16 Home Remedies for Stinky, Smelly Shoes

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So, your favorite shoes stink. You don’t dare take them off even though your feet are screaming to be let out. Embarrassing, but true. Don’t worry, help is on the way. If you’re on the hunt for the best shoe odor eliminator,  we’re going to introduce you to 16 efficient home remedies for smelly shoes

But before we start discussing the most efficient shoe smell remedy you might wonder “where do stinky shoes come from anyway?” The answer is…well, obvious. First comes foot sweat, then comes bacteria, then comes stinky feet, socks, and shoes.

Foot odor is a universal problem unless you happen to live someplace where shoes are not worn. Most of us spend many hours a day in our shoes, so let’s talk about what causes foot odor.

Our feet smell because they sweat inside our shoes. When the sweat reaches the skin’s surface the foot sweat encounters bacteria that break it down. The decomposing sweat releases an offensive odor. The medical term for smelly feet is bromodosis. The common term is simply stinky feet.

Here is a bizarre fact about sweating: There are more sweat glands in the feet than anywhere else on the human body.

You’re more likely to have smelly feet if you’re in your shoes most of the day. But there are other triggers as well. Stress can cause sweaty, stinky feet, as can a medical disorder called hyperhidrosis. Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections can also lead to bad foot odor. Hormonal changes that are prevalent in teenagers and pregnant women can cause abnormal sweating which leads to heightened foot odor. And last but but least, the foods we eat can also influence the way our sweat smells.

Stinky feet = stinky shoes.

Let’s first talk about home remedies for smelly shoes and then we’ll discuss how to stop feet from smelling in shoes and other helpful odor-fighting remedies.

1. Wash + Exfoliate Feet to Prevent Stinky Shoes

Since stinky shoes start with stinky feet, when it comes to home remedies for smelly shoes it seems like that’s a good place to begin. Practicing good foot hygiene is one of the best smelly shoes remedies out there and can help keep the foot odor down.

Wash your feet every day. Even if you don’t shower or bathe every day, take the time to wash your feet with warm, soapy water. Rinse thoroughly and then dry with a clean, fresh towel. Make sure you clean and dry between your toes where bacteria love to grow.

Exfoliate. Removing dead skin can reduce foot odor. Wash your feet with an exfoliating pad, pumice stone, or exfoliating shower wipe.

Keep your feet dry. The bacteria that reacts with sweat thrives in moist areas. If your socks or shoes are wet, you’ve set up a feast for odor-causing bacteria. Wear breathable socks made of fabric that will wick away foot perspiration. Wearing certain shoes without socks may be fashionably cool, but it’s never a good idea. If you like stinky tennis shoes, don’t wear socks.

2. Stop Sweaty Feet to Stop Stinky Shoes

If you’re often plagued by the thought of how to stop feet from sweating and smelling in shoes, you’ll want to focus on stopping some of that sweat. An antiperspirant lotion like SweatBlock is perfect for reducing excessive sweat on the feet. Your feet contain more sweat glands than any other part of your body. Bacteria love sweaty feet and stink loves bacteria.

If you can reduce some of that foot sweating, you can reduce a lot of the stink that comes along with it.

3. Shoe Deodorizer Spray

A shoe deodorizer is a great way to eliminate stink on your shoes. If you’re looking for the best shoe deodorizer, search for a deodorizer that can be sprayed on both your feet and shoes. This quick and effective remedy is perfect for active walkers, sports enthusiasts, and students after gym class. The small spray bottle fits easily in your backpack or gym bag, and the fresh smelling spray will make your feet and shoes smell great right away. The deodorant spray provides natural antifungal protection and works on all types of shoes, sandals, and slippers.

4. Wear Shoes That Breathe

One of the most effective home remedies for smelly shoes is simple: wear the right shoes. The best shoes for stinky feet are made from leather or breathable fabric. These materials allow moisture to vent to the outside world. Avoid shoes made of vinyl or other manmade materials. Non-breathable shoes act to prevent moisture dissipation and evaporation. And once you unlace those babies, you and anybody in the area will be reaching for a gas mask.

