How to clean and sanitise smelly shoes

Updated April 17, 2017

Good shoes are often ruined by foul odour and dirt. While cleaning off the outer part of the shoe makes the shoe look fine, failure to clean and sanitise the inside of the shoe makes cleaning the outside pointless. Feet sweat and sweat clogs pores. During the day, your feet are trapped in moist, poorly ventilated areas. Over time, the inside of your shoe becomes a breeding ground for the bacteria and fungus that contributes to problems such as athlete's foot. Eliminate odour and clean your shoes with common household products.

Clean the shoes. Before sanitising the shoes, you must clean off any outer dirt and grime. Gently brush the outside of the shoes with a soft, dry cloth. Pull out any laces. Clean the tongue of the shoe with the cloth.

Wet the cloth by running it under warm water. Add a small amount of washing-up liquid to the cloth. Run the cloth under water once more. Wring it out thoroughly.

Wipe the shoes down with the wet cloth. Wipe the tongue of the shoe down with the cloth, as well. Avoid saturating the shoes with water.

Pull the tongue of each shoe out so it lays flat against the top of the shoe. Spray the inside of the shoes with rubbing alcohol, then allow them to dry. Spray the inside of the shoes once more with rubbing alcohol.

Place the shoes in the sun or a warm place. Allow the shoes to dry thoroughly.

Cut a pair of sheer tights off at the ankle. Fill the feet of the tights with baking soda. Ensure that each foot is packed tightly with baking soda. Tie the top of each foot to prevent baking soda from spilling out.

Place each foot of the tights in the shoes. Keep shoes in the sun or a warm place. Let the baking soda sit in the shoes for at least 24 hours.


After wear, place baking soda bags back in the shoes. This helps keep odours at bay.

Try spraying alcohol in the shoes at least once a week.

Sprinkle your socks or feet with baking powder before wearing shoes. This helps stop odour before it starts.

Most shoes are not machine washable. However, certain types of athletic shoes can go through the washing machine. Ensure that shoes put in the washing machine are washed at the lowest setting and in cold water. Tumble the shoes dry on a low heat.


Do not use rubbing alcohol spray on leather shoes. Instead, invest in anti-bacterial shoe powder. Sprinkle the powder in the shoes after wearing each day.

Do not use water and soap on leather shoes. Use a cleaner specifically designed for leather.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft, dry cloth
  • Washing-up liquid
  • Spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol
  • Sheer tights
  • Scissors
  • Baking soda
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About the Author

A.N. Pike has been a professional writer since 2006. She has worked for the "McKinney Courier-Gazette" and her campus newspaper, now freelancing for various clients. Pike earned her associate's degree in mass communications and journalism from Collin College.