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A pair of legs wearing clean white plimsolls, sitting on the grass.

Dirty Secrets: How to Wash Trainers

Do you have smelly, muddy trainers lurking in your home? Find out how to get your footwear sparkling clean with these brilliant tips on washing trainers.

Want to make those worn out trainers look (and smell) like they’ve just come out of the box instead of out of a muddy park? Follow these laundry tips on how to wash trainers for an instant footwear overhaul.

How to Wash Trainer Laces

First, remove the laces and give them a good scrub with a soapy toothbrush on a washboard or draining board. If you are putting them in the washing machine with the rest of your wash, pin them into a bag or pocket first so they don’t get lost. You may have noticed that white laces are the first thing to show the dirt, so even just washing this part (or switching them for a darker colour) is going to be a big step in bringing those trainers back to life.  

Preparations for Washing Trainers

As for the shoes, before taking them near any water, carefully brush off any surface dirt. You know – all the sand from the sandpit, dust from the playground, mud from the football pitch, the chewing gum they accidentally stepped in… Be really thorough. Use a toothpick, cotton bud or pin to get into all the nooks and crannies. Getting rid of as much dirt as possible to begin with will prevent any of it seeping further into the fabric or making your washing water too muddy.  

How to Wash Trainers with a Sponge

Using a soft cloth or sponge, warm water and a small amount of Persil Bio Liquid Detergent, carefully clean the waterproof parts of the shoe such as the sole, reflective panels or leather detailing. Already the shoes should be starting to look better. Now to tackle the trickier fabric areas. These can be gently cleaned with a sponge, soft cloth or brush and a fresh batch of soapy water.

For tougher stains, dab on some neat Persil and leave for about 15 minutes. When the shoes look clean, or as clean as you think you can get them given what your child’s been up to in them, wipe away any detergent with clean water and a fresh cloth.

Keep scrolling to learn more, including tips on how to wash trainers in the machine!

Can You Put Trainers in the Washing Machine?

Many modern trainers are sturdy enough to withstand a machine wash (but always check the manufacturer’s instructions first). We recommend putting shoes in a mesh bag for protection, along with their detached laces, then washing with Persil Bio Liquid Detergent on a cold wash, which will help prevent the colours from fading. Washing at the same time as their swimming towels, dirty jeans, or smelly PE kit should soften any blows your shoes might give to the washing machine drum.  

Drying Your Clean Trainers

Dry trainers outdoors, if you can – but away from direct sunlight as this could fade the colours. Otherwise, find somewhere warm and dry with a good air current (on a windowsill, near a fan or air conditioning unit or in the airing cupboard).

Stuffing shoes with newspaper, and changing it when it begins to feel damp, is a good way to speed drying as the paper absorbs some of the excess water (this is also a handy tip for all your shoes if you’ve been out in the rain or if the kids have been splashing in puddles.) You can also accelerate the process by removing the insoles and washing and drying them separately.

Resist the temptation to put them in the tumble dryer though as this could add to the wear and tear of them. Depending on the weather, it could take several hours, or even a couple of days for the trainers to dry, so you may need to plan ahead. Washing the kids’ trainers the night before they need them for Sports Day might be cutting it fine.  

An Even Quicker Fix for Washing Trainers

If the trainers only need a quick freshen up, or you don’t have time for a potentially lengthy drying process, just washing the laces, the insoles and wiping down the soles is a fast-track way to an immediate impact. For more expert laundry tips, visit our stain removal section.  

How do you keep trainers looking fresher and cleaner for longer? Share your secrets with us in the comments below.