Does UV Light Get Rid of Shoe Odor?

Unpleasant foot odor is a common problem that many people face. This odor is often transferred to shoes, causing smelly shoes that can be embarrassing. UV light is sometimes marketed as a solution to kill bacteria that cause shoe odors. But does it really work? Here’s an overview of using UV light to get rid of shoe odor.

What Causes Shoe Odor?

Shoe odor is caused by bacteria that grow and thrive in the warm, dark, and moist environment inside shoes. The most common culprits are bacteria called micrococci and bacilli. These bacteria feed on dead skin cells and sweat that collect inside shoes.

As the bacteria multiply, they produce unpleasant-smelling waste products. These include organic acids like isovaleric acid, which smells like cheese, and sulfur-containing compounds that have a rotten egg odor. The end result is stinky feet and shoes.

Fungal infections like athlete’s foot can also contribute to shoe odor by breaking down keratin proteins into smelly molecules.

How Does UV Light Work Against Odor?

UV (ultraviolet) light is radiation just beyond the violet end of the visible light spectrum. There are three types of UV light: UVA, UVB, and UVC.

UVC light in particular has germicidal effects because it breaks down bacterial DNA. It essentially kills or inactivates bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms by damaging their genetic material.

UV shoe sanitizers work by using UVC lamps to bathe the inside of shoes with germ-killing UV light. This can significantly reduce the number of odor-causing bacteria living in shoes.

Does UV Light Eliminate Shoe Odors?

There is evidence that UV shoe sanitizers can help reduce shoe odors. A study published in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association tested UV treatment on odor-causing bacteria extracted directly from used sneakers.

A 90-second UVC exposure killed nearly all the bacteria. Other studies confirm UVC light effectively kills the most common types of foot odor bacteria.

Anecdotal reports from users also support that UV sanitizers cut down on shoe smells. The UV light can penetrate shoes and reach bacteria hidden in crevices and fabric linings. Killing the odor sources curtails stinky smells.

However, UV light has limitations. First, dead bacteria can still cause some lingering odors. Second, UV lamps don’t address other odor sources like fungal infections. Sweat and skin cell buildup also aren’t eliminated. Finally, UV light has no lasting disinfecting effect once shoes are worn again.

For best results, UV sanitizers are great for maintenance between wears, but shouldn’t replace other hygiene habits. You still need to allow shoes a day to air out and dry between use. Removing insoles and washing regularly is also advised. Combining these methods helps sustain shoes that smell fresh.

Based on available evidence, UV shoe sanitizers can effectively kill odor-causing bacteria hidden in shoes. Used properly, UV light can significantly reduce foot and shoe odors. However, UV treatment has limits, so should be one part of a comprehensive strategy to keep shoes smelling their best. Consistently allowing shoes to dry between wears and washing or replacing insoles periodically is also important.