Can You Wash Suede Work Boots In The Washing Machine? (My Experience)

Have you ever wondered what can happen to your suede/nubuck leather work boots if you wash them in the washing machine?

Could this ruin your suede work boots?

in this image the autor of this article, Adrian is holding his suede leather work boots in front of his washing machine showing that he's about to wash these suede work boots in the washer.

Well, let’s find out. I had a pair of Caterpillar Outline work boots that got a bit stinky and I’ve decided to wash them in the washing machine.

If you’re here for a quick answer let me tell you that nothing happened to my suede work boots after washing them in the washer.

Actually, there was something. After the boots got dry it seems like the “suede” effect, the smoothness of the leather was gone.

When I was passing my fingers over the leather I could not see the patterns anymore. The leather became stiff. But I fixed that and I’ll show how.

So let’s get into it and tell how I washed my suede leather work boots in the washing machine, step by step!

Step 1 – Prep the boots for the washing machine

You’ll want to do this (especially if you work in construction-related jobs) because you don’t want the dirt to get off the boots into the washing machine’s system. Stone, sand, mud, concrete, etc … CAN damage your washer if you don’t take this step.

I use two types of brushes for this. One brush with a hard bristle for the outsole and another one with a soft bristle for the leather.

Brush off as much dirt as you possibly can. Remember to remove the laces as well so you can clean the boot tongue area as well.

Also, remove the insoles. You can clean them separately if you want but it’s a bad idea to soak them in water. I rarely wash my insoles but when I do, I either clean the insoles with alcohol or with soap. But I do it manually and I don’t soak them in water.

Now let’s go to step two.

Step 2 – Prep the washing machine

Do you need to prep the washing machine??? For what?

I know. It sounds silly but I learn from my mistakes. And last time when I washed my Timberlands steel toe boots in the washer, the machine got a dent in the drum (my wife wasn’t happy about that).

So in order to avoid this happening again, or at least to reduce the risk of happening, I’ve added a couple of towels inside the washing machine together with the suede boots.

You can 3-4 as many as you want. I’ve added only 2 this time.

Step 3 – choose the right program

I’m not a pro at washing but one thing that I’ve learned after washing my work boots a few times over the years is that:

  1. The hot water could potentially damage the suede
  2. If the water is too hot, it can deactivate the adhesives that hold parts of the boot together

So make sure you wash your work boots with cold water to avoid any of the above. I’ve used the short program in my machine (15minutes) with cold water.

Step 4 – add detergent

Should you put detergent when washing the suede work boots? It depends who you’re asking, you’ll get a different answer.

If you ask me, I’ll tell you that suede leather and detergents are not the best friends. Personally, I’ve added a little bit of detergent in there and the boots look good.

If you’re worried about this, then just wash by hand the inside of your boot with some soap and a brush…and then throw them in the washing machine without any detergent!

But how the boot is going to be disinfected if I don’t use detergent? (You might ask)

Basically, I use alcohol isopropyl to make a solution and spray it inside the boot. Read more about it here: How to disinfect stinky work boots.

Step 5 – restore the patterns of the suede

This is what I was mentioning at the beginning of this article.

After I’ve washed my suede work boots, I left them to dry naturally but then when I check them if they were completely dry I realized the leather had become stiff.

Did I just ruin my suede boots by putting them in the washer?

No, it’s all under control. Don’t panic if this happens to you as well. All we have to do is to restore the suede “effect”.

For this, we need the hard bristle boot brush we used in the first step.

And all you do is:

  • Brush the leather in one direction only (from the heel towards the toe). Don’t press too hard though as this brush is hard already. So just brush for a minute or two each of the work boots.
  • Then apply mink oil (spray is best for this). Don’t be shy! Apply with abundance covering all the leather of the upper, tongue, everything!
  • Now repeat the same process you did before by brushing in one direction only for a couple of minutes for each, You will start to see the pattern reapearing as you pass your fingers over the leather.

Editor’s Note

One very important thing to keep in mind is that if you use mink oil on yellow work boots or any leather that’s light color, the mink oil might darken the leather. So if you’re not happy with that, then don’t do it!

Can you wash suede work boots in the washer? The takeaway

That’s all there is to it. It’s quite a simple process. Should YOU wash your suede work boots in the washing machine?

It’s up to you!

I can talk from my own experience that putting my suede boots in the washer wasn’t a bad experience. Even though I got scared when the boots got dried and the leather was hard and stiff. Nothing I couldn’t fix though!


Team Members Working On This Page

Victor Adrian – Editor / Webmaster

Construction Professional, driver, crane operator, cleaner, head chef … these are just some of the jobs I did in the past. Working in all these different environments taught me that having good footwear to protect your feet from different dangers at work IS PARAMOUNT for any worker! On this website, I aim to share all my knowledge and personal experience in dealing with different footwear and foot care issues, and hopefully, you can get something out of it. Enjoy!

Jessica Flynn
Jessica Flynn – Writer And Researcher

Love technology, going to the beach, take care of my body, and writing (amongst other things). You’ll see my face around here a little bit since I’m responsible for part of the research and writing of some of the articles you’re reading on BestForMyFeet.com. I hope you’ll find our content helpful and enjoyable! See you around, thanks for reading!


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