How To Remove Smell From Shoes: 12 Hacks To Remove Odor

Get rid of the smell from any pair of shoes with these easy home remedies + learn how to prevent smelly feet from ever occurring in the first place

It’s happened to all of us: as much as we’d hope otherwise, a stinky smell emanates from your running shoes or workout sneakers.

And, whether it’s just the beginnings of an unpleasant foot odor or a full-on stench that could clear a room, you realize it’s time to look into how to remove smell from shoes.

The good news is that there are several fairly simple, natural, and quick home remedies you can try when you’re looking into how to get the smell out of shoes, most of which are surprisingly effective.

Therefore, whether your shoes are stinky from sweat or they get wet from a run in the rain, keep reading for the best tips on how to get rid of shoe odor!

Let’s jump in!

A person smelling a stinky running shoe.

Why Do My Shoes Smell Bad?

Feet have more sweat glands per inch of skin than anywhere else on the body, with each foot having about 250,000 glands.

Whilst sweat itself doesn’t smell, a provides an ideal damp environment for odor-causing bacteria to grow in. It is the waste product produced by these bacteria that creates the smell we associate with sweat and bad feet.

The fact that shoes are often closed and unventilated further enhances bacterial and fungual growth.

How to Prevent Your Shoes From Smelling Bad

If your shoes already stink, you might be inclined to skip down to learn how to get the bad smell out of a pair of shoes, but it’s helpful to learn how to make shoes not smell in the first place.

Once you learn how to remove the smell from shoes, you can practice these prevention strategies to keep them from getting stinky all over again.

One of the best ways to prevent your shoes from becoming malodorous is to always wear socks when you wear your shoes.

You want your socks to be breathable and moisture-wicking to help prevent sweat buildup while you work out.

The socks will act as a barrier between your foot and the shoe to trap and absorb the moisture from your feet before it penetrates the shoe.

It’s much easier to toss a pair of socks into the laundry after every single use than it is to clean your shoes every time you take them off. That point is key, though— make sure you are washing your socks after every single use.

A bare foot and a sock.

One final prevention strategy is to practice good foot hygiene.

Remove your socks and shoes as soon as possible after a workout to prevent the foot sweat from permeating into the shoes and promoting bacterial growth.

Wash your feet regularly and dry them thoroughly before you put on socks.

Allow your feet some time to breathe without socks and shoes every day, and if you notice signs and symptoms of fungal infections like athlete’s foot, start treating your feet right away with over-the-counter products like Tinactin or essential oils like tea tree oil.

Finally, your shoes will stink if they get wet. If you run in the rain or they otherwise get really wet, stuff them with newspaper after use to soak up any moisture. 

Remove and change the newspaper every few hours, depending on how wet your sneakers are. 

Otherwise, you can also use a shoe dryer any time your shoes get wet.

Essential oils.

How To Remove Smell From Shoes: 12 DIY Hacks to Remove Bad Shoe Odors

Here are some easy home remedies to remove smell from shoes, sneakers, or boots:

#1: Wash Them

Some sneakers are machine washable, so if you can toss them in the washing machine with some detergent, you can easily eliminate any bad smell.

To prevent shrinkage, don’t use hot water, and dry them by stuffing them with newspaper or cotton balls rather than putting them in the drier. 

#2: Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the tried-and-true ways to remove odor from shoes. It is a natural deodorizer that absorbs odors and a disinfectant that kills bacteria.1Drake, D. (1996). Antibacterial activity of baking soda. Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry (Jamesburg, N.J.17(19), S17-21. https://europepmc.org/article/med/11524862

At less than $1 a box, baking soda makes for one of the cheapest ways of deodorizing shoes.

baking soda

The simplest way to use baking soda to remove the smell from running shoes or other sneakers or boots is to just sprinkle it inside on top of the insole. 

You can also lift up the insole (if it’s removable) and sprinkle some under it as well.

Leave the shoes to sit for 24 hours.

The next day, you can tap the shoe on the side of your trash to eliminate excess powder or use your vacuum cleaner to suck it out.

Alternatively, you can make a shoe odor eliminator sachet.

Grab a coffee filter and spoon a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into the center.

You can even add a few drops of an essential oil (like lemon or orange) if you want to get fancy!

Gather the edges of the coffee filter, twist them off, and secure it closed with a rubber band.

Then, stick one sachet on each stinky shoe and leave them overnight to absorb the odors and bacteria.

