Removing the Stink from Shoes

Shoes can quickly become dirty and smelly. Whether the odor is coming from your feet or the moisture left in your shoes, it’s fairly simple to get under control. When cleaning shoes, your main objective is to kill the bacteria that is growing and causing the foul smell. This can be accomplished in several different ways.

Washing your Shoes

What You Will Need:

  • Washing machine
  • Pillow Case
  • Detergent
  • Bleach (optional)

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Remove the shoestrings, and soles (if possible) from your shoes.
  2. Place the shoes in the pillow case.
  3. Place the pillow case in the washing machine.
  4. Run the shoes through a normal cycle using HOT water and plenty of detergent. If your shoes are white, you could also add some bleach.
  5. If the odor is very strong, you may want to run them through two complete cycles to get rid of the odor.

Using Bleach

What You Will Need:

  • Tea Kettle
  • Water
  • Bleach
  • Sink (or this can be done outside)

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Begin by filling the kettle with water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Set your shoes in the sink or on a clean surface outside.
  3. Fill each shoe with boiling water and add a small amount of bleach.
  4. Let this set for a few minutes.
  5. When the water has cooled, dump out the water and wash following the instructions above. The bleach will kill the bacteria, thus removing the odor.

Using Baking Soda or Vinegar

What You Will Need:

  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Sink (or this can be done outside)

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Begin by filling each shoe with approximately 1 cup of baking soda. (use less for smaller shoes)
  2. Add 1 cup of vinegar to each shoe. This will cause bubbling and fizzing.
  3. Let this set and work in your shoes for about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the mixture from the shoes, rinse, and wash following the instructions above.

Using Inserts to Remove Odor

There are many odor absorbers you can place in your shoes when you are not wearing them to keep odors under control. Here are a couple you may find useful.

What You Will Need:

  • Baking soda
  • Kitty litter
  • Coffee grounds
  • Fabric softener sheets

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Begin by washing the shoes following the method above.
  2. When shoes have dried, keep them fresh by using one of these methods
    1. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of baking soda each day to absorb odors.
    2. Place a fabric softener sheet in each shoe at the end of the day. Replace as needed.
    3. Cut off the ends of an old pair of pantyhose (you want toe pieces about 1 foot long). Fill each piece with about ½ cup of kitty litter or coffee grounds and tie off the end. Place in shoes overnight to absorb odor.

Removing Odor From Your Feet

Sometimes the problem is smelly feet rather than smelly shoes. If this is the problem, try these methods to minimize foot odor.

What You Will Need:

  • Stick Deoderant
  • Baking Soda
  • Hand Sanitizing Gel
  • Tea bags
  • Dishpan
  • Water

The Cleaning Process:

  1. Rub the stick deodorant onto the soles of your feet before putting shoes on.
  2. Dust feet with baking soda each morning to absorb odor. Reapply as needed throughout the day.
  3. Rub hand sanitizing gel on the soles of your feet before putting shoes on. The alcohol in the gel will kill bacteria and minimize odor.
  4. Fill a dishpan half full with hot water and add about 6 teabags. Allow the water to cool and the tea to release into the water.
  5. Soak your feet for 15 minutes each night in the tea water.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • If your shoes are not washable, wipe out the interior with a cotton ball dipped in alcohol to kill bacteria.
  • Bowling shoe disinfectant can also be used to remove odor. Spray liberally and allow to dry completely.
  • Lysol disinfectant spray may also be helpful in removing bacteria. Spray inside the shoes and allow to dry.
  • If your shoes are damp, you may be able to microwave them for 90 seconds to kill the bacteria.
  • Try to alternate between pairs of shoes to give them a chance to dry out and air out in between wearings.


  1. I’m surprised there isn’t a “how to clean your stinky feet” section.

    But here’s my tips for same:

    First and foremost, wash your feet *at least* once daily with ordinary soap and water.

    Keep all your toenails trimmed short, and scrape out any dirt trapped under them.

    After every wash, apply a very small (pea-sized) quantity of ordinary household antiseptic cream and rub all over the feet and between the toes before donning socks, stockings, etc.

    Always wear rich cotton or pure cotton socks.

  2. This method gets to the source of the odor: Massage your feet with virgin coconut oil either before bedtime or after your morning shower — or both times. Coconut oil kills yeast, which is the cause of foot odor (also works in the crotch area) and also makes the skin soooo soft. Use coconut oil and never wear socks more than once before laundering and you’ll not have the problem of smelly feet.

  3. Hey, I’ve made so many experiences on this topic. One important thing is to dry your feet very well! The second thing is to use medical insoles, which absorbs any moisture. Sweat is the main reason for stinky shoes. I prefer using Zederna inserts. They are almost new on the market and you can’t buy them in ordinary offline-stores. So you have to buy them on the internet. But it’s probably the only thing which really works. I’ve tested it successfully.

  4. The old adage, “Eat zinc; don’t stink,” works for stinky feet, as well as stinky breath and bodies. You can pick it up online or at any health food store.

  5. It does work…

  6. The advice about bleach is completely wrong. Funny thing about bleach (and chlorinated solutions in general): In water that’s anywhere above ambient room temperature, they break-down and become completely ineffective. The hotter the water it’s in, the faster it breaks-down.

    So, putting bleach in hot water is pretty much dumb and a waste of bleach. What is actually killing the bacteria is the exposure to extremely hot temperatures. For sanitation in any food service industry, the standard is to have water at or above 180ºF (82.2ºC) for the final rinse of any dishes, food containers, etc. A few seconds at this temperature is all it takes to kill most bacteria. Boiling water, for obvious reasons, will be very close to 100ºC when taken right from the kettle, which is more than enough. You needn’t even leave the water there for long. A minute should be ample time to kill any bacteria. (Getting rid of the odor though, not so much. A bit of detergent would help the odor particles dissolve in the water.)

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