How To Clean Your Smelly Shoes

How To Clean Your Smelly Shoes


Smelly shoes can be both embarrassing and unpleasant to deal with. But fear not, there are several simple and effective methods to help you clean and refresh your shoes, banishing that unpleasant odor for good. In this guide, we will explore different techniques and materials to help get rid of the smell in your shoes.

Why Do Shoes Smell?

Before we dive into the cleaning methods, it’s important to understand why shoes develop odors in the first place. Shoes can become smelly due to a combination of factors:

  • Build-up of sweat and bacteria
  • Poor ventilation in the shoes leading to moisture accumulation
  • Wearing the same pair of shoes without proper drying
  • Feet conditions such as athlete’s foot or fungal infections

Now that we know what causes smelly shoes, let’s explore how to effectively clean them.

Gather the Cleaning Supplies

Before you start cleaning your shoes, make sure you have the necessary supplies on hand:

  • Mild soap or detergent
  • Warm water
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Essential oils (optional)
  • Old toothbrush
  • Paper towels or clean cloth

Cleaning Methods

Method 1: Hand Wash

This method is suitable for most types of shoes, including sneakers, canvas shoes, and flats.

  1. Remove any laces or inserts from the shoes.
  2. Fill a basin or sink with warm water and add a few drops of mild soap or detergent.
  3. Submerge the shoes in the soapy water and use an old toothbrush to scrub away any dirt or stains.
  4. Rinse the shoes thoroughly under running water to remove all soap residue.
  5. Pat the shoes dry with paper towels or a clean cloth.
  6. Leave the shoes to air dry completely before wearing them again.

Method 2: Baking Soda and Vinegar

This method is ideal for removing stubborn odors from shoes.

  1. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda into each shoe, ensuring all areas are covered.
  2. Leave the baking soda in the shoes overnight to absorb the odor.
  3. In the morning, shake out the excess baking soda.
  4. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts water and vinegar.
  5. Spray the inside of each shoe with the vinegar solution.
  6. Allow the shoes to air dry completely before wearing them.

Method 3: Freezing

This method is particularly useful for shoes that are not washable or have delicate materials.

  1. Place the smelly shoes in a ziplock bag.
  2. Seal the bag tightly, ensuring no air can escape.
  3. Put the bag in the freezer and leave it overnight.
  4. The freezing temperatures will kill the bacteria causing the odor.
  5. Take the shoes out of the freezer and allow them to thaw at room temperature.
  6. The odor should be significantly reduced or eliminated completely.

Preventing Odors in Shoes

Now that your shoes are clean and fresh, it’s important to take preventive measures to avoid smelly shoes in the future:

  • Wear moisture-wicking socks to help keep your feet dry.
  • Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row to allow them to air out.
  • Use foot powders or shoe deodorizers to absorb moisture and neutralize odors.
  • Store shoes in a well-ventilated area to prevent the growth of bacteria.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I machine wash my shoes?

A: It depends on the type of shoes. Some shoes, such as sneakers, can be machine washed on a gentle cycle. However, it’s always best to check the manufacturer’s instructions before attempting to machine wash your shoes.

Q: How often should I clean my shoes?

A: The frequency of shoe cleaning depends on how often you wear them and how quickly they develop odors. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to clean your shoes every few months or as needed.

Q: Can I use bleach to remove odors from my shoes?

A: Bleach is a strong chemical that can damage certain materials. It’s best to avoid using bleach on shoes as it may affect their color or structural integrity.

Q: Are there any natural alternatives to vinegar for removing odors?

A: Yes, lemon juice can also be used as a natural alternative to vinegar. It has similar odor-eliminating properties and can be diluted with water and sprayed inside the shoes.

Q: Can I use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process?

A: While a hairdryer may help speed up the drying process, it’s not recommended for certain shoe materials as it can cause shrinkage or damage. It’s best to let your shoes air dry naturally.

Q: Is it normal for shoes to have a slight odor?

A: It’s normal for shoes to develop a mild odor over time, especially if you wear them frequently. However, if the odor is strong and persistent, it’s a sign that your shoes need cleaning.

Q: Can I use scented insoles to mask the odor?

A: Scented insoles may temporarily mask the odor, but they won’t address the underlying cause. It’s best to clean your shoes properly to eliminate the odor rather than relying on temporary solutions.

Q: How long does it take for baking soda to remove shoe odor?

A: Baking soda can help remove shoe odor within a few hours to overnight. For stubborn odors, it may take multiple applications or leaving the baking soda in the shoes for longer periods.

Q: Can I use essential oils to add a pleasant scent to my shoes?

A: Yes, adding a few drops of essential oils to baking soda or vinegar solutions can help impart a pleasant scent to your shoes. However, ensure that you are not allergic to the essential oil and use them sparingly.

Q: Can I clean leather shoes with soap and water?

A: Soap and water can be used to clean leather shoes, but it’s essential to use a mild soap and avoid excessive moisture. After cleaning, apply a leather conditioner to maintain the leather’s quality.


Smelly shoes are a common problem, but with the right cleaning techniques and preventive measures, you can keep your shoes fresh and odor-free. Remember to choose the appropriate cleaning method based on the type of shoes you have and always prioritize air drying over heat. With regular cleaning and proper care, your shoes will stay fresh and comfortable, allowing you to confidently stride through any situation.

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