Few things are quite as frustrating as a stinky pair of shoes. We may love our shoes, from comfy sneakers to stylish pumps, but if we wear them often enough they’ll likely start to smell a bit — shall we say — funky. Still, there’s no shame in smelly shoes — after all, our feet naturally get sweaty, especially if we’re walking around without socks or stockings — but having a fresh, clean pair of shoes can feel far more pleasant than the alternative. If you haven’t cleaned your shoes for a while, you may think you’re stuck with the stink. Luckily, this isn’t the case. We tapped cleaning pros to learn which shoe cleaning hacks really work.
How to get the smell out of shoes
Use baking soda to bring the smell to neutral
“Shoes are easy!” Sharon Garcia, an L.A.-based professional cleaner and cleaning expert for Fabuloso who hosts a popular TikTok, enthuses. “Just put some baking soda in them overnight and then shake them off or vacuum them in the morning.” As if by magic, this household staple absorbs all the odors. Garcia recommends using a ½ cup of baking soda for each shoe.
Use dryer sheets to freshen up the smell
Dryer sheets aren’t just for laundry! “While dryer sheets don’t actually remove the order like baking soda does, they do leave a good smell in your shoes,” says Garcia. The fibers in the fabric work can help absorb some of the scent, and even if they don’t remove the odor entirely, they’ll give your shoes that much needed hint of freshness. Put one to two dryer sheets in each shoe and let them sit overnight.
Use essential oil to make shoes smell good
Garcia recommends soaking a few cotton balls in your favorite essential oil (or a scented cleaning spray) and leaving them in your shoes for a few hours. Some folks even swear by putting tea bags in shoes, as they’re absorbent and sweet-smelling. You can also use the tea bags for a relaxing black tea foot soak that helps wipe out foot odor.
How to deep clean and deodorize smelly sneakers
Try a vinegar soak for quick results
Given that we often wear them for long walks and gym trips, sneakers can get especially smelly. Garcia suggests using vinegar for a sneaker deep-clean, though she cautions that you’ll want to make sure to wash them (for this reason, you can’t use this hack on leather or suede shoes). “Soak your sneakers in some vinegar mixed with water and once you wash them the smell will be gone,” says Garcia.
Soak them in OxiClean for best results
You Tuber Clean Freak & Germaphobe swears by a four-hour soak in hot water with a scoop of OxiClean for absolute clean, smell-free sneakers. Watch how she does it:
The best way to clean sneakers
Kaylie Hill, an Orange County-based “CleanTok” pro with over a million followers and a Scotch-Brite Brand Ambassador, says their bathroom products are surprisingly effective shoe cleaners. A product like their Bathroom Buildup Remover “cleans off scuffs really well and without scratching,” she says. Plus, “They work well with just water and vinegar, so no harsh chemicals are needed.” So think outside the (shoe)box, and don’t be afraid to use a cleaner that’s meant for your bathroom!
A Magic Eraser can also get the job nicely. David Edricks, owner of Edricks Fine Drycleaning in Farmington, Connecticut, says he even uses them to clean the soles of his shoes, with “fabulous” results.
Garcia says a toothbrush comes in handy for sneaker scrubbing. “Put a little baking soda and dish soap on the toothbrush and use it to scrub your sneakers,” she recommends. Just make sure it’s not one you’ll be putting in your mouth!
Or try this hack from @glam.homedesign: Mix together 1 tablespoon each of baking soda, dish soap and toothpaste and scrub with a toothbrush:
The best way to clean leather shoes
“There aren’t really hacks for leather shoes,” says Garcia. “It’s best to just polish and buff them.” Hill agrees: “Leather is a delicate material so it’s important to use tools made to work on it.” She uses a brush specifically made for leather shoes. Products made for cleaning leather are worth using, as they can be put on any leather surface, and they won’t cause any damage. (Learn more about cleaning leather here.)
The best way to clean suede shoes
Suede is notoriously difficult to clean, as it doesn’t take well to water, and can easily become ruined if you don’t handle it carefully. That said, Edricks has a genius hack for spot cleaning suede shoes. “I’ve found that the best way to remove stains from suede is to use a pencil eraser,” he says. The eraser gently lifts stains from the shoes while getting into the otherwise difficult to clean fibers. (Click through for more on how to clean suede shoes without a suede cleaner.)
How often to clean shoes
While you certainly don’t need to deep-clean your shoes daily, it’s helpful to give them a quick wipe down once a week to prevent any buildup of stains or smells. A weekly clean can be great, but how often you decide to clean your shoes will depend on how much you wear them, how dirty or smelly they are and what kind of material they’re made from. With the tips above, your shoes will sparkle and smell as though they’re fresh out of the box.
For more about shoes, read on!