Unless you own a pair of waterproof sneakers, like these knit Vessi, you probably dread rainy days. Coming across puddles or getting caught in the rain may mean going without your favorite pair of sneakers as you wait for them to dry. Putting your shoes in the drying machine would be so much quicker!
But, can you put shoes in the dryer? And more importantly, should you?
The answer to that is yes, and no. You can put wet shoes in the dryer, but you should be careful to make sure they don't get damaged in the process. That's because some materials can suffer if you do not follow the manufacturer's washing instructions.
So, how do you go about machine drying shoes?
The Correct Way to Put Shoes in the Dryer
1. Check the manufacturer's recommendations
Most shoes come with a label inside the shoe that will give you details on how to care for your shoes. It's generally the same label where you'll find information on sizing and materials, as well as where the shoes were manufactured. Those cleaning instructions are a great place to start for best practices to care for your shoes.
These labels are often small and won't offer full explanations other than symbols explaining if you can bleach or wash your shoes, and how to dry them. If you are unfamiliar with the symbols, you can check out a comprehensive guide here.
Keep in mind that some manufacturers won't include that information at all. In those cases, the safest bet is to hand wash and let the shoe air dry.
Below is a breakdown of what kind of materials you can throw in a dryer.
2. Understand how different materials respond to the drying process
a) Nylon and polyester
Most running and athletic shoes are made with nylon or polyester since the material is super stretchy. It doesn't tend to be the main component of the shoe and is mostly featured in proportions that enhance certain performance aspects of the shoes.
When drying shoes made from these materials a low heat setting is crucial so they don't get damaged. Machine drying polyester requires the lowest temperature to prevent shrinkage.
Another good tip is to follow typical rules around how to treat nylon/polyester clothes as well.
Canvas shoes are pretty popular because they're lightweight and durable. The good news is that since it's the same material used to produce things like tents it can handle high dryer heat well. This means you can put canvas shoes in the clothes dryer without worrying about damaging them.
That said, always consider other materials the shoe is made with such as rubber or plastic soles and metal lace rings.
In the end, the risks of the sneakers shrinking or warping are pretty low. So most moderate settings on your drier will work out just fine.
Rayon is a semi-synthetic fabric derived from wood pulp. What you end up with are purified cellulose fibers that are great at absorbing moisture and remaining breathable. Thats' why you'll normally find rayon as a material used for running and athletic shoes.
It's important to keep in mind, however, that it can easily discolor, stretch, or shrink in high heat. Although Rayon will not melt your athletic shoes can get burnt making them unwearable.
For rayon shoes, you're better off skipping the washing and drying machines.
d) Leather (cowhide and sheepskin)
Leather shoes, or anything else made from animal-based materials, don't age well when heat is involved. Although the process takes a while before its obvious wrinkles and creases will eventually be visible. Leather footwear will become unwearable as the shape gets further away from what it used to be.
Furthermore, leather running shoes and leather tennis shoes can discolor when exposed to high heat. When it comes to leather articles in general, hand washing and air drying is the best way to go.
The air-dry route is ideal for suede shoes since the material is pretty fragile. For starters, too cold or too hot temperatures can affect your dress shoes.
Super cold temperatures can make the suede stiff and chunks of it can break off. On the other hand, high temperatures can cause cracking and warping. That's why drying your shoes in the shade away from direct sunlight to avoid damaging them is ideal.
f) Foam or gel
While foam and gel are generally used to construct the inside of the shoes, it's still something you should think about when choosing how to clean them. For example, soles made with foam aren't always removable.
Throwing your sneakers in the washer can damage the inside glue and loosen the insoles making them fall apart. Plus, being thrown around in the dryer increases the rate at which the parts lose their integrity. Even the lowest heat setting can cause the material to lose its quality.
On that same note, gel easily melts and warps when exposed to heat. Eventually, the shoe will become harder, making it susceptible to cracking when you wear them. So, air drying is the best way to deal with soaking wet footwear with gel or foam soles.
g) Embellished shoes
Putting shoes with intricate designs that can come off inside a dryer will make the embellishments fall off. After all, machine drying them means they will be tumbling around, allowing the delicate items to separate from the shoes in the dryer. Therefore, it is best to air-dry shoes with intricate and fragile designs.
Some shoe manufacturers focus on producing vegan products and offer organic cotton as an option. Although it is pretty safe to put these shoes in the dryer, shrinking can happen. To prevent that, stuff the cotton shoes with small towels to keep them from shrinking as they dry.
3. Take into account what's best for the dryer
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Putting shoes in the dryer does not mean forgetting the best practices for using the machine. Getting this part wrong could mean ruining your favorite shoes.
To start off, always make sure the shoes are clean before tossing them in your dryer. This simple guide should help you out.
Ideally, start by removing excess water to ensure your shoes are not dripping wet before putting them in the dryer. Secondly, check the lint filter and clean it out to make it easier for the machine to work well. Finally, ensure you are using low heat and follow the instructions on the label.
4. Don't let the shoes bang around in the dryer
Letting shoes bounce inside the dryer can damage both the shoes and your machine. Instead, toss large towels inside to prevent them from slamming around. You can also insert certain materials and fabrics (like smaller towels) inside the shoes to keep them from shrinking as they dry.
Another option is to use the laces to hang the shoes on the dryer door. Tie the pair together then thread them through the dryer door. Make sure your shoes are not laced up normally, as this will cause issues while they dry. Unlace them first then only use a single hole on each shoe.
Leave the laces hanging out the dryer after closing the door. Ensure the shoes do not touch the sides but hang freely inside from the door. This hanging method is better than using towels to dry shoes in the dryer as it works faster.
5. Choose the right settings
Set your machine to the Air Dry setting to ensure it doesn't use intense heat. You can use the lowest temperature setting if it's the only one available.
Make sure you're periodically checking the progress by pausing the cycle and feeling if the shoes are dry on the inside. You can keep adding five-minute intervals if you think they're getting close to being done.
What Are the Alternatives to Throwing Shoes in the Dryer?
If you don't want to put your shoes in the dryer you can also let them air dry. You can hang them in a shady and well-ventilated area by their laces or put them on a drying rack in direct sunlight.
Alternatively, you can place newspaper inside the shoes (replacing every two hours) to help absorb moisture. If none of those options work, you can place your shoes in rice and then let them sit for a few hours while covered. You can check out this helpful guide on speeding up the drying process here.
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