How to Clean Smelly Sneakers: 9 Ways to Get Rid of Shoe Odor Fast

Are you struggling with stinky shoes and wondering how to get rid of the smell permanently? Don’t worry. Because in this guide, I’ll show you how to clean smelly sneakers so that you can restore the freshness every pair of your footwear should have.

In fact, these are the tips I use repeatedly to make sure my two pairs of New Balance walking sneakers and leather dress shoes don’t smell bad again.

So whether you’ve noticed that your shoes stink occasionally or this is a problem you’ve had to deal with for a long time, you’ll find this guide helpful.

And let me tell you something upfront:

If your sneakers and leather shoes aren’t turning heads because of their color and shine, even your close friends may think you’re a moron.

But before things get to a point where people have to give you horrified look because of stinky shoes, let’s learn how to remove the odor permanently. 

Why Do My Sneakers and Leather Shoes Smell So Bad?

why shoe smell so bad

Do you remember the feeling you had the first time you bought your sneakers? The scent alone was enough to get you riled up, and you couldn’t wait to wear them.

So what changed?

Well, your feet did. 

Let me explain:

Your feet contain active glands that produce sweat each time you wear your sneakers. The sweat combines with bacteria from your feet and eventually causes an odor.

With time, the smell becomes part of your shoes. And you’ll notice a foul smell every time you remove them.

So how exactly do you bring back the fresh scent of your sneakers, and even leather shoes, without trying so hard?

Keep reading to learn how. 

The Best Way to Clean Stinky Shoes and Make Them Smell Better Fast

clean shoes no smell

Here’s how to get foot odor out of shoes and make them smell better again:

1. Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is the first solution I ever used to eliminate odor from my sneakers. And quite frankly, I still use it today.

You’ll love baking soda for three reasons. First, it’s readily available. Second, it’s easy to use, so you can never go wrong with it. Third, it’s a natural deodorant and absorbent that works really well.

Here’s how you use it to clean smelly sneakers fast.

  • Pour a teaspoon of the powder in each shoe and let it stay overnight to absorb the moisture inside
  • Remove the baking soda crystals from your shoe in the morning.
  • Make sure you get the tiny particles out too to prevent any reactions that might endanger your foot 

To add a new scent, you can mix the baking soda with essential oils or vinegar. Then put the mixture in each shoe.

2. Freeze Your Shoes

This is a no brainer, but it sounds crazy, right?

Still, I recommend exposing your smelly shoes to as much cold temperature as possible. This will not only kill the bacteria in your sneakers but also remove the bad smell.

To be clear, many people don’t approve of this technique because they believe it can compromise the quality of their shoes. However, that only ever happens if you carelessly handle your pair during freezing.

To make sure the freezing technique works for you without compromising the quality of your footwear: 

  • Insert your shoes inside a plastic bag, then seal the bag completely
  • Place the package in your freezer and leave it in there overnight
  • Remove the shoes from the refrigerator first thing in the morning and allow them to gain their normal structure before you put them on 

As for how often you should put your shoes in the freezer, I’d say it depends.

Let’s say you wear shoes for being on concrete all day and you use them every day for work. In this case, it would be reasonable to freeze them at least two times a week to keep them from stinking. 

3. Use Teabags

I didn’t know about this method until a friend of mine introduced me to the idea. And after testing it out with teabags that cost me around $18, I can confidently say that it works really well.

Inside each teabag are crushed leaves known as dust. And they’re good for two things.

First, they kill the bacteria in stinky shoes. Then, they absorb the odor to make your shoes smell nice again.

To get this technique to work, place two teabags in each shoe and leave them for about 8 hours. This should get rid of the smell. Remove the teabags from the shoes thereafter. 

4. Use Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets can remove stains and introduce a fresh scent to your sneakers.

You can insert dryer sheets in your shoes before you wear them. Just make sure you place them well so they feel comfortable.

These dry sheets will absorb excess moisture from your shoes as you run or walk.

Another way to use dryer sheets to clean stinky sneakers and leather shoes is to insert them in a pair of shoes at night and then remove them in the morning.

The time between going to sleep and waking up in the morning is enough for the sheets to absorb moisture in the sneakers, thus bringing out a scent you’ll love. 

5. Use Ground Coffee

If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to manage smelly sneakers, then you should consider using ground coffee. 

