Shoe odors can be an annoyance, both to yourself and others around you. Many commercial products are touted to mask or eliminate shoe odor, but one of the very best—and certainly one of the least expensive—is a product you probably already have in your home: baking soda. You may have heard the advice to place an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator to absorb unpleasant food odors. Using the same principle, baking soda can do the same thing for your shoes. Learn how to use baking soda in shoes and sandals to eliminate the odor with a few simple steps.
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How Baking Soda Removes Odors
Chemically, baking soda is technically sodium bicarbonate, a powdery substance with a slightly base (alkaline) pH. Baking soda has the effect of neutralizing the acid pH of many substances in its proximity, including the moist air in shoes where bacteria thrive. Like many substances that cause odors, human sweat is slightly acidic in nature, and baking soda's apparent magic may be due to the fact that it neutralizes the acids that foster bacteria.
Another odor-reducing benefit is that the dry baking soda powder simply absorbs humidity, which reduces the conditions by which odor-producing bacteria thrive.
Baking soda has several benefits as an odor-eliminating substance:
- Using baking soda to remove shoe odors reduces the chance of a sensitive skin reaction that might occur with other products.
- Baking soda removes odors without adding other fragrances that linger and mingle with your shoes.
- Baking soda also acts as a fungicide and has mild antibacterial properties.
- Baking soda is by far the cheapest way to treat smelly shoes.
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Equipment / Tools
- Small pieces of cloth (or socks)
- Baking soda
- Essential oil (such as lavender)
- Large zip-top bag
How to Remove Shoe Odors With Straight Baking Soda
With this method, the baking soda comes in contact with every part of the shoe, and the bacteria that cause the odor have nowhere to hide. This method works well with cloth shoes, but be cautious with leather and suede shoes, as a buildup of baking soda can cause these materials to become brittle. With suede and leather shoes, you are better off using baking soda sachets.
Sprinkle Baking Soda in Your Shoes
Sprinkle ordinary household baking soda directly into your shoes. Shake the shoes around to distribute the powder.
Let the Shoes Sit For at Least 24 Hours
Letting the powder remain in your shoes for a full day will give the baking soda time to absorb the odor.
Shake Out Any Excess Powder
Do this before wearing the shoes, or you'll leave a white, powdery trail any time you walk around in stocking feet. Your shoes now are restored to freshness.
How to Make Baking Soda Sachets for Your Shoes
To minimize shoe odors, after each wearing, put a sachet of baking soda inside each of the shoes to absorb the odors until you're ready to wear them again.
Wrap up some baking soda in a small piece of cloth and tie it closed with ribbon or string.
Add Essential Oil
Add a few drops of essential oil to the sachets, such as lavender, to help add a pleasant fragrance as the baking soda is performing its odor-removal work.
Place the Sachets in Your Shoes
You can place these sachets in your shoes each time you take them off. Tennis shoes, sneakers, and walking shoes used for exercising are especially prone to collecting odors. Keep the sachet in the shoes until you wear them again.
Variation: Fill the toe of a sock with baking soda and tie it off. Leave sock sachets in your shoes overnight to absorb odors. This can be part of your ongoing routine for any athletic shoes you wear regularly.
How to Clean Odors From Sandals Using Baking Soda
Sandals worn with bare feet are particularly susceptible to odors and are particularly stubborn when it comes to freeing them from odors.
Prepare a Plastic Bag
Place 1/2 cup of baking soda into a large zip-top bag.
Insert the Shoes
Place the sandals in the plastic bag and seal it.
Shake the Bag
Shaking the bag will distribute the baking soda over the sandals. Leave the sandals in the bag for at least 48 hours.
Remove the Sandals
Take the sandals out of the bag and shake off the excess baking soda before you wear them again. With leather or suede sandals, make sure to wipe off the baking soda from the straps. Your sandals are now fresh and clean and ready to wear.
Tips for Preventing Shoe Odor
- Air out your shoes regularly by opening the laces and placing the shoes in a sunny spot. Sun is a natural disinfectant.
- Wet insoles, orthopedic inserts, or other wet parts of a shoe encourage bacteria growth (and odor). Remove any wet parts of the shoe (if you can) and air-dry the shoe in a warm spot or a clothes dryer set on low heat.
- Don't wear the same shoes every day. Alternating pairs of shoes gives the offenders time to air out and dry completely.
- Wear socks with your shoes whenever possible. Socks will absorb the sweat moisture that fosters odor in shoes.
Letscher-Bru V, Obszynski CM, Samsoen M, Sabou M, Waller J, Candolfi E. Antifungal Activity of Sodium Bicarbonate Against Fungal Agents Causing Superficial Infections. Mycopathologia, vol. 175, no. 1-2, pp. 153-8, 2013. doi:10.1007/s11046-012-9583-2
Ratnesar-Shumate S, Williams G, Green B et al. Simulated Sunlight Rapidly Inactivates SARS-CoV-2 on Surfaces. J Infect Dis. 2020;222(2):214-222. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiaa274