We have all been there. You get your new leather shoes and wear them a few times, then notice that they are starting to look a little bit dirty. What do you do? Can you wash the dirty leather shoes in the washing machine?
You cannot wash leather shoes in a washing machine because the heat and agitation can damage the leather. Leather shoes should be cleaned by hand with a damp cloth, using a mild soap or saddle soap, or polished with shoe polish.
If your leather shoes get really dirty, you can take them to a professional cleaner. Professional cleaners have special solvents and machines that can clean the dirt and grime from your shoes without damaging the leather.
In the remaining parts of this article, I’m going to tell you what actually happens when you wash your leather shoes in the washing machine.
I will also show you the best alternatives to cleaning your leather shoes so that you do not ruin your favorite leather shoes. Stick around!
What Happens If You Put Leather Shoes In The Washing Machine?
There are a few problems that you will face if you decide to wash your leather shoes in a washing machine. Below are some of the most common problems;
1. The Leather Shoes Leather Will Become Wrinkled
One of the first things you will notice when you wash your leather shoes with the washing machine is that the leather will become wrinkled.
This is because when leather gets soaking wet, it stretches and as it dries it shrinks causing wrinkles.
Usually, when this happens it can be very difficult to get the wrinkles out of your leather shoes.
This is because while leather as a material can hold up the shape very well, it can also lose its shape and in the process get a lot of wrinkles when it is allowed to get soaking wet.
So if you do not what your leather shoes to get ugly wrinkles, you should not wash them in the washing machine.
2. The Leather Shoes Color May Fade
When you wash your leather shoes in the washing machine, the washing process can strip off the natural oils and dyes that are used to color the leather.
This means that over time, the natural color of your leather shoes will fade and the shoes will start to look old and worn.
Most leathers are dyed using chemical dyes which are very sensitive to water. So when leather gets soaked in water, some of the dyes will be lost causing the leather shoe to have a dull boring look.
If you want to avoid this from happening, it is best not to wash your leather shoes in the washing machine.
3. The Leather Shoes Will Get Stretched Out
One other thing that will happen when you wash your leather shoes in the washing machine is that the leather will get stretched out and it will not go back to its original size.
The leather becomes more elastic and stretchy when it gets soaking wet even for a couple of minutes. It will become stretched out and lose its shape.
So in the case of your leather shoes, you may notice that the leather shoes have become wider after you have washed them in the washing machine.
When this happens, it can be very difficult to fix and your only option may be to purchase a new pair of leather shoes – and I’m sure you wouldn’t want that.
4. The Leather Shoes Soles May Come Lose
Leather shoes are usually assembled with glue or other strong adhesives. These adhesives will not do a good job of holding the parts of the leather shoe like soles together when they are exposed to water.
So when you wash your leather shoes in the washing machine, chances are the glue may fail and will not be able to hold the soles of your leather shoes together.
While this may be easy to fix, you may not be able to get the same level of quality adhesion as before.
For example, most manufacturers use machines and other equipment to apply adhesives and fasten the soles of shoes together.
If you try to do it manually, chances are the end result will not be as good and your leather shoe may come apart.
If you want to avoid this, it is best not to wash your leather shoes in the washing machine.
5. There Is A Higher Chance Of Water Damage To The Leather Shoes
One of the biggest problems with washing leather shoes in the washing machine is that there is a much higher chance of water damage to the leather.
By water damage, I mean water seeping through the leather material and soaking into it. The water then leaves behind stains and will cause damage to the leather material.
This is because when you wash your shoes in a washing machine, there are lots of water that splashes up and around the leather shoes.
This is especially true if you are using the washing machine to clean your other clothes along with your leather shoes.
So if you want to avoid your leather shoes from getting water damaged, it is best not to wash them in the washing machine.
6. The Leather Shoes Will Be Out Of Shape
I might have hinted or alluded to this earlier but let me make it very clear again – leather shoes will not be in the same shape they were before when you wash them in a washing machine.
