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How to Clean Bowling Shoes? Can You Use a Washing Machine?

Tri-colored red, white, and blue bowling shoes that were recently cleaned with a steel wire brush to remove dirt.

Bowling shoes are a must when you’re at the bowling alley. They prevent injury and can even help enhance your performance! But what happens when they get dirty?

Your first instinct might be to clean them like you would your casual shoes, but it’ll take a little bit more than that. Similarly to cleaning your bowling ball, there is a process.

If you want to know how to clean your bowling shoes like a pro, read this article.

We’ll give you step-by-step directions on how to clean bowling shoes properly.

Get Your Supplies Ready

The first step to cleaning your bowling shoes is having all the supplies handy. Here’s what to grab:

Clean Your Laces

A red and blue bowling shoe on a blurred background of a bowling alley, will be cleaned with a soft cloth to avoid leather flaking.

Get a bowl of warm water, add one to two teaspoons of cleaner, and mix well. Then, remove your laces from each bowling shoe and drop the laces into the bowl.

Let your shoelaces soak until you finish washing your shoes. Every few minutes or so, rub the wet shoelaces together to help remove stuck-on dirt and debris. 

Scrub Your Insoles

Shoe insoles that are visibly worn and should be removed from the shoe, and with water and dish soap, wiped with micro fiber towel to remove any possible green mold.

Dip your toothbrush into the cleaning solution and gently scrub the inside of your shoes. If you can, remove your insole to give it a deep clean. Keep scrubbing until you’re sure you’ve removed all of the sweat and dirt.

Then, wipe the interior surface with a soft, damp cloth to remove soap residue. Pat the insole and interior surface dry with a dry paper towel to get a head start on drying. 

Wipe Down the Exterior  

Tri-colored red, white and blue bowling shoe that was wiped with a dry cloth and microfiber cloth to remove surface dust.

Once the inside of your shoes is clean, it’s time to work on the exterior. Dip one corner of your towel into the soapy water and scrub the outside of your bowling shoes.

Use small circular motions and keep rubbing until you’ve removed all of the visible dirt and staining.

Avoid over-saturating your shoe with water, or you may damage the exterior. After it’s clean, pour some fresh water onto a paper towel and wipe away the visible soap residue.

You might have to do a few passes to clean your shoe. Finish off the exterior by wiping it down with the dry side of your towel. 

Clean the Bottom of Your Shoes

The bottom of the shoes shows dirty slide strips to be cleaned with a wire bristled brush, with just enough pressure not to damage the slide pad. Wearing shoe covers help to minimize the dirt on the slide soles.

As the main point of contact between your feet and the ground, your soles are the dirtiest part of your bowling shoes. Use a dry paper towel to remove hard debris and dirt.

This step can be messy, so you might want to head outside, so you don’t make a mess. Then, use your wire bowling shoe brush to scrape against the rubber soles of your shoe.

Make sure you only scrape your brush in one direction and never drag it back and forth. Dragging the brush in one direction creates little grooves on the underside of your shoe and creates the perfect amount of grip.

Keep an eye on how much pressure you’re using to scrape the bowling shoes slide strip on the bottom of your shoe. While you want to remove stubborn buildup, you don’t want to gouge the soles accidentally.

So, use firm yet gentle pressure to get everything clean without destroying the soles.

After removing all the debris, take your toothbrush and dip it back into the soapy water. Scrub the bottom of your bowling shoes until they are spotless. Wipe them off with a damp paper towel to remove excess soap, then pat dry with your towel. 

Let Your Shoes Dry

Multiple pairs of shoes in a line on a countertop at the local bowling shop. The shoes were disinfected and are sitting in a dry and cool place.

Remove your shoelaces from the soapy water and rub them together one last time. Then, rinse with fresh water and wring them dry. Place your shoes and laces on a clean, dry towel.

Keep your shoes away from direct sunlight, as the UV rays can cause the leather to crack and fade. Instead, pick a cool, dry area with plenty of airflow. 

Wait for your shoes to dry completely; never store damp shoes in your bowling bag. 

If you must, leave your bowling bag open slightly so the moisture can evaporate. You can also give the inside of your shoes a quick spray with disinfectant, but this step is entirely up to you.

A disinfectant spray will kill viruses and bacteria left behind after washing. Some disinfectants even prevent microbial growth for up to 72 hours after application.

Can You Wash Bowling Shoes in A Washing Machine?

Two colored shoes, gray and burgundy, on a yellow background. These clean shoes were cleaned in the laundry machine with mild detergent.

Although it’s not recommended, you can wash your bowling shoes in a washing machine. Washing machines clean your bowling shoes much more thoroughly and effectively than handwashing.

It also takes significantly less time and effort on your part. However, washing machines are rough on shoes, causing them to lose shape or wear out quickly. 

How To Clean Bowling Shoes In A Washing Machine

Three pairs of dual-colored, red and blue bowling showing against a pinewood bowling lane are fashion trends among professional bowlers.

Handwashing will help your shoes last longer and look their best, but washing machines are fine if you’re in a pinch or need a deeper clean. Start by removing the laces and insoles and placing your bowling shoes in a protective laundry bag.

If you don’t have one, you can use a pillowcase instead. Make sure you use a pillowcase you don’t mind getting stained, as some of the dye can rub off the shoes. 

The bag keeps your shoes secure in the washing machine, which minimizes damage to your shoes and the machine. Once your shoes are secured, add a small amount of liquid detergent and put your machine on a slow, delicate cycle.

Use cool or cold water, as warm temperatures can damage leather and cause your shoes to warp. Once the wash cycle is complete, put your shoes in a cool area to dry. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Bowling Shoes 

These are dual-colored, red, and blue bowling shoes on a bowling lane. The soles were cleaned and one direction brushing techniques were used to activate the sliding mechanism on the soles to get more traction.

Now that you know how to clean your bowling shoes, we’d like to dive into the nitty-gritty. Here is a list of best practices to ensure that your shoes are squeaky clean without damage.  


Ensure you keep the following tips in mind whenever you clean your bowling shoes. 

  • Do remove the laces before you clean your bowling shoes.
  • Do scrub your shoes gently so you don’t scratch up the leather. 
  • Do disinfect your shoes in between washings. 
  • Do replace your soles when they start to wear out. 
  • Do wash your shoes after every few wears.
  • Do use specialized cleaning methods and products depending on the material your bowling shoes are made from.


Here’s a list of things you should avoid while cleaning your bowling shoes. 

  • Don’t walk outside in your bowling shoes. Limit the amount of dirt your shoes come in contact with.  Use these instead.
  • Don’t clean your shoes with harsh detergents. They could shorten the life of your shoes. 
  • Don’t throw your bowling shoes into the washing machine if you can avoid it. Though a washing machine can clean your bowling shoes well, it can be damaging. 
  • Don’t scrape your wire brush back and forth, or you’ll mess up the traction at the bottom of the shoes. 
  • Don’t dry leather shoes with a blow dryer, the sun, or a heater. 
  • Don’t wear bowling shoes until they are completely dry. 
  • Don’t submerge your bowling shoes in water. 

So, there you have it! Washing your bowling shoes is an easy, albeit time-consuming, process. The goal is to keep your bowling shoes clean and well maintained.

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It’s also an excellent way to keep your shoes looking great, lengthen their lifespan, and protect you against fungus and bacteria. In your bowling equipment collection, your shoes are the essential equipment next to your bowling ball.

We hope this article has explained everything you need to know about cleaning your bowling shoes!