Almost everyone finds at some point in their life that their shoes might start to smell a bit. This is particularly a problem in hot weather, when you sweat a lot, and when you are taking part in active activities like sports. The sweat from your feet creates a warm, wet environment in your shoes, and foul-smelling bacteria start to grow there. If you find that the smell of your shoes is starting to get unbearable, you will probably want to do something about it.

But how do you make your shoes smell better? There are many home remedies recommended all over the internet, but how do you know which ones actually work and which ones are going to require expensive supplies and do nothing to help your shoes smell any better? Well, here at Shoe Adviser (rights reserved), we have sorted out the field of advice on dealing with smelly shoes in order to save you time and effort.

Here, you will find our top 10 methods for dealing with bad odors in your shoes. These range from simple options to more advanced ones that are better suited for those really stubborn smells that you can’t get out of your shoes in any other way. Most of these should be perfectly achievable with supplies and equipment you already have in your home! Read on below to learn about how you can deodorize shoes at home!

How can I make my shoes smell better?

Smelly shoes are caused by smelly bacteria from your feet. That means that there are three main things you can do to deal with shoe odor and prevent it before it starts to become a problem. Firstly, you can keep your feet and shoes as dry as possible, as the bacteria grow better in warm and humid conditions.

Alternatively, if it is too late to prevent your shoes from getting smelly, you can get rid of the smell. Either you can work to kill the bacteria that cause the smell, or you can absorb or counteract the smell itself, which is a way to get rid of the smell temporarily without necessarily doing anything about the bacteria itself. Let us take a look at some of the best options for getting rid of smelly feet.

Using Dryer Sheets to get a bad smell out of Shoes

Fabric softener dryer sheets are a powerful option that can clean smells out of even the smelliest of sneakers. Just place a fresh dryer fabric softener sheet into each shoe and leave it overnight to clean out unwanted smells. You can also use these sheets to get rid of smells in places where you store your smelly shoes. A fresh dryer fabric softener sheet placed in the bottom of your gym bag can help to deal with unpleasant smells very easily.

Rubbing Alcohol for Smelly Shoes

Rubbing alcohol is a great deodorizer and a natural disinfectant. This means that it will clean your shoe as well as dealing with the smell, and kill the bacteria from your feet that cause the unpleasant smelly feet smell. Just pour some rubbing alcohol over the worst affected parts of your shoe to clean it and kill the bacteria, and make sure you leave it to dry completely before you put your shoes on again!

Baby Powder for Smelly Feet

Baby powder won’t deal with shoes that are already smelly, but it can be a great preventative tool for your arsenal. If your feet smell bad a lot of the time and cause your shoes to smell, then you will want to do whatever you can to keep them dry and sweat-free to reduce smell. All you need to do to keep your feet dry is to rub a bit of baby powder onto them before you put your shoes on in the morning. One rub a day should be more than enough to cut down on sweating and prevent your shoes from smelling bad – just remember that this won’t do anything if your shoes are already smelly before you start! This is a preventative option, not one that will clear up pre-existing smelly shoe problems.

Cat Litter for Shoe Odor

Cat litter is specially designed to deal with the moisture and odor of cat urine and feces, so the smell of your feet is no problem for cat litter to deal with. Most types of cat litter contain a wide range of powerful deodorizers, as well as being great for absorbing moisture. Just pour a thin layer of cat litter into the bottom of your shoes and leave it there overnight. In the morning, dump out the cat litter and give your shoe a final wipe down with a damp cloth. Leave it a few minutes to dry completely, and you will be ready to go again!

Freeze your Shoes to kill the Smell

If none of these DIY shoe deodorizer options seem to be doing the trick and your shoes still stink, you can try freezing them! This might sound insane, but your freezer is a valuable tool for deodorizing shoes. The extreme cold of your freezer will kill the bacteria that cause bad smells in your shoes, eliminating the smell completely.

Just put your shoes in a plastic bag that can be sealed, whether with a bag clip or just a large Ziploc bag, and put them in your freezer. Leave your shoes in the freezer overnight to allow the cold to fully penetrate them and get to work on the bacteria properly, and they should be clean and fresh in the morning. You will need to give them a while to defrost before you put them on again, but they should be much cleaner once it is done!

Machine Washing to Deodorize Shoes

If you have got a problem with a bad smell in your canvas sneakers, then a machine wash can be a great way to deal with smells. Just run your shoes through the washer to deal with dirt and smells on the surface of your shoes.

