Stinky Shoes? How To Get Rid of Smelly Shoes

Stinky Shoes? How To Get Rid of Smelly Shoes

I have some great shoe odor eliminator tricks up my sleeve that include home remedies for stinky shoes, plus recommendations on useful shoe odor sprays & various other shoe odor eliminators.

One, or a combination of these hacks will surely help you deodorize your shoes in addition to give you tips on how to prevent shoe odor in the first place. 

But First: What Causes Shoe Odor?

But what causes stinky shoes, you ask? Well, the biggest cause of shoe odor is the bacteria & fungus behind it. Kinda literally. Have sweaty feet? Yep, moisture caused by sweat in shoes provides a good home for bacteria & fungi. Yummy, right!?

Other, less widespread reasons for stinky shoes include foot injury & certain medical conditions, which can cause feet & consequently your, shoes to smell foul. 

This article will provide tips on how to get rid of shoe odor including, but not limited to:

  • how to eliminate moisture in shoes
  • how to kill odor causing bacteria in shoes
  • how to freshen up your shoes

So no need to buy new shoes just because they stink. You can revive them by following some or a mix of these tips!


1. Wash + exfoliate feet to prevent stinky shoes

Since stinky shoes start with stinky feet, seems like that’s a good place to begin. Practicing good foot hygiene can help keep the foot odor down.

Wash your feet every day. Even if you don’t shower or bathe every day, take the time to wash your feet with warm soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and then dry with a clean, dry towel. Make sure you clean between your toes where bacteria love to grow.

Exfoliate. Removing dead skin can reduce foot odor. Wash your feet with an exfoliating pad, pumice stone, or exfoliating shower wipe.

Keep your feet dry. The bacteria that reacts with sweat thrives in moist areas. If your socks or shoes are wet, you’ve set up a feast for odor-causing bacteria. Wear breathable socks made of fabric that will wick away foot perspiration. Wearing shoes without socks may be fashionably cool, but it’s never a good idea. If you like stinky tennis shoes, don’t wear socks.

Does rubbing alcohol kill bacteria in shoes?

Another method known to kill odor causing bacteria in shoes is by spraying them with a solution of water mixed rubbing alcohol (the kind found in drug stores in the first aid section). The alcohol will kill any odor causing bacteria that is in your sneakers and should prevent the stinky smell from returning.

Why do my shoes smell so 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. To get rid of the smell in your shoes, you need to destroy the bacteria causing the stink. You can do this by cleaning them properly.

Diy Shoe Deodorizer

Baking soda can be used in different ways to remove odors from your shoes. Make your own DIY shoe deodorizer to eliminate stenches from your foul smelling shoes by applying baking soda directly into the shoes or mixing with essential oils. Let us briefly discuss 3 methods for how to clean smelly shoes with baking soda.

How can I deodorize my shoes naturally? Applying baking soda inside of shoes is slightly messy, but produces the best results. The powder spread evenly throughout the shoe and makes contact with all areas. As a result, odor-causing bacteria is neutralized and smells are successfully eliminated.

  1. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda into each shoe in order to fully cover the interior.
  2. Shake the shoes in different directions to evenly spread the baking soda around the entire insole.
  3. Leave the shoes alone overnight or preferably for 24 hours, especially if the shoes are just nasty.
  4. Remove the baking soda from the shoes by shaking over a trashcan or using a vacuum.
  5. Repeat the process as many times as necessary.

What essential oil is good for smelly shoes? Use essential oils like lavender, tea tree or peppermint to provide a refreshing and uplifting aroma to the inside of your smelly shoes. Select an oil fragrance that suits your preference, and then proceed with the following deodorizing method.

Tea tree oil has antibacterial odor reducing properties that are supported by double-blind case studies.

  1. Mix 10-20 drops of essential oil with 4 tablespoons of baking powder.
  2. Divide the mixture into each shoe, and spread it around the entire insole by tilting the shoe in various directions.
  3. Keep the mixture in the shoes overnight or preferably for 24 hours.
  4. Afterward, dump the powder into a trashcan and vacuum the inside of the shoes
  5. Repeat the process as necessary depending upon how stinky the shoe odor is.

Pro tip: You should not rub the baking soda inside the shoes because it will be hard to remove later on.

How do I make a DIY deodorizer for shoes? Use baking soda as a deodorizer for your smelly shoes by putting 4 tablespoons of baking soda each into two socks that are not in use. Tie the open ends of the socks with a string, and place them into the toe box inside each shoe. Leave the DIY shoe deodorizers in place for 24-48 hours in order to fully absorb the bad odors.

12. Denture tablet shoe soak

You’ll only want to use this method on shoes that can be submerged completely in water without damage.

Take a bucket or medium size bin. Fill it with hot water. Drop in 3 to 4 denture tablets and allow them to dissolve. Toss in your sneakers and let them soak for 2 to 3 hours. Not only will they smell better but they’ll be germ-free, at least for a while.

