What Works Best for Stinky Shoes?

We’ve all been there – you take off your shoes after a long day and get hit with that unmistakable stench. Stinky shoes can be caused by sweat, bacteria growth, or wearing shoes without socks. It’s an unpleasant problem, but thankfully there are some simple solutions to freshen up your stinky shoes.

Baking Soda

One of the most effective and inexpensive options is baking soda. Simply sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda directly into the shoes. You can focus on the insoles where sweat and odor tends to accumulate the most. The baking soda will help absorb and neutralize odors. Let the baking soda sit in your shoes overnight before dumping it out. Sprinkling some in your shoes after wearing can help prevent the smell in the first place.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal has become a popular substance for absorbing odors. It’s often used for air filters, but also works great for smelly shoes. Place a few activated charcoal bags directly in your shoes overnight or when not wearing them. The charcoal will pull odors and moisture away from the interior materials of the shoe leaving them fresher smelling when you put them back on. Replace the charcoal bags every few weeks when they stop working.

Disinfecting Sprays

Using a disinfecting spray formulated for shoes can kill bacteria that causes odor. Sprays with ingredients like thyme oil, mint, tea tree, or eucalyptus can neutralize shoe odors and prevent growth of odor-causing bacteria. Spray the inside of the shoes, allow them to dry fully, and the smells should disappear. It’s best to spray shoes routinely after wear and allow them to completely dry between uses. This prevents moisture from getting trapped inside.


Believe it or not, placing stinky shoes in the freezer can actually help freshen them up. First, remove shoe insoles and clean excess dirt from the shoes. Place them in a plastic bag, squeezing out excess air, and put in the freezer overnight. The cold temperatures will kill bacteria and dry out moisture that contributes to odors. When you remove them, let the shoes completely thaw and dry before wearing again. Freezing shoes can also help break down the smell particles.


White vinegar is great for both cleaning and deodorizing shoes. Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray or wipe down the shoe interior and exterior, scrubbing away visible dirt. Vinegar is effective at removing stains, salt deposits from sweat, and breaking down stubborn odors. After cleaning, stuff shoes with newspaper to absorb moisture and odors. Let shoes dry completely before wearing. The vinegar smell will fade as shoes dry.

Preventing shoe odors takes some work, but a combination of these methods can get your shoes smelling fresh again. Being diligent about cleaning and drying your shoes between wears, using odor absorbers, disinfecting sprays, and freezing can make a big difference in keeping stinky shoe smells at bay.