Don’t run your shoes through the dryer afterward; this could damage the machine and is likely to ruin your shoes. Leave them to air dry in a warm location, and make sure they are completely dry before you put them on!

This option is great for canvas shoes like sneakers, but it won’t work for leather or suede shoes. Running leather or suede shoes through a machine wash cycle is a quick way to completely ruin them, destroying the materials and breaking them completely!

How can I Deodorize my Shoes Naturally?

There are several chemical options you can use to deal with smelly shoes, from cleaning products to hot washes. But what about natural methods that you can use to get clean, dry, odorless shoes? There are several different entirely natural ways to deal with unpleasant odors in your shoes, and many of them are very easy to use, allowing you to clean out unpleasant smells from your shoes entirely naturally without needing any specialist equipment or supplies.

Follow us below to find out more about natural ways to deodorize shoes, from baking soda to more unexpected shoe cleaning options like natural black tea!

Deodorizing shoes naturally with Baking Soda

Baking soda is a great natural option for getting rid of smelly shoes. It is easy to use, and almost everyone already has baking soda lying around for other purposes somewhere in their house. Just sprinkle a large amount of baking soda into the shoe with the unpleasant smell and let it sit overnight. Once you have left your shoes overnight, pour out the powder, and the smell should be gone. Just be careful using this option for leather shoes, as the soda can dry out the leather over time, fatiguing it and causing damage and cracks to the material!

You can make reusable shoe deodorizers by filling the toes of a pair of old socks with baking soda and knotting it into place. Just wedge these stuffed socks into the bottom of your shoes every night before you go to bed, and you will be good to go!

Using salt for natural shoe deodorizing

Moisture from sweaty feet provides the perfect conditions for smelly bacteria to thrive inside your shoe. To get that smell out of your shoe, you are going to need to stop the bacteria from thriving, which means you will need to dry your shoes out as much as possible.

If you have got problems with canvas shoes that are smelly, you can use salt to get the smell out. A sprinkle of salt will absorb moisture, which will dry out your canvas shoes and create a hostile environment for bacteria, wicking away moisture from your feet.

Essential oils and Natural shoe odor Removal

Essential oils can have a strong, pleasant smell, which can easily overpower the unpleasant odor of smelly feet. Try a strongly scented essential oil like clove, tea tree, or eucalyptus oil! Either you can use them directly by dripping a few drops of oil into your shoe, or you can use your essential oil more cautiously, dripping a little onto a piece of paper and placing that in your shoe overnight. The fresh, clean smell of the essential oil should overpower the smelly shoes smell easily, helping your shoe to smell fresh again.

Black Tea: a Natural Bacteria Killer

Black tea contains a high level of tannins, natural chemicals, which are very effective for killing odor-causing bacteria and eliminating the smell of your shoes. Take a black tea bag and dip it in boiling water for a few minutes, just like when you are making a cup of tea. Take it out and let it cool a bit before you use it, and then once it is cool, you can put it in your shoe. Leave the tea bag in your shoes for an hour or so to deal with the smell, and then make sure you dry up any excess liquid once you remove the tea bag!


There are other possible ways to clean unwanted odors out of your shoes, but the options listed above are our favorite, which is how they have made it into our list of the top 10 ways to deodorize smelly shoes. If you have got a particularly bad problem with foot odor in your shoes, you might need to try a couple of options to clear the smell out completely, but if you are prepared to give it a bit of time and put a bit of effort in, then it should be easy enough to deal with those smells.

The best way to clean odors out of your shoe, though, is to make sure those odors don’t find their way in there. Preventing bacteria from getting a foothold in your shoe can be challenging, but with careful foot care and some attention to detail when it comes to keeping your feet dry, you can cut the chances of stinky feet developing down before it becomes a problem.

No matter how bad you think your situation is, one of the tricks listed above should be able to help you. Pick one that looks easy and give it a try. If it doesn’t work on your feet, try another one! Soon, you will have a clean, fresh-smelling shoe once again!

About the Author

Hey, I'm Lilly Harvey. If there's two things I'm passionate about in life, it's shoes and writing!

Combining both my passions with my Fashion Design degree, I've helped create Shoe Adviser to help readers choose the best shoes for them, enjoy!

We hope you enjoyed our article on "How to Deodorize Shoes (2020 Guide)", if so, please share and rate it.