Do Shoes Shrink in the Dryer?- Let’s Find Out

Weekend means washing – clothes, shoes, cars, etc. – scrubbing, rinsing, and drying. However, have you ever wondered if a dryer may cause shrinking issues with your attire? Especially shoes?

Well, you are not the only one asking this. After scrubbing out a dirty pair of shoes, most face this dilemma. So, do shoes shrink in the dryer?

Yes, the dryer may shrink your shoes. While some shoes may be conditionally compatible, others are forbidden to be even near a dryer. But with the correct combination and preparation, you can dry your shoes without shrinking them. Tie the lace, hang them in the door, and air dry for 20 minutes.

With that out of the way, let’s discuss a bit more about drying shoes – how to use a dryer, alternatives, and what to do if you make any mistake. So stick along.

Do Shoes Shrink In The Dryer?- Answered

do shoes shrink in the dryer

While washing shoes, drying them often create confusion – should you put them in the dryer or dry them in the open air? The reason is obvious – shrinking shoes. So, is putting your shoes in the dryer shrink them?

Well, yes, most shoes shrink in the dryer. They tend to contract because of the heat in the dryer. The excessive heat structurally messes up the shoe and its components. 

And as such, you end up with a shrunken shoe. However, if you control the settings of your dryer correctly, reducing the heat, the shoes would not necessarily contract.

So, before putting shoes in the dryer, check if your shoe is compatible with the dryer. The reason is that it mostly depends on the material used in the shoes.

1. Leather

It is generally advised against drying your leather shoes in a dryer. The trouble with leathers is that they are pretty sensitive to heat treatment. 

Heating can cause the leather to shrink or expand. Moreover, it can distort the shoe’s shape, ending up with something that may not fit your feet.

2. Canvas

Canvas materials are naturally flexible. Usually, washing a pair of canvas shoes with a dryer should not be a problem. The heat may not necessarily shrink the shoe but may cause other problems. 

The glue of the shoe may get damaged, and as a result, the shoe may lose its structure a bit. Many often recommend air dry canvas to be safe.

3. Steel Toe

You should never put steel-toe shoes in any dryer. Likewise, you should avoid direct heat while attempting to dry steel-toe shoes. 

The heat would crack and damage the leather. Leather as a material should be allowed to dry at a natural speed and process. Any attempts to boost that would end up badly.

Using The Dryer: The Safe Ways

Using The Dryer The Safe Ways

A dryer may indeed harm your shoes. However, by following some safety measures, you can avoid this catastrophe.

Check The Shoe Label

Remember those weird symbols on small white tags attached to your clothes? Yeah, they will be useful here (who could’ve known!). Those “weird” laundry symbols are guidelines for treating your shoes when washing or tidying them (like ironing). There may be too many or too few symbols. 

But what you need to look out for is a square.

  • If the square has an inscribed circle, the shoe can be machine dried.
  • A cross-through means it is not suitable for machine drying.
  • And finally, a tiny dot within the circle indicates you must dry the shoes at low heat.

However, if you don’t find such a label on your shoes, check the material of the shoes.

You can dry cotton, nylon, polyester, and canvas shoes in a dryer. But others like leather and suede must not be used under any condition.

In a nutshell, any animal-sourced upper shouldn’t be used in a dryer. While canvas, gel-core athletic shoes, and sheer nylon should be carefully treated.

Configure The Machine

When drying shoes, ensure the setting is in “Air Dry” mode. If that option is unavailable on your machine, set the temperature low. 

Cushion the insides of your washing machine with small towels and handkerchiefs. This way, the shoes won’t tumble around and damage the insides of the dryer.

Also, instead of throwing your shoes inside directly, keeping them affixed in a place is better.

  • Tie the laces of both the shoes with each other.
  • Then suspend the shoes by closing the door on the laces.
  • That way, during the drying process, the shoes stay in place.
  • Put the Air Dry mode.

Double Check

Before you start drying your shoes, it is necessary to check a few things to get the fastest results. Your shoes would dry more effectively if all the water drained off them. 

Also, if your shoes had tread over some rocky, muddy terrains, they may have small pebbles or stones. Be sure to scrub those out carefully. Else these small debris can tarnish your dryer.

Start Drying

All set? Everything checked? Now you are ready to start your dryer and let your shoes dry.

You should keep an eye on your shoes as they dry. Do not expose them to the heat for too long periods. 

