How To Clean Smelly Shoes

Man smelling his shoe
If you have ever had a pair of smelly shoes then you know why someone would beg to know how to clean their smelly shoes. Whether they are your sandals, flip flops, sneakers, or dress shoes you can easily clean your smelly shoes and keep them clean for the future!

Step 1

Prevent the problem. Smelly shoes are created by smelly feet. Or, at least, by the problems that cause smelly feet -- the enemy bacteria that grow in dark, warm, and moist places (making your shoes an ideal candidate). Preventing the problem isn't always easy, but the following suggestions can help keep the problem under control.

  • Keep your feet washed. Depending on how bad your feet are, you may have to do this more then one time a day. You can use an antibacterial soap for help (use your hand soap if you have to).
  • Soak your feet in green tea. Green tea has antibacterial properties and 15 minutes of soaking can kill bacteria and help a lot.
  • Dry your feet thoroughly. Dry your feet with a towel. Make sure you get between your toes as well.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on your feet to help absorb odor and moisture. 
  • Where cotton socks which absorb moisture better. Whenever possible choose white over other colors.

Step 2

Brush any dirt or mud off. Using a soft bristled brush, carefully brush off dirt and mud.

Step 3

Remove the laces and inserts. Carefully remove the shoes inserts and laces. This will make the cleaning process easier.

Step 4

Wash your shoes. Mix 1 cup of baking soda into three or four cups of hot water. Use this to wash your shoes inside and out.  

Step 5

Stuff your shoes with paper. This will let your shoes keep their shape as well as help absorb moisture. Let your shoes dry.

Step 6

Sprinkle the insides with baking soda. Pour some baking soda into your shoes (be generous) and then shake them around to coat the top and bottom as well as the sides with baking soda. Dump out the excess powder. This will help with odor and moisture.

Step 7

Wash the laces and the inserts. Throw the laces in the wash with the rest of the laundry. They can also go through the dryer. Wash the inserts in the baking soda mixture. Let thoroughly dry.

Step 8

Replace the inserts and laces. Cover the inserts with additional baking soda. Then replace them in the shoe and re-lace your laces.

Step 9

Finish the outsides of your shoes. With a damp cloth wipe off the outsides of your shoes. This will remove any residue left by the baking soda water. Let them dry and then apply shoe polish to any leather parts (white cream polish for white leather and black shoe polish for any black leather parts).

Step 10

Do daily maintenance. While working to prevent a problem and washing your shoes every now and again will help in the smelly shoe issue it isn't going to be enough for those with a huge problem. There are a few daily maintenance types of things that can be done to keep stink at bay!

  • Apply baking soda to your shoes each day. Shake it in and let it coat all of the sides and dump out any excess.
  • Let your shoes dry. If you have to wear the same pair each day then place them in a well ventilated area so that they are most likely to dry thoroughly.
  • Once a week spray the insides down with rubbing alcohol which will kill bacteria and dry quickly. Let dry.
  • If these things don't work then throw your shoes in the freezer every night (place in a ziploc bag first). This will kill bacteria quicly without adding moisture. Take out an hour before you are going to wear them and add your baking soda to them. 

Keeping your shoes clean and smell-free can be a multi-step task for some of us (trust me I know and I was told girls don't have this problem!). Take it one day at a time and find the steps that work best for you. If you can, get two pairs of shoes so that you can rotate them each day and always have a dry pair. No matter what, cleaning them every now and again is sure to help!


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Great suggestions. Even if you don't have smelly shoes, shoe maintenance is very useful.

By Mary Norton