Deodorizing Shoes: How To Get The Smell Out Of Stinky Shoes

There are a variety of ways to deodorize shoes, including essential oils, freezing, and using lemon peels.

The secret to deodorizing shoes effectively is to stop the stink at its source: moisture. Many people simply try to get rid of shoe smell using a shoe deodorizer spray that only covers up odors. But in this post, you’ll learn how to remove odor from shoes with tips to dry out and deodorize your shoes, eliminating both the odor and odor-causing bacteria in one fell swoop!

Shoe stink is typically more of an issue during the summer, when hot temperatures lead to sweaty feet. And since sweaty feet lead to sweaty shoes, those shoes can eventually develop downright unpleasant odors. And getting odors out of something you can’t wash isn’t always easy!

But don’t trash your stinky shoes just yet, because this post is full of effective home remedies for fighting the bacteria that cause the smell and the moisture they thrive in. If you’ve been wondering how to get the smell out of shoes, you’re in the right place (though I also have plenty of other shoe hacks for you to explore elsewhere!)

How To Deodorize Shoes With Baking Soda, Essential Oils & Your Freezer

If your shoes smell, you can maximize your chances of odor-killing success by trying the following method, which combines several of the effective approaches you’ll learn about in greater detail throughout this post.

To deodorize shoes, stir several drops of Simple Clean Essential Oil Blend into a handful of baking soda, then sprinkle the powder into the shoes and let them sit overnight. Discard the baking soda in the morning, then seal the shoes in a ziplock freezer bag and freeze them for several hours. Afterward, clean your shoes (if necessary) and let them air dry completely before wearing.

How It Works: This method for freshening shoes uses baking soda to absorb moisture and neutralize odors, while the addition of Simple Clean provides an antibacterial boost and fresh fragrance (which is why you’ll find it in my bathroom deodorizer spray, an all-purpose cleaning spray, and carpet deodorizing powder!) Finally, a few hours in the freezer will make short work of any lingering bacteria and make them smell much fresher!

7 Effective Shoe Deodorizers & Odor-Eliminating Remedies

1. Use Baking Soda

Because baking soda is alkaline, it counteracts the acidic nature of many bad-smelling chemical compounds by causing a chemical reaction that neutralizes odors. It’s best to let it work at least overnight, or preferably 24 hours to give it a chance to do its job. Very persistent odors may need a couple of days or more — if that’s the case for you, aim to replace the baking soda every 24 hours. 

You can make natural shoe deodorizers using a coffee filter, some baking soda, and a rubber band. Put a few tablespoons of baking soda in the center of a coffee filter (a dryer sheet works well too), and add a couple drops of lemon essential oil (or another essential oil, such as tea tree oil, if desired).

Gather the edges of the filter together and secure them with a rubber band, then make another of these baking soda sachets. Stick them in your shoes overnight to neutralize odor and absorb moisture. You can also put a couple of these in your gym bag if the bad odors are there too.

Another way to get rid of smells in shoes is to sprinkle some baking soda (a handful or so) directly into each shoe. Tip the shoes around so the baking soda covers the bottom of the shoe in an even layer, then let them sit overnight. Discard the baking soda in the morning, and use your vacuum to remove any remaining traces.

Put some lemon oil on a cotton ball and put it in the stinky shoe overnight to deodorize it.

2. Use Essential Oils

Put a few drops of Simple Clean Essential Oil Blend onto a couple of cotton balls, place them inside each shoe, and let your shoes sit overnight. A few drops of essential oils works well as a natural shoe deodorizer!

Sometimes deodorizing shoes can be as easy as putting them out in the sun to dry out.

3. Leave Them Outside

If it’s sunny and warm out, put your shoes out in the sun for a few hours. For shoes made smelly by odor-causing bacteria, letting them dry out completely in the sun can work wonders!

Bag your shoes and put them in the freezer to deodorize them.

4. Freeze Your Shoes

You can use your freezer to fix stinky shoes too! Stuff the shoes with wadded newspaper, seal them into a ziplock freezer bag, then place the bag in your freezer overnight. Odor-causing bacteria can’t survive in your freezer’s frigid temperatures, making this a simple and effective way to leave your shoes smelling fresher.

Placing lemon peels inside stinky shoes while they dry will help get rid of odors.

5. Use Lemon Peels

Place some lemon peels in your shoes overnight. If moisture isn’t an issue, this will help provide a fresh scent to smelly shoes!

