How to wash shoelaces for your hiking boots or running shoes

A person washing sport shoes laces under flowing water
Shoes you wear on the trail get extra grimy, so we walk you through how to wash shoelaces to keep them looking good and avoid damaging your washing machine (Image credit: Umida Kamalova)

Preparing to clean your hiking boots or wash your trail running shoes usually involves removing the shoelaces and setting them aside until you’re done. But when you thread those dirty laces back onto your shiny-looking clean shoes, it rather dilutes the effect of all your hard work. Plus, the dirtier your shoelaces get, the harder it can become to keep them tied as they can become stiff. However, as you may have learned the hard way, just tossing them in the washing machine with your next load of laundry can be disastrous for laces, your clothes or worse, your machine. Shoelaces on shoes that you wear on the trails, such as your best trail running shoes, definitely get grimy, but you can easily wash them in the machine or by hand. Here we talk you through how to wash shoelaces to keep your best footwear in ship shape.

Before we get started, a good tip is that before you remove your shoelaces to clean them, it can be a good idea to take a picture of them so that you can lace them back up the way you like them. For shoelaces made from synthetic fabrics, you can use either of the first two methods, while you’ll want to jump to the last method if your shoelaces are made of leather.

How to wash shoelaces in the washing machine 

A person putting pink sport shoes into automatic washing machine

You can wash shoelaces in the machine without breaking it (Image credit: Umida Kamalova)

Needless to say, you’re probably looking for the easiest option, and you can wash shoelaces in the machine without breaking it. For this option, you’ll need an old toothbrush, plus either a mesh laundry bag or some other washable, sealable bag like a zipped pillow case.

  1. Remove the laces from your shoes and gently rub them with a toothbrush to remove any chunks of mud.
  2. Run the laces under a cold tap and gently rub them with your fingers.
  3. Place the shoelaces in a mesh bag and run them through a regular cycle with detergent – because they’re in the bag, you can wash some clothes at the same time. If your laces are white and you want them to be white once again, add some bleach and wash them with your whites.
  4. Air dry your laces (the heat of the dryer can melt the plastic aglets).

How to wash shoelaces by hand 

A person washing sport shoes laces under flowing water

Washing your shoelaces by hand doesn’t take long at all, and might keep them lasting longer than washing them in the machine (Image credit: Umida Kamalova)

Washing your shoelaces by hand doesn’t take long at all, and might keep your laces lasting longer than washing them in the machine. For this, you’ll need an old toothbrush and either dish soap or laundry detergent.

  1. Fill the sink or a basin with warm water and add a small squirt of dish soap or laundry detergent.
  2. Remove the laces from your shoes and use a toothbrush to remove any chunks of mud.
  3. Place the laces in the soapy water and let them soak for 10 - 15 minutes, swirling them around occasionally with your hands.
  4. Use the toothbrush again to scrub the laces gently.
  5. Empty the sink and refill it with clean water to rinse out the soap from the laces.
  6. Air dry your laces (the heat of the dryer can melt the plastic aglets).

How to wash leather shoelaces  

Close up of muddy hiking boots

Your best hiking boots might have leather shoelaces, and while these won’t absorb as much dirt as synthetic laces, you’ll want to handle them with care (Image credit: Getty)

Your best hiking boots might have leather shoelaces, and while these won’t absorb as much dirt as synthetic laces, you’ll want to handle them with care. For this method, you’ll need a toothbrush, some leather soap, two cloths and some leather conditioner or natural oil like olive or coconut oil.

  1. Fill a bowl with warm water and add a squirt of leather soap.
  2. Remove the laces and use a toothbrush to gently brush off any dirt that is caked on.
  3. Dip the cloth in the soapy water and gently wipe the laces clean.
  4. Let the laces air dry on a towel or newspaper, away from direct sunlight.
  5. Once the laces are dry, put some leather conditioner or oil on a clean cloth and gently apply it to the laces.
  6. Set the laces out to air dry again. After an hour or so, wipe off any excess oil, then make sure they are completely dry before lacing them up again.

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.