Squish… Squish… Squish…If really thoroughly wet through, drying wet shoes is a pain.
There is probably nothing more cringe-worthy than the feeling of walking in soaking wet shoes. Unfortunately, you can’t just place your shoes under direct sunlight and hope for the best. In fact, some methods may actually damage your shoes.
How to dry wet shoes without damaging them?
Different shoes require a different level and type of care. A gel-soled athletic shoe can be dried with the use of a fan. Leather shoes need to be dried with kitchen towel or newspaper. Synthetic shoes can go in the dryer. All shoes will benefit from a specific shoe drying accessory.
Check out how each specific shoe type should be best addressed when cleaning to prevent damage, whether it’s a men’s or women’s shoe.
Drying Wet Shoes Without Damaging Them
Unless you want to permanently destroy your shoes you have to dry them as soon as possible after they get wet. If you don't do this the water will corrode and damage your expensive footwear.
However, the way in which you dry your shoes can also affect their longevity.
Each type of shoe has an optimal method and requires a specific level of attention.
While there are some methods that may universally work for most shoes, here is a list of common shoe materials and how to best dry them without inducing any long-term damage.
If you do want to go for a faster drying method then you can get a purpose made shoe and boot fan drier for use at home or a really useful portable one that slips inside your shoe or boot you can travel with or use from the car utility supply socket.
Drying Leather and Suede Shoes
Leather is among the most fragile of shoe materials because it is a natural material. It is also the best natural water-resistant material for shoes; waterproof if regularly maintained.
It is a very common material used to manufacture shoes and, historically, they benefit from a quite unorthodox and surprising method of drying… Newspapers…
Yes, you heard me correctly, those old black and white newspapers your granddad still reads on a daily basis actually have some use after all.
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I honestly don’t know a single person who still gets news from a daily paper but if you’re one of those who does well then more power to you! We’ll see who gets the last laugh when you have dry undamaged shoes and all your friends have torn and worn footwear.
Now we are living in this digital age where books, magazines and newspapers are in a spiral of decline and overtaken by the digital everything, where will we even find newspapers soon?
Well, rather than racking my brains over that, let's use a little common sense and understand that the newspaper acts just like a sponge. What paper do you and I use every day that does the same job?
Yep! You got it kitchen paper towels!
Anyway, the method for drying wet leather shoes with newspapers is fairly simple and then I'll elaborate on the 21st-century version of the same how to!
Firstly, if your leather or suede shoes are dirty, lightly dab out any dirt with a semi-wet towel or wipe. Don’t rub or press too hard otherwise you risk damaging your shoes. You can use a damp old toothbrush and whizz it around the cracks and crevices to get any loose stuff out.
Now, one by one unravel the newspaper, crumble up individual sheets, then, once crumpled wrap a sheet of kitchen towel around the newspaper and stuff it deep within your shoe. Fill the inside until you can’t stuff any more newspapers wrapped in kitchen paper towels.
The fibrous properties of the paper will draw out moisture from your shoe.
If your shoes are very wet then once your paper towel wrapped newspapers are soaked, you will have to remove them and repeat this process until they come out completely dry.
To dry the outside, simply wrap your shoes thoroughly with one layer of kitchen paper towel (unprinted is best) and then with a couple of layers of newspapers and fasten with a few rubber bands.
Why bother with kitchen towels and all the wrapping of newspapers and not just do what people have been doing for a very long time using just newspaper?
Well, the issue with newspapers is that they are printed with ink. Wet newspapers leak the ink onto the shoe – not the best idea! If you wrap with kitchen towel first then the kitchen towel gets the ink and not your shoe. That's why!
OK clever clogs…. why not just use kitchen towels and ball them up and forget the newspapers I can't even find any more then?
Well, kitchen towels are infinitely more expensive than newspaper unless you are running out to buy newspapers you have no intention of reading, just to stuff into your shoes. In which case the kitchen towels are definitely the way to go.
If you do want to ignore my advice that is also fine but you might want to make sure you use high-quality newspapers otherwise the ink from the words and images may transfer unto your shoes. Then you’ll have a cleaning problem, not a drying one.
Oh, and magazine pages are not going to do the trick quite so well because they are glossy and not so absorbent. My mind is wandering – I guess you could use old books with the thicker, older paper or historical manuscripts made from papyrus at a pinch. Maybe that's what they did back in Egyptian times and that is why we can't find many papyrus manuscripts these days?
Back to the topic at hand.
Hard-soled clogs can also be dried in this fashion as well as high heels made of leather.
The newspaper method is really versatile and can be used for almost all footwear but there are faster and perhaps more effective measures for other shoe types.
Drying Synthetic and Cotton Shoes
You may feel the need to pop your shoes in the drying machine once they get wet but truthfully this isn’t a method you should use often or for every shoe.
Using a machine dryer to extract moisture out of your wet shoes is a fast and ideal way to dry footwear made of synthetic or cotton materials.
