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Natural ways to deodorise shoes

Updated April 13, 2018

Deodorising shoes naturally involves controlling odour-causing bacteria. Bacteria in shoes feed on sweat, their waste making shoes smell. Maintaining good shoe and foot hygiene helps prevent odour. Natural shoe deodorisers made from non-toxic, absorbent household substances also help as they dry shoes out, so bacteria can't survive. Washing, freezing and wiping inside shoes with natural anti-bacterials also help keep them fresh.

Shoe and foot care

Good shoe and foot care reduces sweaty conditions bacteria love and naturally deodorises shoes. Wearing shoes continually makes them smell, as they never dry out, allowing bacteria to build up. Leaving shoes 24 hours before wearing again helps deodorise them, providing you put them somewhere light and airy, rather than a dark, humid cupboard. Shoe insoles soak up most sweat, so remove these to dry out separately. Washing your feet and wearing clean cotton or wool socks daily also helps reduce odours.

Natural deodorants

Many household products make good natural shoe deodorants. Bicarbonate of soda, wrapped in a paper towel and secured with an elastic band, absorbs sweat and odours overnight, and won't leave a powdery residue. Other absorbent, non-toxic substances include crumpled newspaper, cat litter, salt, talcum powder and activated charcoal. Leaving natural deodorisers in shoes for as long as possible allows them to absorb more moisture. Adding a few drops of perfumed oil to homemade deodorants gives shoes a fresh smell.

Washing

Washing naturally deodorises shoes by removing sweat and bacteria. Many shoes are washable, such as trainers, slippers and synthetic shoes and boots. A non-detergent, gentle laundry soap such as wool wash liquid won't affect shoe colour. Allowing shoes to dry completely before wearing helps stop odours building up again. Canvas and leather shoes may not be washable, but they're less likely to smell as sweat evaporates from them. Removable insoles are usually washable.

Other natural methods

Wiping inside shoes with cotton wool soaked in diluted tea tree oil or surgical spirit kills bacteria on contact, but care is needed as these substances can damage shoe material. Freezing shoes, after placing them in paper bags for protection, also helps kill odour-causing bacteria. Leave shoes in the freezer for 72 hours and allow them to return naturally to room temperature before wearing them, or leather may crack. When it seems impossible to remove odours, replacing smelly insoles with new ones is a cheaper option than buying another pair of shoes.

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About the Author

A graduate of Leeds University, Jenny Green completed Master of Arts in English literature in 1998 and has been writing about travel, gardening, science and pets since 2007. Green's work appears in Diva, Whole Life Times, Listverse, Earthtimes, Lamplight, Stupefying Stories and other websites and magazines.