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The Art of …
Fixing Shoes Filled with Foot Stink

A sweaty footed Art of Doing Stuff reader shot me an email a while ago. She had a secret. A deep, dark, bacteria filled secret.

Her shoes stink. A lot. Think rotting corpse meets hot garbage.

At least that’s how I would imagine it if I were to imagine stink filled leather shoes in the middle of summer.  If I were to imagine it.  In my head.  And … thankfully … I am of the “creative” persuasion so I have no problem imagining things like that.  Just making stuff up out of the blue.  It’s a gift, really.

O.K. fine … I’m not “imagining” it.  I’m smelling it at this very moment.  I TOO have a shoe that smells as though a  dinosaur with intestinal issues just threw it up.

So, sweaty footed fan (who would like to remain anonymous … can you blame her?) wanted to know how to get the stink out.

Your leather shoes stink because they get moist from your sweaty feet and bacteria grows.  Making sure you let your shoes dry out between wearings will help reduce the stink.

After browsing the Internet and my own brain for a few days I came up with what I believed were 2 plausible remedies.

Internet Suggested

1.  Sticking the shoes in the freezer to slow down/kill the bacteria (which is what causes the stink).

Karen’s Brain Suggested

2.  Filling the shoe with Kitty Litter.  I mean … it’s sole purpose in life is to absorb moisture and get rid of stink.  Win, win.

So, I got my own stink filled shoes …

Filled one up with kitty litter …

And stuck one in the freezer

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

After 24 hours I dumped the litter out of the one shoe and removed the other from the freezer.

These are my conclusions:

1st sniff:

Freezer Shoe: No smell

Litter Shoe: No smell

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

1 Day Later:

Freezer Shoe: Slight smell

Litter Shoe: No smell

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

2 Days Later:

Freezer Shoe:  Pungent-ish

Litter Shoe:  No smell

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

3 Days Later:

Freezer Shoe:  You know when you leave flowers in a vase for too long and the water gets all slimey?

Litter Shoe:  Slight smell

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

4 Days Later:

Freezer Shoe:  I can’t accurately report on the smell of the freezer shoe on day 4, but I can tell you all about the smelling salts.

Litter Shoe:  Stinks again

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

Let us all keep in mind at this point that I get paid nothing to do this blog. Nothing. Nada. Zippola. And yet I’m sniffing potentially vile footwear … free of charge. I must have a screw loose.  And exceptionally terrible business skills.

Final Conclusions

Freezing your leather footwear will do nothing to get rid of a deep down stink.

Filling your shoes with kitty  litter won’t get rid of the problem completely but will make your shoes as good as new for a few days. If you repeat the process every so often, I’m sure it would markedly improve your shoe stink.

Before I wrap things up, you should know there are risks that come from filling your shoes with litter:

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

ANY CHARA CTER HERE


ANY CHARA CTER HERE
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47 Comments | Filed Under: Everything Else | Tags: ,

47 Responses to The Art of …
Fixing Shoes Filled with Foot Stink

  1. Lucia says:

    What really works – for feet (!) and shoes (that can get wet) is soaking in white vinegar and water – even Tevas! (good for feet, too)

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lucia! Of course you understand I can’t endorse this technique until I actually try it. Because I’m weird. If I ever get over this recent shoe smelling experience I’ll give it a shot!

  2. Laura says:

    You are so good to us. When I think of the money I have saved because of this fab blog: never having to buy WD40… What about that fabulous stuff called Fabreeze? Or good old fashioned baking soda? Try those!

    • Karen says:

      Hah! Thanks Laura. I’m afraid the issue is bacteria and moisture. The Febreeze would just cover the smell for a short period of time and would be all flowery and stuff. The baking soda would cake up from the moisture in the leather shoe and not do as good a job as kitty litter. Trust me. Kitty litter is a miracle product! I plan on posting on all of it’s virtues in the future! – karen

  3. Caroline says:

    Gotta say Febreeze is the WRONG idea…I used that on my shin guards in high school and maybe it was flowery for a day, but after that, it smelled even worse than before. Shin sweat AND rancid Febreeze…..I get ill just thinking about it.

    • Karen says:

      Yes. I tend to agree. Febreeze has perhaps the most unnatural smell on the planet. Even more than Grape Jello.

