Few things are worse than taking off your shoes after a long day and being met with the noxious stench of foot odor. While there are many commercial products available to tackle smelly feet, most contain harsh chemicals, fragrances, and can be expensive. Instead, reach for that bottle of vinegar in your pantry as an inexpensive, natural way to eliminate foot odor and keep your feet fresh.
What Causes Smelly Feet?
Before exploring vinegar as a solution, it helps to understand what leads to smelly feet in the first place. Our feet contain over 250,000 sweat glands – more than any other part of the body. When our feet sweat throughout the day, the moisture gets trapped against our skin by shoes and socks, creating the perfect environment for odor-causing bacteria to multiply unrestrained. These bacteria thrive in moist, dark environments and feed on the dead skin cells and sweat our feet naturally produce. As the bacteria rapidly grow, they produce pungent gases that lead to unpleasant foot odor.
Certain factors can make the problem even worse. Excessive sweating due to hot weather or exercise fills shoes with even more moisture for bacteria. Fungal infections like athlete’s foot also cause foot odor and excess sweat. Going barefoot in damp areas like pools, gyms, or showers spreads fungi and bacteria. Even heredity plays a role. Some people naturally have excessive sweat glands which leads to perpetually smelly feet no matter what they try. So while foot odor is natural, when it becomes excessive, it’s time to tackle the problem.
Vinegar As a Natural Solution
With its potent acidic and anti-fungal properties, vinegar is an easy, affordable way to eliminate foot odor without harsh chemicals. Both white and apple cider vinegar contain acetic acid that helps kill bacteria responsible for smelly feet. Acetic acid also helps balance skin pH – many odor-causing bacteria proliferate in more alkaline environments found in moist shoes and socks throughout the day.
Studies show vinegar’s antimicrobial effects reduce bacteria colonies by over 90%, which means less smelly bacteria, less odor. Beyond bacteria elimination, vinegar also helps dry out damp environments bacteria need to thrive. After acidic vinegar application, the skin may stay dry for up to 24 hours. With less moisture, remaining bacteria can’t grow unchecked.
Simple Vinegar Foot Soaks
A good place to start is with a simple vinegar foot soak using either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar Once or twice per week:
- Fill a basin, bucket or foot spa with warm water – not hot enough to scald feet
- Add 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water and mix well. A standard foot soak uses approximately 1 cup vinegar to 2 cups water.
- Soak feet for 15-30 minutes to eliminate existing bacteria and help prevent future odor after drying.
- Dry feet completely afterwards, especially between the toes where moisture and bacteria can still hide.
For tougher foot odor, increase soak time to 30 minutes or use a 50/50 vinegar/water solution. It may take a few vinegar soaks to fully eliminate odor if excessive sweating or fungi have caused major bacterial buildup.
DIY Vinegar-Based Foot Sprays and Rubs
For extra foot odor fighting benefits between soaks, a vinegar foot spray helps reduce and prevent smelly feet:
- In a clean spray bottle, mix equal parts white vinegar and water
- Shake well before each use
- Lightly spray feet in the mornings or anytime sweat is anticipated
- Allow to air dry fully – Don’t put socks/shoes on wet feet
The vinegar acidifies the skin and helps inhibit bacterial growth throughout the day. The spray conveniently allows application after showering when dampness can still cause odor issues. Carry a travel size spray in work or gym bags for easy midday application if unexpected sweating occurs.
For more intensive treatment, make an exfoliating foot rub with vinegar:
- 1⁄2 cup vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
- 5-7 drops essential oils like peppermint, eucalyptus or tea tree oil
- Small container or jar to store
- Combine ingredients and mix thoroughly
- Apply generously to feet paying special attention to problem areas
- Gently massage into skin for 3-5 minutes to exfoliate and boost circulation
- Put socks on for 30 minutes allowing vinegar solution to deeply penetrate
- Rinse and dry feet completely afterwards The added exfoliation can help remove layers of dead, smelly skin cells while the oils soften calluses. This foot rub adds moisture back while fighting fungal infections that compound odor issues. Simply apply this intensive vinegar rub 1-2 times per week.
With vinegar washes, sprays, soaks and scrubs, you can wage war against foot odor naturally and affordably. Be diligent and incorporate vinegar foot care into your daily routine. Soon you can kick foot odor to the curb permanently.