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How to Get Smell Out of Shoes Without Washing Them?

We’ve all been there – you take off your shoes after a long day and get blasted with an unpleasant odor coming from your footwear. While tossing them in the washing machine seems like the easiest solution, you may not always have time for that. Fortunately, there are several quick and easy ways to get the smell out of shoes without actually washing them.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to remove odors from shoes. Its odor-neutralizing properties allow it to absorb and eliminate smells rather than just masking them. Start by removing the shoe insoles if they are removable. Then sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda directly into the shoes, using enough to coat the bottom and sides. Let the baking soda sit overnight to give it time to absorb any odors. In the morning, turn the shoes upside down and knock out the baking soda. You can repeat this process for a few days until the smell is gone. The baking soda will pull out moisture and odor from the interior materials of the shoe, leaving them fresh smelling.

Freeze Them

Here’s an easy trick – pop your smelly shoes in the freezer overnight. The cold temperature helps kill odor-causing bacteria and also dries out any moisture that may be contributing to the smell. Just make sure to take out the insoles first and remove any debris or dirt from the bottom. Place the shoes in a sealed plastic bag before putting in the freezer to contain the smell. In the morning, let them thaw and dry out before wearing again. The freezer trick works best for lightweight shoes like sneakers and is ideal for removing foot odor.

Dryer Sheets

Don’t have baking soda? No problem! Dryer sheets make another cheap and simple odor remover. Their fresh fragrance helps eliminate smells and moistness inside shoes. Simply stuff a few sheets into each shoe – the tighter the fit, the better. Let them sit overnight or longer if the odor is very strong. The dryer sheets will begin absorbing and masking any unpleasant smells. An advantage of this method is that your shoes will smell extra lovely when you take out the scented dryer sheets. Just be sure to replace them periodically as the fragrance fades.


Activated charcoal has become popular for its ability to absorb toxins and odors. It can work the same magic when used correctly on smelly shoes. Purchase a bag of activated charcoal pellets or powder from the pharmacy section of stores. Remove the shoe insoles and sprinkle a good amount of charcoal into each shoe, covering the bottom and sides. Let it sit for at least a few hours or overnight. The charcoal will pull out and trap shoe odors without leaving any scent of its own. When finished, dump out the charcoal and wipe out any residue before replacing the insoles and wearing again.

White Vinegar

The acidic and antimicrobial properties of white vinegar make it a powerhouse for removing odors. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water. Lightly spray the mixture inside your shoes, coating all surfaces. Be careful not to soak the shoes – just a light misting will do. Let them dry completely. The vinegar will help kill bacteria responsible for foot odor and absorb any unpleasant smells. Once fully dried, your shoes will smell fresh and clean. Vinegar can leave behind its own scent, so you may want to follow up with baking soda to further neutralize odors.

Essential Oils

For a more natural remedy, you can use antimicrobial essential oils to sanitize smelly shoes. Tea tree, eucalyptus, lemongrass and thyme oils work well. Add several drops of your chosen oil onto a cotton ball or pad. Place these inside each shoe, pressing into the toe box, sides and insole area. The natural oils will neutralize odors and disinfect shoe interiors without leaving any chemical residue. Remove the cotton pads after a few hours and let shoes dry completely before wearing again. Essential oils leave your shoes smelling fresh for days.

Outdoor Air

One of the simplest and free ways to remove odors from shoes is letting them air out. If weather permits, take your smelly shoes outside and place them where they’ll get fresh air – on a porch, balcony, windowsill or backyard. Direct sunlight and airflow will help dry out moist interiors that can cause odor. Letting them air out for a few hours allows smells to dissipate. If you can’t go outdoors, open windows to increase ventilation. Just don’t place shoes directly on hot surfaces outside, which could damage materials. Frequent airing out helps prevent shoe odors from building up over time.

Removing unpleasant shoe smells doesn’t require heavy duty cleaning every time. With these simple odor removal tricks, you can keep your footwear fresh between wears. Next time your shoes are stinking up the place, try one of these effective DIY methods first before tossing them in the wash. Your shoes will smell great again in no time.