  4. mimi says:

    Karen, swabbing out the shoes with the following mix would kill the bacteria- try it! Then just let them air out.

    Mix 20mls witch hazel (vodka or gin would work too, but don’t drink it!) with 20 drops (TOTAL) of any of the following essential oils:

    Bergamot (Citrus Bergamia)
    Geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens)
    Lemon (Citrus Limon)
    Peppermint (Mentha x piperata)
    Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
    Sage (Salvia officinalis)

    It’s better to use 2 oils, as there’s a synergistic effect.
    If the person is going to wear the shoes with bare feet, Geranium would be the best to use, as the others sometimes irritate the skin.
    Essential oils can usually be bought in health shops, or online, just make sure it has the Latin name on the bottle.

    I haven’t tried this, but if you can get frsh sage, rubbing the leaves on the inside sole of the shoe might work.
    Let me know how you get on!

    • Annette says:

      I can say that yellow yarrow leaves make a great deodorant; sadly I did try it (just wipe the leaves onto your armpit – do NOT LEAVE there) and it appeared to work for the evening.

      • Langela says:

        Was this something you had read somewhere or did you just walk by it and say to yourself, “Hey! I wonder if that would work as a deoderant?”

  5. Amy says:

    Leather isn’t suppose to get wet is it? hense the problem. Mom would just throw our tennis shoes right in the washing machine.
    Of course If you wear socks or pedi’s on your feet the sweat would be absorded in that, but thats not pretty?

    I just go barefoot. I hate shoes.

  6. kasia says:

    OMG! LOVE the fur and shoe pic!!! Something about it being just a hint/suggestion of the act cracks me up! (Kitty didn’t really do it, did she/he???) Thanks for making my day.

    • Karen says:

      She did not! She came close and was um … curious, but I shooed her away. Funny.

      • Liz says:

        Shooed her away… I see what you did there.

        • Langela says:

          I am one of those people that loves to laugh at other people who have to have a joke explained to them so I feel qualified to laugh at myself over this one. I had to read and reread this to figure out what you thought was so funny. I DID finally get it, though. Funny!

        • Karen says:

          Um … I totally didn’t mean to do that. I shouldn’t admit to that should I? Maybe it was subconscious. Yes … that’s what I’ll say I am subconscious smart and funny. Uh huh.

  7. Langela says:

    My grandfather swears by using stick deoderant between his toes and on his feet. As for the shoes, what about using Ly-sol or a hand sanitizer that kills bacteria?

  8. Phyllis says:

    My grandmother’s method of getting rid of foul smells was to put the offending item out in the hot summer sun for a day or two (bringing them in at night so the dew doesn’t get them wet). Sunday-Go-To-Meeting dresses and feather bedding especially benefitted from this treatment as she had no access or money for dry cleaning. I’m not sure about leather shoes. Sunlight is a great disinfectant and deodorizer. The problem is that leather doesn’t like sunlight & probably not vinegar either. Still, I would think a daily spritz with vinegar then left to dry in the sun might work. Another thing to try is coffee grounds. I’ve used that to remove moldy odors from old luggage, & trunks that I’ve restored. Charcoal, kind purchased in the aquarium department at pet stores, might work too, but any dampness might make staining occur.

    You are so brave to have tried this experiment. You rock!

  9. Mary says:

    I’ve purchased those balls you put in your shoes that are supposed to remove the stink and they don’t work either. I have 4 boys and LOTS of shoe stink!

  10. kt says:

    I’ve read that stuffing your shoes with balled up newspaper between wearings both dries them out AND reduces the smell. Though maybe they just smell…like…sweaty, leathery newspaper?

  11. Natalie says:

    Soaking your feet in tea (brew first, then cool before sticking tootsies in) is supposed to work. Dr. Oz says so. But a pain in the butt and turns your feet orange eventually. I bought specifically-designed soft insoles for going barefoot in shoes. Probably works for most people but I, alas, soaked through them. Baking soda, maybe? Works in the litter box… and that is the stink to beat all.

  12. Kim from Milwaukee says:

    Fill a sock with baking soda and slide into the shoes….worked for my nephew’s stinkified tennies. The sunlight thingee works, too.

