So, you got those stylish pair of new sports shoes that’s bound to get your gym pals to go green with envy. But, you know what? No matter how cool your shoes look from the outside, they tend to get a stinking odor by the end of the day. All credits go to your feet sweat that activates the odor-causing bacteria.

This also depends on your nature of job and the purpose for which you use the shoes. For example, a pair of bike shoes used for road racing or mountain biking is sure to emit more odor than office shoes. An exercise or activity that causes your feet to sweat more will have its impact on the inside of shoes.

While it may appear like a big chore, it’s actually easier than it seems. Here’s presenting – how to clean inside of shoes? Here are some quick and easy steps to deodorize the inside and keep them dry to prevent the foul smell.

White Vinegar

To start with, first, remove the insoles of the shoes. Now, take a small bowl and mix together 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 5 tablespoons of water. Dip a sponge in the solution and gently squeeze to remove excess water.

Use the wet sponge to wipe the insoles until they become clean. Let the insoles of the shoes air dry, preferably under the sun, in a well-ventilated area.

Take the dirty sponge and rinse it under clean running water. Dip it again in the vinegar solution and wipe the insides of the shoes or flats. Keep the washed shoes in a properly ventilated area to let them air dry completely.


If you don’t want to use vinegar, cleaning with only water will also do. You just need to dip a cloth in water, soak it well and then wipe the inside of your shoes to remove the gunk deposited inside. This is typically a mixture of dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells.

Clean out the gunk regularly if you wear flat shoes because they are easier to remove. When your shoes emit a foul smell, leave them out in the sun after wiping clean and the sun rays act as a natural and powerful disinfectant to kill the bacteria.

Machine Wash

washing machine

If your shoes are machine washable (check manufacturer’s washing instructions) put them inside the washing machine. The running shoes are typically made from soft cloth fabric that can be cleaned in a washer using a mild detergent.

You will need to remove the lace and other removable parts, to let the washing machine do its job. After the machine complete cleaning, do not put the shoes in the dryer. Instead, just hang them dry in a ventilated area or keep them under the sun.

Hand Wash

The more delicate fabric shoes that cannot take the beating of washing machines can be hand washed using mild laundry detergent and warm water. Instead of putting the shoes inside the washer, you can simply use an old toothbrush to remove the dirt and grime stuck inside the shoes.

Use a clean rag to wipe the insides of the shoes and then air dry them completely. For fast drying, you can hang the shoes under a fan. Another method is to stuff crumpled newspaper inside the shoes and replace them as they get wet to absorb as much liquid as possible to reduce the drying time.

Baking Soda

If you want to get rid of the smell from inside of leather shoes then we recommend using a baking soda solution. It works great on absorbing foul smell, and it is also safe to use on leather. Sprinkle baking soda on the leather shoes and on the insoles.

Put the leather shoes inside a zip lock bag or pillowcase. Seal the bag and let the shoes sit inside for 24 hours or overnight. Remove the baking soda with a clean cloth or a small vacuum. Brush off the remaining powder using a soft gentle brush to prevent scratches. Keep repeating until the smell is gone.

Detergent, Baking Soda And Water

This another good method that combines the cleaning effect of three different ingredients. First, you need to prepare a cleaning solution by combining detergent and baking soda with a few drops of water to form a paste.

Take the paste in a sponge and apply it inside the shoe thoroughly. Allow the paste to sit for at least 15 minutes and dry completely. Take a cleaning rag to remove the dried-up paste.

Baking Soda and Lime juice

Another good homemade solution is to make a paste of baking soda and lemon juice. Smear this paste inside the shoes and allow to dry in the sun. It helps in getting rid of the stinking smell and also aids with the athlete’s foot.

Simply sprinkling baking soda inside the shoe also works as a natural deodorizes. If you don’t want to use baking soda, you may use a shoe disinfectant spray in its place.

Dryer Sheets

If your shoes have started to smell off late then consider deodorizing them by simply putting dryer sheets inside. You will not only get rid of the stinking odor, but your feet will also be smelling good in no time.

Freeze Your Shoes

Yes, this might sound crazy but try it to see the results. If your running shoes smell too gross and you don’t have the time to wash them or do the baking soda thing, just try this quick fix. Put your shoes inside a zip lock bag and keep inside the freezer.

When you put your shoes inside the freezer overnight, the odor-causing bacteria will not be able to multiply and thrive in cold temperature. When you take your shoes out the next morning, they will be cold but not foul-smelling.

Six Natural Homemade DIY Shoe Deodorizers

Sometimes just cleaning the shoes or preventing the growth of bacteria may not be enough and you need a powerful deodorizer. If you look around the house, you will find several natural and easily available things you can use to create natural DIY deodorizers for shoes. Check out these tips and recipes.

#1. Rubbing Alcohol

This is a great product you can use to kill bacterial inside shoes and also does a great job at controlling bad odor. To use it, take a clean rag and soak with the liquid. Now, use it to rub the inside walls of the shoes including insoles. Let it air dry completely before wearing.

