How To Wash And Care For Bowling Shoes: A Complete Guide

If you are a new bowler and just starting out, you may be wondering whether or not your bowling shoes can be washed. This a great question and even the most experienced bowlers will reference cleaning instructions from time to time. This is because our bowling equipment is just as important to our success in the lanes as our strategy is to our game. When we are bowling and our shoes are not properly cleaned and cared for, some undesirable things can happen.

During the approach, our slide will suffer from a lack of traction or worse, too much traction. Sticky substances on the bottom of your shoes can send you to a screeching halt and can even result in a faceplant, an experience that will likely be enough to change your cleaning habits for good. I assume it would be a better idea to share with you some tools and tips for preventative maintenance when it comes to your shoes.

Can bowling shoes be washed?

Yes, of course, you can wash your bowling shoes! In fact, your footwear is arguably the most important piece in your bowling equipment collection. You should always make sure that your shoes are always clear from grime and buildup

Tip: To avoid leather flaking or discoloration in the fabric, make sure to follow the recommended care instructions for your exact shoe type.

You will need a few basic tools and all should be simple enough to come by, at a reasonably affordable rate too. I replace my tools every few months and end up spending less than $5 by purchasing them at my local dollar store.

  • A soft, dry cloth
  • Use a separate cloth to dampen, if needed
  • A mild detergent or dish soap (grab a small bucket or bowl for your soapy mixture if you don’t have an extra tub lying around the house
  • A steel wire brush for scraping and scoring the soles of your shoes alt. you can use any similar wire type of brush, or a scotch pad

Tip: When mixing your solution, use warm water and a very small amount of soap. It doesn’t take much, so you only need to prepare a small batch for each time you clean your shoes.

Dedicate a small amount of your cleaner for your laces. What I found works best for my routine is to pour a small amount in a separate bucket or container, like a small Tupperware bowl, then leaving my laces to soak while I continue cleaning the rest of my shoes.

When I switch to cleaning the other shoe, I take a couple of minutes to rub the laces together, rinse them out, and repeating those exact steps while cleaning my second shoe. But of course, do what works best for the flow of your routine, the simpler your process is, the more likely you are to keep up with it and remain consistent.

Lastly, it is not recommended you reuse the soapy mixture. Make a new batch each and every time, or store it in a tight container that you will use to transfer only the needed amount into another container.

How to clean the slide strip of a bowling shoe:

If you are finding it difficult to master or perfect control of your slide during your approach, consider grabbing your tools, and let’s get to work protecting your investment. Shoes are uniform when bowling, especially if you’re in a league and they are not a cheap initial investment if you prioritize quality over cost.

What I found works best for me is to clean my shoes after every use as part of my regular routine. This way I can be confident that the money I shelled out initially, will be well worth it in the end. Like anyone else, I do my best to staying current with fashion trends, so I do buy a new pair every few years. However, because I continue to take the time to care for and clean each pair, I expect each pair to give me around 10 to 15 years of safe and comfortable wear.

With that in mind, when you wash bowling shoes, take your time and gather your patience. When done correctly they will reward you with a safe and flawless execution as you approach the line.

It is important to know the different brushing techniques to follow before getting started. There are different directions to scrape the sole, depending on your desired result or outcome.

Start by whipping down the bottom of your shoes with a soft cloth. This will remove any surface dust and debris. If there is a real mess going on, get another cloth damp (not drenched) with your mixture of warm water and a mild soap or detergent. After you lightly scrub the dirty or sticky area, make sure you quickly pat it dry with another cloth.

Tip: The cloth should be damp, not dripping so make sure to wring the cloth out well.

The next step requires the use of a firm, wire bristled brush. This has two important purposes, to remove gunk we commonly find on the bottom of our shoes, and for scoring or fluffing the shoe’s sole. Once you have finished, the bottom of your shoes should appear close to new. This is necessary when relying on our shoes for providing us with the proper amount of friction we need to flawlessly execute our slide.

Follow Technique

As you run the wire brush down (or across), make sure to pay careful attention to how hard we press the brush against the sole of the shoe. With each stroke use just enough pressure to remove any buildup and dirt without gouging or puncturing the soles.

You want to run the brush in one direction only, never use a back and forth motion.

Choose Your Strategy

If your slide is lacking the slippery effect you need or once had, you want to brush the slide soles in a toe to heel direction (remember to only go in one direction).

If you feel like your control is less than what it was before, or needing more traction and a little less slide, then you’ll want to brush the sole in a side-to-side motion (again, do not use a back and forth or scrubbing motion).


It is your decision on how often you clean your shoes. Consider how frequently they are used, when they will next be used and the conditions they were last worn in.

Earlier I briefly mentioned how often I clean my shoes and the reason why, for some of us following a routine is necessary for our success, or simply remembering a responsibility. Just be honest with yourself on how much discipline you personally need.

There will be times where it just is not possible to take the time, so don’t stress too much when timing or convenience prevent you from being able to clean your shoes after each and every time you use them. There are other less time-consuming things you can, and definitely should be doing to take care of your shoes anyways :

Always untie your shoe’s laces before putting on or removing your shoes. Slipping them off and on will cause them to wear out quickly and will not offer the same protection and support for foot and ankle.

Disinfect! Keep some disinfectant spray handy and use it often.

Storing your shoes is very important and why I left it for last. If you are anything like me then you have most likely tossed your shoes into your bag or the trunk of your car without another thought. Please take better care to store your shoes neatly in a cool area secure enough to protect them from being flattened and from getting wet.

Can you use your bowling shoes outside?

No, never, absolutely not, please do not have your shoes on your feet when going outside, even for a second. You would not want all your previous cleaning efforts to be pointless or cause yourself more work in the future.

The outside ground is filthy and littered with things our shoes pick up and track like leaves and mud, things that are hard to clean. Also, pieces of gravel and tree which can cause expensive physical damage to the sole of the shoes, trust me.

The better option here is prevention. Get yourself some shoe covers, they are a fairly inexpensive option, considering the alternative. Shoe covers are useful in situations where you need to run up to concessions for a snack, or quickly visit the restroom. The covers act as a barrier between your feet and the floor, protecting the bottom of your shoes from things like liquid or gum that we may not always noticed in time.

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