Final Thoughts about Stinky Shoes

Eliminating shoe odor doesn’t have to be a challenge since there are many ways to deal with it. Remember that keeping shoes dry to prevent bacteria from building is the first step to preventing future shoe odor from developing.

A great overall tip is not to play favorites with your shoes. That means rotating frequently between the shoes you own, allowing them ample time in between uses to dry & air out. Always wearing fresh socks & obvs keeping your feet clean is essential!

For more options on how to get odor out of shoescheck out my reviews of the StinkBoss, an ozone shoe deodorizer & my review of Ever Bamboo’s bamboo charcoal natural shoe deodorizer.

Did we miss a tip? Which shoe odor eliminating tricks work for you? If you have any comments or want to share an old home remedy for stinky shoes, let me know!

Disclaimer: Attempting eliminate shoe odor yourself may cause irreparable damage to your beloved sneakers, heels & boots. It’s usually safer to take your footwear to a professional who uses specialized products. Highly recommended for your pricey Choos & Blahniks!

Written by ShoeTease + Wayne Yu

4) Make Use Of The Sunlight

Give your shoes a chance to air out — that means don’t leave them in a shoe rack/cupboard. Place them under the sunlight during the morning or afternoon since its UV rays are capable of eliminating bacteria. Just be careful not to leave leather or suede shoes under the hot sun for too long since doing so might shorten its lifespan.

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Deodorize Smelly Shoes With Vinegar

People use vinegar for a variety of uses in the household. From cooking to cleaning, vinegar has found its way into many daily chores. Today, we’re going to learn how to use vinegar to deodorize smelly shoes.

Vinegar is a plant-based product that disinfects about 90% of bacteria. This study on PedMed concluded that

natural products were less effective than commercial household disinfectants.

However, a vinegar bath is considered to be an effective method to minimize shoe odor. But, it may not be your best alternative.

How does vinegar get rid of smelly shoes? Vinegar contains acetic acid, which kills a majority of odor-causing bacteria. Therefore, it aids in eliminating bad smells emitted from shoes.

Vinegar cannot be used to fully disinfect shoes because it doesn’t completely kill all forms of bacteria. In order to increase the effectiveness of vinegar on smelly shoes, it is recommended to combine the treatment with baking soda. Still, many people use a mixture of vinegar and water for the purpose of diminishing the bad odor.

Can I spray vinegar in my shoes? In order to get rid of bad odors within smelly shoes, spraying vinegar is an effective method for the short term. Undiluted vinegar will eliminate a majority of bacteria on the surface level, however, it will not penetrate any deeper.

After spraying vinegar, allow the shoes to air dry. The vinegar smell will dissipate once completely dried and leave behind a fresh aroma.

How To Clean Smelly Shoes With Vinegar

Vinegar needs time to be fully effective against bacteria. You will have to deep clean the shoes with soap and vinegar to completely remove the stench. Smelly shoes can be cleaned with vinegar as a proper application.

Some people spray a 50/50 mixture of water and white distilled vinegar into the lining and soles of shoes. However, baking soda must ultimately be used to make shoes odor-free with this method.

Washing shoes with vinegar

  1. Remove insoles and also clean shoelaces separately.
  2. Use a brush to remove any dried debris on the surface level of the shoes.
  3. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of dish soap with 1 cup of vinegar and 1/2 gallon of water.
  4. Moisten a brush or rag with the cleaning solution, and start scrubbing the shoe. Thoroughly detail all areas of the shoe from inside to outside.
  5. Rinse shoes with clean water to remove any soap residue.
  6. Allow shoes to air dry, preferably in the sun, in order to allow UV rays to further irradiate odor-causing bacteria.

Helpful hint: The vinegar smell will be present in the cleaning solution, but will dissolve as the shoes dry. Consider applying baking soda to the inside of your shoes after they completely dry out.

6) Use Black Teabags

Here’s a simple remedy you can use to get rid of your shoe’s odour: steep the teabag in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes. Then, remove the teabag and allow it to cool for a while before placing it in your shoe. Let it sit for around an hour or so and discard the teabag once you’re done. Apparently, black teabags contain tannins — a vital substance that can kill off the bacteria found in your shoes.

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Image Credit:

How These Tips Work to Eliminate the Unpleasant Odor

Bacteria, mold, mildew, and fungus make your shoes smell. Fortunately, all of these things require moisture and darkness to spread, and most will also shy away from alkaline or acidic environments.

The tips and tricks we present in this article all try all to do one of three things to work as a shoe deodorizer.

  • They kill or remove the bacteria, mold, mildew, or fungus using antibacterials, antifungals, acids, bases, scrubbing, and scraping.
  • They dry out the foot and the shoe using items that soak up moisture or prevent it from occurring in the first place. Things like socks, powders, and antiperspirants work to create a dry environment void of bacteria and fungus.
  • They use a combination of both for maximum odor-fighting properties.

We hope that you have enjoyed our 22 quick ways to clean smelly shoes. If you have learned how to clean smelly shoes and solved your foot odor problem, please share this article on Pinterest and Facebook.


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