Does Rubbing Alcohol Kill Smelly Feet?

Smelly feet are an annoying and embarrassing problem that many people face. The stench emanating from one’s feet can be off-putting for both the afflicted individual and for those around them. This odor is often the result of excessive sweating combined with bacteria on the skin. The moisture gets trapped in shoes and allows odor-causing bacteria to rapidly multiply, producing unpleasant smells.

Many solutions exist that claim to combat smelly feet, from specialized socks and sprays to prescription medications. One popular home remedy is rubbing alcohol. Some proponents argue it has antibacterial properties that destroy the germs responsible for foot odor. But does science actually back up using rubbing alcohol as a cure for smelly feet? Let’s take a closer look.

How Rubbing Alcohol Works

Rubbing alcohol refers to either isopropyl alcohol (70 percent) or ethyl alcohol (90 percent). These liquids sterilize skin and surfaces by dissolving lipids in cell membranes and denaturing proteins. This destroys bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Rubbing alcohol applied to human skin can kill odor-causing microbes in a similar fashion.

Some key points about how isopropyl alcohol interacts with bacteria:

  • Concentrations over 50 percent are more effective at bacterial sterilization than solutions below 50 percent. Higher percentages like 70 percent tend to be common among commercial rubbing alcohol products.
  • Contact time matters. The longer skin remains exposed to the rubbing alcohol, the more microbial killing occurs. This is why some people soak their feet in diluted rubbing alcohol baths.
  • Isopropyl alcohol residues left on the skin continue destroying bacteria for a couple of hours afterward. This provides some ongoing deodorizing effects.

So in theory, rubbing alcohol has scientifically-demonstrated antibacterial traits suitable for combating smelly feet brought about byMicrococcaceae bacteria that metabolize sweat.

Using Rubbing Alcohol on Feet

There are a few techniques people try for using rubbing alcohol to remove foot odor:

Foot bath – Mix equal parts rubbing alcohol with cool water, then soak feet for 20 minutes. This exposes the skin to rubbing alcohol for an extended duration. The soaking may help lift dead skin cells and dirt from the feet as well.

Cotton pad wipes – Dab a cotton pad with rubbing alcohol and wipe down the soles of the feet. Make sure to get between the toes where moisture can easily accumulate. Allow the feet to fully air dry afterward.

Spray bottle misting – Fill a spray bottle with undiluted 70% isopropyl alcohol. Lightly mist the feet several times per day, such as after showering or before bed. Let the skin air dry before putting on socks.

Foot powder mixtures – Create a homemade foot powder by mixing a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol with cornstarch, arrowroot powder, or baking soda. Apply it to the soles and between the toes daily. The powders help soak up moisture while the alcohol kills germs.

Potential Benefits of Rubbing Alcohol for Smelly Feet

Using rubbing alcohol on especially stinky feet does seem to produce several advantages:

  • Kills odor-causing germs – The antibacterial properties help suppress the growth of bacteria responsible for the unpleasant smells emanating from feet.
  • Absorbs foot perspiration – Rubbing alcohol applied to the feet can have mild astringent properties, constricting sweat glands and absorbing residual dampness on the skin.
  • Easy to acquire – Bottles of rubbing alcohol are inexpensive and sold at any drugstore or grocery store. Isopropyl alcohol is typically cheaper than specialty foot hygiene products.
  • Provides a cooling sensation – Many people enjoy the cooling feeling of applying rubbing alcohol, especially during hot summer weather when feet sweat more profusely. The rapid evaporation has a refreshing effect.

Potential Downsides of Using Rubbing Alcohol on Feet

However, some notable downsides may also accompany using rubbing alcohol as a treatment for smelly feet:

  • Skin irritation and dryness – Frequent use can disrupt the skin’s protective oils and pH balance. This may worsen foot odor over time. The alcohol can also provoke painful cracking on the heels and toes.
  • Masking offensive odors – The strong smell of rubbing alcohol merely covers up foot odor temporarily. It does not prevent sweat production. As soon as the alcohol smell dissipates, stinky feet odors often return.
  • Lack of moisture control – Rubbing alcohol fails to prevent excessive foot perspiration, which is the root cause of odor issues. Doctors recommend addressing oversweating rather than just covering up resultant smells.
  • Short-term solution – Applying rubbing alcohol generally only deodorizes feet for half a day or less before requiring reapplication. Using it long term becomes a hassle compared to remedies that permanently curb excessive foot sweating.

Expert Medical Guidance

Before trying to use rubbing alcohol for smelly feet, it is wise to consult a podiatrist or dermatologist. A doctor can properly diagnose what is causing the foot odor, whether that involves athlete’s foot, overly sweaty feet (hyperhidrosis), poor hygiene, or skin conditions like eczema. They can then recommend proven treatments suited to the cause.

For example, overflow sweating (hyperhidrosis) may warrant prescription-strength antiperspirants. Fungal infections require appropriate antifungal creams and ointments. Underlying medical issues like diabetes or arthritis might necessitate further therapy as well.

Likewise, some people’s skin may become too irritated and cracked when using rubbing alcohol frequently. Thus, a skin doctor should evaluate alcohol’s suitability for one’s individual foot situation.

Rubbing alcohol does demonstrate antimicrobial properties that destroy bacteria responsible for foot odor when applied topically. However, its effects only tend to last for half a day or less. Frequent use often proves overly drying to foot skin over time as well. This can worsen odor issues instead of resolving them.

Therefore, rubbing alcohol generally serves best as a temporary smelly feet solution in a pinch. Relying on it long term likely will not satisfactorily curb foot odor by itself though. Those struggling with consistent stinky feet should still see a podiatrist or dermatologist to address the root causes behind why their feet sweat excessively or harbor too much bacteria. Prescription-strength treatments tailored to the specific diagnosis generally prove more effective for keeping feet fresh.