How to Get Smells Out of Shoes in 2023: Effective Tips for Eliminating Odors

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how to get smells out of shoes

What Causes Shoes to Develop Unpleasant Odors Over Time?

Shoes can develop unpleasant odors over time due to a variety of factors. One common cause is the accumulation of sweat and bacteria inside the shoes. When we wear shoes, our feet produce sweat, which gets absorbed by the shoe materials. The warm and moist environment inside the shoes provides an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, which thrive on the sweat and release foul-smelling gases as they break it down.

Another factor that contributes to shoe odor is poor ventilation. Shoes that do not allow proper airflow can trap moisture inside, exacerbating bacterial growth and odor development. Additionally, wearing shoes without socks or using low-quality socks that do not effectively absorb sweat can increase the likelihood of odors.

H3: Factors causing shoe odor:

  • Accumulation of sweat
  • Bacterial growth
  • Poor ventilation
  • Lack of socks or low-quality socks

H4: Sweat Absorption:

The type of material used in shoes plays a role in how well they absorb sweat. Synthetic materials like nylon or polyester tend to trap moisture and prevent it from evaporating, leading to increased odor-causing bacteria. On the other hand, natural materials like leather or canvas have better breathability and can help wick away moisture from the feet.

Bacterial Growth:

Bacteria naturally present on our skin feed on sweat and multiply in warm, damp environments like shoes. As they break down the organic compounds in sweat, they release volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which are responsible for the offensive smell associated with shoe odor.

Poor Ventilation:

If your shoes don’t have proper ventilation, moisture from sweat cannot escape, creating a humid environment that promotes bacterial growth. Closed-toe shoes, especially those made of non-breathable materials like rubber or plastic, are more prone to trapping moisture and developing odors.

Lack of Socks or Low-Quality Socks:

Wearing shoes without socks or using low-quality socks that do not effectively absorb sweat can contribute to shoe odor. Socks act as a barrier between the feet and the shoe, absorbing sweat and preventing direct contact with the shoe materials. Without socks or with inadequate ones, sweat is directly absorbed by the shoes, increasing the likelihood of odor development.

How to Effectively Remove Shoe Odor Without Damaging Them

Identify the Source of the Odor

Before you can effectively remove shoe odor, it’s important to identify the source of the smell. This could be caused by sweat, bacteria, or even fungal infections. By determining the root cause, you can choose the appropriate method for eliminating the odor without causing any damage to your shoes.

Use Natural Remedies and DIY Methods

There are several natural remedies and DIY methods that can help eliminate shoe odors without damaging them. One popular option is using baking soda. Simply sprinkle some baking soda inside your shoes and let it sit overnight. The baking soda will absorb the odor. You can also try using tea tree oil, which has natural antibacterial properties. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with water in a spray bottle and spritz it inside your shoes.

If you prefer a DIY method, you can create a mixture of vinegar and water and use it as a cleaning solution for your shoes. Vinegar helps kill bacteria and neutralize odors. Just make sure to test it on a small area first to ensure it doesn’t discolor or damage your shoes.

Natural Remedies and DIY Methods to Eliminate Shoe Odors

Lemon Peel for Freshness

Lemon peel is an effective natural remedy for eliminating shoe odors. Simply place a few lemon peels inside your shoes overnight. The citrus scent will help neutralize any unpleasant smells.

Baking Soda Paste

If you have stubborn shoe odors, you can create a paste using baking soda and water. Apply this paste to the affected areas of your shoes and let it sit for about 30 minutes. Then, wipe it off with a damp cloth. The baking soda will absorb the odor and leave your shoes smelling fresh.

Freeze Your Shoes

Another DIY method is to freeze your shoes. Place them in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer overnight. The low temperatures will kill bacteria and eliminate odors. Just make sure to let your shoes thaw before wearing them again.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is known for its ability to absorb odors. Place a few activated charcoal sachets or bags inside your shoes and leave them overnight. The charcoal will help remove any lingering smells.

Which Types of Shoes are More Prone to Developing Strong Smells, and Why?

