Not only are wet shoes highly uncomfortable, but they can also lead to mold and bacteria growth, causing a foul odor, or worse, foot infections. Because shoes are bulky, letting them sit in a room to dry sometimes takes up to a full day. Fortunately, there are quicker ways to dry wet shoes — is drying shoes in the oven acceptable?
You cannot dry shoes in a working oven because the glue that bonds the shoes together can deteriorate, especially in high temperatures. Most soles consist of rubber, which can melt, smoke, or even ignite. Instead, dry your shoes with a clothes dryer, hairdryer, shoe dryer, or under the sun.
The next time you step in a puddle, don’t stick your shoes in the oven to dry them. In this article, you will learn why the oven method is unsafe. I will also outline several safer methods for drying your shoes. Keep reading.
What Happens if You Put Shoes in the Oven?
Ovens use radiant heat for cooking foods. The heat produced is usually intense, no matter what oven settings you use. Drying shoes in a range may seem like a strange idea, and for a good reason—it’s simply unsafe. This is especially true when you consider the materials used to make shoes.
If you put shoes in the oven to dry, the shoe’s adhesive will melt. This makes your shoes weak, eventually leading to them falling apart. Additionally, the oven will cause shoe soles to warp. Furthermore, if your shoe soles are polyurethane, they’ll release toxic carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.
I’ll explain more on this below.
While older shoes used stitching or nails to hold them together, most modern shoes are bound together using glue or other adhesives. Ovens produce high temperatures, which can cause the adhesive to melt. This can weaken the shoe, causing it to fall apart.
Many manufacturers use natural or synthetic rubber in shoe soles. Natural rubber is plant-based, and synthetic rubber soles typically consist of polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) compounds. When exposed to high temperatures, their materials can swell and burst.
Plant-Based Rubber Soles
Natural, plant-based rubber has a melting point of 356°F (180°C). While placing a shoe with a natural rubber sole in an oven at a lower temperature won’t melt the rubber, it could potentially soften it, causing it to warp.
Polyurethane is a thermosetting polymer which means that it does not melt. However, when exposed to high levels of heat, this material can ignite. The smoke from the ignition of polyurethane is highly toxic and contains carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and nitrogen oxides. Shoes with soles made of polyurethane should not be exposed to high heat.
Shoe soles made with polyvinyl chloride, more commonly known as PVC, are considered durable and long-lasting. PVC can withstand temperatures up to 130°F (390°C), but it has a melting point of 212°F to 500°F (100°C to 260°C), depending on additives.
The upper part of the shoe is the area that wraps around the foot. Shoemakers use a wide range of materials, from leather to plastics, to create the upper shoe. Exposing this material to high temperatures could potentially damage the shoe, rendering it unwearable.
Leather does have some heat-resistant properties, but when exposed to temperatures over 200°F (93 °C), it begins to scorch. While it may not burst into flames, it could cause the leather to burn and peel away, ruining the shoe’s look and wearability.
Cotton canvas fabrics are highly flammable. Any chemicals added to the canvas can increase its flammability. The heat produced by an oven can burn the material. In addition to burning the shoe, heat can cause the canvas to shrink.
Today, many shoe manufacturers use petrochemicals to produce their shoes. Petrochemicals are more commonly known as plastics. Shoes made of these plastics can quickly melt in the oven, especially at high temperatures.
Many shoes utilize vinyl labels on the upper area to give the shoe a unique design. While vinyl is durable and resistant to scuffing and discoloration, it is highly susceptible to heat. Vinyl labels on shoes can be permanently wrinkled when exposed to high temperatures.
Traditionally, shoelaces were made of natural fibers like cotton, hemp, and leather. Modern shoelaces, however, are mostly made of synthetic fibers, including nylon and polyester. These materials can easily catch fire or smoke, leading to toxic fumes.
Any fumes released from the heating of these materials could bind themselves to the oven, making future cooking potentially dangerous as food comes into contact with these chemicals.
Can You Dry Your Shoes in the Microwave Oven?
Microwaves cook food in seconds, often drying it out in the process. These appliances zap water molecules with electromagnetic radiation, causing them to evaporate. As a result, it removes moisture from the food — so a microwave should be able to dry a pair of wet shoes using the same method, right? Wait, not so fast.
You cannot microwave shoes to dry them, nor should you attempt to do so. Microwaves heat at extremely high temperatures, and they heat unevenly. Drying shoes with a microwave may cause the shoes to melt, scorch, bubble, or ignite.