Bacteria that grows in sweaty shoes causes odors, so use rubbing alcohol to kill the bacteria and deodorize the shoes.

6. Use Rubbing Alcohol

Pour some rubbing alcohol into a spray bottle, then spray the insides of the offending shoes thoroughly (but without soaking them). The rapid evaporation of the rubbing alcohol will help remove odor, dry them out, and kill bacteria, allowing you full use of the shoes again.

Putting a bar of deodorant soap in stinky shoes can help fight odor.

7. Use A Bar Of Soap

Another easy solution is to place a bar of soap inside each shoe and leave overnight. The porous soap will help absorb odor inside the shoes and leave behind a fresh, clean scent. (It’s a great method to try if you have a few bars of soap tucked away in a cupboard or closet!)

Water can stain suede shoes, so use alcohol or vinegar to deodorize them.

3 Tips For Deodorizing Leather Shoes & Suede Shoes

While all of the tips above work well for running shoes, canvas shoes, and sneakers, shoes that are made of leather or suede may need to be handled more carefully so you don’t damage your shoes. Try the baking soda tip (#1) or freezer tip (#4) outlined above, or one of the following methods:

1. Use A Leather Shoe Deodorizer Spray

Look for an odor-eliminating shoe spray that’s formulated for leather shoes, use it according to the directions on the package, then let them dry for 24 to 48 hours. (You can also dry out leather or suede shoes in a well-ventilated area or using a fan, but avoid putting them out in direct sunlight.)

2. Use Tea Bags

Put three or four tea bags in each shoe and let them sit for a couple of days — the tea bags will absorb moisture and odor. Letting them sit for a couple of days will also help them dry out, and moisture in dark places helps bacteria to thrive.

3. Use White Vinegar

Mix white vinegar with an equal amount of water, then dip a clean cloth in the diluted vinegar and use it to wipe down the inside of your leather shoes. Let them dry for about 15 minutes before wiping out the shoes with a clean cloth dampened with clean water. Let the shoes air dry for as long as it takes to get them completely dry. (Is there anything vinegar can’t do?)

If you don’t like the slight smell of vinegar that may linger, just use baking soda sachets overnight (see #1 in the previous section).

Fix stinky shoes quickly by using Odor Eaters insoles in your newly dry shoes.

Quick Ways To Deodorize Smelly Shoes ASAP

Dreaming of a way to eliminate shoe odor instantly? While the methods I’ve already mentioned will give you the best results, you can quickly banish the smell (at least temporarily) in a couple of different ways. You can use Odor Eaters shoe inserts, or spray the inside of your shoes with a disinfectant spray like Lysol or rubbing alcohol. Sprinkling foot powder inside your shoes can also help (as will wearing clean socks and keeping your feet clean!)

Make sure your feet and socks are clean and dry to help fight stinky shoes.

How To Prevent Shoe Smell The First Place

To keep your favorite shoes smelling fresh, avoid wearing the same pair every day. Giving them a chance to dry completely out between wearings will help keep your shoes cleaner and fresher! If you’re prone to sweaty or stinky feet, sprinkle a bit of baking soda inside your shoes after each wearing (or use removable insoles and clean and replace them regularly!)

Foot hygiene is essential, so make sure to keep your feet clean and dry. You can apply deodorant or a deodorizing powder to your feet to prevent foot odor, or wear socks that wick excess moisture away to keep them dry. Put in a new pair of insoles regularly. You can take the insoles of your shoes out at night before you go to bed, spritzing them with alcohol or vinegar to prevent bacterial growth, and sprinkle some deodorant powder inside your shoes before you put them on to help keep them smelling clean.

What’s your preferred method to get rid of smelly shoes?

stinky shoes

How To Deodorize Shoes

Jill Nystul
Hot temperatures lead to sweaty feet, and sweaty feet leave behind moisture in shoes causing unpleasant odors. Here are some of the best and most effective ways to deodorize smelly shoes.
3.93 from 13 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Equipment

  • Cotton Balls
  • Coffee filter
  • Rubber Band
  • Ziplock freezer bag

Ingredients
  

  • Baking soda
  • Essential oils
  • Lemon peels
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Bar soap

Instructions
 

Using Baking Soda

  • Add a few tablespoons of baking soda to the center of the coffee filter and add a couple drops of essential oils (optional). Twist the filter closed, tie it off with a rubber band, and place one sachet in each shoe overnight.
    stinky feet

