​Making an excellent impression is a lot easier with the help of a fresh pair of shoes, and that means more than simply making them look nice. Even the nicest kicks cannot conceal a foul odor, setting you up for a room-filling stink and a load of embarrassment as soon as you take them off.

A powerful shoe odor demands a fast-acting and long-lasting solution. If sweaty feet and overuse have left your favorite footwear unbearably stinky, we’ll show you 12 powerful ways to remove even the worst smells from shoes.

You might also like: 7 Best Shoe Deodorizers to Stomp the Stink

1. Removing Odors with Baking Soda

Shoe odors are a product of heat, sweat, skin shedding, and the foot fungi and bacteria that thrive in these ideal conditions. Along with water, the sweat glands in your feet excrete proteins, salts, and fats for microbes to consume. As they feed, their acidic waste products generate various shoe smells ranging from sour milk to white vinegar.

Baking soda can beat those foul odors in a few different ways. It can suck up excess moisture, keeping your shoes dry and preventing bacteria growth. More importantly, it neutralizes the assorted acids that cause the smell, bringing the odorants to a pH-neutral and scent-free state.

To save your stinky shoes, you can make small, baking soda-filled sachets to put in your shoes:

  1. Fill a coffee filter with a few tablespoons of baking soda, leaving enough space for the filter to close
  2. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the baking soda
  3. Close the coffee filter, twist it tight, and hold it in place with a rubber band
  4. Leave 1–2 pouches in each shoe for a few hours or overnight

If you’re out of coffee filters, toss baking soda inside a pair of breathable cotton socks to leave in your shoes. Alternatively, you can sprinkle baking soda in your shoes without the coffee filter, applying a few drops of essential oils as desired for fragrance. Let it sit in the shoes overnight, and vacuum it out in the morning. 

2. Toss in Some Baby Powder

Baby powder is a fantastic way to eliminate shoe odor fast and keep your socks dry and comfortable. Use it as a moisture absorber and deodorizer in your shoes at night when you aren’t using them, and sprinkle it in each sock for dry, fresh feet all day long.

3. Use Cornstarch as DIY Foot Powder

When you don’t have any baby powder, you can opt for one of its essential ingredients – cornstarch. Newer baby powder products replace traditional talc with the safer, natural cooking staple, which acts as an excellent moisture absorber without the risk of chafing. And by itself, it’s still plenty effective for handling stinky shoes.

Sprinkle cornstarch into your shoes to remove moisture and smells overnight, again using essential oil as desired for a deodorizing boost. You can tame feet sweat with a sprinkling of cornstarch in your socks to help your shoes smell fresher during the day.

4. Apply Scented Cotton Balls

Studies have shown the efficacy of essential oils in combating odor-causing bacteria around the feet. While they’re an excellent enhancement for cornstarch and baking soda, essential oils can also take center stage in eliminating odors from your sneakers.

Apply several drops of essential oils to a few cotton balls, and leave them in your shoe overnight. The cotton won’t absorb moisture, but the essential oils will effectively remove odor and help make your home smell fresher.

5. Use Cat Litter

Cat litter is a perfect alternative to baking soda for dealing with moisture and odor from sweaty feet. Use it in coffee filter sachets, or fill clean socks with kitty litter to leave in your shoes overnight. Avoid sprinkling it directly, as pieces can become lodged in tiny crevices throughout the shoe, making it uncomfortable to wear.

6. Put Your Shoes in the Fresh Air and Sunshine

All it takes is a windowsill and a bright day for tool-free, hands-free odor removal. Placing your shoes in the sun will dry any lingering moisture and even kill bad-smelling bacteria thriving in them.

Unlace and open the tongues to expose as much of the shoe’s interior to sunlight as possible. Ensure your shoes receive direct sunlight exposure without any filtering through windows, as many glass panes have UV-reducing coatings that will minimize its effectiveness in killing bacteria. 

Give them a few hours in the warm sun, and your shoes should be completely dry and ready to use when you return. If you’re the type to exercise before starting your day, there’s no more convenient way to refresh your running shoes after a morning jog.

7. Seal Your Smelly Shoes in the Freezer

Anyone who has ever dealt with a freezer smell knows that cold temperatures don’t kill all bacteria, but in the case of shoes, it can still reduce the colonies of microbes pumping out the stink. Stick your shoes in a ziplock plastic bag, and let them chill in the freezer overnight.

8. Add a Few Lemon Peels

Lemon is another all-natural deodorizer and readily available ingredient with proven effectiveness in beating common odor-causing foot bacteria. They won’t do much for wet, soiled shoes, but a few leftover lemon peels can help eliminate odor and supply a clean scent to funky footwear. 

9. Spray Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is a powerful yet color-safe way to treat various footwear issues, from stained shoes to foul odors. Put rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle, and spritz the inside of your smelly shoes. The antiseptic qualities of your DIY deodorizing spray will help kill any bacterial growth. The alcohol will evaporate quickly, so you won’t have to worry about a sharp, lingering aroma throughout the day.

10. Repurpose an Old Bar of Soap

A dry soap bar inside your shoe will lift residual moisture and a bad smell, no matter the material. Use a few spare bars to stuff in your shoes overnight so they’ll be fresh for their next wear.  

11. Stuff Tea Bags in Your Shoes

Tea bags work like sachets to make your shoes smell fresh between wears. The high tannin concentration in black tea makes it especially suitable for killing bacteria that cause foul odors. 

While tossing dry tea bags in your shoes for convenient smell removal is an option, you can also steep them in hot water for added effectiveness. Put the moist bags into your shoes, and the black tea’s tannic acid will mingle with and reduce the bacteria to kill the smell. Leave the damp bags in your shoes for 1–2 hours, remove them, and then let your shoes air dry before putting them on.

12. Try Dryer Sheets

A pleasant-smelling dryer sheet is a simple solution to remove smells from shoes. Line the insides of your shoes with several sheets, and let them sit to absorb odors through the night.

Tips for Stopping Stinky Feet

No matter your genetics or lifestyle, stinky feet are a problem for nearly everyone to some degree. Knowing how to remove odor from shoes is crucial in saving yourself from embarrassment before going out, but you can avoid a ton of trouble by taking proactive steps to prevent smelly feet in the first place. 

Follow these tips to stop stinky shoes from becoming a daily challenge in your life:

  • Wash your feet 1–2 times daily
  • Keep your feet dry with medicated powder or antiperspirant
  • Wear clean socks with a breathable, wicking material
  • Soak your feet once weekly in a mixture of warm water and Epsom salt for 10–20 minutes
  • Wear socks and shoes only when needed, giving your feet a chance to dry
  • Trim and clean your toenails daily
  • Clean dead skin from your feet with a file or pumice stone
  • Alternate shoes, giving each time to dry between uses

Get Cleaning Help with Anita’s

Your feet are bound to get a little sweaty if you’re on them all day juggling chores, errands, and a job. Rather than deal with stinky shoes on top of everything else, give yourself a chance to kick them off by scheduling house cleaning services with Anita’s! Request a booking today, and discover time to relax with the help of an expert local cleaner.


Anita's Housekeeping Editors