Stop Smelly Shoes [5 Easy Ways to Eliminate Odor]

Stop Smelly Shoe odor

Why do your shoes smell? If you have shoes that don’t breathe well or that haven’t had time to dry completely they will likely start to smell. The bacteria in your shoes thrive in moist conditions and soon your shoes start to smell. 

To stop your shoes from smelling you need to eliminate the cause of the odors. Cleaning and drying your shoes can help. Here are five ways to remove odors today.

  1. Use baking soda – This helps reduce smells and gets rid of moisture.
  2. Use a hairdryer inside your shoes  – (Caution – See instructions) This can kill most bacteria that cause odors in your shoe.
  3.  Spray the inside of your shoes with rubbing alcohol – This kills the bacteria that causes the odor in your shoe.
  4.  Spray a mix of water and vinegar inside your shoes – This kills some bacteria that causes the odor in your shoe.
  5.  Wash your shoes (or a shoe spray) – These can help get rid of most of the bacteria in the shoe that causes odor and makes them smell nice.   

One of the best ways to keep your shoes odor-free is to take them off as soon as possible and let them dry completely before using them again. Bacteria need water to grow. Wearing shoes that breathe when your feet sweat can make a big difference as well.

Dry Your Shoes Before Next Use

Dry Your Shoes

If you have shoes that have moisture in them, it may be time to dry them. The moisture in your shoes mixed with bacteria make for smelly conditions. 

Whenever possible wear shoes that breathe well and use moisture-wicking socks. If my shoes started to smell I would switch to more breathable shoes and most likely wear some running socks or wool socks

When you get home you may want to do one of the following to dry out your shoes

  • Place charcoal shoe deodorizers ( link) in your shoe
  • Place socks with rice in them in your shoe
  • Place some newspaper in your shoes
  • Place your shoes near a fan
  • Hang them in up to get fresh air
  • Use a shoe dryer ( link)

This will help get rid of some of the odors all by themselves. If your shoes are still smelly you might want to try one of the five methods mentioned above to help get rid of odors more thoroughly.

1. Use Baking Soda to Stop Odors

Baking Soda in shoes

Baking soda is an easy and effective way to reduce moisture and odors in your shoe. It may not get rid of the bacteria, but the smell in your shoes will likely be greatly reduced. 

  • What does baking soda do to help shoe odors?

Baking soda can absorb moisture so there’s less water for bacteria to grow in. The baking soda also helps neutralize the acids that the bacteria make, reducing the smell inside your shoes. 

  • Do bacteria die from using baking soda?

No. It does help stop growth because they need water to grow. 

  • How much baking Soda Should I use?

1 or 2 spoons full should work for most people. You can always put more in if you think your shoes needs it.

2. Place Hair Dryer in Shoe to Stop Odors

Hair Dryer on shoes

Using a hairdryer might work to kill most of the bacteria in your shoe, but be careful to hold the hairdryer away from the shoe enough that it doesn’t overheat.  

Also, be careful not to ruin your shoes with too much heat. Most bacteria should die within a minute or two. You’ll need to decide if your shoes can handle the heat or will get warped, will the glue holding it together loosen, or is it mostly stitched and can handle some heat. 

Bacteria will still survive in your shoe for a while unless it gets too hot (over 140 degrees). Hairdryers can get up to almost 200 degrees, so I imagine that most bacteria would not survive long. 

3. Spray Shoes With Rubbing Alcohol to Stop Odors

Rubbing Alcohol in shoes

For this method sometimes spraying the inside of your shoes will work well to kill most of the bacteria, but if you sweat a lot or there’s lots of bad smell in your shoe, you may need to soak your shoes in a 70% or great rubbing alcohol. 

The key is to only apply a light spray that will evaporate by itself or soak an item for only 1-2 minutes at most. After about 60 seconds the bacteria should be killed. Letting your shoe soak too long can damage it a bit. 

Spraying your shoes lightly should not damage your shoes but soaking them in alcohol could have a damaging effect on some shoes and insoles.  

Rubbing alcohol is a solvent. It tends to dry out materials which is fine for fabrics, but not on some other materials shoes are made of. Try not to get rubbing alcohol on:

  • Don’t get near fire or heat source (flammable)
  • On rubber may cause discoloring. Repeated use can wear down rubber. (
  • May fade and eventually start to crack plastic parts on shoes.
  • If the rubbing alcohol penetrates the adhesive that holds the sole in place it may start to loosen.