Using Essential Oils

  • Add a few drops of essential oils to a couple of cotton balls and place them inside the shoe overnight. (Lemon oil and tea tree oil are both great options!)
    stinky shoes

Using Sunshine

  • Place your shoes out in the sun to dry them out and eliminate odor-causing bacteria.
    Remove Odor From Shoes

Using Your Freezer

  • Seal the shoes into a ziplock freezer bag and freeze them overnight. The freezing temperature will kill the odor-causing bacteria and make your shoes smell fresher.
    Remove Odor From Shoes

Using Lemon Peels

  • Place some lemon peels in your shoes overnight.
    Remove Odor From Shoes

Using Rubbing Alcohol

  • Spray the inside of the shoes with rubbing alcohol to kill bacteria and dry out moisture.
    Bacteria that grows in sweaty shoes causes odors, so use rubbing alcohol to kill the bacteria and deodorize the shoes.

Using Bar Soap

  • Place a bar of soap inside each stinky shoe to absorb odors and leave behind a fresh, clean scent.
    Remove Odor From Shoes

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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36 Comments

  1. Prevention: Dryer sheets. Put a used (or new) sheet in each shoe as a shoe liner. No more sweaty shoes or odors, plus they smell nice. I don’t use them in my dryer; I buy them specifically for this purpose.

    Cure: Spray the insides of your shoes liberally with rubbing alcohol, let sit 30 minutes, then place on a stationary dryer rack or shoe hanger in your dryer and run on low heat for two hours. Before I started using dryer sheets as shoe liners, this was the only method that killed shoe odors 100% for me. Everything from high heels to sneakers to boots went through this about once a month.

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  2. Freezing (even to cryogenic temperatures) does NOT kill bacteria; they merely go into hibernation and are revived when temperatures return to above freezing. On the other hand, most bacteria are killed when heated to temperatures over 160 degrees F. But obviously, that is not practical for removing odor from shoes!

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  3. I used the aginsole silver embedded insoles. It works great. No odor after I changed the insole. Great product.

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  4. So I have this stinky shoe, and since I’m at work was not able to do the suggestions, so to improvise, I’ve discovered that if you are currently wearing a stinky shoe, you may put a newspaper in the shoe while wearing it and it will not smell.

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  5. For my smelly sandals the alcohol did not work. Main thing is also, as stated, to change shoes & socks OFTEN, to inhibit bacteria in the shoe and on the feet. Zinc ocyde ointment in the skin etc helps too. I once helped a fiancée (whose shoes and socks we had to hang outside on the balcony, during a romantic stay in Paris ;-)) to get rid of the stink in just ONE week.

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  6. One of your post suggested coffee grounds. That worked for me!

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  7. I had good experiences with cinnamon insoles. As far as I understand the essential oil in the cinnamon bark (which is inside the insoles) kills foot odor bacteria. And, and this is the best thing, my feet and shoes now smell like cinnamon. No more stinky shoes. Have you looked into this at all? I am curious about your opinion!

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  8. use the moisture packs from aspirin bottles or some food packages for moisture in soes

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  9. I left my shoes outside to dry and now a spider calls them home. I hate spiders. I bought a new pair, stink gone.

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  10. love tips but alumni foil is terrible to use there are so many studies that site the health and environmental dangers to using this product please be more mindful and the agent of education and repurposing that you are

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    • Agree, I have heard bad things about aluminium as well. I think I remember seeing a documentary that showed a link between cancer and aluminium (oxide?) ingestion. I think a lot of deodorants use aluminium oxide to clog the pores, which is super effective but might be terrible for your health. I always make sure I am not using aluminium-based body products.

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    • ALU is typically used in antiperspirants… which is no good idea as sweat eliminates toxins and so should not be blocked too often

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  11. I use charcoal briquettes by putting them in old socks and inserting in the shoes.
    Works great!!!

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    • i’ve tried everything for the hubbs stinky feet.i’m glad i read your message i’m defintely going to try this.i nknow from experience it rids unused freezers and fridges from ordor,thanks for sharing your idea!!!!

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  12. You can also use the moisture packs that come with shoes- they are free! Sometimes there are even some laying around at the store you could pick up and use.

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  13. I save soap bars from hotels when I’m traveling (even the used ones) just for this use.

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    • Super Idea. Thank you, I tried that in my working days, but it too a lot longer than the H202.

