How Do You Get a Bad Smell Out of Shoes?

Medically Reviewed on 3/10/2022
Overuse, sweat, skin shedding, dirt, bacteria, fungus, and lack of aeration can all contribute to stinky shoes.
Overuse, sweat, skin shedding, dirt, bacteria, fungus, and lack of aeration can all contribute to stinky shoes.

How do you get a bad smell out of shoes?

The more we wear our favorite pair of shoes, the more we may notice that they are beginning to smell. Overuse, sweat, skin shedding, dirt, bacteria, fungus, and lack of aeration can all contribute to stinky shoes.

Below are a few ways to remove the bad smell out of the shoes:

Simple methods:

  • One of the best ways to remove smells from shoes is to revitalize them with a much more pleasant smell. Leave a fresh lemon or lime peel in your shoes overnight or squirt a few drops of any essential oil such as lavender into the soles of your shoes and allow the shoes to dry. Both remedies will help to eliminate odors.
  • If your shoes are washable, bath them. You can get leather and fabric cleaner to clean up shoes that are not washer friendly, or if they’re machine safe, throw them into the washing machine or submerge and hand wash them in a detergent bath. Place your shoes in the sun or near a heater and allow them to dry out. This will help to prevent the bacterial growth that causes odor. Ensure they are completely dry before reassembling the shoes and wearing them again.
  • Pop your smelly shoes in a large plastic sandwich bag and leave them in the freezer overnight. Take them out of the freezer the next day and allow them to dry naturally. The extremely cold temperature will kill the bacteria and make your shoes less stinky.

Ingredients methods:

  • Sprinkle some baby powder on your feet or socks. If your feet start to sweat during the day, reapply the baby powder to keep your feet dry. Baby powder may help keep your feet and shoes dry, reducing the risk of bacteria growing on your feet and shoes. Baby powder can help to neutralize odors and deodorize your shoes.
  • Teabags may fight the bad odor. Black tea contains tannins, which are extremely useful in killing the bacteria found inside shoes. Place a couple of tea bags in a pot of boiling water and let steep for several minutes. Remove the bags and let them cool for about 5 minutes. Place the cooled tea bags on your shoes and let them sit for nearly an hour. Remove the tea bags and wipe off the excess liquid.
  • Tea tree oil is a wonderful product to reduce smelly shoes. A sprinkle of a few drops of tea tree oil through the shoe may reduce and prevent any odor. If you are tempted to apply tea tree oil directly to the skin, please make sure it is heavily diluted with other carrier oils, such as coconut oil.
  • Cedarwood has natural antifungal properties making it a great deodorizer. Place the cedarwood insoles inside your shoes to help them stay smelling fresh for longer.
  • A specially formulated odor remover spray can be an amazingly effective way to get rid of smells in shoes. Most sprays like this will contain bacteria and/or enzymes that eat away the things that cause the bad smell and provide a quick fix.
  • A great natural deodorizer is a baking soda. This can help to absorb bad smells and leave your shoes much fresher. Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda inside your shoes and leave it overnight. Be sure to dust out the baking soda before wearing your shoes again. Put a mixture of baking soda, baking powder, and cornstarch in a pair of cotton socks and stick in the shoes overnight alternatively.
  • White vinegar can also be used to neutralize odors and remove the bacteria found in shoes. You should use a vinegar and water solution to battle the odor. In a spray bottle, mix one cup of vinegar and one cup of water. Spray the solution inside your shoes and allow them to dry. The vinegar will eliminate the odor and keep your shoes smell fresh for hours.
  • Add some cloves to your stinky shoes. Tie a handful of cloves in a handkerchief and place them in each shoe. Let them sit for a few hours. For exceptionally bad-smelling footwear, leave the cloves longer or until the smell is gone.
  • Place a soap bar inside your shoes overnight. The porous nature of soap will help eliminate the odor.

