No matter how clean you may be, your feet will still produce an unpleasant odor, especially if you wear the same pair of closed-toe shoes day in and day out. It doesn’t matter if you’re running, walking, or merely sitting all day long, your feet will naturally sweat — some people’s more than others. Over time, this moisture in your shoes promotes bacteria growth, which — you guessed it — causes them to stink.
While finding the right odor eliminator is helpful, it’s also important to get to the root of the problem. To avoid a funky smell, keep your shoes — and feet — as dry as possible. Try to rotate shoes regularly, so you’re not wearing the same pair day after day. While you’re at it, make sure you wear socks, so they can absorb any sweat or dampness before your shoes do.
But when the inevitable strikes, look at these step-by-step instructions by Carolyn Forte, the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, to take control of your smelly shoes, once and for all.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Cleaning Smelly Shoes
When you catch an odd whiff, take it as a sign to give your shoes a good clean. By targeting the smell itself and sanitizing your shoes with disinfectants, you’ll take care of the problem from the inside out. But before you start cleaning, make sure shoes are completely dry. If they are damp or wet from daily wear, exercise, or poor weather conditions, stuff them with crumpled newspaper and let them air dry away from direct heat. If the stench persists, try these at-home methods:
- Fill two socks with baking soda, tie them off at the top, and slip one sock in each shoe. Let them sit overnight.
- To get rid of odor-causing bacteria and fungus, spray the shoe’s interior with disinfecting spray like Lysol. You can also sprinkle foot powder or baking powder inside for similar effects. For more natural options, opt for the essential oil-infused Shoe-Pourri spray, or stick Woodlore Cedar Shoe Fresh Inserts in each insole.
- Some shoes, like Rothy’s and Allbirds, are machine-washable. Follow the care instructions for optimal results. As a general rule, most machine-washable shoes should be washed on the gentle cycle with cold water and mild detergent. Always let air dry.
Just because the stench is gone, doesn’t mean your job is done. Prevent future odor by keeping shoes dry, and continuing to rotate through pairs. If you feel like you’ve done everything you can to eliminate odor and nothing’s worked, it may be time to invest in a new pair of kicks.
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