OK, I admit it. Not the sexiest topic on the ShoeTease menu, but shoe stink: it's an issue. So here are 6 easy ways on how to get rid of smelly shoes, whether it be from your flats, sneakers to your ice skates!
As a shoe blogger, I get asked a lot of shoe care-related questions on how to remove shoe odor from shoes is one of them. If this has or happens to you, it's totally normal.
Nothing to be embarrassed about! How to get rid of smelly shoes, thankfully doesn't require throwing them away!
Of course, you could reach for more breathable shoes or opt for closed-toe summer shoes. But sometimes, no matter how hard you try, them shoes might just smell anyway!
Stinky Shoes? How To Get Rid of Smelly Shoes
I have some great shoe odor eliminator tricks up my sleeve that includes home remedies for stinky shoes, plus recommendations on useful shoe odor sprays & various other shoe odor eliminators.
One, or a combination of these hacks will surely help you deodorize your shoes in addition to give you tips on how to prevent shoe odor in the first place. But first…
What Causes Shoe Odor?
But what causes stinky shoes, you ask? Well, the biggest cause of shoe odor is the bacteria & fungus behind it. Kinda literally. Have sweaty feet? Yep, moisture caused by sweat in shoes provides a good home for bacteria & fungi. Yummy, right!?
Other, less widespread reasons for stinky shoes include foot injury & certain medical conditions, which can cause feet & consequently your, shoes to smell foul.
This article will provide tips on how to get rid of shoe odor including, but not limited to:
- how to eliminate moisture in shoes
- how to kill odor causing bacteria in shoes
- how to freshen up your shoes
So no need to buy new shoes just because they stink. You can revive them by following some or a mix of these tips!
How to Get Rid of Shoe Odor – 8 Hacks
1: Put Your Shoes in the Freezer
Trust me, this is a goodie. Placing shoes in the freezer kills the shoe odor causing bacteria. Because bacteria, my friends, cannot live in such a cold environment.
Freezing also helps dehydrate & eliminate the moisture that this nasty bacteria feeds on in shoes.
But don't just stick 'em right in. Eww. Put them in a bag plastic bag, or even better — a ziplock bag — in order to avoid getting your freezer dirty!
If you live in deathly cold Canada, then you can also opt to putting them outside during the winter months for the evening.
2: Put Your Shoes Out in the Sun
Instead of freezing your shoes, you can also take the opposite approach. Or try a little of both if you're up for it! Leaving your smelly shoes exposed to the hot sun allows for UV rays to kill the bacteria, acting as a natural disinfectant.
The heat also dries out the shoe, taking care of the moisture issue. The sun is an awesome natural shoe odor eliminator!
Putting shoes by (but never directly, on) a heater can also work because it dries out the shoe (a good winter solution) but the downside is that your shoes won't get the benefits from the sun's UV rays.
Just be aware that UV rays may also fade out any color in your shoes, especially on canvas materials.
3: Try Shoe Odor Spray
Shoe odor sprays are easy to use & very effective at removing shoe odor & killing stink-causing bacteria that allow that bad odor to live in shoes. There are a slew of great shoe odor sprays available on the market. Here are a few of the top recommended products.
These include high performance (aka heavy duty) shoe odor spray from brand Sweat X, which can be used in all sports equipment products such as pads, gloves, helmets & gym bags.
Alternatively, you can create your own shoe odorspray, as follows:
- Mix a half cup of water with a half cup of white vinegar (vinegar helps kill bacteria) as well as 5 drops of essential oil of your choice for scent (optional).
- Spray the inside of your shoes after use and then let the solution air dry into the shoes.
Another option is to use pure rubbing alcohol to spray inside smelly shoes will also help to kill bacteria and reduce odor. This makes for an easy DIY home remedy shoe odor spray.
Here are some well know & effective store-stocked shoe sprays:
4: Use Shoe Deodorizer Inserts & Shoe Balls
Easier and less messy to use than a shoe odor spray or powder, shoe deodorizer insert cushions & balls are great. These odor-absorbing pouches are simply placed into the shoe to both eliminate moisture & smell. Some are reusable, while others have an expiry date.
There are many available on the market, from natural, synthenic to cedar & charcoal filled ones. I have personally used both of the latter & each is really different.
Cedar-filled shoe inserts are great & also smell amazing. I'm guilty of using them as aromatherapy pouches on my desk, rather than putting them in my shoes! Jason Markk makes great ones.
The ones I use the most are Ever Bamboo shoe deodorizers, which are renewable monthly with sunlight for up to a year & are compostable. That's right, after a year of use just pour the charcoal contents of the pouch into soil in your garden or indoor plants to regulate moisture.
