How to Deodorize Shoes

woman holding stinky shoes

From stinky tennies to the work pumps that sit under your desk all day, no one wants shoes that smell bad. Fortunately, there are lots of options for removing odor yourself. Give one of these ideas a shot to have your shoes smelling better in no time.

Absorb the Odor

Some methods fight odor by absorbing it. Generally, these tricks are a temporary fix, but they do work. Repeat as needed to keep odor at bay.

Bring on the Baking Soda

Baking soda is a proven odor absorber, and according to the Washington Post, it likely works by chemically reacting with the molecules we recognize as unpleasant odors. It's not eliminating the underlying cause of the odor, but it's getting rid of the nasty smell.

  1. To use, purchase any brand of baking soda. Pour it inside the shoes.
  2. Leave the baking soda in the shoes for 24 hours or longer, and then discard.
  3. Use a vacuum to remove the remaining baking soda from hard-to-reach places.

You can use baking soda with any kind of shoe material. However, be cautious about rubbing it around on material that could scratch, such as leather. It's a mild abrasive and can make tiny scratch marks or reduce shine.

Try Some Cat Litter

It makes sense that products expressly designed to absorb odor would be good at their job. While deodorizing shoes may not be the first thing you think of with kitty litter, it pays to think outside the box (so to speak).

  1. Make sure the shoes are completely dry before you use this method. If necessary, wait a couple of days to make sure the moisture is gone. Cat litter can turn to a paste when mixed with water, and you don't want that in your shoes.
  2. Fill the shoes with any brand of cat litter.
  3. After 24 hours, dump the litter out.
  4. Vacuum the shoes to remove excess litter and dust.

Although there are no materials this won't work on, this isn't a method you'll want to try with your designer shoes or light-colored footwear, since cat litter can be made of materials like clay, sand, or sawdust. Also, be careful not to leave the shoes somewhere accessible if you have a cat, or you may end up with a nasty surprise.

Stuff Them With Dryer Sheets

You can deodorize almost anything with dryer sheets, including your shoes. Try this method if you have a few days to let it work. One advantage is that you don't have to worry about vacuuming out dust.

  1. Scrunch up several dryer sheets up into balls (any brand).
  2. Pack the shoes with the balls of dryer sheets.
  3. Allow the sheets to sit in your shoes for two to three days. When you're ready, discard them and wear your fresh-smelling shoes.

This method is great for shoe materials that don't handle moisture well, such as leather. However, it will also work for fabric, rubber, and vinyl.

Kill Odor-Causing Bacteria

Destroying the odor itself can be effective for a short time, but killing the foot bacteria that cause shoe odor is an even better way to get your footwear smelling fresh again.

Use Salt to Soak Up Moisture

Bacteria thrive in a moist environment. Your feet sweat and produce the moisture those bacteria need. The result is stinky shoes. However, removing the moisture makes life much harder for those bacteria.

  1. Buy a couple containers of table salt and dump the salt into your shoes.
  2. Let the shoes sit for two days as the salt absorbs the moisture.
  3. Dump the salt out and vacuum the shoes to remove excess dust.

Keep in mind that some types of shoe materials require a little moisture to stay pliable. Leather, for instance, cannot handle being completely dried out. If you use this method for leather shoes, don't do it regularly.

Harness the Power of the Sun

You may have heard that sunlight can work as a disinfectant, and a 2014 study showed that sunlight can actually kill germs in laundry. You may be able to kill the germs causing shoe odors by exposing your shoes to the sun.

  1. Disassemble the shoes as much as possible. Remove laces, insoles, and anything else that can come out easily.
  2. Place the shoes outside in full sun early in the day. Keep an eye on them throughout the day to make sure they stay in the sunlight. Move them as needed.
  3. Check the odor level at the end of the day and repeat for another day as needed.

Don't use this method with materials that are prone to fading. It's also important to remember that the sun can only kill germs in the areas it can reach. Open shoes work best.

Use Rubbing Alcohol to Disinfect

Rubbing alcohol is a good disinfectant. Doctors use it in clinics, and it's one of the main ingredients in hand sanitizer. Use it to kill the germs that make your shoes smell.

  1. Fill a small spray bottle with rubbing alcohol.
  2. Lightly spritz the inside of your shoes with the alcohol.
  3. Allow the shoes to dry thoroughly before wearing them.

Like salt, rubbing alcohol has some drying properties that might not work well with all materials of shoes. Use this method sparingly with leather or anything else that can be harmed by drying.

Buy Products to Help

DIY options are inexpensive and easy, but if you want to try a purchased shoe deodorizer, Lumi Outdoor Extra Strength Shoe Spray (about $13) is a good bet. It's Amazon's best selling shoe deodorizing product and has more than 1,000 positive reviews. Another option is the highly rated Superfeet Carbon Insoles (just under $55), which work to eliminate the bacteria that cause smelly shoes.

Time for Better Smelling Shoes

Experiment to see what works best for your situation. Whether you choose to buy a product or try one of these great DIY methods, your shoes will be smelling better soon.

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