How to Remove Odors from Dress Shoes


Jacky asked: How do I clean flats (slip on flats, NOT ballet flats)? I have multiple pairs of flats, just slip-ons. After wearing them a few times, they smell bad and make my feet smell too. I wash my feet every day. Some of the flats are black satin, and others are metallic silver. Some of them have sequins too. How do I clean them and keep them from smelling again? Can I toss them in the washer?

Shoe odor often occurs when the materials the shoes are made of do not allow air to properly pass through. We often refer to this as allowing the feet or the shoe to “breathe.” The result is moisture and bacteria begin to develop in the shoe and create the offensive odor. Here’s how to remove the odors from your dress shoes.

Removing Odors from Shoes

You Will Need:

Pick one of the following:

  • Baking soda
  • Coffee grounds
  • Kitty litter
  • Old pantyhose
  • Plastic or paper bag
  • Rubberbands

Steps to Remove Odors from Shoes:

  1. There are several items that can be used to absorb both moisture and odors from dress shoes. Begin by choosing one of the items from above.
  2. The item can either be sprinkled directly inside of the shoe, or a sachet can be used.
  3. To make you own sachet, cut off the toe end of an old pair of pantyhose. The piece should be about 12-15 inches long.
  4. Fill the pantyhose with enough of the chosen odor absorber to fill the shoe.
  5. Tie the end or secure it closed with a rubberband.
  6. Make several sachets so there are always some available.
  7. Whenever the shoes are not being worn, simply place a sachet inside to absorb any moisture or odor that may have accumulated during use.

Washing Odors Out of Shoes

  • Most shoes are not designed to withstand regular machine washing, especially those with sequins or other embellishments. For cleaning methods, see our guide How to Clean Ballet Flats. Although these shoes are not for ballet, the outer materials will use the same cleaning methods.
  • There are often special cleaning products available for dress shoes. These can be used to spot clean most shoes safely without damaging the surface.
  • For shoes with embellishments, spot cleaning is the only option. Washing these shoes or immersing them in water will loosen the glue that holds the embellishments in place. Machine washing can be rough and cause them to fall off.

Keeping Sweaty Feet Dry

You Will Need:

  • Sea Breeze or Hand Sanitizer
  • Antiperspirant

Steps to Keep Feet Dry:

  1. Sometimes, the problem is feet perspiring more than the shoes holding an odor. There are a few things that can be done beyond normal washing to keep moisture away.
  2. After washing and drying your feet, rub on some hand sanitizer or Sea Breeze on the bottom of each foot. This can be done before putting the shoes on and reapplied throughout the day as needed.
  3. A second option is to rub antiperspirant on the bottom of your feet. This will help prevent excess moisture and perspiration from soaking into the shoes.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Prevention is best when combating shoe odor. Wash your feet thoroughly everyday.  Be sure to wash the bottoms and between the toes.
  • Dryer sheets also provide a quick and easy way to freshen up smelly shoes. Simply place a sheet in each shoe and allow it to deodorize them when they’re not in use.
  • If you cannot stop the odor due to excessive foot perspiration, contact a podiatrist for consultation.
  • If inserts can be placed in the shoes, choose those that contain activated charcoal, such as Odor Eaters, for the best odor absorption.
  • Bacteria can also be cleaned by rubbing the interior of the shoe with rubbing alcohol. Use this method sparingly as the alcohol will dry out the materials if used too often.


  1. K-mop says:

    I choose… Paper bag!

  2. Travis says:

    I use a wash cloth soaked in my own urine. Works like a charm.

  3. Emily says:

    When I get a new pair of shoes that I won’t be wearing socks with, I stick a panty-liner (cheap feminine hygiene product) in the shoe. They keep my feet dry, prevent foot odor, and are easily disposable after each use. Note: It is important that the liners be removed promptly after each wear because the adhesive can become difficult to remove. On long, busy days I may change them out once for good measure, but the liners usually hold up well either way!!

  4. Abbi says:

    Hey, I’m not sure if I’m posting on an ancient post, I just found this on Pinterest, but if you soak your feet for an hour in caffeinated tea (ie. Lipton black tea), the pores on your feet will detox and shrink, and your feet shouldn’t sweat or smell as much. In extreme cases, you may need to soak them a couple times. Just a prevention method. This has worked for me. I do it every six months or so.

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