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How to Dry Your Shoes

Sheryl Cannes
Updated on: May 23, 2022

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your shoes get wet. Wet sneakers feel uncomfortable and make annoying noises. Worse than that, they can shrink, become misshapen, or develop mold and mildew if not dried properly.

Before you toss your shoes in the clothes dryer, you might want to try a few other options that are less likely to damage your favorite pair of sneakers. The right drying process usually depends on the shoes’ materials.

You can’t dry leather the same way you do fabric and mesh. We’ll go over some of the drying options, so get your mesh bag and rubber bands ready to keep wet conditions from ruining your favorite pair of shoes.

Check Shoe Materials

Before you do anything, check the shoes’ materials. If the shoes are machine washable and dryable, it’s usually noted somewhere on the interior tongue label or somewhere else on the shoes.

Canvas, mesh, and other fabrics are the most likely to survive machine drying. Other materials may survive the dryer, but the exposure to high direct heat can shorten the shoes’ lifespan. Rubber may become brittle and crack, while adhesives can break down or melt, causing parts of the shoes to peel.

How to Dry Shoes: 7 Methods to Try

1. Shoe/Boot Dryer

Shoe/boot dryers are specifically made to dry the shoe’s interior and exterior. The shoes or boots fit over two poles with an internal heat source that circulates warm air inside the shoe. These dryers work well because they don’t overheat the shoe, which can damage the materials.

If you live in a wet climate or one that gets snowy in the winter, a shoe dryer is worth the investment since you’ll probably use it often during the winter. Shoe dryers also work well when your shoes are full of excess water. They access and dry the interior and prevent mold and mildew from developing.

2. Hairdryer

In a pinch, a hairdryer can work almost as well as a shoe dryer. But, because hairdryers aren’t specifically designed to dry shoes, they require more work on your part. You either have to hold the hairdryer near the shoe’s opening or create a device to hold the hairdryer for you. For example, rubber bands strategically wrapped around a sturdy stool or towel rack can often hold a hairdryer while it’s running.

You have to be careful with shoes and hairdryers though. Some models have settings high enough to damage the shoes’ materials. Opt for a cool or low heat setting to prevent high temperatures from melting adhesives or plastic parts on the shoe.

There’s also the risk of overheating your hairdryer since most models aren’t designed to run long enough to dry a whole shoe (let alone a full pair). You may have to wait until your hairdryer has cooled down before resuming your drying session.

3. Fans

Pull out a table or oscillating fan. The blowing air increases water evaporation, which dries out the shoe. Fans are a great option that won’t overheat the shoes’ materials. It’s harder to dry the inside of the shoe with a table fan, but if you position the fan correctly, you have a good chance of drying both the inside and the outside of your sneakers.

4. Machine Dry

In an ideal world, all shoes would be machine dryable. However, leather shoes and other common shoe materials do not respond well to high heat.

Check the shoe’s materials. If you have the option to machine dry, go for it. Of course, you’ll want to take a few precautions to make sure the shoes have the best chance of drying.

Place the shoes in a mesh bag to keep them together and to prevent the laces or eyes from getting caught on other items or the dryer’s interior. Use low heat to prevent damage to the adhesives. Check the shoelaces. If they have plastic aglets, it may be best to remove them while the shoes dry.

5. Towels and Fabric

If the shoes aren’t too wet, you can absorb the water rather than evaporate it. You can also use this method before you use a fan or hairdryer to remove excess water. Loosen the laces and stuff the wet shoes with a dry towel or fabric. Leave the towel in place for several hours, replacing it if the towel becomes saturated.

6. Newspaper

The newspaper method works to absorb water, much like towels and absorbent fabrics. The difference is newspapers are often cheap, and you can throw it away when you’re done. Crumple the newspaper, and stuff it inside the shoe. Press it into the toes to soak up the maximum amount of water. This shoe drying method works well when used before a hairdryer or fan to get rid of excess moisture.

7. Rice

Dry rice works for shoes as well as it does cellphones. Don’t place the rice directly in the shoe. First, place it in a bag made of absorbent fibers (so you don’t end up having to claw out each rice grain later). Then insert the rice bag inside the shoe, and leave it for several hours to absorb the water.

Tips for Drying Shoes

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to dry shoes. But, there are ways you can increase efficiency and prolong the life of your shoes.

  • Wash the shoes first. Dried on dirt and grime can stain. Remove as much dirt and filth as possible before drying the shoes. It may pay off to use a gentle cleanser to remove tough stains.
  • Remove the laces. Shoelaces don’t always respond well to cleaners or heat. The aglets on the end may also get damaged, especially if they’re made of plastic. Clean them separately from the rest of the shoes.
  • Remove the insoles if possible, and dry them separately. This isn’t a hard or fast rule. If your shoes have removable insoles, the shoes may dry faster if you remove the insoles and dry them outside of the shoe.
  • Do not machine dry shoes that are not labeled to do so. If it doesn’t say machine dryable, do not put it in the dryer.
  • Act right away. The sooner you clean and dry your sneakers and shoes, the better the chances that your footwear won’t get damaged or permanently stained.

FAQs

Can you use a washing machine to wash your shoes?

Follow the same guidelines as clothes dryers. If the label says the shoes are machine washable, then go ahead and use the clothes washer. However, if it doesn’t, it’s best to avoid the washing machine. The hot water temperatures and agitation could damage some of the shoes’ materials.

What’s the fastest way to dry your shoes?

The fastest drying method depends on the shoes’ materials and how wet they are. For example, leather shoes need extra care and respond better to methods that absorb water rather than evaporating it. Try a towel, newspaper, or rice. You may also need to dry leather shoes on a shoe tree to prevent them from shrinking or losing shape.

With other types of shoes, shoe dryers offer the fastest solution. They dry from the inside out and use heat that won’t damage the materials.

Should I use special cleaners to remove mud and stains from my shoes?

You can use gentle cleansers or shoe-specific cleansers to remove the toughest stains and mud. Cold water prevents tough stains like blood or grape juice from setting in, but warm water often has more cleaning power. Follow cleaning guidelines that are similar to other items made of the same materials. Use fabric cleaners on fabric shoes and leather cleaners for leather shoes, for example.

Conclusion

If your shoes get wet, don’t wait. Wash and dry them as soon as you get home.

You can’t prevent wet shoes, but properly drying your shoes preserves the integrity of the materials and extends their use. With a few shoe and sneaker drying techniques in your back pocket, you can keep your footwear looking good no matter the weather.

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