How to get rid of the smell in shoes

Remove shoe smell. How to remove the smell in shoes? How to get rid of the smell in my boots? How to get rid of shoe odour quickly? Where does the smell of shoes come from? How to get rid of horrible sneaker odor? How do you avoid getting stinky shoes? What is the best way to reduce the smell in shoes? Why do shoes smell bad?

Have you ever taken off your shoes and felt faint with all the bad smells emitting from them? Or have you ever entered the space where you store your shoes and genuinely thought there was a dead rat or other such animals only to find out it is your shoes giving off the foul smell? Smelly feet are one thing but smelly shoes are surely the icing on the cake!

Smell removal from shoes

Shoes smell as a result of many things such as bacteria buildup, sweaty feet, or any other problems or injuries. A more fancy name for the phenomenon with smelly feet is bromodosis.

Luckily, there are several ways to get rid of the smell in your shoes. Let’s have a look at some:

How to make shoes fresh again?
Best way to reduce smell in shoes?
  • Depending on the shoe fabric, you may routinely wash your shoes. For example, if you have canvas or fabric shoes then you should consider washing them routinely and thoroughly drying them up, preferably under the sun.
  • Wash your feet too! Removing bacteria will help reduce the cause of the smelling problem. And change your socks for God’s sake! 🙂
  • Make use of kitty litter or baking soda to help eliminate the smell.  Baking soda is great for absorbing and neutralising the acid causing the odour. Toss a decent amount into your stinky shoes smelling like rotten eggs and remember to clean out the powder later before wearing them. The same applies to kitty litter. You may want to be careful with some shoe materials such as suede or leather though.
  • Toss your shoes in a plastic sealable bag and throw them in the freezer overnight. This will help kill any lurking bacteria, at least that is what people think and it appears to work in practise. Why the smell is reduced is a bit of a mystery since the type of bacteria causing the odor can actually survive for at least weeks in the freezer according to this scientific study. To be more effective, spray them with alco-spray which you probably already have in stock due to the Corona-pandemic after the freezing procedure, this will limit the explosion of bacteria growth when the heat is coming back.
  • Make use of fabric softener sheets. Stick the sheets inside your shoes and let them absorb any odour overnight. 
  • Make use of a few drops of essential oils to give your shoes a refreshing smell. 
  • Black teabags also help eliminate shoe odour. Place the tea bags in boiling water for a few minutes, remove and let them cool then place inside the shoes. The black tea will help kill bacteria and eliminate smell thanks to the tannins they contain. 
  • You may also consider using commercial products specifically designed to help get rid of the smell in shoes like Ozone-sprays etc.

After getting rid of the smell, it is important to keep your shoes smelling fresh. Ensure that you are practising the recommended shoe hygiene practices. Ensure that both your feet and shoes are well taken care of.  Take great care of your feet by washing and thoroughly drying them up. If you have infections such as fungus, be sure to treat them.

If your shoes tend to have a moisture buildup, for example, you need to ensure they are properly dried up before storing. You can do this by drying them outside, either under direct sunshine or in a shade, depending on the shoe material before bringing them inside for storage. Strong UV light also has anti-bacterial effects.

UV-light on the shoes will slow down and reduce bacterial growth, which will reduce the smell.
Sunlight is good for keeping shoes fresh.

Washable shoes should be cleaned routinely to avoid bacterial buildup which will result in smelly shoes. Especially common among women and teenagers due to the hormone mixture giving rise to more sweat. Last but not least, you should consider investing in more than one pair of shoes so you can rotate between them and avoid having to wear the smelly shoe every day and give the other a chance to air out. By switching shoes every day they will last much longer too than just using one single pair at any given time period. This is particularly important for people suffering from Hyperhidrosis, in other words, you are sweating excessively.

Why do shoes smell bad?

There are somewhere around 250000 sweat glands on your feet, and they can produce a considerable amount of moisture every day. Wet and moist is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria – the root of odor problems in shoes. Drying shoes in the sunlight often reduces the smell, as many of you have noticed. This is because you remove the condensation needed by bacterias to thrive.

What is the best way to remove smell from shoes?
Why do shoes smell so bad after a while?

The actual smell comes from the waste products that bacterias produce, and hence it is not the sweat or bacteria themselves that smell, but the residual products and gases left behind. And most of this activity happens at the front of your feet.

“To characterize foot odor, we analyzed its components by sensory tests, isolated microorganisms that produce it, and evaluated the mechanism of the occurrence of foot odor. As a result, foot odor was found to be derived from isovaleric acid, which is produced when Staphylococcus epidermidis, a resident species of the normal cutaneous microbial flora, degrades leucine present in sweat. In addition, Bacillus subtilis was detected in the plantar skin of subjects with strong foot odor, and this species was shown to be closely associated with increased foot odor. Therefore, we screened various naturally occurring substances and fragrant agents that inhibit microbial production of foot odor without disturbing the normal microbial flora of the human skin. As a result, we identified citral, citronellal, and geraniol as fragrant agents that inhibit the generation of isovaleric acid at low concentrations.”

Foot odor due to microbial metabolism and its control (Canadian Journal of Microbiology)

Smelly feet are usually harmless but annoying. However, it can be a sign of a medical condition, and if you think this could be your case, you should visit a doctor to verify the status and condition of your feet and the smelly-shoe-problem.

Smelly shoe problem
Why is your shoe smelling so bad?

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