A spray bottle, lemon, and vinegar

#3: Create a Shoe Deodorant 

You can create a shoe deodorant powder with ½ cup of cornstarch, ¼ cup of baking soda, and ¼ cup of baking powder. 

You can also buy pre-made shoe deodorizers. Check out our list of the top shoe deodorizer products to learn more.

#4: Place Your Shoes In the Sun

A completely free hack to remove odor from your shoes is to place them in direct sunlight.

The heat and light from the sun will kill the odor-producing bacteria, leaving your shoes smelling completely neutral.

As a bonus, any excess moisture will be evaporated, preventing future bacterial colonization (until the shoes get sweaty again).

#5: Spray Your Shoes With Vinegar 

Vinegar has a pretty astringent smell, but acetic acid works wonders toward fighting bacteria in stinky shoes and eliminating odors.

The type of vinegar you use matters, though: use white vinegar mixed with equal parts water.

Add the solution to a spray bottle and spritz the inside of your shoes after you use them. Allow your shoes to air dry by loosening the laces and tongue to promote airflow.

Before you spray the vinegar into the shoes, it helps to pre-clean your shoes by taking a damp cloth and wiping out the insides and outsides. 

Allow the shoes to dry with the vinegar solution in an aerated space for 24 hours.

A variety of bar soap.

#6: Stuff Your Shoes With Soap

An easy home remedy to remove bad smells from sneakers is to stuff an unwrapped bar of soap into each shoe.

Keep the soap in the shoe for at least 24 hours.

As long as your sneakers are dry before you try this sneaker-deodorizing hack, it’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to get rid of the funk in your shoes.

Not only will the soap help kill the bacteria that cause your sneakers to smell bad, but it will also help perfume the soap with a pleasant, clean smell.

Soap is soft and porous, so the compounds will leach into the materials of your shoe wherever contact is made.

#7: Embrace Essential Oils

Essential oils are for more than just your diffuser; they can make excellent natural deodorizers.

For example, essential oils like tea tree oil, clove oil, cinnamon oil, and cedarwood oil are not only natural deodorizers, but they also have antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Some studies have even shown that certain essential oils, such as clove oil, can significantly inhibit bacterial growth on the feet, which will eliminate bad odors in your shoes.2Chee, H. Y., & Lee, M. H. (2007). Antifungal Activity of Clove Essential Oil and its Volatile Vapour Against Dermatophytic Fungi. Mycobiology35(4), 241. https://doi.org/10.4489/myco.2007.35.4.241

Other popular options for essential oils to deodorize sneakers include lemon oil, orange oil, and frankincense oil.

An added perk of using essential oils to deodorize your sneakers is that they also will impart a pleasant scent rather than just neutralizing any bad smells.

You can add several drops of your favorite essential oil into each sneaker or combine essential oils with some of the other home remedies, such as baking soda or vinegar, to boost the effectiveness of the odor-fighting strategy.

A lemon peel.

#8: Stick Your Shoes In the Freezer

It might seem unappealing and a little bizarre to stick your smelly sneakers in the freezer, but bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments and cannot survive the harsh cold of your freezer.

Place them in a freezer bag before you put them in the freezer. Leave the shoes overnight.

#9: Put Kitty Litter In Your Shoes 

Kitty litter is highly absorbent and will draw moisture out of your shoes. In doing so, it can help neutralize odors.

#10: Add Lemon Peel to Your Shoes 

Lemon or lime peels can help remove unpleasant odors from your shoes. The acids and oils are antibacterial, and the citrus will perfume the shoes with a pleasant smell.

#11: Make a Sachet of Cloves 

Toss a few cloves into a coffee filter, tie it off, and then stick the sachet in your shoes.

Tea bags.

#12: Make Tea Bag Shoe Deodorizers

Black tea contains tannins that kill bacteria. Boil the tea bags for a couple of minutes in water and allow them to cook completely. 

Press out excess moisture and then place the cool tea bags in your shoes.

Remove the tea bags after 24 hours and dab up any excess liquid.

Final Thoughts

There you have it! 12 DIY hacks on how to get rid of shoe odor and how to get rid of smelly shoes in general.

Hopefully, at least one of these methods will help you eliminate bad smells from your sneakers, giving you a fresh start.

For tips on how to dry your shoes, check out our guide here.

A shoe soaking in bubbles.

References

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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