer to wear white trainers, hot water can still warp them. Pick a setting with a low spin speed, such as ‘handwash’ or ‘delicate’. Once that’s all sorted you can press ‘start’.
4. Dry your trainers
Let your trainers air dry for up to a day. Here are some pointers to help speed up the process:
- Fold the tongues over the toes of the shoes
- Pop a silica gel bag in each shoe to absorb excess moisture (these are the pouches of beads you sometimes get in parcels, though you can also find them at supermarkets)
- Let them dry alfresco (weather permitting!)
- Put paper towels inside (this also absorbs moisture and helps the trainers keep their shape)
We don’t recommend putting trainers in the tumble dryer — it causes their colours to fade and can warp their shape.
Tips for keeping your trainers looking new
It’s great to cut down on washes when you can. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your sweet-smelling home.
There are things you can do between washes to keep your trainers in tip-top condition:
- Use protective spray — this acts as a waterproof barrier that also repels mud and spills
- Spot clean them regularly — there are lots of products designed to tackle stubborn stains on your shoes, like Magic Erasers or good old Fairy Liquid (just check what you’re using isn’t too harsh for the material)
- Try to avoid wearing them in bad weather — when it pours, reach for your wellies!