Certain types of shoes are more prone to developing strong smells due to their materials and design. Athletic shoes, especially those made with synthetic materials, tend to trap sweat and moisture, creating an ideal environment for bacteria growth. Additionally, closed-toe shoes like boots or sneakers can restrict airflow, leading to increased perspiration and odor accumulation.

Shoes worn without socks also contribute to stronger smells as the sweat is directly absorbed by the shoe’s material. Furthermore, poorly ventilated footwear such as rubber or plastic shoes can exacerbate odor problems since they don’t allow moisture to escape easily.

Tips for Reducing Odor in Specific Shoe Types:

  • Athletic Shoes: After each use, remove the insoles if possible and allow them to air dry separately from the rest of the shoe. This helps prevent moisture buildup that leads to odor development.
  • Leather Shoes: Use a leather cleaner or conditioner regularly to keep them clean and prevent bacterial growth that causes odors.
  • Canvas Shoes: Machine washable canvas shoes can be cleaned in a gentle cycle with mild detergent to remove odor-causing bacteria.

Preventing Shoe Odors with Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Create a Cleaning Routine

To prevent shoe odors, it’s essential to establish a regular cleaning routine. This includes wiping down the interior of your shoes with a damp cloth after each use to remove any sweat or dirt that may contribute to odor development. Additionally, allow your shoes to air dry completely before storing them.

Proper Storage

Storing your shoes in a well-ventilated area is crucial for preventing odors. Avoid keeping them in enclosed spaces where moisture can accumulate, such as plastic bags or closed shoe cabinets. Instead, opt for open shoe racks or breathable storage containers.

Rotate Your Shoes

Giving your shoes time to breathe between uses can help prevent odor buildup. Rotate between different pairs of shoes every few days, allowing each pair to fully dry out before wearing them again. This helps reduce moisture and bacterial growth.

Effective Products and Sprays for Removing Shoe Odors

If natural remedies and DIY methods don’t fully eliminate the shoe odor, there are various products and sprays available specifically designed for this purpose. Look for deodorizing sprays that contain ingredients like activated charcoal, tea tree oil, or baking soda. These products work by neutralizing odors rather than just masking them.

You can also consider using shoe deodorizer balls or inserts made from materials like cedar wood or activated charcoal. These absorbent materials help control moisture and eliminate odors while imparting a fresh scent to your shoes.

Getting Rid of Stubborn Smells in Well-Worn Shoes

Deep Cleaning Methods

If your well-worn shoes still have stubborn smells, it may be necessary to use more intensive cleaning methods. For fabric or canvas shoes, you can try machine washing them on a gentle cycle with mild detergent. Make sure to remove any removable insoles or inserts before washing.

For leather or suede shoes, it’s best to consult the manufacturer’s instructions or seek professional cleaning services to avoid damaging the material. In some cases, using a specialized shoe cleaner designed for specific materials may be necessary.

Airing Out and Sunlight

Another effective method for eliminating stubborn smells is to air out your well-worn shoes and expose them to sunlight. Place them in a well-ventilated area outside, preferably under direct sunlight, for a few hours. The combination of fresh air and UV rays helps kill bacteria and eliminate odors.

Baking Soda Sachets

Create small sachets filled with baking soda and place them inside your well-worn shoes overnight. Baking soda will absorb the odor while freshening up your shoes.

Preventive Measures for Keeping Shoes Smelling Fresh for Longer

Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks

To prevent shoe odors from developing in the first place, opt for moisture-wicking socks made from breathable materials like cotton or bamboo. These socks help absorb sweat and keep your feet dry throughout the day, reducing the likelihood of odor-causing bacteria growth.

Foot Powder or Spray

Applying foot powder or spray directly onto your feet before wearing shoes can help control moisture and minimize odor development. Look for products that contain ingredients like talc or baking soda, as they effectively absorb excess moisture.

Alternate Shoes

Rotating between different pairs of shoes on a regular basis allows each pair to fully dry out and prevents odor buildup. This is especially important for athletic shoes or those worn during physical activities that result in excessive sweating.

How Often Should You Clean or Deodorize Your Shoes?

