DIY Cleaning & Organizing

3 Fixes for Smelly Footwear

Embarrassed by your shoes' lingering scent? Give your favorite pair that new-shoe smell again with these solutions for banishing bad odors.
3 Fixes for Smelly Shoes - Smelly Shoes

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With the kickoff of summer comes sunshine, warm temperatures, backyard games—and sweat, lots of sweat, from head to toe. And those balmy feet quickly lead to stinky shoes. Bacteria on your feet feed off of sweat and produce a byproduct with a pungent scent that’s hard to erase once it’s there. Luckily, easy solutions for avoiding the stench are within reach. Open wide your pantry and rummage through your closet to mix up one of these concoctions that will eliminate smelly-shoe shame for good.

How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Baking Soda

1. Clean Smelly Shoes with Baking Soda

Baking soda has many superpowers, neutralizing unpleasant odors chief among them. Simply pour some into your shoes and let them sit overnight. The powder will soak up excess moisture while you sleep, leaving your kicks clean and dry in the morning. For a fresher scent, consider mixing in few drops of an essential oil with the baking soda before filling your shoes. Just don’t forget to empty the baking soda into the trash the next day—the only thing worse than smelly feet is leaving a powdery trail in your wake!

Once you’ve sopped up the extra moisture, craft a pair of homemade deodorizers to slip into your shoes between uses. Fill a pair of socks (or feet cut from nylon stockings) with baking soda, and knot the ends of each. You can even stuff the socks with kitty litter; made to tackle far more offending scents, it’ll work wonders for your shoes.

How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Newspaper

2. De-stink Your Shoes with Newspaper

Surprisingly, your morning paper can work overtime as an effective way to squash shoe odor. Stuff a generous amount of crumpled newspaper into each shoe—it will help your shoes dry even faster by absorbing extra moisture, thus eliminating any bacteria that comes with it. For a dose of sweet-smelling goodness, sprinkle a few drops of vanilla onto the newspaper first; come morning, your go-to loafers will not only be rid of their funky scent, but they’ll actually smell fresh.

How to Clean Smelly Shoes - Washing Machine

3. Run the Insoles Through the Wash

For heavier-duty stinks, head to the laundry room. Pull out your sneakers’ insoles and run them through the washing machine with a load of towels. (If you want to wash the entire shoe, remove the laces and put the shoes in a pillowcase before throwing them in the washer.) Let them air-dry for a day or so before wearing again.

Still smell? Soak just the insoles in a water-vinegar solution for a few hours, then air-dry under a heater or in a sunny spot.

As you implement any (or all) of these measures, also limit wearing your favorite pair of shoes to every other day—even just once every few days. This will ensure that they have time to dry out fully, which will cut down on bacteria buildup. Start working these solutions into your everyday routine, and you’ll be amazed at the difference they’ll make in keeping your shoes fresh and clean.