We present the results of data-mining the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) archive for data on classical and recurrent novae. We find that the detections are consistent with dust emission, line emission, emission by a stellar photosphere, or a combination of these. Of the 36 novae detected in one or more WISE bands, 16 are detected in all four; 31 known novae are not detected by WISE. We also searched for WISE data on post-WISE novae, to gain information about nova progenitors. In this first paper, we consider only the WISE data. In future papers, we will provide a more detailed modelling of the WISE data, and discuss WISE data on post-WISE novae – including their variability – and will complement the WISE data with data from other IR surveys.