The frequency of cleaning or deodorizing your shoes depends on various factors, including how often you wear them, the intensity of physical activity, and the materials they are made of. As a general guideline:

  • Everyday shoes: Wipe down the interior with a damp cloth after each use and allow them to air dry. Consider using natural remedies like baking soda or tea tree oil every few weeks to keep them fresh.
  • Athletic shoes: Clean and deodorize them after every workout session or intense physical activity. Remove insoles if possible and let them air dry separately.
  • Well-worn shoes: Deep clean and deodorize these shoes every few months, depending on how frequently they are worn. Use more intensive methods like machine washing (for fabric/canvas) or professional cleaning services (for leather/suede).

Professional Services and Treatments for Eliminating Shoe Odors

Ozone Treatment

Ozone treatment is a professional service that effectively eliminates shoe odors by using ozone gas. The ozone molecules penetrate deep into the shoe material, neutralizing bacteria and eliminating odors at their source. This treatment is particularly useful for stubborn smells that cannot be removed through traditional methods.

UV Light Sterilization

Some shoe repair shops offer UV light sterilization services to kill bacteria and eliminate odors. The shoes are exposed to UV light, which destroys the DNA of odor-causing bacteria, preventing them from reproducing and causing further smells.

Shoe Deodorizing Machines

There are specialized machines available that use a combination of heat, ozone, and UV light to deodorize shoes. These machines are often used by professional shoe cleaners or can be purchased for personal use. They provide a thorough and effective treatment for eliminating even the most stubborn odors.

How Often Should You Clean or Deodorize Your Shoes?

Regular cleaning and deodorizing of your shoes is essential to maintain their freshness and extend their lifespan. The frequency at which you should clean or deodorize your shoes depends on various factors such as the material, usage, and odor intensity. Here are some general guidelines:


The type of material your shoes are made of plays a significant role in determining how often they need cleaning or deodorizing. For example, leather shoes may require less frequent cleaning compared to canvas or fabric shoes.


If you wear your shoes daily or engage in activities that cause excessive sweating, it is recommended to clean and deodorize them more frequently. Active individuals who participate in sports or outdoor activities may need to clean their shoes after each use.

Odor Intensity

If you notice a strong odor coming from your shoes, it’s a clear indication that they require immediate attention. Ignoring unpleasant odors can lead to bacterial growth and further deterioration of the shoe’s condition.

Cleaning Frequency Recommendations:

  • Every 1-2 weeks for casual shoes with regular use
  • After each use for athletic or sports shoes
  • Monthly for dress shoes that are worn occasionally

Deodorizing Frequency Recommendations:

  • Daily using simple home remedies like baking soda or dryer sheets
  • After each use for heavily used athletic shoes
  • Weekly for casual and dress shoes with regular use

Professional Services and Treatments for Eliminating Shoe Odors

If home remedies and regular cleaning do not effectively eliminate shoe odors, professional services and treatments can provide a more thorough solution. Here are some options:

Shoe Deodorizing Services

There are specialized shoe deodorizing services available that use advanced techniques and equipment to remove stubborn odors. These services often involve ozone treatment, which helps neutralize odor-causing bacteria.

Shoe Sanitization

In cases where shoes have been exposed to bacteria or fungi due to moisture or other factors, professional sanitization can be beneficial. This process involves deep cleaning and disinfecting the shoes to eliminate any harmful microorganisms.

Odor Eliminating Products

Professional-grade odor eliminating products, such as sprays or powders, can be used to treat persistent shoe odors. These products are designed to penetrate deep into the material and neutralize odors at their source.

Choosing Professional Shoe Odor Treatments:

  • Research reputable shoe care providers in your area
  • Read reviews and testimonials from previous customers
  • Inquire about the specific methods and products used for odor elimination
  • Consider the cost-effectiveness compared to purchasing new shoes

Remember, maintaining clean and fresh-smelling shoes not only enhances your overall hygiene but also ensures that your footwear remains comfortable and durable over time.

In conclusion, these simple and effective methods discussed above provide practical solutions to eliminate unpleasant odors from shoes, helping us maintain fresh and odor-free footwear.

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