Do you wonder how to get rid of shoe odor fast? Many people are battling with smelly shoes from time to time. Having stinky shoes is really an embarrassing problem. To help you out, here are the best ways to get rid of shoe odor for good.
Why do your shoes smell so bad anyway?
Two words: moisture buildup.
Your shoes attract moisture due to a number of reasons. It could be because of ill-fitting shoes, lack of air flowing through your shoes, or sweaty feet. Do you know your feet produce approximately 8 ounces of sweat every day?
It’s not actually the moisture per se that causes the bad smell. It’s the bacteria, which love to live in dark, damp places.
How to get rid of shoe odor fast and naturally
1. Baking Soda
Baking soda, also called as sodium bicarbonate, is one of the cheapest solutions to knocking out bad shoe smell. People widely believe that it does this through the process of absorption, but there are really no clinical trials to prove this claim.
Many people swear by its great ability to eliminate any stinky smell. It may be because of baking soda’s amphoteric nature. This means that it can chemically neutralize both bases and acids. You see, the odor emitting from the shoes (or from other sources) gives off strongly acidic elements, baking soda makes it less acidic to neutralize the odor.
How to remove shoe odor with baking soda:
Simply pour enough baking soda to a pair of socks, and then place them inside your shoes for 24 hours. That will do it.
2. Activated Charcoal
Baking soda is good, but activated charcoal is better in eliminating odor from different types of shoes, such as those made from leather.
Here’s why it works well:
It’s composed of thousands upon thousands of pores, which were created due to the oxygenation process, on its surface. These microscopic pores absorb different types of odors, fumes, and impurities.
You do have to change activated charcoal, so it won’t lose its efficiency. Normally, manufacturers give recommendations on how long the activated carbon or filter lasts, ranging from one week to three months to even a year.
The only downsides with using activated charcoals are they tend to be more expensive and act slowly to eliminate odors.
How to eliminate odor from shoes with activated charcoal:
For this purpose, you can use either aquarium activated charcoals or an activated charcoal block. If you choose the latter, make sure to divide it into two. Personally, I find aquarium activated charcoals more effective in getting rid of shoe odor.
Next, place each half of the activated charcoal block in a used nylon leggings or thin socks. Put each legging deep within your stinky shoes. And then store your shoes inside a paper bag or shoe box, or wrap them with aluminum foil. Leave it for four days.
The efficiency of activated charcoal to remove air pollutants and other odors depend on the amount you use. Thus, the greater the amount you use, the better and faster a bad smell is banished.
3. Regular Washing and Drying
This is the most obvious way you could do to eliminate bad odor from your shoes. As for the right way to do this, well, it depends on the type of shoes. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions since not all are suitable for machine wash. Here’s a guideline for washing your shoes.
For Non-machine washable or delicate shoes, hand washing is a gentler method.
- Remove grime on the outsole using a soft cloth or soft-bristled brush, like your old toothbrush, and warm water mixed with mild liquid detergent. Please avoid using dishwashing liquid soap because they tend to contain harsher ingredients.
- Then pour a small amount of warm water to a sponge to remove the excess liquid detergent.
- Next, remove the insoles of your shoes, and then just repeat the steps stated above.
- The important step of the process is air drying both the insoles and outsoles at room temperature. This is to prevent moisture buildup, which is conducive for bacterial growth.
4. Black and White Newspapers
Yes, only the good ole black and white newspaper. So, how does newspaper work to neutralize shoe odor? One theory says that it absorbs moisture. Another theory says that it’s because of its carbon ink, which is odor absorbent.
There’s really no scientific evidence to support this, but I’ve read a lot of testimonials swearing by the power of newspapers to eliminate bad odors, whether it’s cigarette smoke, a stinky fridge, or smoke smell in the kitchen. And the great thing about using newspaper is you can still toss it in the recycling bin after.
How to stop shoe odor with newspaper:
Stuff your shoes with crumpled newspapers. Then let it sit for 24 to 48 hours, or until moisture is completely gone. During this time, make sure to replace the newspaper regularly since they become soaked with the bad smell from your shoes.
Instead of old newspapers, some use bread as an odor absorbent. It can work, but I’m not so keen with the idea. It could attract other pests, like mice and ants, which could cause a whole new level of a headache.
5. All-Natural Shoe Fresheners
If after washing and drying you still think your shoes stink, you can use natural air fresheners as your backup weapons. You don’t really have to look far because most of these are already found in your kitchen. Take the following as examples:
Orange Peel Air Freshener
- 1 small orange
- small bowl
- baking soda
Slice the orange into half.
Take out the pulps using a spoon, and then place them in a small bowl. Set them aside for later use (perhaps for making orange juice?).
Add around 2 tablespoons of baking soda into each orange shell. The baking soda will absorb the foul odor while the orange shells will release citrusy fragrance.
Place the orange shells inside your shoes.
Fresh Ground Coffee
- 1 cup (15 to 16 tablespoons) fresh ground coffee
- Small pouch
- Cardboard box
Pour the fresh ground coffee in the small pouch. If you don’t like the smell of coffee, you can use two teabags of your favorite tea instead.
Once placed inside your shoes, leave them for one to two days inside a cardboard box then cover it.