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  14. Two tips:
    1. WITCH HAZEL. Use witch hazel on ORTHOTICS, apply with a cotton ball. I even used it on leather orthotics and it works perfectly. My orthotics are 10 years old and it removed the odors. (Spraying feet or rubbing with cotton ball on feet may also work. I haven’t tried it yet.)
    2. CLOVES. Like the baking soda, I put cloves in a knee high stocking and tie a knot. I leave one in each shoe (running shoes) and it keeps them odor free.

    Dr. Scholl’s Food Deodorant works well.

    The worst are those plastic flip flop shoes.

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  15. Rock climbers get incredibly stinky feet and shoes because climbing shoes are very tight, climbers don’t wear socks, and climbing requires a great deal of exertion (=sweat). I bought an inexpensive pair of sweat socks, filled them with cedar shavings (you can buy a large bag for very little $ at the pet food store), and knotted them at the end. When I’m done climbing, I stuff the cedar-filled socks into my shoes, and store them that way. Despite lots of climbing (and sweat) my climbing shoes have never smelled bad.

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  16. I use my clothes dryer with a center rack that came with it. Spray the inside of the shoe with rubbing alcohol, then stuff a new or used dryer sheet into the shoe and place on the rack. So far I’ve run everything from sneakers to “pleather” to fancy dress high heels without any shrinkage or damage, even on high heat. The very first time needed several hours in the dryer to make the shoes smell fresh again. Now, just once a month for an hour or two takes care of regularly worn shoes. Another tip: Put a used (or new) dryer sheet inside your shoes before each wearing. The dryer sheets absorb sweat and dirt and keep your shoes dry and clean inside. Doesn’t work for flip-flops and sandals of course, but any shoe that can contain them without showing will benefit.

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  17. My daughter’s soccer shoes were so bad, we wouldn’t allow her to take them off in the car! We discovered that a boot dryer was the best way to dry them out. We put shoes on it in the evening, they were dry by morning. It is a low heat so it doesn’t shrink them. We’ve shared this tip with other sports parents and we all swear by the all mighty boot dryer.

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  18. While these are all helpful hints (I have used EVERY one of them in the past), it seems like these tricks remove the smell only until the shoes are worn again, then the smell is back. If a person doesn’t mind doing these tricks every time the shoe is worn then it is great.

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  19. Even my flip-flops are stinky. My “sketchers” stink so badly and NOTHING can stop that. I’ve taken my sketchers off at a friends house and I could smell those shoes from 15 feet away! P-U! I’ve tried moisturizing my feet with a nice product, but no change. Inserts – Odor Eaters – didn’t work. Well, I’m going to try FREEZING my Sketchers, if that works, I’ll be a believer!

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    • Hi Shay! Do you wear the sketchers every day for long periods of time? Do you work in them?

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      • Hello, Jillee. I wear my slide Sketchers perhaps once a week because THEY make my feet stink. Maybe I could wear a dryer sheet in my shoes. I don’t think that would help, the dryer sheet would be just as stinky as my feet or the shoes. Ugg (Oh, I haven’t checked the stench in my only pair of Uggs.) Thanks Jillee and Viola.

      • Try wiping your feet with Vodka before you put your shoes on. Spray your shoes with it after they dry out. Sometimes the vodka willkrrp your feet from smelling. Also oh can use it as a deodorant. Not saying it will work for everyone but really worked good for my granddaughter

      • ROFL, what a waste of good Vodka. Putting smelly shoes in the freezer with food???? No way.
        Try a drop or two of Hydrogen Peroxide. It worked for the shoes I wore to work when I was employed as an RN, many years ago.

      • Hi Shay… Do your Sketchers have the insole that cushions and molds to your feet? Over the past several years, I have noticed that the insoles that “mold” to your feet are made of a material similar in make up to rubber. That material tends to hold on to smell and for some reason even adds to it (perhaps there’s some chemical change that occurs when coming into contact with perspiration excreted from our feet??) Anyhow, my significant other is unable to where shoes with that type of an insole for that reason, and that reason only. Maybe you’re experiencing a similar issue.?.?

      • Sounds like the shoes need a washing – do you know if they are machine washable? If not, put some white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray inside the shoes. Then leave them somewhere warm to dry (outside in direct sunlight would be best). Let me know how it goes! :-)

      • Vinegar works as does H202, Jillee.

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