So, instead of looking for a shoe odor eliminator or searching frantically for the best shoe smell remedy, how about starting by choosing the right shoes.

5. Alternate Your Shoes—Give Them Time to Air Out

The smell of your shoes can be greatly reduced by not wearing the same pair on consecutive days. Of course, this means you’ll need more than one pair of shoes. Assuming that you have at least two pairs, alternate the days you wear them. Give ‘em a well-deserved rest. On their days off, pull out the tongue, loosen the laces and put them in a ventilated spot where they can air out.

6. Use Shoe Insoles to Fight Foot Odor

Another way to minimize shoe odor is with specially treated insoles. Several varieties are available at your favorite grocery or drug store. They’re treated with activated charcoal or baking soda (or both) and neutralize unpleasant odors. They not only provide long-lasting odor protection (a few weeks or months), but they can also absorb foot moisture and add extra footbed cushioning.

Most brands come in a standard size that can be easily cut to fit any size shoe. These odor eliminator insoles are especially useful in taming those smelly gym shoes.

7. Sprinkle Baking Soda in Those Stinky Shoes

Baking soda is one of the most commonly used home remedies for smelly shoes. Sprinkle generous amounts of baking soda in the stinky shoe(s). Let the power of baking soda do its thing overnight. Dump it out in the morning and, boom, your shoes are as fresh as new. Well, maybe not quite that fresh, but they’re ready for the upcoming day.

One caution: If you’re looking for a radical solution for how to stop shoes smelling naturally, be careful about using baking soda too often with leather shoes, as it can extract the moisture from the leather and cause it to dry out and crack.

8. Keep Shoes Smelling Fresh With Dryer Sheets

If we’re going to talk about how to deodorize shoes, we should mention using dryer sheets. It’s another unusual idea to freshen stinky shoes.

Take a standard dryer sheet, tear it in half and place one half in each shoe. Let the shoes sit overnight. Really stinky tennis shoes may require more time. Just remember to pull the dryer sheets out before putting on the newly freshened shoes.

Bonus tip: If you keep your gym shoes in a gym bag, throw a dryer sheet into the bottom of the gym bag. It will act as a shoe and gym clothes deodorizer.

9. Deodorize Shoes With Cat Litter or Wood Chips

If your shoes are attracting attention (the wrong kind) because of shoe odor and are wondering how to stop feet from smelling in shoes, here’s a hack you may want to try. You’ll need some cedar wood chips or kitty litter. You’ll also need some clean old socks or paper towels.

This cure is easy: fill up a pair of old (but clean) socks with either cedar wood chips or cat litter. Place one of the socks in each shoe, and let them stand overnight. The wood chips or kitty litter will absorb the foot odor hiding in the shoes. Citrus peels can also do a passable job of refreshing your shoes.

10. Clean Shoes With Rubbing Alcohol

Many of us use rubbing alcohol around our home. But did you know that rubbing alcohol is one of the best remedies for smelly shoes? Yes indeed. It can be used to kill odor and clean your shoes. There are two methods.

The first utilizes a mixture of water and alcohol. Take a cup of water and a cup of rubbing alcohol. Mix them together in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the inside and outside of each shoe. Place the treated shoes in a well-ventilated area where they can dry.

The alcohol acts to kill the bacteria that causes stinky shoes. The alcohol will also help dry out areas where moisture collects.

The second method uses alcohol and cotton balls. Saturate several cotton balls with rubbing alcohol. Place the saturated cotton balls in each shoe, filling up all the space. Be sure to get them way down in the toe area, and let the shoes stand overnight. Things should be looking up and smelling much fresher in the morning.

Tip: How to Wash Tennis Shoes and Sneakers to Get Rid of Foot Odor

Today’s tennis shoes (athletic shoes) and sneakers often cost north of $100. To keep them looking and smelling like new, you can use your washing machine. To protect your investment, there are a few steps to follow. This method works well for fabric and leather athletic shoes.