  • Take a pair of old socks or tights and pour half a cup of fresh ground coffee in each
  • Tie both ends and place them inside your shoes
  • Let the ground coffee stay in your shoes overnight, or until you decide to wear them again

Remove the ground coffee once you’re sure there’s no more smell. For the best result make sure you rotate using fresh coffee grounds twice a month.

6. Use a Washing Machine

Sometimes what your sneakers need is a good clean. And a washing machine is an excellent option to expel the stench from your shoes.

  • Start by removing the shoelaces from your shoes
  • Place the shoes inside a pillowcase to protect them from damage by the washing machine
  • Add detergent and run two cycles before you remove them
  • Let the shoes air dry for a day or two.

7. Clean the Insoles

Have you ever considered cleaning your sneakers or leather shoes’ inserts?

You see, your inner soles carry dirt and store moisture from your feet. And this, if anything, can be a breeding ground for bacteria.

The best solution?

Clean them regularly so that your shoes don’t stink.

Soak your shoes inserts in a mixture of water and vinegar. This will kill the bacteria and leave the insoles smelling fresh.

Dry the insoles in open air and put them back in the shoes thereafter. 

8. Apply Baby Powder

I’ve used baby powder to stop shoes from squeaking, but that’s not the only thing it can do. 

It’s also a good solution that eliminates bad smell from shoes by absorbing moisture and leaving a decent scent. 

Here’s how this works: 

  • Sprinkle some powder inside your shoes
  • Give it enough time to absorb the moisture, and to introduce its scent in the process.
  • For the long-term benefit, apply the powder on your feet before you wear the shoes. The powder will keep your feet dry even when it’s hot outside 

9. Use the Orange Peels Technique

It turns out that orange peels aren’t useless after all. At least not as far as getting bad smell out of a pair of shoes is concerned.

Ideally, this technique is effective in instances where the smell isn’t that awful. A couple of peels should be enough to do the job.

And look:

You won’t get an aromatic smell from orange peels. But at least they help to get rid of the terrible smell so you don’t have to deal with it ever again.

Here’s how to get around this method: 

  • Cut the outer peel of an orange fruit into small pieces.
  • Place the peels inside your shoes.
  • Leave them there all night and remove them in the morning.

The Best Way to Ensure Your Shoes Never Smell Again

make sure shoe do not stink

So you’ve removed the odor from your shoes, and now your pair smells like new again.

That’s great.

But these methods are only useful for getting rid of already smelling shoes. And if you don’t implement the correct shoe care measures, it’s only a matter of time before your sneakers and leather shoes start to stink yet again.

This brings me to my next question:

What can you do to keep the smell at bay for as long as possible?

Here’s how: 

Always Keep Your Feet Clean and Dry

You can prevent bacteria from cropping up by simply washing your feet with clean water and soap.

Make sure you scrub every corner of your foot, especially in between your toes, with a soft brush. 

Always Wear Socks

Socks prevent friction between your feet and the shoes you wear. That way, your feet are less likely to sweat.

A good pair of socks will also help to prevent bacterial build-up in your sneakers.

Alternate Your Shoes

When you wear the same shoe for days in a row, moisture will definitely build up in almost all parts.

The only way to make sure moisture doesn’t build up in a pair of shoes over time is to alternate the current pair with another one.

That means changing your sneakers frequently can help to keep odor out for the longest time possible. If you asked me, I’d say never wear the same shoes for more than two consecutive days.

You can have as many pairs of shoes as you like. But at least three pairs will do your feet well just fine.

Change the Insoles

Regular use of your sneakers causes dirt and sweat to stick on the insoles.

That’s why it’s important to look for custom insoles that you can replace with the standard ones at least every three weeks.

Wear Breathable Shoes 

You understand your body better and as such you know the type of shoe you are comfortable wearing.

If you sweat a lot then you should look for open shoes that allow circulation of air. That way, your feet won’t sweat as much.

However, open shoes are not always suitable for every occasion.

And that’s why it’s important to go for footwear that have flexible options so that when it gets too hot, you can try something like adjusting your laces or linings to allow air to flow.

Bottom Line

Bad smell from your sneakers can turn out to be embarrassing, especially when you are in a public space.

To avoid this, you should always make sure your feet and shoes are dry before leaving the house.

No one wants to be around someone whose feet smell like shit. So try the tips outlined in this guide so you can keep odor out of your shoes permanently.

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