When you wash your leather shoes in the washing machine, chances are they will not be able to retain their original shape.
This is because when you put leather in water, even for a few seconds, the leather will start to swell and expand.
So after you have washed your shoes in the washing machine, they will not be able to return to their original shape and size.
In the worst-case scenario, your leather shoes may become deformed after you have washed them in the washing machine. This is why it’s best not to wash leather shoes in the washing machine.
7. The Leather Shoes Will Become Stiffer
One of the side effects of washing leather shoes in a washing machine is that they will become stiffer.
This happens because when you put leather shoes in water, the essential natural oils in the fibers of the leather seep out causing the leather to become stiff when dry.
This means that even if your leather shoes do not lose their shape, lose their color, or any other effects mentioned earlier, they will definitely become stiff.
The worse part is this can also lead to the leather shoes cracking and eventually breaking. After this has happened, there is no going back as this is often impossible to fix.
So if you want to avoid this serious issue, it is best not to wash leather shoes in a washing machine.
So now that you know some of the consequences of washing your leather shoes in the washing machine, you might be wondering if there are any other ways to clean your leather shoes.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways you can clean your leather shoes without having to use a washing machine.
Best Alternative To Washing Leather Shoes In The Washing Machine
- Newspaper or Towel
- Shoe Brush or Rag
- Saddle Soap or Mild Dish Soap
- Microfiber Cloth
- Leather Conditioner
- It’s a good idea to lay down newspaper or a towel on the surface you’ll be working on beforehand for an easy clean-up.
- Start by removing the laces on your leather shoes.
- This will help prevent soap residue or polish from getting into the laces and ruining them.
- You can also use the opportunity to wash them as well if they are dirty. The shoelaces you can put in the washing machine. 😀
- Use a shoe brush or rag to brush off any dirt, dust, or debris on the surface of the leather shoe.
- This will help prepare the surface for cleaning and make it easier for you to apply soap or polish.
- Next, clean your leather shoe with soap to remove tough stains.
- You can do so by putting some saddle soap lather or mild dish soap on a clean soft-bristled brush and rubbing it on the exterior of your leather shoe in a circular motion to remove any stains or dirt.
- If the soap doesn’t work or if the leather shoe is too dirty, you might need to use a stronger cleaning agent such as a leather cleaner or a special shoe cleaning solution.
- Either way, make sure not to get the leather shoe soaking wet.
- Only use the foam from the soap to clean the leather shoe.
- If you go for a specially made leather cleaner like these ones from Chemical Guys or Leather Honey, you would want to follow the recommended cleaning instructions for best results.
- Once the leather shoe is clean, use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe away all of the soap residues.
- Be as thorough as possible.
- Finish by using a dry microfiber cloth to buff the surface of the leather shoe to remove any remaining moisture.
- Put shoe stretchers in the leather shoes if you have one and leave the leather shoe to air dry.
- If you do not have shoe stretchers, you can stuff the leather shoe with some brown paper or dry rags to maintain its shape as it dries.
- You also do not want to dry the leather shoes using any heat source like sun, radiator, or hairdryer.
- Simply give the leather shoes 30 minutes to an hour to dry.
- Once the leather shoes are dried, you can now apply your leather conditioner.
- This will help to restore the natural oils of the leather and keep it protected from the elements.
- You can apply several layers if you want to achieve a deeper shine on your leather shoes.
- Once you’re satisfied with the result, allow the leather shoes to air-dry again overnight, and there you have it, you’ve cleaned your leather shoes all by yourself.
- The next morning, put the shoelaces back on and get ready to enjoy some compliments on your new-looking shoes.
Cleaning your leather shoes doesn’t have to be a daunting task even though you cannot use the washing machine to do it.
There are plenty of ways to clean your leather shoes without using harsh cleaning processes that may damage the leather.
All you need is a bit of patience and some shoe care products to get the job done right, so good luck! 😀