What we like about isopropyl alcohol is that it not only eliminates bad smell but also works as a disinfectant to kill bacteria causing smelly feet.

#2. Essential Oils

A good method of cleaning smelly shoes is to use a mix of pure essential oils such as eucalyptus oil, tea tree oil, clove oil, or any other oil of your choice. To apply inside the shoes, you will need a paper or tissue.

Pour a few drops of essential oils on a crumpled tissue paper and use this to rub the insides of the shoes. Now, let the shoes sit outside overnight to get rid of the foul smell. Another recipe is to fill a bottle halfway with distilled water and remaining with essential oils. Shake well and sprinkle inside shoes to remove odor.

#3. Tea Bags

Yes, the tea bags you have at home can be put into various surprising uses and one of them is deodorizing inside of shoes. So, after you enjoy a cup of black tea, don’t throw it away. Instead, keep the used bag inside your shoes to remove foul odor.

Tannis found in black tea are considered useful in killing bacteria. Even if you are not a tea drinker, you can put a few tea bags in boiling water and let them steep for some time. Remove and cool the tea bags, wipe of excess liquid and use to fight shoe smell.

#4. Kitty Litter

Does that sound gross? Trust me, the kitty litter you got from the store can be used to get rid of that awful stinking shoe smell. They are more than often infused with deodorizers to control the poop and urine odor, thus it can work for your shoe insides too.

Just add some kitty litter inside your shoes and leave them for several hours or overnight. Next morning, remove the litter and wipe your shoes clean to have them smelling good.

#5. Baby Powder

This has a similar effect like baking soda to keep both your feet and shoes dry. Just sprinkle some baby powder on your feet and socks, and put on your socks. You will experience less sweating on your feet, resulting in a drier and non-smelly shoes.

If you have to wear shoes all day long at work or while riding or exercising, reapply some baby powder when your feet start sweating.

#6. Sprinkling salt

If you have canvas shoes or cloth sneakers that tend to get too smelly on the insides due to accumulated dirt and dust, consider sprinkling salt. The salt granules work as a natural cleaner and deodorizer to soap up moisture and remove bad smell.

Easy Steps For Cleaning Insides Of Washable Footwear

If you want to wash the inside of canvas shoes or cloth footwear to get rid of  stinking smell then you can clean them in washing machine. Here are the easy steps:

·         Remove the shoe strings and keep them inside a mesh bag or pillowcase

·         Now, put this pillowcase inside the washing machine and add hot water and detergent.

·         Adjust the settings and run the machine in a regular cycle

·         If the shoes are very dirty and smelly, you may want to run through a second cycle

·         When the machine stops, take shoes out of the mesh bag and air dry in the sun

To prevent the smell from returning, use of one of the DIY homemade recipes and tips mentioned above. Remember to always wear socks and keep your feet clean.

7 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Cleaning Shoe Insides

  1. Leather shoes can be washed daily, however using certain harsh detergents can rob leather of its natural oils, making it dry and brittle. Mild soap is a better option to clean and maintain the leather.
  2. Not all shoes are machine washable, especially the ones made of delicate materials, and comprising of heels and other adornments.
  3. Strong soaps to clean leather shoes is a strict no-no. It can not only over dry leather but also fade the color. We recommend using mild soaps (Castile or laurel soap).
  4. Using too hot water to kill bacteria and remove odor may be a good option, but this can compromise the adhesive used in shoes and also cause over-drying and shrinkage in leather.
  5. Saltwater maybe good for cleaning inside of boat shoes, but it’s not suitable for dress or cloth shoes as salt can cause staining.
  6. Never use a harsh scrubber to remove stubborn marks from the rubber soles of leather shoes. We suggest that you always use the milder blue or brown Scotch-Brite scrubber if you must.
  7. Never use a dryer or fan heater to speed up the drying process as this can damage the inside of shoes. To speed up drying, you may use a ceiling fan, which is harmless.

Related Questions

How to keep the shoes in shape?

Many people worry about keeping shoes in their original shape when they pass from wet to dry stage. If the shoes were washed in cold water then you would not need this. For the rest, you may stuff newspaper or any paper inside the shoes while drying them.

Can I use hand sanitizers to disinfect the inside of shoes?

If you have black shoes and socks, wearing white disinfectant powder can create a mess. So, you may consider using a hand sanitizer to kill bacteria and get rid of the bad odor. While it’s okay to clean the shoe inside with sanitizer, we would recommend that you do not use too much as its main ingredient ethyl alcohol may damage the adhesive that holds the footwear together.

Can I use vegetable oil to clean the insides?

While it’s good to clean the outside and inside of a leather shoe with leather oil to restore their original waxy appearance, make sure you never use coconut oil or olive oil. Cooking oil can turn rancid and being a food source, it can become a thriving platform for bacteria.

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