How to Stop Shoes From Smelling

How Can You Prevent Smelly Shoes in the First Place?
Hygiene is important, so make sure you wash your feet daily with soap and water, and wear clean, dry socks. If your socks become damp due to increased sweating during the day, it may be a good idea to change into a dry pair, Coyer says. 

Wear shoes that are made of more natural materials because they allow for better ventilation. You can also wear socks made out of materials like polyester, nylon, and wool because they’re better at wicking moisture away from the skin, says Coyer.

It’s also good to rotate between multiple pairs of shoes so that you can give each pair ample time to dry before wearing them again, says Zayn Sinnathamby, CEO of Shoewash Supreme, a shoe cleaning and repair service in Vancouver, Canada.

What Are Things People Try to Get Rid of the Smell that Don’t Actually Work?
Some people think that freezing shoes will kill the bacteria that causes odor, Sinnathamby says. But while it may temporarily diminish the odor, this approach doesn’t eliminate it.

Skip air fresheners or perfume sprays, because many of them will simply mask the smell for only a short period of time, says Kevin Hardy, owner of Mr. Fresh Laundry Services in Avenel and Elizabeth, N.J.

The same goes for dryer sheets and essential oils. Dryer sheets might mask the odor temporarily, but they won’t eliminate it. And while some essential oils can have antimicrobial properties, they probably aren’t strong enough to eradicate shoe odors on their own, Sinnathamby says.

So What Should You Do?
There are some methods that might be more effective, with certain caveats. You can use baking soda, which can help absorb smells and bacteria. Hardy says to sprinkle a generous amount inside each shoe and let it sit for several hours, ideally overnight.

You can also try this with a sachet of activated charcoal, which is highly absorbent and can help remove odors, he says.

It’s worth noting that while baking soda and charcoal can absorb odors, if the bacteria and fungi are still present in your shoes, they will produce odors again and thrive when the shoes are damp, says Rich Handel, CR’s laundry expert who leads our testing of washing machines.

Some experts have suggested spritzing the inside of your shoes with vinegar. But it’s not a surefire way to get rid of all the bacteria. And Handel says that if you use vinegar frequently on your shoes, you also run the risk of damaging the material.

The best way to rid your shoes of a smell is to wash them. For hand-washing, use a detergent and warm water to gently clean the inside and outside. Make sure you rinse thoroughly and allow the shoes to air-dry completely, Sinnathamby says.

And if you’re not worried about potentially damaging your shoes, and it’s a last-ditch effort, you can trying soaking them in a nonchlorine-type bleach solution that isn’t too strong, and then rinsing them well, Handel says.