Again, the material of the shoes plays an important role here. As mentioned earlier in this article, most shoe soles use natural or synthetic rubber. When exposed to intense heat, the soles can melt. Rubber cannot withstand the heat of a microwave.
Leather is also reactive to microwaves and can burst into flames, start to bubble, or scorch. The leather will shrink and pull away from the shoe as the moisture evaporates. The shoe may also end up with holes throughout the surface.
In addition to melting the rubber soles or damaging the leather, any metal on the shoelace grommets, clasps, zippers, etc. — will generate tiny bolts of electricity, causing the shoe to catch fire. This can quickly lead to a potentially dangerous situation.
Better Ways to Dry Your Wet Shoes
Squishy, squeaky wet shoes are not a good look and are sure to draw some unwanted attention. Fortunately, there are several safe ways to dry wet shoes quickly.
Dryers dry clothing quicker than an outdoor clothing line, and most fabrics are dryer safe—but what about shoes? Many people utilize their dryers for drying their shoes, but there are some precautions to take.
You can dry your shoes in the dryer as long as you use the proper heat settings. It’s best to use “Air Dry” or “Tumble Dry,” but if your dryer does not have this option, use the lowest temperature setting to avoid shrinkage and warping. Check the shoes after 20 minutes of dry time.
Drying shoes in the dryer can be pretty noisy, as shoes are clunky. Reduce the noise by using a garment bag that attaches to the back of your dryer’s door. If you don’t have a garment bag, you can tie the shoelaces together and shut them in the door to secure them in place. This will prevent them from knocking around as the dryer tumbles.
I recommend the Shappy Sneaker Mesh Wash and Dry Bag. This bag attaches to the dryer door with straps to keep shoes in place as they dry. The mesh material allows for good airflow.
Hair dryers use heat to cause water molecules in the hair to evaporate. Because it’s direct heat, there are precautions to take to avoid damaging the shoe or burning yourself.
Remove the shoe’s insoles and use low to medium heat to dry the inner portion of the shoe. Keep the hair dryer at least 6 inches (15 cm) away to avoid scorching the shoe.
Do not apply constant heat by holding the hair dryer in one place. This can damage the glue or rubber. Instead, move it around the shoe evenly, repeating as needed until the shoe is dry.
Damp shoes should dry relatively quickly using this method, usually within 20-30 minutes. Wet shoes, however, will take significantly longer.
Shoe dryers dry shoes safely and efficiently. They work by sending warm air through two pillars. The shoes sit upside-down on these pillars, drying in about 20-30 minutes, depending on how wet they are.
I recommend the LAVIEAIR Boot and Shoe Dryer from Amazon. This shoe dryer dries 2 pairs of shoes at once, neutralizes odors, and allows users to set a timer.
The sun is an effective way to dry shoes quickly, especially if the day is warm and dry. Remove the insoles and leave the shoes out in direct sunlight, checking them every hour or so. Make sure to keep an eye on the weather, however. Don’t let them get rained on and if it’s below freezing, keep them indoors unless you want hard, cold sneakers.
To dry shoes quickly using a fan:
- Remove the insoles and prop the shoes against the fan with the soles facing away.
- Turn the fan on at high speed.
- Allow the shoes to dry for 1-2 hours.
You can remove most of the moisture first using a hairdryer before propping the shoes against the fan to speed up the process.
Cotton Hand Towels or Newspaper
This method isn’t as fast as the others mentioned here, but it’s better than just air drying if you have several hours to wait.
Place a few dry hand towels or crumpled newspapers into the shoe, stuffing them to the toe. Tighten the laces and set the shoe in front of a fan or a well-ventilated area. After 2 hours, remove the towels or newspaper and replace it with more dry material.
If your shoes are sopping wet, you can use this technique to dry them out a bit before finishing them off with another method.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to dry wet shoes instantly.
It might sound like a good idea to dry shoes quickly using an oven or microwave, but both of these methods are potentially dangerous and risk damaging the shoes. Unless you made the shoes yourself, you couldn’t accurately say whether or not the shoes will react to extreme temperatures.
There are much quicker (and safer) methods for drying shoes, including using a clothes dryer or hair dryer, investing in a shoe dryer, drying your shoes in the sunlight, using a fan, or sopping up the moisture using clean cloths or newspaper.