7 Unexpected Ways to Get the Odor Out of Your Shoes

For a totally fresh start.

Okay, so your shoes smell. You’re only human, after all. It’s not like you wanted to stink up the elevator on the way to the 17th floor or create one of the most awkward rideshare experiences in the history of all time.

Let us offer some advice because this isn’t our first Dear HMS situation. We’ve been helping people solve their stinkiest shoe conundrums for a while now and we’ve discovered that there are 7—yes, count ‘em—7 unexpected things you can do right now to liberate your feet from the oppressive reign they’ve had over your friends, family, and coworkers.

  1. Freeze ‘em
    Nope, your freezer isn’t just for boneless chicken breasts and ice cream sandwiches. It’s also for your smelly shoes, which have, quite honestly, seen too much: the locker room floors, the playgrounds, the office bathroom tile. So, how about this? Stick those shoes in a plastic bag and freeze them overnight. Bacteria breeds in warm, dark places, so the meditative shock of the cold air will kill the bacteria and stop the odor from getting worse. Bonus: this is a great way to cool off in the middle of a hot summer when your feet are hot and smelly. A win, win! Once your shoes are thawed, your feet (and your nose) will thank you.
  1. Wash ‘em
    Not all shoes are machine washable but canvas and fabric shoes are fine (like tennis shoes) and rubber or plastic shoes are good to go, too (like flip flops). If you’re not sure, be sure to read the care and cleaning directions. If your shoes have insoles, take them out and wash them separately so everything gets as clean as possible. It’s fine to wash both your shoes and their insoles with a regular load of clothes and to use a regular detergent, too. Just don’t use hot water or put your shoes in the dryer. Extreme heat may shrink your shoes or cause damage to any adhesives. Instead, use a long, warm wash and rinse cycle and air dry them using newspapers to soak up extra moisture.
  1. Fill ‘em
    Bacteria love a dark, moist environment so when your feet sweat in your shoes all day long, the bacteria thrive (props to you if you read that sentence without gagging). One solution to all that moisture? Fill your shoes up with kitty litter. It’ll draw out the moisture and, depending on the type of litter, neutralize the smell. Just remember to empty them out after a few hours, or else your feline friend might try to relieve themselves in your beloved sneakers, and that’s the absolute opposite effect we’re looking for. Shoutout to the cat people out there: you may show up to every function with cat hair all over your clothes, but at least your shoes won’t stink!

  2. Air ‘em
    Ever roll down the window for a nice breath of fresh air? Give your shoes the same courtesy by placing them by an open window for a day or so. It can do wonders for the inherent smells that they carry, and the UV rays from the sun will help kill the bacteria. Plus, it might just give you a waft of the outdoors, too. For those of you who wear the same shoes every day, consider getting a second pair so you can give your go-to’s the chance to dry out a couple of times a week.

  1. Treat ‘em
    If your shoes aren’t machine washable, it’s easy to make your own deodorizing spray. Just combine ½ cup water and ½ cup of white vinegar in a spray bottle and shake well. Apply a couple of sprays on the inside of your shoes and wipe the interiors with a cloth towel. Allow them to air dry before you wear them again. Or, if you don’t feel like getting crafty in the kitchen, move on over to the laundry room where a simple spray of Febreze Fabric will clean away odors super quickly. Pro tip: less is more! A quick spritz is all you need to get the full fresh effect.
  1. Replace (part of) ‘em
    If your shoes still smell funky even after a spritz of Febreze, the soul of your stink problem can likely be traced to the soles of your shoes. It makes sense, your feet are sweating a lot throughout the day and all that perspiration is sinking right down to the bottom. Net: it’s a good idea to replace the soles (or insoles, if you have them) of your shoes at least once a year. Insoles are pretty easy (and cheap) to replace, but you’ll need to find a cobbler to replace the actual soles of your shoes. If you do replace the soles, the planet will thank you (less waste in a landfill than throwing away your shoes) AND you can say you have a cobbler. Now that’s what we call adulting.

  2. Dry ‘em
    Next time you get caught in a spontaneous rainstorm, remember, moisture is the enemy. Sure, it may be more immediately top of mind to seek shelter or ring out your soaking wet shirt, but we encourage you to promptly address your wet shoes ASAP. It’ll only be a matter of time before that moisture turns to smelly mildew. Try this: take off your shoes and stuff them with either a couple of dry towels or some crinkled up newspaper to speed up the drying process. It’s a lot better than forgetting about your shoes in the closet, only to be greeted by their stink two days later.

And that’s it! Seven unexpected ways to get your favorite shoes ready for social interaction again. Now that you’re an expert on how to remove odors from your sneaks, consider spreading the word as a PSA. Together, we can change the experience of sharing uncomfortably small spaces forever.

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