These shoes are more reliable and can withstand more damage than for instance a common leather shoe.
Start by getting the dirt out of your shoes by spraying on some water and wiping off with a wet towel or non-toxic wipe.
At this point, you may feel that throwing your shoes in the dryer, turning it on, and waiting an hour is enough. That’s where you are wrong.
If you want to suffer for an hour and a half listening to your shoes rumble around in the machine as if it’s a bullfighting ring, only to have your shoes come out worn out and looking like hell then by all means.
However, the right thing to do would be to tie the laces of your shoes together tightly in a bow-like fashion. Make sure all four laces have been tied together. Extend the laces one or two inches out of the dryer itself so that when you close the machine door the shoes hang by the side instead of tumbling loosely.
Place a few large towels in the dryer to minimize the noise and movement even more and turn your dryer on for about an hour and a half.
This method of drying is very fast but can end up harming your shoes in the long term. Generally, you should avoid machine dryers unless it’s absolutely imperative to have dry shoes within the hour.
And make sure you are drying with cold air not hot!
Otherwise, the newspaper method works well in this instance as well.
By all means, avoid placing your leather or gel-soled athletic shoes in the dryer.
Drying the Shoes
For the shoes, get a sturdy fan with a diameter larger than the length of your shoe. Again start by washing off any dirt, yes it’s an oxymoron – get your shoes wet to get them dry. Then find two strong metal rods in an “S” shape or any type of small hanger that can support your shoes.
Remove the lacing, open your shoe up wide, hang it on the metal rods with the inside of the shoe facing the fan.
The downside of this is that if you have stinky shoes this may spread the odor throughout the house. So it’s a good idea to wash your athletic shoes beforehand.
Drying them outside the back door or in the garage is a smart idea – you might need an electrical extension.
You should have your fan on low speed which will essentially take a few hours to dry your shoes.
This method can also work with durable leather and strong suede shoes but the process will take an overall longer time.
A word to control freaks – Short, Sharp, Shock does not work well with shoes.
Drying Uggs and Work Boots
Uggs and similarly styled shoes look great during the rainy and snowy seasons but they are not best friends with water.
If you place your wet Uggs under direct sunlight and hope for the best you will end up with very stinky, dried up, and wrinkled looking shoe.
The problem with wet Uggs is they are made of wool, suede, fur, and sheepskin which means that if they get dirty or wet you can very apparently see the wet and stained areas.
It’s imperative that you start the drying process by making sure your Uggs are clean, which is a topic for another article altogether.
Once your Uggs are clean you can then proceed to dry them.
Start by simply shaking off as much water as possible you can also hang them upside down to make this process a bit faster.
Unless you want to have roasted BBQ Uggs, never place your shoes near direct heat sources like radiators, heaters, or direct sunlight. Instead, find an airy dry area of your home and stuff your Uggs with regular unprinted paper or towels. Slow and consistent like the tortoise is the play – not fast and furious like rabbits do the things they do.
This method is similar to the newspaper technique but if you use printed paper you are going to have Uggs that look like a society of tiny people did graffiti all over your shoes.
Drying work boots is a similar process except with more durable models you can use direct sunlight to help in the drying process.
The best way to dry wet shoes is to let them dry naturally. Outside in indirect sunlight and with a breeze is best but we are not in control of the weather yet.
If drying inside then a slow fan can speed up the process, but like a fine wine, it is better to let nature work its wonders than force drying.
If using the radiator – under it is a gazillion times better than on it. Being on top does not always equate to the supreme.
Washing is better done by hand and hot air tumble dryers are going to ruin your shoes.
If you have a destructive streak and feel a pressing urge to torment your shoes in a tumble drier then at least use the cold setting and hang the things in there. I'm not sure your underwear will smell great the next day!
Is it Okay to Dry Wet Shoes in the Dryer?
Again it depends on the specific shoe but for best results, it is not the optimal solution – drying with care and naturally is the best way. For the most part, only synthetic or cotton shoes that have no gel soles should go in the dryer. Read above to find out how to best use the dryer for shoe drying purposes.
How Long do Shoes Take to Dry?
The length of time it takes for a shoe to dry, so to speak, depends largely on the shoe type and method used to dry. For instance, sneakers thrown in the machine dryer will only take a few hours to dry but taking this approach multiple times will end up damaging your shoes in the long term. You'll end up with flopping soles when the glue disintegrates over time.
Other shoes like Uggs may take many days to dry while leather shoes only a day – or two at max.
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I love hiking with my family and taking in the cool air in the hills around where I live up in Ithaca.
Most of the time we take rather shorter walks out for a bit of exercise since there are so many things in life that we also want to do – and especially the kids.
Life is a balance but one where you should never take the beauty of nature for granted. I also enjoy writing about my experiences and helping others with the things I learn about shoes from using them, from friends and the family.