Here are some favorite & top-rated shoe deodorizer pouches:
5: Use A Few Drops of Essential Oils
Ah, the many benefits of essential oils, I tell you! Use an essential oil to add a fresh scent to your shoes. Great contenders that are all safe for most include: lavender oil, tea tree oil & eucalyptus oil.
Essential oils are great to remove odor from shoes. You can easily drop the oils right into the offending shoes, or drop some on a cotton ball (tissues also work) & leave it inside your shoes when storing them & let them work their magic.
Alternative DIY home remedy for smelly shoes: you can put citrus fruit peels into shoes as they contain essential oils that do the same job. Just might be a little messier.
Shop my fave essential oils from Aura Cacia:
6: Try Out Shoe Odor Powder
Like deodorizing shoe odor sprays, shoe odor powders work effectively to remove moisture & absorb odor. They also acts as a disinfectant & freshener.
Some people prefer the powders to the shoe sprays since many shoe odor powders also double as foot deodorizers.
Just dust your bare feet with the shoe odor powder of choice & sneak some into your shoes in order to prevent shoe odor. Many shoe odor powders are made by companies that also create a deodorizing shoe spray.
Here are a few good ones:
Alternative DIY home remedy for stinky shoes? You can put baking soda in a coffee filter & place these into your stinky shoes. Add a couple drops of essential oil if a scent/fragrance is desired.
Shake to evenly distribute powder in the shoe once a day or as needed. You can include corn starch in the mix as well. The ratio is 3 table spoons of baking soda to 1 tablespoon of corn starch.
Baby powder also acts a great foot deodorizer & moisture absorber. Only problem is that the white baby powder doesn't hide itself well, so best used solely as a foot deodorizer vs sprinkling it in your shoes!
7: Use Black Tea Bags
Black tea contains tannins, which is a compound that has been found to resist the growth of bacteria & fungi which will help remove odor from shoes.
I personally recommend Earl Grey black tea, because the scent of bergamot will leave your shoes smelling extra lovely 🙂
How to use tea bags to solve your stinky shoes problem? First, place a black tea bag in boiling water for 4 minutes & then let it cool.
After about 4 minutes, put the tea bag into your shoe and leave it in your shoe for 1 hour. Repeat as necessary. Perfect stinky shoes solution if you drink tea on the daily like I do!
You can also put dry tea bags into your shoes overnight to dry & eliminate shoe odor. Think of them as a natural (& budget-friendly) shoe deodorizer pouch!
8: Eliminate Shoe Odor with a Shoe Dryer
If you need to bring out the big guns, there are shoe dryer/deodorizers for that too! StinkBoss is one I've personally reviewed & use & is a box that you stick your shoes in (or gloves or whatever else stinks, really) & uses ozone to clean out the smell.
Think of it as an oven of sorts for your stinky shoes & gear! If this is too big to have at home (I would recommend using it in the garage because it does emit smelly ozone), many similar contraptions are smaller & more portable. Some use ozone, others UVs.
Shop Shoe Dryers & Deodorizers:
3 Quick Tips on How to Eliminate Shoe Odor
If my how to get rid of smelly shoes above are too much for your to deal with? Try these time-saving tips, last-minute tips:
- Leave dryer sheets inside your shoes to freshen them up
- Stick a bar of soap inside your shoe. These provide a fresh scent & soap aids in killing bacteria
- Clean cat litter inside shoes. Just dump it out when it’s time to wear them!
Final Thoughts about Stinky Shoes
Eliminating shoe odor doesn’t have to be a challenge since there are many ways to deal with it. Remember that keeping shoes dry to prevent bacteria from building is the first step to preventing future shoe odor from developing.
A great overall tip is not to play favorites with your shoes. That means rotating frequently between the shoes you own, allowing them ample time in between uses to dry & air out. Always wearing fresh socks & obvs keeping your feet clean is essential!
Did we miss a tip? Which shoe odor eliminating tricks work for you? If you have any comments or want to share an old home remedy for stinky shoes, let me know!
Disclaimer: Attempting eliminate shoe odor yourself may cause irreparable damage to your beloved sneakers, heels & boots. It’s usually safer to take your footwear to a professional who uses specialized products. Highly recommended for your pricey Choos & Blahniks!
Written by ShoeTease + Wayne Yu
Cristina is the chief editor, fashion & shoe expert here at ShoeTease. As a seasoned stylist and women's fashion & shoe designer, she boasts over 20 years of experience in the fashion industry. She loves crafting effortless outfits for ladies both online and off and believes that styling advice should be accessible to everyone. Whether you're a styling pro or just starting out, Cristina's here to guide you on your fashion journey! Learn more.