How to Clean Smelly Shoes: Remove Stinky Odor from Your Sneaker

Last Updated: January 01, 2024 | Author: James Leigh

How to Clean Smelly Shoes

Project Overview:

WORKING TIME: 20 - 30 mins
TOTAL TIME: 24 - 48 hrs (including drying time)

Tired of that unbearable stink coming from your favorite pair of sneakers? You're not alone. This comprehensive guide will teach you how to remove odor from shoes effectively, using both home remedies and other proven methods. Read on to find out how to give your shoes a new lease on life.

Key Takeaways:

  • Understand the root cause of the odor.
  • Utilize home remedies like baking soda and white vinegar.
  • Essential oils can add a pleasant scent.
  • Washing machines should be a last resort.
  • Always let your shoes dry completely to prevent bacteria growth.

Comparison Table: Different Methods to Clean Smelly Shoes

Method Effectiveness Time Required Materials Needed Pros Cons
Baking Soda High Overnight Baking soda, plastic bag Eliminates odor, easy to find May need to repeat for stubborn stench
White Vinegar High 2-4 hours White vinegar, spray bottle Kills bacteria, removes smell from shoes Strong initial smell, needs airing out
Essential Oils Moderate 2-4 hours Essential oils, cotton ball Adds pleasant scent, kills some bacteria May not eliminate all odors
Washing Machine High Wash cycle + drying time Detergent, washing machine Thoroughly cleans shoes, removes insole stench May damage certain shoes, check care instructions
Rubbing Alcohol Moderate 1-2 hours Rubbing alcohol, cloth Quick bacteria killer, deodorizes shoes Can dry out materials like leather
Dryer Sheets Low 12-24 hours Dryer sheets Adds a fresh scent, easy Scent may not last, doesn't eliminate odor
Freezer Method Moderate Overnight Plastic bag, freezer Kills some bacteria, easy Must thaw shoes, may still smell
Kitty Litter Low 12-24 hours Kitty litter, plastic bag Absorbs moisture, some odor Messy, not for severe odors


  • Baking Soda: Great for running shoes and everyday sneakers. Sprinkle inside and leave overnight in a plastic bag.
  • White Vinegar: Effective but make sure to air out the shoes thoroughly to remove the vinegar smell.
  • Essential Oils: Best for shoes that need a scent boost. Not as effective for severe smelly sneakers.
  • Washing Machine: Make sure to remove the laces and insoles before the wash cycle. Let them completely dry in a well-ventilated area.
  • Rubbing Alcohol: Quick fix but not a long-term solution. Wipe away excess with a cloth.
  • Dryer Sheets: Place a sheet inside each shoe and leave overnight. Best for shoes that aren't severely stinky.
  • Freezer Method: Put your shoes in a plastic bag and freeze them overnight to kill some bacteria.
  • Kitty Litter: Fill shoes with kitty litter and leave overnight. Effective for absorbing moisture but not strong odors.

Understanding the Root Cause of Shoe Odor

The first step in tackling smelly shoes is understanding the root of the problem. Shoes become a breeding ground for bacteria when they get wet, either from sweat or external conditions. These bacteria thrive in the dark, damp environment inside your shoes, leading to that funky smell.

Baking Soda: The Odor Neutralizer

Baking soda is a household staple that can neutralize odors effectively. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda inside the shoes and let them sit overnight. The baking soda will absorb excess moisture and kill odor-causing bacteria. In the morning, remove the excess baking soda, and you'll find your shoes smelling much fresher.

How to Use Baking Soda

  1. Sprinkle baking soda inside the shoes.
  2. Let them sit overnight.
  3. Remove excess baking soda in the morning.

White Vinegar: The Bacteria Killer

White vinegar is another potent home remedy for smelly shoes. Add a few drops of white vinegar to a spray bottle filled with water. Douse the shoes with this solution and let them air dry. The vinegar will kill the bacteria and remove tough odors.

Vinegar Spray Recipe

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • Spray bottle

Essential Oils: Keep Your Shoes Smelling Great

Essential oils not only kill bacteria but also leave your shoes smelling great. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a cotton ball and place it in your shoe. Leave the shoes in a well-ventilated area to air dry.

Washing Machine: The Last Resort

If your shoes are still smelly after trying these methods, it may be time to toss them in the washing machine. Make sure to read the care instructions on your sneakers before doing so. Use a mild detergent and set the machine on a gentle cycle. Once done, let them dry completely in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Can I use bleach to clean smelly shoes?

No, bleach is a harsh chemical that can damage the material of the shoe.

2. How often should I clean my shoes?

It depends on how frequently you wear them. Shoes that are worn often should be cleaned at least once a week to prevent smelly shoe odors.

3. Can I put my shoes in the dryer?

It's not recommended as the heat can warp the shape and material of the shoes.

4. What can I do for quick odor removal?

Sprinkle some baking soda and let them sit for at least 12 hours.

5. Is it okay to use rubbing alcohol?

Yes, rubbing alcohol can kill bacteria but make sure to let the shoes dry thoroughly afterward.

Author Box
James Leigh

James Leigh

James Leigh is a certified health professional, physiotherapist, and a seasoned runner who wins Boston Marathon, with a wealth of experience under his belt. Passionate about sharing his expertise with fellow runners. James is your go-to expert for your health, wellness and running tips.