Smelly Shoes? How to Remove Odor From Shoes

Product Care

We all have a favorite pair of sneakers that have a little bit of a stink. Fortunately, there are some ways to deodorize your shoes and make them smell good again.

Last updated: January 5, 2022
4 min read
How to Remove Shoe Smell and Make Them Smell Good
Time Required
30 min
Estimated Cost
$10

Supplies

  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Soap
  • Essential Oils (optional)

Tools

  • Spray bottle

Smelly shoes are an all-too-common issue. It can be annoying; no matter how clean your feet are, they still end up making your sneakers smell. At worst, it can be downright unpleasant, forcing you to ask, “How can I remove the smell from my shoes?”

Bacteria are the culprit of stinky shoes. They grow in large numbers on your feet, producing organic acids — methanethiol, isovaleric acid, and propanoic acid — as waste products. While these types of bacteria aren’t harmful, they can leave a lingering stink.

For example, methanethiol is produced as a byproduct of Brevibacterium, the primary bacteria found on the feet. This organic acid has a distinct sulfuric stench that resembles rotting cabbages and smelly socks.

Even with the best foot hygiene, your feet may still smell. That's partly because your feet contain more sweat glands per square inch than anywhere else on your body. While sweat itself doesn’t smell, those bacterial waste products do. This makes shoes an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, because they trap sweat and moisture, creating an environment for bacteria to thrive.

8 of the Best Ways to Remove Shoe Smell

  1. 1.Baking Soda

    Want to deodorize your shoes with a home remedy? Use baking soda. It’s a natural deodorizer that absorbs smells and bacteria. There are two different ways to use baking soda to deodorize shoes:

    1. Mix ¼ cup of baking soda, ¼ cup of baking powder, and ½ cup of cornstarch. Put the mix in a pair of cotton socks or sprinkle the mixture in both shoes and leave overnight. For an extra scent booster, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
    2. Alternatively, if you want to keep it simple, sprinkle straight baking soda directly into the shoes and leave them for at least 24 hours.
  2. 2.Spritz of Vinegar

    Vinegar neutralizes odors and fights bacteria in shoes. Just mix white vinegar with water in equal parts into a spray bottle. Spray the solution inside the shoes after use and allow it to dry. Doing this to your running shoes after every run will keep them smelling fresher for longer.

    Tip: To maximize the effect, clean your shoes thoroughly inside and out before applying the solution.

  3. 3.Soap

    Another home remedy to remove sneaker odor is to drop a bar of soap into each shoe and leave it overnight. Soap kills bacteria and the smell they produce. Plus, soap is porous, so it’ll absorb the smell and replace it with a clean, soapy scent.

    Tip: Make sure your bars of soap aren’t wet before adding them to the shoes, as moisture will only encourage bacteria.

  4. 4.Sunshine

    Drying out any excess moisture from shoes is an easy and effective way to rid them of odors. Put your shoes in direct sunlight for a few hours after a run to let them dry completely before their next wear.

  5. 5.Wear Socks

    Going sockless is a surefire way to make shoes smell. Socks absorb sweat and moisture produced by warm feet. This is particularly important if you’re prone to sweaty feet.

    Tip: Consider a pair of Nike socks made with cotton — a breathable and sweat-absorbing fabric that will help keep your shoes smell-free.

  6. 6.Essential Oils

    Tea tree, clove, and cedarwood essential oils are all popular natural deodorizers with antifungal properties. For example, one December 2007 study published in Mycobiology found that clove essential oil strongly inhibits bacteria growth on the feet to eliminate odor. These oils are a triple threat: fighting bacteria, eliminating odor, and leaving a nice scent.

    Put a few drops of essential oil directly into your sneaker and let it air out. Alternatively, you can mix essential oils with other home remedies like baking soda or vinegar.

  7. 7.Good Foot Hygiene

    It’s important to take extra care when cleaning your feet. Make sure to apply soap or a cleanser between each toe and across the sole of the foot and rinse well. Here’s a few more foot hygiene tips to eliminate shoe odor:

    • Only wear socks once between washings.
    • Change out of your socks and shoes straight after a workout to avoid any unnecessary smells getting trapped.
    • Once finished cleaning your feet, make sure to dry them fully. Any moisture left on your feet will encourage bacterial growth.
    • Let your feet breathe by going shoeless and sockless when you can. This will help air out any sweat without spreading bacteria.
  8. 8.Check the Insoles

    If you’ve been wearing the same insoles for years, it’s probably time to replace them. Often, insoles are the source of smelly shoe odors. You might just find that a new pair of insoles "magically" gets rid of that persisting funky smell.

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