Having smelly feet can be embarrassing and frustrating. The odor is often caused by sweat, bacteria, and fungus growing on the feet. While good hygiene practices can help prevent and reduce foot odor, sometimes you need an extra treatment to really get rid of the smell. Foot soaks are an easy and effective way to clean your feet, kill odor-causing bacteria, and leave your feet fresh. But how long should you soak your feet to fully eliminate foot odor?
The ideal foot soak time is 15-30 minutes. Soaking your feet for this duration will allow the ingredients in the foot bath enough time to work at reducing bacteria populations on your feet. It takes some time for active ingredients like epsom salts, essential oils, apple cider vinegar, and bicarbonate of soda to penetrate deep into the skin and attack odor-causing microbes. A quick 5 or 10 minute foot bath may feel nice and refreshing, but it likely won’t have the same odor-eliminating effects as a longer 15-30 minute soak.
Additionally, longer foot soaks give you time to thoroughly clean your feet. Take the time while soaking to gently scrub away dead skin cells. These cells can trap odor, so removing them can help reduce foot smell. Use a pumice stone, foot file, or foot scrubber brush to slough off dead skin while you soak. The warm water will help soften skin and make exfoliation easier.
Here are some general guidelines for effective foot soak times:
- 15 minutes: The minimum recommended time for an antimicrobial foot soak. Look for soaks with ingredients like tea tree oil, eucalyptus, thyme, or oregano essential oils which have bacteria-busting properties.
- 20 minutes: A standard foot bath time. The water will start cooling after 20 minutes, so plan to add hot water if you want to continue soaking.
- 30 minutes: An extended foot soak time best for very smelly or fungus-infected feet. The longer time allows the soak solution extra time to penetrate thickened toenails and reduce fungal populations.
- 10 minutes: The minimum soak time to rehydrate cracked heels and soften calluses. Use a foot soak with moisturizing oils like coconut, olive, or avocado oil.
- 5 minutes: A quick foot refresher to eliminate mild sweaty foot odor. Use a solution with antibacterial essential oils.
Keep in mind that for severe foot odor, multiple long foot soaks may be needed over a period of days or weeks to fully resolve the problem. Consistency is key. Make foot soaks part of your regular self-care routine at least a few times per week.
It’s also important to dry your feet thoroughly and apply foot powder after soaking. The moist environment of the foot bath softens your skin, making it easier for new bacteria to grow and create smells later. Using a fan or hair dryer on the cool setting reduces residual moisture. Sprinkle antifungal foot powder on your feet and in your shoes to help prevent recurrence of foot odor.
The type of foot soak solution you use can increase or reduce the time needed. Here are some foot soak recipes and how long you should soak for maximum deodorizing benefits:
- Baking Soda and Vinegar Bath – 30 minutes. The combination of baking soda and vinegar creates a chemical reaction that helps neutralize foot odor. The longer soak time allows this reaction to fully occur.
- Epsom Salts – 20 minutes. Epsom salts draw out toxins, reduce inflammation, and exfoliate dead cells. Soak for standard time.
- Essential Oils – 15 minutes. Oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, and lemon have antimicrobial properties. The oils work quickly, so you don’t need to soak as long.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – 30 minutes. Vinegar balances skin pH which inhibits bacteria growth. Allow extra time for thorough odor elimination.
- Hydrogen Peroxide – 15 minutes. Hydrogen peroxide disinfects feet and kills bacteria. Soak feet no longer than 15 minutes to avoid skin irritation.
- Baking Soda and Oatmeal – 20 minutes. Baking soda deodorizes while oatmeal soothes skin. 20 minutes allows both ingredients to work.
The duration of your foot soak can make all the difference in the effectiveness of the treatment. While even a short 5-10 minute foot bath offers some benefits, aim for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes to fully rid your feet of odor. Be diligent and patient. With consistency, long foot soaks can leave your feet fresh, clean, and odor-free.