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?
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. Shoe deodorizing sprays or powders, like the homemade versions below, also help. Finally, keep your shoe and foot odor away for good by following the tips below.
How to Get Rid of Shoe Odors and Keep Your Shoes From Smelling Bad
- A measuring spoon
- Dry cloths
- Small container for mixing (for powder)
- Spray bottle (for spray)
Homemade Deodorizing Shoe Powder
- Baking soda
- Tea tree oil
Homemade Deodorizing Shoe Spray
- White vinegar
- Tea tree oil
Wash Shoes to Get Rid of Odors
- You can launder shoes made from canvas or fabric, like tennis shoes, in your washing machine. This also works well for plastic or rubber shoes, like Crocs or flip-flops.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Wash your shoes every couple of months, or more often if they start to look or smell dirty. Between washings, you can keep them clean using the homemade shoe deodorizing powder and other tips below.
How to Deodorize Non-Washable Shoes
- To kill odors in shoes that can't go into the washing machine, use this 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. Once you've sprayed them, let your shoes dry in a sunny spot before wearing them.
How to Make a Homemade Shoe Deodorizing Powder
- Combine 3 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon corn starch, and 5 drops of tea tree oil in a small container. The baking soda is a natural deodorizer and tea tree oil both kills bacteria. Using cornstarch helps keep the mixture from clumping.
- Lightly sprinkle this shoe powder inside your shoes after you take them off. Let it remain overnight to absorb sweat and kill odors. If you use too much, just shake the excess powder out of your shoes before wearing them.
Wash Your Shoe Insoles and Inserts Monthly
- Even shoes that can't go in the washing machine may have removable insoles that you can wash. If you have orthotic inserts, you should wash them, too. Do this at least once a month.
- To wash shoe inserts and insoles, fill a sink with 2 cups water and 1 cup white vinegar. Let the inserts soak for 5-10 minutes then rinse with fresh water.
- Press the inserts between dry cloths to blot excess moisture, then let them air dry. Wait until they are completely dry to put them back into your shoes.
More Ways to Keep Your Shoes from Smelling Bad
- 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.
- Freeze smelly shoes to kill odors. The bacteria that cause shoe odor needs 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.
- 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.
- Choose shoes made of natural materials. Natural materials allow air to circulate so your shoes stay dryer and less smelly. Plus, materials like canvas or other fabrics are washable, so they're easier to clean.
- Wear fresh socks and change them if they feel damp. Socks absorb sweat and keep it from soaking into your shoes. If you're working out hard, on your feet a lot, or if the weather is hot, you may need to change socks more than once a day.
- Practice good foot care. Untended feet provide many spots for odor-causing bacteria to grow. Keep your toenails trimmed, calluses filed, and moisturize rough feet. Tend to athlete's foot immediately, too.
- Wash feet with antibacterial soap daily. If foot odor is a frequent problem, make a daily habit of washing your feet with an antibacterial soap. (Dial is one.) Use a washcloth or soft brush to get between your toes and under your nails.
- Soak your feet to deodorize them. In a deep bowl or basin, combine 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar and 2 quarts of cool water. Soak your feet in this for 15-20 minutes. This home remedy deodorizes your feet and also cools them to help relieve sweating.