- Essential oil (dilution: 10 ml of carrier oil mixed with 2-3 drops of essential oil)
- 2 cotton balls/cotton wools
Pour 2 to 3 drops of diluted essential oil (lavender, mint, rose, rosewood, lemon, etc.) on two pieces of cotton balls or cotton wools. Make sure to wear gloves when diluting essential oils to avoid skin irritations.
Put inside each shoe, and then leave them for a few hours or days.
6. Cedar Insoles
If you want to avoid this problem from the start, buy shoes with cedar insoles. If you can’t find one that suits your fashion taste, you can always buy cedar shoe inserts online.
What’s so great about them? There are many reasons why a cedar insole rocks, such as:
Reason One: Without it, your shoes’ life span is short because moisture seeps into the linings. By putting cedar insoles into your shoes, moisture is effectively absorbed.
Reason Two: It eliminates odor in two ways: through its powerful aroma and ability to kill off most bacteria and fungi that love to live in damp, cool places.
Reason Three: It can treat the root cause of the shoe odor, such as foot odor, by killing bacteria and fungus. But there’s an exception, of course—if you have a condition that causes your glands to release strong body odor (bromhidrosis).
Reason Four: Most cedar insoles are comfortable because they’re specifically designed to be soft, flexible, and conforming to the shape of your shoe sole.
Cedar insoles’ ability to eliminate odor and absorb moisture has its limitations. As soon as they’re saturated, the odor unfortunately comes back.
How often should you change them? It depends on the brand. Please read the manufacturer’s instructions. You’ll most likely have to replace them within 3 to 4 months.
If you don’t like cedar insoles, consider cedar chips to eliminate shoe odor. These are mostly used in cat litters to absorb and banish odors caused by pet urine.
You can readily buy these from your local pet shop or online. Once you have them, simply pour just enough into each shoe and let it sit for the entire night.
7. Essential Oils with Antifungal and Antibacterial Properties
Another best way to get rid of shoe odor is using essential oils. They’re great for preventing and treating foot odors because of their various chemical components that fight off bacteria, fungi, and even viruses. You could also use them to disinfect your smelly shoes. Based on one study, here are essential oils that are highly effective against 22 strains of bacteria and 12 strains of fungi
- Aegle (Aegle marmelos) is also known as Bilva in India. Hindus use this sacred tree and its essential oil for various religious rituals. Its leaves are often soaked in water and applied to the entire body to treat body odor.
- Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum), or whiteweed in the United States, is commonly used as a topical treatment for wounds.
- Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus) is popularly used in many insect repellants, soaps, and perfumes.
- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is widely used in cough syrups, ointments, liniments, mouthwashes, lozenges, and toothpastes because of its soothing and healing effects.
- Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) is used in aromatherapy because of its ability to prevent or treat acne, sleeping problems, sore throat, and depression. Just be careful when handling this because it could cause dermatitis.
- Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is known for its enriching and fresh scent and antiseptic properties.
- I think we can all agree that aside from being a potent antibacterial and antifungal, Peppermint (Mentha piperita) also reminds us of Christmas because of its minty and refreshing smell and taste.
- The scent of patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is not for everyone. It smells a little sweet, but it’s smells earthy as a whole.
- Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini) is also known as Rose Geranium, Turkish Geranium, and East Indian Geranium. It has a sweet and flowery scent.
How to stop smelly shoes with essential oils:
- 10 ml of Olive oil (carrier or base oil)
- Lemongrass essential oil
- 8 ounces white vinegar
Combine olive oil and lemongrass essential oil to dilute it. Mix, and then add the white vinegar.
Next, use a soft cloth to rub the outsole and insole of your shoes. Do this at least twice a day, or after every use, until improvements are observed.
How to use for stinky feet:
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil or virgin coconut oil (carrier oil)
- 3 drops of tea tree oil
- 1 tablespoon of vinegar (apple cider or white)
- Plastic wrap
Combine all the ingredients in a small container. Mix well.
Apply a generous amount of the mixture to your feet.
Cover your feet with plastic wrap to allow the mixture to soak in. Wait for 15 to 20 minutes before rinsing the feet with warm water.
8. Cat litter
Cat litter absorbs the bad smell and has known to eliminate different type of odors.
How to remove odor from shoes with cat litter:
Use unused, fresh cat litter. Take a pair of clean socks and pour some cat litter into it. Seal the sock openings with a rubber band. Place the socks inside the shoes for overnight.
How to prevent smelly shoes
The following solutions are effective, although scientific evidences are often lacking to justify their use for neutralizing unpleasant smells. In most cases, proper washing of shoes, especially the insoles, and air drying (very important) are enough to solve this problem.
Unfortunately, the smell would just keep coming back if the root cause is not addressed properly. These causes could be sweaty feet, lack of air circulating in the shoes, feet conditions that produce unpleasant odors, and so on. Here are some tips to prevent smelly shoes from happening in the first place:
- Wear cotton socks. Cotton is breathable and prevents moisture to get stuck in the socks.
- Wash your feet once or twice a day with antibacterial soap.
- Choose shoes that have better ventilation.
- Alternate between shoes to give them chance to dry out before wearing them again.