How to Clean Shoelaces

When your shoelaces are just dirty, and not frayed or coming apart, it’s more cost-effective to clean them than it is to replace them. With these methods on how to clean shoelaces, you’ll be able to get them looking like new without damaging them. You’ll find instructions for cleaning them by hand, in the washing machine, and how to use bleach on your shoelaces safely.

Prepare to Clean Shoelaces

Before you choose one of the cleaning methods we discuss below, you’ll want to prep the shoelaces for cleaning. To get the best possible clean without damaging your shoes, you’ll want to remove the shoelaces from the shoes. Then, remove any stuck-on debris. This makes the cleaning method you choose more effective. 

You can remove the debris in one of two ways. If there isn’t a lot of extra debris, just use some running water to rinse the laces clean. If there is a lot of dirt, you can use a toothbrush to gently brush away the dirt. 

Stain Remover on Shoe Laces

Once you’ve done this, use a stain remover to target any especially dirty spots. This stain treatment will help you get your shoelaces looking a lot brighter, especially if they’ve gotten really dirty. Plus, it’s a color-safe way to clean your laces if you don’t want to put bleach on them. After you’ve spot-treated them, you’re ready to move on to the next step. 

Method #1: Clean Shoelaces by Hand

Prepare Detergent Solution

If you have the time to do it, cleaning shoelaces by hand is a lot gentler than throwing them in the washing machine. Plus, it’s easier to add some extras to the bucket if you are trying to get especially grimy laces clean and it gives you more control over the cleaning process. 

If your laces aren’t especially dirty, all you need to do is add detergent to a bucket of hot water. It doesn’t take a lot of detergent to get them clean, especially after pre-treating the tough spots. Add about four cups of hot water and half a teaspoon of laundry detergent. If you are working with white laces and want to brighten them, you could also add one teaspoon of bleach to the solution. 

Something to keep in mind if you are using bleach is that you need to choose one that is oxygen-based instead of chlorine-based. A chlorine-based bleach will damage synthetic laces. 

Soak the Shoelaces

If you’d like, you can put the shoelaces inside of a laundry bag. While the bag isn’t as necessary as it is when putting the laces in the washing machine, it will still keep the laces from getting wrapped around themselves. It also makes it easier to grab them, since you won’t have to dig around at the bottom of the bucket.

White Laces Soaking in a Bleach and Detergent Solution 

You should soak the laces for about 20-30 minutes in the solution. If the lingerie bag tries to float to the top of the solution, weigh it down with a plate. 

While the stain treatment you did may get rid of some of the stains, you can use a toothbrush to scrub away any problem areas. Be sure to wear gloves while doing this so that the solution doesn’t irritate your hands, especially if you added bleach to it. 

Scrubbing Shoe Lace with a Toothbrush

Rinse the Shoelaces

 If you put the laces in the bag, you’ll want to take them out of the bag to rinse them. You can either empty the bucket and fill it with clean water or use running water to rinse the laces. All you need to do is swish them around the bucket or run them under a stream of water. Once all the soap has been removed, they’re fully rinsed and ready to be dried. 

Dry the Shoelaces

You’ll want to hang the shoelaces to let them air dry. Hang them over a hanger or a hook so they dangle down and dry evenly. This may take several hours, but the laces won’t get damaged as they would in the dryer. 

Shoe Laces Drying on Hanger

Method #2: Clean Shoelaces in a Washing Machine

Put Shoelaces in a Lingerie Bag

If you want to run your laces through the washing machine to clean them, put them in a mesh lingerie bag first. The lingerie bag stops them from getting tangled around the washing machine agitator and around themselves when they are being washed. If you don’t have a mesh lingerie bag, you can also use a pillowcase. Just knot it at the end so that the laces don’t fall out. Alternatively, choose a pillowcase that has a zipper at the end. 

Shoe Laces in Zippered Pillow Case

Wash Using Your Regular Wash Cycle

Next, cleaning your shoelaces is as easy as following your regular wash cycle. You can wash them using detergent and you can even add a little bleach to the washer if they are white shoelaces. If so, you’ll also want to wash with like colors so the bleach doesn’t damage any of your other clothing in the load. You can use hot water for the wash cycle if they are especially stained. However, keep in mind that too much heat can damage the ends of your shoelaces. 

Washing Machine Set to Cold

Air Dry

Finally, you’ll want to air dry the shoelaces. Air drying is important because the high temperatures of a dryer cause the shoelaces to shrink, especially since most are made using cotton or a cotton blend. Putting the shoelaces in the dryer can also cause the aglets (which are the hard pieces at the end of the laces) to melt. Instead, hang them over a hanger for a couple of hours. They’ll be dry and ready to re-lace through your shoes in no time.  

FAQs – How to Clean Shoelaces

How do I get my shoelaces white? 

While the bleach we recommended will brighten shoelaces a little, it is still pretty diluted. According to Clorox, you can add three tablespoons of regular bleach to one gallon of water. Then, soak the laces for about five minutes and try washing them on the hot water cycle in the laundry. Don’t forget to wear gloves while you are handling the bleach. 

What do I do if I damaged the ends of my shoelaces? 

The aglets (plastic ends) on shoelaces break down with time and may even wear away a little if you scrub them too much. If they were damaged while cleaning, you’ll eventually want to replace them altogether. If you need something that works now, you can take a piece of Scotch tape and wrap it around the end of the shoelace. This will keep it from fraying as you lace it back through your shoes. 

Can you put shoelaces in the washing machine? 

Yes, you absolutely can wash your shoelaces in the washing machine. Something to note, however, is that you can’t target any stains as easily while cleaning while they are in there. You should also take care to keep the shoelaces from getting tangled around the agitator or themselves by putting them in a knotted pillowcase or lingerie bag.