How to Deodorize Shoes

There is nothing more annoying than a smelly pair of shoes. It can be embarrassing to have the room filled with the odor when you take your shoes off. However, sometimes people can smell them when you’re wearing them.

If you have this problem, you’ll need to know how to deodorize shoes. Since the primary causes of shoe odor are bacteria, getting rid of it will be a primary objective. Here is how to deodorize shoes using six different tricks; each more involved to tackle more powerful odors.

Method 1 – Fresh Air and Sunshine

If the odor isn’t terribly strong, sometimes a few hours outside in the fresh air and sunshine is a way to remove odors. Of course, try to avoid too much time in the sun because some materials will fade.

Leave them out overnight if possible, as the cool night air is a natural air freshener. This method works for mild odors, but won’t do much to kill the bacterial source of most shoe odors. If a little time in the fresh air and sunshine doesn’t work, move on to the next method.

Method 2 – A Good Old-Fashioned Washing

You can use laundry detergent, or mild dishwashing liquid to scrub your shoes in a sink. However, throwing them in the washing machine can not only get them good and clean but also make sure they’re well rinsed.

To help keep them from getting beaten up on the spin cycle, put your shoes in an old pillowcase. Add a small amount of laundry soap, and a cup of baking soda. Baking soda is great for removing all kinds of odors, especially in fabrics. Run your shoes through a complete wash cycle and allow them to air dry before you wear them again.



Method 3 – The Freezer Treatment

While you may not find this a very appealing method, it does work. Even if you don’t think the washing machine strategy will work, it’s a nice first step before trying the freezer treatment. The two in combination can produce remarkably successful results.

As mentioned, bacteria are the primary cause of smelly shoes. When you put a pair of shoes in the freezer, the frigid cold will kill most or all of the bacteria. Simply wipe the shoes down with a damp cloth, and they’ll be ready to wear.

Method 4 – Odor-Eaters

If the freezer treatment doesn’t completely remove the foul smell, you can use one of the Odor-Eater products. Simply placing Odor-Eater insoles in your shoes can be a huge help in preventing and eliminating shoe odor. Dr. Scholl’s also sells a popular odor fighting shoe insert.

There are also sprays and powders you can purchase. The spray powder by Odor-Eater is excellent to have around, especially if you like to wear your shoes without socks. You can add a splash of Odor-Eater powder, plus baking soda is a good natural deodorizer.

If your foot odor problem is a difficult challenge, a couple squirts of the spray after you remove your shoes can help remove and prevent a bad smell. The basic idea behind odor removers is to mask the smell, however. If it just won’t go away, you may need to use one of the other methods first.

Method 5 – Odor Removing Shoe Inserts

Besides Odor-Eater insoles, powders or sprays, there are also inserts you can put inside your shoes designed to eradicate odors. Charcoal is an excellent deodorizer, and you can put the power of charcoal to work on your shoe odors with the Remodeez Footwear Deodorizer.

Jalousie makes small bamboo bags filled with charcoal as well. There are little freshener balls marketed by Sof Sole. You can throw one of these inside your shoes to help remove odors. These are also excellent for gym bags, pocketbooks, and backpacks.

Method 6 – Coffee Beans or Fresh Coffee Grounds

While this may sound like an odd method for how to deodorize shoes, it works. Coffee beans are an excellent packing additive to remove all kinds of pungent smells. The theory works on foul-smelling shoes as well.

This is a great way to treat expensive leather shoes that can’t be washed or stuck in the freezer. You put your shoes in any plastic bag. A plastic grocery bag works fine since you don’t have to seal it airtight.

Throw about a cup of fresh coffee beans in the bag with your shoes. Unused coffee grounds will remove odor as well; however, it’s a lot messier. Harsher odors will take longer, but usually, a few days is sufficient to erase the odor.

This is also a great way to remove the odd smell of new shoes. Another way to use coffee grounds to remove shoe odor is to sprinkle some in the ends of a pair of socks. Ankle socks work best. Simply add about a half a cup of grounds in the sock and stick them inside your shoes overnight.

Method 7 – Clean up the Source of the Odor

The final method for how to deodorize shoes is one that everyone should use. This technique will not only help remove an odor that exists, but go a long way towards preventing bad smelling shoes in your future.

It’s pretty simple actually; clean up the source of the odor, your feet. If you have a naturally strong foot odor, take extra care to keep your feet clean. It helps to try to avoid wearing your shoes without socks.

100% cotton socks are also highly recommended for helping prevent shoe odor. For individuals who have an inherent problem with foot odor, using an antibacterial soap on their feet when showering can be extremely helpful.

Again, the primary source of foot odors invariably is bacteria. Every measure you take to remove the bacteria from inside your shoes, the further along you will be to keeping your shoes smelling fresh.


Each of these methods will remove the odor from your shoes. For more intense smells, you may need to use more than one technique. If you’ve tried any of these tricks for how to deodorize shoes, let us know your thoughts. In addition, tell us about any ways you may have found to freshen up your shoes that we missed.

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