Best Ways to Remove Smell from Shoes at Home

smelly shoes

Are you tired of the foul odor coming from your shoes? Smelly shoes can be embarrassing and unpleasant to deal with. But fear not, we've got you covered! In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through some of the best and most effective ways to remove that stubborn smell from your shoes right in the comfort of your home. No need to rely on expensive sprays or commercial products; these solutions are easy, cost-effective, and utilize common household items. So, let's dive in and say goodbye to shoe odor!

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the Causes of Shoe Odor
  2. Preventing Shoe Odor Before It Begins
  3. Simple and Natural Deodorizing Powders
  4. Baking Soda: The Ultimate Odor Absorber
  5. Lemon and Orange Peels for Freshness
  6. Tea Bags: An Unexpected Shoe Savior
  7. White Vinegar Soaks: The Odor Eliminator
  8. Freezing the Funk Out of Shoes
  9. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
    • 9.1. How often should I deodorize my shoes?
    • 9.2. Can I use scented deodorizers?
    • 9.3. Is it safe to apply these methods to all types of shoes?
    • 9.4. Why do some shoes smell worse than others?
    • 9.5. Can I use essential oils to combat shoe odor?

1. Understanding the Causes of Shoe Odor

Before we delve into the solutions, it's essential to understand why shoes develop that unpleasant smell. Shoe odor is primarily caused by the accumulation of sweat and bacteria in the shoes. When our feet sweat, the moisture becomes trapped in the shoes, creating a breeding ground for bacteria. As these bacteria break down the sweat, they release foul-smelling gases, leading to the characteristic shoe odor. Additionally, wearing shoes without socks, improper shoe ventilation, and certain foot conditions can exacerbate the problem.

2. Preventing Shoe Odor Before It Begins

The saying "prevention is better than cure" holds true for shoe odor as well. By taking some preventive measures, you can stop the smell from developing in the first place. Here are some tips to keep your shoes fresh and odor-free:

2.1. Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks

Opt for moisture-wicking socks made of materials like cotton or bamboo. These socks help absorb excess sweat from your feet, reducing the moisture level inside your shoes and minimizing the chance of odor-causing bacteria growth.

2.2. Rotate Your Shoes

Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day. Give your shoes ample time to dry out and air out between wears. Rotating your shoes allows them to breathe, preventing excess moisture buildup.

2.3. Use Foot Powder

Before putting on your socks, sprinkle some foot powder on your feet. Foot powders help absorb sweat and keep your feet dry, reducing the moisture that contributes to shoe odor.

2.4. Allow Shoes to Air Out

After wearing your shoes, take them off, and let them air out in a well-ventilated area. This allows any accumulated moisture to evaporate, keeping your shoes fresher for longer.

3. Simple and Natural Deodorizing Powders

When it comes to combating shoe odor, simplicity is key. You'd be surprised how effective basic deodorizing powders can be in neutralizing odors. Here's a simple recipe for a homemade deodorizing powder:

Homemade Deodorizing Powder Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of cornstarch
  • 10-15 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional, for a pleasant scent)

Mix the baking soda and cornstarch in a bowl. If you prefer scented powder, add a few drops of essential oil and mix well. Sprinkle this powder liberally inside your shoes and let it sit overnight. The baking soda absorbs moisture and unpleasant odors, while the cornstarch keeps your feet dry.

4. Baking Soda: The Ultimate Odor Absorber

Baking soda is a powerhouse when it comes to absorbing odors. Its alkaline nature helps neutralize acidic odors, making it an excellent option for smelly shoes. Apart from using the deodorizing powder we mentioned earlier, here are some more ways to use baking soda:

4.1. Baking Soda Sachets

Create small sachets using coffee filters, cloth pouches, or old socks. Fill them with baking soda and tie them securely. Place these sachets inside your shoes when you're not wearing them. The baking soda will continuously work to absorb any lingering odors.

4.2. Baking Soda and Vinegar Soak

For athletic shoes or sneakers that have removable insoles, take them out and soak them in a mixture of warm water and white vinegar (1:1 ratio) for about 30 minutes. After soaking, rinse them thoroughly and let them air dry. Meanwhile, sprinkle some baking soda inside the shoes, leave it overnight, and shake it out the next morning.

5. Lemon and Orange Peels for Freshness

Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges are natural deodorizers with their pleasant, refreshing scents. Here's how you can use them to freshen up your smelly shoes:

5.1. Citrus Peel Sachets

Similar to baking soda sachets, create small sachets using dried lemon or orange peels. Place these sachets inside your shoes when you're not using them. The citrusy aroma will keep your shoes smelling delightful.