Preventive methods:

  • The core reason for smelling shoes comes from your feet's perspiration. As your feet sweat and the moisture seeps in the boot’s material, bacteria and fungi thrive in warm, humid conditions. By washing your feet often with antibacterial soap, you will kill bacteria and the smell that comes with it.
  • Changing your socks often for a fresh pair will reduce the buildup of smelly bacteria. When you choose your work socks, avoid cotton if you can because it absorbs moisture (including sweat) rather than wicking it away from your skin. This makes them smell more quickly and will leave your feet damp and uncomfortable. Woolen or bamboo socks are best for wicking moisture.

What is the best product for sweaty feet?

Having extremely sweaty feet is called plantar hyperhidrosis
Having extremely sweaty feet is called plantar hyperhidrosis, and here are some products to counter the condition.

Having extremely sweaty feet is called plantar hyperhidrosis, and it can be very inconvenient. The feet may get soggy causing slippers to slip off. Other times, it may ruin the person’s shoes.

People with sweaty feet may always experience cold feet because their feet are always wet. They also leave damp footprints while walking barefoot.

If these are some of the problems you experience, then try some of these below products to counter sweaty feet:

  • Antiperspirant products such as Certain Dri feet moisture control pads, Carpe antiperspirant lotion, and SweatBlock wipes and lotions
  • Foot and sneaker powders for absorbing sweat and odor
  • Peel-and-stick absorbent shoe liners or insoles such as Summer soles
  • Sweat-proof socks that are made from a wicking interior to pull sweat away from the body
  • Shoe dryers to dry your shoes quickly and thoroughly
  • Sneakers with breathable mesh top
  • Antibacterial soap for your feet
  • Antifungal foot spray or powder to be used at night
  • Shoe dryers that are available online may help you dry the shoes quickly


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What are the measures to prevent sweaty and smelly feet?

Sweaty feet can turn smelly if the sweat remains on the skin, and the skin’s germs break down the sweat to produce the characteristic smell. Sweating is fine, but stinky feet are undesirable and embarrassing.

Some of the preventive measures to keep sweaty and stinky feet at bay include:

  • Wash your feet daily with an antibacterial soap; ensure that you wash between the toes to prevent the breeding of germs.
  • Soak your feet in a salt soak or vinegar soak. To prepare salt soak, dissolve half a cup of Epsom salt in a tub or large bowl of warm water for about 10-20 minutes. For vinegar soak, combine two parts of water with one part of vinegar in a tub or large bowl of warm water for about 15-20 minutes once a week. Avoid using vinegar soak if your feet have open sores, scratches, and cuts or if the soak irritates you.
  • Dry the feet thoroughly and apply cornstarch, foot powder, or antifungal powder to your feet.
  • Wear clean socks and ensure that your feet are completely dry before wearing.
  • Wear wicking socks made of natural or acrylic fiber that draw moisture away from the feet instead of tapping it. Avoid using cotton or nylon socks, as they trap moisture but do not wick it away from the skin.
  • Keep toenails short and clean.
  • Remove hard skin from the soles of your feet using pumice stones—it can become soggy when damp.
  • Avoid tight-fitting shoes that do not allow air to circulate.
  • Avoid shoes made of synthetic materials.
  • Alternate your shoes daily to allow them to dry thoroughly.

What are the other treatments for sweaty feet?

Treatment options depend on your symptoms.

Some of the common treatments for sweaty feet include:

  • Over the counter or prescription antiperspirant roll
  • Botox injection that may temporarily control excessive sweating of the feet
  • Oral prescription medications, mostly anticholinergics
  • Iontophoresis, in which a low electrical current is passed through the feet to block sweat glands
  • Microwave therapy, in which a high-tech device is placed against the feet that emit thermal energy that destroys sweat glands permanently
  • Sympathectomy that disturbs the nerve signals associated with sweating; the doctors mostly prescribe this surgery in severe cases

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Medically Reviewed on 3/10/2022
Knight C. 40 Clever Home Remedies for Stinky Shoes. Home Hacks. Shareably Media. March 4, 2020.