4. Spray Shoes With Water and Vinegar to Stop Odors

Spray Vinegar in shoes

To use the vinegar you should fill a bottle with about 50% white vinegar and 50% water. Then you spray the inside of your shoes. If the smell is really bad you may need to soak your shoes in a 2 parts vinegar and 1 part water solution for at least 30-minutes to kill all the bacteria.  

Be aware that a vinegar solution may damage some parts of your shoe. Try to soak your shoe for a little time as you need.  

Vinegar is an acid. It tends to start to dissolve some items on your shoe over time but is fine with most fabrics. Try not to get vinegar on:

  • On rubber it may cause damage, eating away at it slowly. Repeated use can wear down rubber and soften the rubber. It all depends on the level of concentration. Diluted vinegar will have less effect. 
  • Can start to damage metal parts, creating pits in the metal or rust.
  • If the vinegar penetrates the adhesive that holds the sole in place it may start to loosen.

5. Wash Your Shoes or Use Shoe Spray to Stop Odors

The longer you let your shoes remain smelly the more difficult it may be to completely remove the odor because the bacteria get embedded deep in the shoe material. Washing can help but the most important step can be soaking your shoes for a while before washing them. 

Most sports shoes should be OK in the washer if you follow the directions in the video above or read washing and drying shoes article for instructions.

Wash Leather Shoes?

Leather shoes can’t be washed. You could try if you’re just going to throw them away anyway, but it’s not recommended because leather can somewhat warp, get stretched, shrink, and harder soles may come apart. Leather shoes soak up water and when they dry the oils inside the leather are usually gone. 

You definitely don’t want to dry your leather on high heat in the dryer; shrinking will occur. If your leather shoes are very wet it’s a good idea to stuff them with newspaper, a shoetree, or something to help them dry and retain their shape. 

Then, you will need to condition them when they are dry to help restore the oils that have been lost and help them look good again.       

Ready to Throw Them Away?

If your shoes have just gotten too smelly and your thinking of throwing them out, try washing them. The key will be soaking them thoroughly. I would follow the steps in the video but add a few steps.

  1. I would try soaking them for 30 minutes – 2hrs in a mix of water and anti-odor laundry detergent.
  2. Then, I would take a brush and make sure I brushed the inside and outside fabric well. Depending on your fabric you may need to soft to hard brush.
  3.  I would dunk them in the soaking solution again a couple of times to rise the fabric after brushing.  
  4. Last, I would follow the remaining steps as shown in the video. 

  Shoe Spray

Another option that works well for many people is to get a shoe spray. There are many varieties to choose from. I would try a more natural spray to kill the bacteria and help my shoes smell better. 

  • First, remove your laces if you want better access to the entire shoe. 
  • Second, remove the insole and wash and spray or just spray. 
  • Third, spray the inside of the shoe. More or less spray will likely be needed depending on the smell.
  • Last, follow any directions regarding drying and letting it work on the shoe. 



  •  Natural ingredients (7 essential oils & 11 botanicals)
    • Lavender, Peppermint, Tea Tree…
    • Coconut, Cayenne, Vitamin E…
  • Moisturizing qualities
  • Cooling properties
  • Deodorizes shoes
  • 4oz bottle

Myths About Fighting Shoe Odor

Myths About Shoe Odor

1. Putting my shoes in the freezer overnight kills bacteria. The bacteria in your shoe will go dormant when in the cold, so it seems to get rid of the odors, but once your warm foot heats up your shoe and start to provide moisture, the bacteria will wake up and start reproducing again. 

You’d need to get your shoes to under -80 degrees to completely kill all bacteria.

2. All foot sprays work about the same. Foot sprays have a wide variety of ingredients, from all oils to alcohol-based, powder-based, and others. Some work well and others very well. 

Go to the review section of the product your wondering about to see how well it works and find out what the ingredients are if it’s not in the description.

3. One spray will kill bacteria. That may be true with some household cleaning sprays on surfaces around your house, but shoes are made of fabrics and other materials that absorb moisture. Killing the bacteria may take repeated efforts over time or completely washing or soaking your shoe in a bacteria-killing solution.       

Final thoughts​

Removing odors can be easy for some and difficult for others. There are many methods to try and not all of them may work for your situation. If I needed a quick solution I would turn to baking soda or try rubbing alcohol to remove odor.

Maybe the best solution is to get socks that wick moisture and shoes that breathe so the moisture from your feet never reaches the fabric inside your shoe or insole.

Thanks for visiting

References – What temperature Kills Germs – Why shoes smell – Smell shoes


I enjoy many types of outdoor activities including running, hiking, and walking. I was a former elementary school teacher for 17 years and now enjoy writing and sharing my love of the outdoors.

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