  1. Remove the laces (if any) and any removable insoles or inserts.
  2. Wipe away any loose dirt and debris.
  3. Place shoes (minus laces and inserts) in a mesh bag or pillowcase. Secure the opening so the shoes can’t come out.
  4. If you have a washing machine with an agitator, include some towels along with the shoes to balance the load. If you have a newer machine without an agitator, you probably don’t need the towels.
  5. Wash in warm water with a heavy-duty detergent.
  6. Air dry your newly cleaned shoes. NEVER put them in the dryer.
  7. Use a solution of water and baking soda to hand clean the insoles/inserts.

11. Steam Clean Shoes to Kill Bacteria and Odor

Steam can help eradicate bacteria and foot odor in your shoes. If you have a dryer with a steam feature, give that a try. Be sure that you try this method on shoes that can tolerate moisture.

Another method using steam requires a steam cleaning appliance. These are used for cleaning and disinfecting things around the house. Just stick the steam machine’s nozzle into each shoe for about 30 seconds. Let them completely dry before wearing again.

12. Denture Tablet Shoe Soak

You’ll only want to use this shoe smell remedy on shoes that can be submerged completely in water without damage.

Take a bucket or medium-size bin. Fill it with hot water. Drop in three to four denture tablets and allow them to dissolve. Toss in your sneakers and let them soak for two to three hours. Not only will they smell better but they’ll be germ free—at least for a while.

13. Freeze the Stink Out of Your Shoes

home remedies for stinky shoes

Disgusting foot odor that made you research home remedies for smelly shoes is caused by bacteria lurking in the dark recesses of your footwear. Putting them in the freezer overnight kills this bacteria. These foul-intentioned germs can’t stand the cold environment. But first, you’ll want to protect whatever else is in the freezer by following these simple steps:

  • Make sure your shoes are completely dry.
  • Put them in a sealable plastic bag or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap.
  • Leave them in the freezer for the night.
  • Remove them in the morning.

In the morning, don’t be afraid to stick your nose where it normally doesn’t belong. You’ll be pleased to find that the shoe stench is gone.

14. Spray Essential Oils Into Your Shoes

Essential oils are a big thing for millions around the world. If you’re a fan of essential oils and their natural powers, this essential-oils-for-stinky-shoes treatment will surely appeal to you. Be sure you’re using high-quality essential oils! 

  1. Grab a small spray bottle. The 2.7-ounce size is ideal.
  2. Fill halfway with unscented witch hazel.
  3. Add distilled water, leaving just a little space at the top of the bottle for these essential oils: 6 drops peppermint essential oil, 4 drops tea tree oil (aka melaleuca oil), 2 drops eucalyptus essential oil, 1 drop thyme essential oil.
  4. Screw the spray top onto the bottle.
  5. Shake well.
  6. Spray lightly the entire interior of the shoe. Don’t forget the toe box!
  7. Place the treated shoes in a sealable plastic bag to heighten effectiveness.
  8. Let them dry.

Each time you detect an offending shoe odor, spray again. Not only will this smelly shoes remedy deodorize your shoes, but it also has the power to kill odor-causing bacteria. It might just be the best deodorizing spray you’ve ever tried.

15. Freshen Your Shoes With Tea Bags

This home remedy for stinky shoes works the same way as the cat litter and wood chips methods. All you need are some stinky shoes and unused tea bags.

Place two or three tea bags inside each shoe. Let stand for several hours or overnight. The dried tea in the bags will absorb that bad odor emanating from your shoes. Simple. Easy. Effective.

16. If All Else Fails: Spring for New Shoes

All of the above home remedies for smelly shoes have been tested, tried, and proven. But if your favorite shoes just don’t respond well to one or more of these methods, it may be time to hang ‘em up for good and buy a new pair. New shoes smell great—for a few days. But then the creeping bad shoe smell will return. So, keep experimenting with these home remedies for stinky shoes. The inevitable occasion will arrive when your shoes must come off in public. And this time? You’ll be ready.

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