Clean your shoes to eliminate bacteria, then keep them smelling fresh with DIY sweat absorbers and good foot care.
Have you ever slipped off your shoes and noticed an embarrassing smell? Or maybe you’ve been about to put on a pair of your favorite shoes but were almost bowled over by the stink? It can happen to anyone, though some types of shoes are more likely to stink than others.
Why Do Your Shoes Smell Bad?
The reason your shoes stink is that each foot has 125,000 sweat glands and makes half a pint of sweat each day. The warm environment of a sweaty shoe creates a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria. To eliminate shoe odors, you need to eliminate the bacteria, dry your shoes between wearings, and control how much your foot sweats.
Washing Shoes to Eliminate Odors
You can remove most odors by washing fabric or canvas shoes by hand in a basin of cool, soapy water and then air-drying them in a sunny spot for added disinfection. To deodorize leather or suede shoes, which are not washable, wipe the insole with a damp cloth or disinfecting wipe. Then ensure shoes dry out between wearing by using sweat absorbers and homemade deodorizers that target the odor-causing bacteria.
Absorb Sweat to Deodorize Shoes
The faster your shoes dry out after you take them off, the less smell they’ll develop. Some easy home remedies for foot and shoe odor include:
- Blot sweat after wearing your shoes. Stuff newspaper, paper towels, or dry rags inside your shoes after removing them to help absorb excess moisture. Remove the material and let your shoes air dry.
- Tuck tea bags inside your shoes. Tea bags have tannins that eliminate odor-causing germs, so they’ll eliminate odors while your shoes air out.
- Never wear the same shoe two days in a row. Shoes need time to dry fully after you’ve worn them.
Homemade Shoe Deodorizers
You can make antibacterial shoe spray, shoe powder, or odor-eliminating sachets with ingredients from your kitchen. Using these between washing will keep bacteria under control and stop your shoes from smelling bad.
DIY Shoe Spray
To make homemade shoe deodorizing spray, combine 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar and 5 drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Shake well. Mist the inside of your shoes, or apply the spray to a cloth and wipe the shoe interior. Avoid getting the spray on the outside, visible part of your shoes. Let your shoes air dry before wearing them.
DIY Shoe Powder
To make homemade shoe deodorizing powder, combine 3 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon corn starch, and 5 drops of tea tree oil in a small container. Lightly sprinkle this inside your shoes after wearing and let it sit overnight, absorbing sweat and eliminating odors. Shake out powder before wearing them.
Homemade Shoe Sachets
To make a shoe deodorizing sachet, put 4 tablespoons of unscented clay kitty litter on a coffee filter. Add a few drops of antifungal, antibacterial essential oils such as tea tree lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, or cedar. Tie it closed with a rubber band and tuck the sachet into your shoes after removing them. Dispose of sachets after 2 or 3 uses when the essential oil scent fades, or the cat litter feels damp. Keep the shoe deodorizing sachets away from children and pets.
Try the Freezer
The bacteria that cause shoe odors need a warm, dark place to breed, and freezing your shoes stops that process. To deodorize shoes in the freezer, wrap them in a plastic bag or clean towel to keep them from coming in contact with other items, then place them in your freezer for at least an hour, up to overnight. Remove shoes from the freezer an hour before you need them, so they have time to reach room temperature. Do not wear shoes directly out of the freezer.
Ways to Control Foot Sweat
Sweaty feet make shoes smell bad. Just as some people sweat more than others, some are more prone to foot odor than others. If sweaty feet or smelly shoes are an ongoing problem, try a nightly deodorizing footbath, and choose footwear that does not trap moisture inside to help reduce bacterial growth.
Antibacterial Foot Soak
To get rid of stubborn foot odors, make a deodorizing footbath by combining 1/2 cup of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of Epsom salts, 2 drops of tea tree oil, and 2 quarts of warm water in a deep bowl or basin. Soak your feet in this for 15-20 minutes, then rinse and pat them dry. Discard the mixture.
Choose “Breathable” Shoes
Since shoe odor starts with sweaty feet, an easy way to reduce it is by choosing shoes made of natural materials and open weaves. Hemp, fabric, and canvas are all good choices because they allow air to circulate, so your feet stay drier. Avoid plastic, pleather, vinyl, and rubber shoes such as Crocs.
Wear the Right Socks
Look for socks that wick moisture away from your feet while allowing air to circulate. Wool is a fantastic choice, but so is cotton. Avoid nylon socks if foot odor is a problem since synthetic fabrics trap air. Change your socks immediately if they start to feel damp. You may need to change them repeatedly if you’re working out, on your feet a lot, or if the weather is hot.