Best Way To Clean Smelly Shoes

Best Way To Clean Smelly Shoes


We all love our shoes, don’t we? They protect our feet and add style to our outfits. But what happens when our beloved shoes start to smell unpleasant? It can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. Luckily, there are several effective ways to clean and deodorize smelly shoes. In this article, we will explore the best methods to get rid of that unpleasant odor and keep our shoes smelling fresh.

Why Do Shoes Smell?

Before we delve into the cleaning methods, let’s first understand why shoes can develop an unpleasant smell. There are a few factors that contribute to smelly shoes:
1. Sweat: Our feet have sweat glands, and when we wear closed shoes, the moisture has nowhere to go, resulting in a breeding ground for bacteria.
2. Bacteria: The combination of moisture and heat in our shoes creates an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. These bacteria produce unpleasant odors.
3. Fungus: Fungal infections such as athlete’s foot can also contribute to smelly shoes.
4. Poor ventilation: Shoes that don’t allow proper airflow can trap moisture and odors.

Effective Ways To Clean Smelly Shoes

Now that we know the culprits behind smelly shoes, let’s explore the best ways to clean and deodorize them:

1. Baking Soda

Baking soda is a versatile household ingredient known for its odor-neutralizing properties. Here’s how to use it to clean smelly shoes:
– Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda inside the shoes, covering the entire insole.
– Leave the baking soda in overnight to absorb the odors.
– In the morning, shake out the excess baking soda or vacuum it up.
– If the smell persists, repeat the process.

2. Vinegar

White vinegar is another excellent natural ingredient for eliminating shoe odors. Follow these steps:
– Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
– Lightly mist the inside of the shoes with the vinegar solution.
– Allow the shoes to air dry completely before wearing them again.
– The vinegar smell will dissipate as the shoes dry.

3. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has natural antifungal and antibacterial properties, making it an effective solution for smelly shoes. Here’s how to use it:
– Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with water.
– Dampen a cloth with the solution and wipe the inside of the shoes.
– Allow the shoes to air dry completely.
– Repeat the process if necessary.

4. Lemon or Orange Peels

Citrus fruits like lemons or oranges are natural deodorizers and can help eliminate unpleasant shoe odors. Follow these steps:
– Place fresh lemon or orange peels inside the shoes.
– Leave them overnight to absorb the odors.
– Remove the peels in the morning and enjoy fresh-scented shoes.

5. Freezing

Freezing your shoes may sound unusual, but it can effectively kill bacteria and eliminate odors. Here’s how to do it:
– Seal your shoes in a plastic bag.
– Place the bagged shoes in the freezer for a few hours.
– Remove the shoes from the freezer and let them thaw at room temperature.
– Once the shoes are completely thawed, wipe away any moisture and odors.

6. Alcohol-Based Sprays

Alcohol-based sprays, such as rubbing alcohol or vodka, can help kill bacteria and eliminate odors. Follow these steps:
– Fill a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol or vodka.
– Lightly spray the inside of the shoes.
– Allow the shoes to air dry completely.
– The alcohol smell will evaporate as the shoes dry.

7. Antifungal Sprays or Powders

If your shoes have a persistent odor caused by fungal infections, using antifungal sprays or powders can help. Here’s what to do:
– Purchase an over-the-counter antifungal spray or powder from a pharmacy.
– Follow the instructions on the product’s packaging.
– Apply the spray or powder to the inside of the shoes.
– Allow the shoes to air dry thoroughly.

8. Machine Washable Shoes

If your shoes are machine washable, such as canvas or athletic shoes, you can use this method to clean and deodorize them:
– Remove the laces and insoles from the shoes if possible.
– Place the shoes in a pillowcase or mesh laundry bag to protect them.
– Wash the shoes using a gentle cycle and cold water.
– Air dry the shoes completely before wearing them again.

9. Sunlight and Fresh Air

Sometimes, all your shoes need is some fresh air and sunlight to eliminate odors. Here’s how to do it:
– Place your shoes in a sunny spot outdoors.
– Allow them to air out in the sunlight for a few hours.
– The sunlight and fresh air will help eliminate odors naturally.

10. Regular Cleaning Routine

Prevention is key when it comes to smelly shoes. Establishing a regular cleaning routine can help prevent odors from developing. Here are a few tips:
– Allow your shoes to dry completely before storing them.
– Remove any dirt or debris from the shoes after each use.
– Use odor-neutralizing shoe sprays or deodorizers regularly.
– Rotate your shoes and avoid wearing the same pair every day.


Q1. Can I wash my leather shoes to eliminate odor?
Yes, you can clean leather shoes to remove odors, but you should be careful not to damage the leather. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a professional cleaner for the best cleaning methods for leather shoes.
Q2. Can I use scented sprays to mask shoe odors?
While scented sprays may temporarily mask shoe odors, it’s better to eliminate the odors completely. Using natural deodorizing methods will help get rid of the unpleasant smell rather than just covering it up.
Q3. How often should I clean my shoes to prevent odors?
It’s a good idea to clean your shoes regularly to prevent odors from developing. How often you clean them will depend on how frequently you wear them and the level of odor they accumulate. Establishing a cleaning routine and following the prevention tips mentioned earlier will help keep your shoes fresh.
Q4. Can I use baking soda on colored shoes?
Baking soda should generally be safe to use on colored shoes, but to be on the safe side, you can do a spot test on a small inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t affect the color of the shoe.
Q5. Are there any commercial shoe odor sprays available?
Yes, there are several commercial shoe odor sprays available on the market. Look for products that contain natural deodorizing ingredients or have antibacterial properties to effectively combat shoe odors.
Q6. Can I use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process?
Using a hairdryer on low heat can help speed up the drying process for your shoes, especially if there is a lingering smell. However, always keep the hairdryer at a safe distance from the shoes to avoid damaging the material or causing shrinkage.
Q7. How do I prevent my shoes from smelling in the first place?
To prevent shoe odors, make sure to practice good foot hygiene by washing your feet regularly and thoroughly drying them before putting on shoes. Additionally, wear moisture-wicking socks and choose shoes made of breathable materials.
Q8. Can I use essential oils instead of tea tree oil?
Yes, you can use essential oils like lavender or peppermint in place of tea tree oil. These oils also have natural antibacterial and deodorizing properties.
Q9. How long does it take for the smell to completely disappear?
The time it takes for the smell to disappear will depend on the severity of the odor and the method used to clean the shoes. In some cases, the smell may disappear overnight, while in more stubborn cases, it may take multiple treatments and a few days for the odor to completely dissipate.
Q10. Can I use baking soda and vinegar together to clean my shoes?
While baking soda and vinegar can be used separately to clean shoes, it’s not recommended to use them together. When combined, baking soda and vinegar react and create a fizzy effect, which can be messy and potentially damage certain shoe materials.


Smelly shoes are a common problem, but with the right cleaning methods, you can eliminate the unpleasant odor and restore freshness to your footwear. Whether you choose natural ingredients like baking soda and vinegar or opt for commercial sprays, regular cleaning and proper foot hygiene will help prevent shoe odors in the first place. Don’t let smelly shoes hold you back – take action and enjoy fresh-scented footwear!

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