After 20 minutes of initial drying, open the door and catch your shoes (remember, you anchored your shoes to the door!). Feel both the insides and outsides of the shoe to see if they are not wet. 

If you notice they haven’t dried well enough, dry them again for 5 minutes. Keep checking periodically until well dried.

Drying Without The Dryer

Drying Without The Dryer

The dryer may seem the fastest way to dry your wet shoes. But as mentioned at the very beginning, using a dryer can be a bit risky. Too much heat can shrink them. 

And for leather or suede uppers, your dryers would completely ruin them. It makes sense to look for alternative methods to treat your shoes. 

Try The Fan

If you have a table fan or a portable fan, use it to dry your shoe.

  • Place it on top of some newspapers or a towel.
  • Before drying them under a fan, be sure that you thoroughly scrub off and clean the dirt on your shoes.
  • Remove the insoles to dry them off separately.
  • If you have a hanger, cut it and make two S-shaped hooks. Hang the hooks off the fan’s outer cover and on the other end, and place your shoes.
  • Start the fan, and your shoes should dry off over time.

The Newspaper Trick

The classical newspaper method is widely known. However, how to do that?

  • Gather old newspapers and tear them into smaller, manageable pieces. 
  • Then compress them into balls and stuff them inside your shoes. Before that, remember to remove the insoles to dry them separately.
  • Cover the outside with newspapers too so that it soaks up the water from the upper.
  • Check every 1-2 hours if your shoes have dried. And if not, replace the newspapers with fresher ones.
  • Keep doing this until the shoes are completely dry.

While this method is quite simple, it isn’t very time efficient.

Use The Sun!

Drying your shoes under the shiny sun is perhaps the safest option.

  • Hang your wet shoes on a clothesline and let them dry out in the natural sunshine and air.
  • This method is most useful for suede or leather shoes, as they are pretty sensitive materials.
  • But also be aware of not putting them directly under the sun as it’s not healthy for the leather upper!

Dry With Rice

Ok, this may be a bit ridiculous. You can fix your wet phone using rice, but shoes! It turns out the ol’ reliable rice would do justice to your wet shoes too.

  • Take a box and almost fill it with uncooked rice, keeping room for your shoes.
  • Place your shoes on top of the heap of rice.
  • Now, wait for the rice to soak the excess water off your shoes.


You can use towels similarly to newspapers.

  • Stuff your shoes and wrap the outside with towels.
  • The towels should soak up all the water within a few hours.

How Can I Expand My Shrunken Shoes?

Did you already make a mistake and shrink your shoe in the dryer? I know; it’s heart-breaking. However, there are ways to fix it.

1. Freezing Your Shoes

If your shoes are too tight, you can expand them by freezing them.

  • First, you take two ziplock bags and stuff them into your shoes, as inside as possible.
  • Then carefully fill the bags with water, ensuring none seeps into your shoes. 
  • After that, put them inside your freezer overnight. The science behind this technique is that ice is slightly less dense than water.
  • The volume increases as the water freezes into ice, so your shoes would expand. 
  • Once done, check if they fit now. If not, repeat the process until it fits snug.

2. Re-Wetting Leather Shoes

This technique is said to be helpful if you specifically have your leather shoes shrunken after washing and drying them. Since wetting and direct heating cause the leather to contract, this method seeks to reverse the effect. 

  • You again wet your leather shoes and stuff them with newspapers or towels.
  • Then you leave them out in the open to air-dry overnight.
  • You should have an expanded shoe the next day.


  • Is it bad to put shoes in the dryer?

In general, putting shoes in a dryer is discouraged because the heat of the dryer can mess up with the material structure and deform and shrink them. 

A limited number of shoes, like those made with cotton or nylon, may be dried in a dryer. In contrast, you must not put others like leather in a dryer.

  • How do I keep my shoes from shrinking in the dryer?

When drying your shoes, put your dryer in air dry mode. If that setting is unavailable, set the dryer’s temperature low. 

And while drying, keep an eye on the shoes. After 20 minutes of drying, check if they have dried completely. If not, put them back in and test at 5-minute intervals until they have been completely dried.

Bottom Line

Do shoes shrink in the dryer? Yes, several shoes shrink in the dryer – leather, suede, steel-on, etc. However, some shoes – canvas, nylon, etc., are compatible with the dryer.

It can be frustrating when your shoes get wet, and you need them to dry fast. In an urgency, many may not think twice and put their shoes in the dryer to dry.

However, following the safety measure can save your shoes from shrinking.

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