How to Clean Stinky Shoes

We have a shoe off policy in our house. Partly because the bottom of a shoe is disgusting and we like to hang out in the floor with our kids. But also because it helps keep the carpet from being worn too quickly. That means we have to replace the carpet less often.

My oldest son is fantastic about taking his shoes off when he walks in the door. It’s just a habit because I started teaching him young!

When he goes outside to play, then comes inside to cool off, then out, then in, over and over again, he’s constantly taking his shoes off and on. Because of all the putting on and removing of his shoes, he decided it would be easier to just not wear socks. No socks didn’t bother me so I just let him. Until…

He shoes became so stinky we could hardly handle the smell!

Stinky shoes won’t last long in our house so I got to work to de-stinkify them! Here’s how to clean stinky shoes.

3 ways to Clean Stinky Shoes

Stinky tennis shoes? Here are three ways to clean your shoes.

1. Wash stinky shoes in the washing machine.

We used to have a top loader washing machine so stinky sneakers could be submerged in water. A good cleaning would often get rid of the stinky shoe smell.

However, we now have a high-efficiency front loader that uses minimal water. HE washing machines do a great job cleaning clothes, but they don’t seem to do the trick for smelly shoes.

2. Clean the insoles with vinegar.

Using a mixture of 2 parts vinegar and 1 part hot water, soak the insoles for a few hours. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and will work to kill the bacteria hiding in the shoes.

3. Put smelly shoes in the freezer.

This trick works suprisingly well, especially for shoes that shouldn’t get wet. Place the shoes in a clean freezer bag (I’m sure you don’t want shoe germs all over your food!) and let the cold kill the bacteria for 24 to 48 hours.

If cleaning and/or freezing stinky shoes doesn’t work, it just may be time to find new shoes. Just make sure to wear socks and occasionally sprinkle baking soda or use odor eaters to keep your favorite kicks fresh!

How to you combat smelly shoes?

Learn more about cleaning shoes and other fabrics in our cleaning cloth section.


  1. kim says

    I wash my running shoes in my dishwasher. I tuck the laces inside so they don’t get caught on the spinning arm, and place them upside down in the top rack. I add just a little bit of soap to the dispenser and turn the heating dry off. I can wash several pair at the same time.

  2. Cathrine says

    Very good to read article! Thank you!!!
    In most cases bacteria is the reason of getting smelly feet. I prefer a natural method. I use special cedarsoles inside all of my shoes. They are made from antibacterial cedarwood – the only tree in nature which has self-active components against fungal infections. So the effect also works for foot bacteria. I think it’s another good way to eliminate this problem.

  3. yinka says

    I played basketball for many years and never had stinking shoes and that is due to socks! Not just any type of socks but good one. Picking your socks depends on how you sweat, if you sweat a lot use sport sock that absorbs moisture and wear them only once. After a long day make sure you wash your feet properly, air the pads inside the shoes regular. Now there is a lot that goes on with feet inside the shoe so don’t just take it off and keep it in the closet, it needs to breath!

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