Follow these steps to get bad smells out of your shoes and keep them from stinking again.
Have you ever slipped off your shoes and noticed an embarrassing, bad 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 My Shoes Smell Bad?
The reason your shoes stink is that your feet contain 250,000 sweat glands. When those glands get confined in a shoe, the sweat and warmth create a breeding ground for bacteria.
How Do I Stop My Shoes From Smelling?
To get rid of smelly shoes, you need to destroy the bacteria that causes the stink. You can do this by laundering them if they’re washable. Using homemade shoe deodorizing sprays or powders also helps. Finally, learn how good shoe and foot care help keep feet from stinking.
Follow These Steps to Clean Your Stinky Shoes
The best way to get rid of shoe odors depends on whether your shoes are washable or not. If they’re leather or have non-washable accents, your shoe deodorizing efforts will focus on cleaning the interior. In between cleanings, use homemade shoe deodorizers to keep them smelling fresh.
Step 1: Washing Shoes
This step is for canvas and fabric shoes that do not have non-washable elements like leather, sequins, or lights. It also works well for plastic or rubber shoes, like Crocs or flip-flops. To keep your shoes fresh, wash them every couple of months or any time they start to look or smell dirty.
To wash: Add your shoes to the machine and use your normal amount of laundry detergent. Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle, or pour it into your machine’s empty fabric softener dispenser. Use a long, warm wash and rinse cycle. (Hot water will shrink your shoes.)
To dry: Remove your shoes from the machine after the cycle is complete. Then, stuff a couple of dry cloths into each shoe to absorb excess moisture. Pull the now damp cloths out and repeat with fresh, dry cloths. Then put your shoes in a sunny spot to dry. Sunlight will also help deodorize your shoes by killing any lingering bacteria.
Step 2: Washing Inserts and Insoles
This works for non-washable shoes. Even shoes that can’t go in the washing machine may have removable insoles that you can wash to get rid of shoe odors. If you have orthotic inserts, you should wash them, too.
All you need to do is fill a sink with 2 cups water and 1 cup white vinegar then let your inserts soak for 5-10 minutes. Rinse them well then press the inserts between dry towels to blot excess moisture. Let your inserts fully air dry before putting them back in your shoes. Do this once a month to keep your inserts and insoles fresh.
Step 3: Use Homemade Shoe Deodorizers
Use a homemade shoe deodorizer to control odors between washings. It’s best to apply deodorizers immediately after you remove your shoes, then give them at least overnight to work. A full day is even better.
Shoe Deodorizing Spray
White vinegar is a natural disinfectant. Tea tree oil kills bacteria. This effective spray uses both to get rid of shoe odors and the bacteria that cause them.
- White vinegar
- Tea tree oil
- 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.
- Once you’ve sprayed them, let your shoes air dry before wearing them.
Deodorizing Shoe Powder
Baking soda is a natural deodorizer, and tea tree oil kills bacteria. Using cornstarch helps keep the mixture from clumping. If you don’t plan to store your homemade shoe powder, you can skip the cornstarch.
- Baking soda
- Tea tree oil
- Combine 3 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon corn starch, and 5 drops of tea tree oil in a small container.
- Lightly sprinkle this deodorizing powder inside your shoes after you take them off. Let it remain overnight to absorb sweat and kill odors, then shake the excess out of your shoes before wearing them.
More Ways to Keep Your Shoes from Smelling Bad
If you need extra help getting rid of shoe odors, combine the steps above with these tips to keep your feet and shoes from stinking.
Make Good Footwear Choices
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 since they allow air to circulate, so your feet stay dryer. Plus, shoes made from natural materials are usually washable, so they’re easier to clean.
Make sure you’re choosing the right socks, too. 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, though. And always change your socks when they start to feel damp. If you’re working out, on your feet a lot, or if the weather is hot, you may need to change socks more than once a day.
After Wear Care
Alternate your shoes. Shoes need time to dry out fully after you’ve worn them. So, avoid wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row.
Help your shoes dry faster after wearing them. The faster your shoes dry out after you take them off, the less smell they’ll develop. Stuffing shoes with newspaper or dry rags helps to absorb sweat, but be sure to remove them after a few hours. For added odor control, tuck a tea bag or dryer sheet in the shoe of your toes before adding the paper.
Freeze smelly shoes to kill odors. The bacteria that cause shoe odor need a warm, dark place to breed. Freezing your shoes stops that process. All you need to do is tuck them in a freezer overnight. You should probably put them in a bag first, though, so the dirty soles of your shoes don’t come into contact with your frozen foods.
Practice Good Foot Care
Taking good care of your feet also takes care of the rough, cracked spots where odor-causing bacteria thrive. So, keep your toenails trimmed and any calluses filed. If cracking or rough feet are ongoing problems, get in the habit of applying a thick layer of foot lotion or petroleum jelly to your feet before bed, then sleep in a pair of socks to lock in the moisture.
Make a point of actually washing your feet. Don’t just assume the soapy runoff in your shower is enough to get your feet clean. You need to wash them, too, ideally with an antibacterial soap. Use a washcloth or soft brush to get between your toes and under your nails.
Deodorizing Foot Bath
To get rid of the bacteria that cause very stubborn shoe odors, soak your feet at least twice a week in a deodorizing bath. For this, combine add 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar and 2 quarts of cool water to a deep bowl or basin. You can add a drop or two of tea tree oil if you like (I use this one)*. Then, sit back and relax while you soak your feet for 15-20 minutes. Once you’re done, pat them dry — including between your toes — and moisturize them well, then slip on a pair of cozy socks.