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How to Stop Shoes From Smelling?

Foot odor can be an embarrassing and frustrating problem, especially when it seems like no amount of washing gets rid of the smell in your shoes. While bacteria is the main cause of foot odor, there are things you can do to help eliminate odor-causing bacteria and get your shoes smelling fresh again. With a combination of cleaning solutions, deodorizers, and preventative measures, you can keep your shoes smell-free.

Start by removing the shoe insoles, if possible, and washing them. The insoles tend to hold onto odor that gets transferred back to your feet when you wear them. Soak insoles in a mixture of warm water and either white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, or antibacterial soap for 30 minutes up to a few hours. You can also run them through the washing machine for a deeper clean. If the insoles are worn out, consider replacing them.

Next, spray the insides of the shoes thoroughly with either a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water, vodka, or antibacterial spray. The acetic acid in vinegar helps kill odor-causing bacteria and is a very effective shoe deodorizer. Vodka works the same way as the alcohol can kill bacteria. Antibacterial sprays formulated specifically for shoes and gear are also handy for disinfecting and deodorizing. Let the shoes dry out completely in the sun for several hours so any moisture evaporates fully.

Baking soda can soak up lingering odors wonderfully. Liberally sprinkle baking soda into each shoe and work it into the nooks and crannies. You can use an old toothbrush to really work it in. Let it sit for at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours to absorb maximum odor before dumping out the excess. The longer it sits, the better the results.

Another way to get shoes odor-free is deep cleaning them in the washer. Check the tag on your shoes to see if machine washing is safe or not. If so, remove the laces and insoles and place the shoes and laces in individual laundry bags or pillowcases tied shut. Tie the shoes together too so they don’t get separated or beat up the washer. Wash on the gentle cycle with hot water using either laundry detergent or antibacterial soap with an extra rinse cycle. Let them air dry completely when finished.

Investing in shoe deodorizing sprays or powders specifically formulated to neutralize odors and prevent bacteria growth is smart for stubborn shoe smells. Deodorizers contain ingredients like tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, charcoal, aloe vera, or odor-eliminating enzymes that work to keep smells away for up to six months per use. Brands like Sof Sole, Gold Bond, and Lumi Outdoors all offer sprays and powders that work effectively both instantly and over the long term to keep shoes and sneakers fresh inside.

Foot powder can also be sprinkled into shoes daily to absorb moisture and keep odor at bay. Antifungal foot powders use ingredients like zinc oxide to prevent moisture build-up that allows bacteria to thrive in the first place. Applying a thin layer to the sole of the shoe prevents an environment where odor can develop. Common drugstore brands like Gold Bond and Dr. Scholl’s sell antifungal and deodorizing foot powders and sprays that work well for shoe odor issues.

Making sure feet stay clean and dry is key to preventing shoe odor in the first place. Change socks daily to avoid transferring sweat and bacteria back into your shoes. Consider wearing moisture-wicking socks or even paper medical tape or stick-on gel cushions over areas most prone to blisters or sweating. Using antibacterial foot soap or soaking feet in a mix of vinegar and water kills odor-causing bacteria before it ever reaches your shoes. Trimming toe nails properly prevents bacteria from growing underneath.

Purchasing shoes made from natural, breathable materials instead of synthetics can also cut down on odor. Leather, canvas, mesh fabrics, and suede allow air flow whereas most synthetic materials trap heat and sweat leading to odor problems. Look specifically for shoes advertised as having anti-microbial or deodorizing treatments worked into the actual materials. Shop brands like Vessi, Allbirds, Hey Dude, or Skechers that now offer shoes designed to prevent or reduce odors naturally.

Dealing with foot odor in shoes is frustrating but very solvable with the right cleaning solutions and preventative measures. It just takes a combination of washing, deodorizing, absorbing moisture, and stopping odor-causing bacteria growth to get footwear smelling fresh and clean again. Be diligent about keeping feet clean before putting on shoes and consistently using odor-eliminating sprays and powders. With some consistent foot care and effective odor-fighting cleaners, you can successfully tackle shoe smells for good.