5.2. Lemon Juice Spray

Mix equal parts of lemon juice and water in a spray bottle. Spray this mixture inside your shoes and let them air dry. Lemon juice has natural antibacterial properties that help combat odor-causing bacteria.

6. Tea Bags: An Unexpected Shoe Savior

Tea bags are not only for brewing a soothing cup of tea but also for removing shoe odors. The tannins found in tea have natural antibacterial properties, making them effective in neutralizing odors. Here's how to use tea bags for fresher shoes:

6.1. Used Tea Bags

After brewing a cup of tea, don't throw away the tea bags. Allow them to cool and dry. Once dry, place the used tea bags inside your shoes. They will absorb moisture and leave a subtle tea scent.

6.2. Tea Tree Oil and Tea Bag Combo

For an even more potent solution, add a few drops of tea tree oil to the used and dried tea bags before placing them in your shoes. Tea tree oil has antifungal and antibacterial properties, enhancing the odor-fighting effects.

7. White Vinegar Soaks: The Odor Eliminator

White vinegar is a versatile household item that can tackle various cleaning tasks, including shoe odor removal. Its acidic nature helps neutralize bacteria and eliminate unpleasant smells. Here's how to use white vinegar for smelly shoes:

7.1. Vinegar-Water Solution

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a bowl. Dampen a cloth or paper towel with the solution and wipe the interior of your shoes thoroughly. Allow them to air dry. The vinegar smell will dissipate as the shoes dry, taking the bad odor with it.

7.2. Vinegar Spray

Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and lightly mist the insides of your shoes. Let them air dry. The vinegar will neutralize the odors, leaving your shoes smelling fresh.

8. Freezing the Funk Out of Shoes

Believe it or not, freezing your shoes can help kill odor-causing bacteria and reduce the smell. The extreme cold temperatures eliminate the bacteria, leaving your shoes fresher than ever. Here's what you need to do:

8.1. Seal and Freeze

Place each shoe in a separate ziplock bag, sealing them tightly. Put the bags in the freezer and leave them overnight. The next day, remove the shoes from the freezer and let them thaw at room temperature. The cold will have killed off most of the bacteria, resulting in odor-free shoes.


Don't let smelly shoes ruin your day or your confidence! With these effective and easy-to-implement methods, you can say goodbye to shoe odor for good. Remember to take preventive measures, such as wearing moisture-wicking socks and letting your shoes air out. Utilize the power of natural deodorizers like baking soda, citrus peels, and tea bags, or opt for the odor-eliminating properties of white vinegar. And don't forget the freezer trick for an extra boost in eliminating that funky smell. So, step out with confidence, knowing your shoes smell as fresh as a daisy!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How often should I deodorize my shoes?

The frequency of deodorizing your shoes depends on how often you wear them and how much you sweat. As a general guideline, consider deodorizing your shoes once every two weeks if you wear them regularly. If you have an active lifestyle or notice persistent odors, you might want to deodorize them more frequently, perhaps once a week.

2. Can I use scented deodorizers?

Yes, you can use scented deodorizers to add a pleasant fragrance to your shoes. However, it's essential to choose deodorizers that are specifically designed for shoes and feet. Avoid using strong perfumes or air fresheners directly inside your shoes, as they may contain chemicals that could irritate your skin or damage the shoe material.

3. Is it safe to apply these methods to all types of shoes?

Most of the methods mentioned in this article are safe to use on various types of shoes, including leather, canvas, fabric, and athletic shoes. However, always spot-test any cleaning agent or deodorizer on a small, inconspicuous area of your shoes before applying it more broadly. Some materials may be sensitive to certain solutions, and it's better to be cautious.

4. Why do some shoes smell worse than others?

The intensity of shoe odor can vary depending on factors such as the material of the shoes, the level of sweat and moisture trapped inside, and the presence of odor-causing bacteria. Shoes made of synthetic materials may trap more moisture and have less breathability, leading to stronger odors. Additionally, the more you wear a pair of shoes without proper ventilation and hygiene practices, the worse the odor can become.

5. Can I use essential oils to combat shoe odor?

Yes, essential oils can be effective in combating shoe odor due to their natural antibacterial and deodorizing properties. You can add a few drops of essential oils like tea tree, lavender, eucalyptus, or peppermint to your homemade deodorizing powders or sachets. However, remember that essential oils are potent, so use them sparingly and avoid applying them directly to your skin. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil or another medium before use.

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