We’ve all been there – you take off your shoes after a long day and get hit with an overwhelming stench. Shoe odor can be caused by sweat, bacteria growth, or wearing the same footwear too many days in a row. While you can certainly throw stinky shoes in the wash, this isn’t always an effective solution. The smell often comes back after just a few wears.
Luckily, there are several homemade odor remedies you can try to get rid of shoe stink for good. Many of these solutions use ingredients you likely already have at home. Best of all, they allow you to avoid using harsh commercial products full of chemicals.
One of the most popular and effective solutions for smelly shoes is baking soda. This pantry staple acts as a natural deodorizer and absorber. To use it, simply sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda into each shoe. You can focus on the insoles, but also coat the inside walls and heel area. Let the baking soda sit overnight to absorb odors, then shake or vacuum it out in the morning. The baking soda will help remove built-up sweat and bacteria. For severe odors, repeat this process for a few days. The baking soda will continue to pull out the stink.
White vinegar is another go-to ingredient for DIY odor removal. Since vinegar is acidic, it helps kill bacteria that causes shoe smells. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz the solution inside your shoes, allowing it to soak into the material. Let the shoes air dry completely before wearing again. The vinegar smell will dissipate as it dries. For tougher odors, you can also soak removable insoles in a vinegar bath for 30 minutes. Rinse and let dry before placing back in your shoes. The vinegar solution will deodorize and disinfect.
Pouring a bit of vodka into stinky shoes may sound strange, but it serves as an excellent deodorizer. The alcohol in vodka kills odor-causing bacteria. Pour about 1/4 cup into each shoe, swirling it around to coat the interior. Let the shoes sit for 30 minutes so the vodka can fully penetrate. Afterward, dump out any excess liquid and let the shoes dry before putting them on. The vodka smell will fade fast. You can repeat this vodka soaking every few weeks to keep shoes fresh.
Natural antibacterial essential oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, and lavender work to neutralize shoe odors. You can make a simple deodorizing spray by adding several drops of your chosen essential oil to water in a small spray bottle. Spray or wipe the oil mixture inside your smelly shoes. The moist environment inside shoes makes it easy for bacteria to grow. Essential oils will inhibit that growth while leaving a pleasant aroma.
Activated charcoal has incredible absorbing properties that trap smells and toxins. You can buy charcoal shoe deodorizers or make your own by filling small pouches with loose charcoal. Tuck the pouches inside your shoes when not wearing them. The charcoal will pull out odors and moisture. For a mess-free option, stick charcoal insoles to the existing footbed. The black charcoal color hides stains too. Activated charcoal bags should be replaced every few months when they stop absorbing as well.
Simply sprinkle cornstarch inside your shoes to soak up excess moisture that contributes to odors. The cornstarch clumps together with sweat and absorbs bacteria. Let it sit overnight before dumping out any dried clumps. You can also combine equal parts cornstarch and baking soda for extra odor-fighting power. The baking soda adds deodorizing properties while the cornstarch absorbs moisture. This combo can renew the freshness of old shoes.
One free and easy remedy is to expose your shoes to sunlight. The UV rays have natural antibacterial and deodorizing abilities. Take out the laces and insoles if possible. Place your shoes bottoms-up on a sunny windowsill or outdoors. Let them sit for 24 hours so the sunlight can work its magic. Keep in mind that sunlight can also fade colored shoes, so this works best for black or white shoes. Make sure to air dry shoes completely before each wear. The sun exposure cuts down on residual moisture and bacteria over time.
Pop your shoes in a plastic bag and place them in the freezer overnight. The cold temperature kills odor-causing bacteria and fungi. This technique just needs to be done occasionally when smells are severe. Make sure shoes are dry first. Take out of the freezer in the morning and let them fully thaw and dry before wearing again. The freezer trick also works to de-shrink shoes that have gotten wet. Just beware of putting leather shoes in the freezer as the rapid temperature drop can damage the material.
Kitty litter may be meant for cats, but it can also absorb stubborn odors in shoes. Pour fresh, unused litter into shoes and let sit overnight. The granules will soak up moisture and smells. Dump out the litter in the morning and wipe away any residue before wearing again. You can also stuff pantyhose with kitty litter and tie off the ends to make mini deodorizing sachets. Hang them on the shoelaces when shoes are in storage. Kitty litter is very effective at pulling odors out of fabric and shoes.
Odor Remover Spray
While homemade mixes work great, you can also buy commercial odor eliminator sprays. Look for products with natural ingredients like essential oils or plant enzymes. Avoid sprays with heavy fragrances that just mask scents instead of removing them. Spray odor eliminator onto stinky spots like the insoles, heel, and toe box. Let fully dry before wearing again. Many sprays continue eliminating odors gradually over time. Reapply when smells return. This quick and easy method lets you spray and go.
By turning to items already under your kitchen sink or in the pantry, you can whip up effective shoe deodorizers in no time. With a few spritzes, soaks, or scrubs, you can successfully banish even the stinkiest shoe smells. Say goodbye to embarrassment and hello to fresh footwear. Your nose will thank you.