  13. Annette says:

    LMAO This post was just too funny. =) and produced numerous great ideas… Love the sniff test though. =)

    Thank you for the tear producing laughter.

  14. Marlène says:

    I’ve tried all kinds of products (Dettol is great, but has a smell of its own), powders, and soaps. Some definitely work better than others, but this is an instance where an ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure. Wear peds and it will save you tons in shoe replacement.

    Also, Geox shoes, which have breathing holes in the soles. Great shoes!!

  15. Pam'a says:

    What’s with all these suggestions?!! Karen has bravely solved the problem FOR us, yet again.

    (Personally, I think this might be what caused the migraine. Just sayin’.)

  16. Joni N. says:

    Way cool! So glad you figured that out. I won’t need it, however, since my shoes/feet smell like roses. :o)

  17. Susan says:

    I have a Air Force spouse so stinky combat boots are constantly walking through my front door. That’s where the shoes live, right there by the front door in a teeny, narrow hall that ends with a door into the living room.

    The smell of combat boots does not graciously welcome guests into our home. Being a housewife who has nothing to do all day except laze about between cooking, cleaning and picking up after two other people and two cats, I decided to attend to the problem of Eau de Stinky Boot.

    The verdict? Lightly swab the inside sole with a cotton ball dipped in hydrogen peroxide. Then place a dryer sheet inside said stinky boot/shoe. Use your hairdryer to active the dryer sheet for several minutes. Once the new smell is good and baked in, you should be good for a few days.

    If your man, like mine, does not appreciate the smell of a delicately scented dryer sheet in his combat boots, there is alternative method.

    Cedar! This magnificent yet manly miracle of nature can be purchased in block form in the same aisle where you can find mothballs. Just drop ‘em in when you take them off, take ‘em out when you wanna wear them.

  18. Great (and hilarious) post.

    one thing that I had to go to is avoiding the stink in the first place and buying tiny (half way) socks that you still cant see on the lowest shoes. Has actually worked thus far and absorb the sweat and stink instead of your shoes.

    Cheers,

    Schmidty

  19. Ana says:

    When you leave (forget) a tupperware full of sliced watermelon in the trunk of your car in the hottest week of summer, do not try to cover up the smell with Febreeze.

    I gag when I see it at the store.

  20. Heather says:

    Fix the source, not the shoes. I give the bottoms of my feet a LIGHT spraying of aerosol anti-perspirant in the morning when I go sock-less. I like Morning Clear Arrid Xtra Xtra Dry (no, I don’t work for them). At the end of the day, my feet are freakishly dry and my shoes don’t stink, even the ones I was ready to pitch from the funk.

  21. evalyn says:

    The cedar inserts are very useful for storing shoes or boots. Sprinkle baking soda inside the shoe, wipe the inside with dilluted vinegar or dissolved baking soda will help for daily wear.

  22. Crystal says:

    The kitty litter looks a little messy… Just a suggestion, and possibly a better way to prolong the benefits of the kitty litter:

    Sew a drawstring pouch or sew a closed pillow of kitty litter using a thin fabric like muslin or cheese cloth. Then you can place these in your shoes when not using them.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Crystal – thanks for the suggestion. The litter in a very thin pouch is a good idea if you’re trying to eliminate odour, but when you’re also trying to eliminate moisture it’s best to use the little directly on the “offensive” item. :) It’s actually not messy at all. You pour it in … then you pour it out. No problem!

  23. Meredith says:

    Hi — I have had excellent luck eliminating that smell by loading up my feet with zinc oxide and then sticking them right into my shoes. I have a few pairs of very expensive French shoes that I could only wear outside because of the pervasive pungency. It really works and it keeps my feet soft, too. I use either Weleda Calendula Diaper Cream or Burt’s Bees Herbal Defense Ointment. The antibiotic properties of zinc combined with the herbal extracts have given my expensive shoes a few more years of life.

  24. marisa says:

    may i make a suggestion? if your shoes are beginning to stink so badly that you need to search the internet for solutions on how to get rid of said stink, perhaps it is time to just buy a new pair of shoes. i’m just saying….

    • Karen says:

      Hah! Well, I must admit, I personally have a pair of shoes that stunk, stinked?, stank??? from day ONE. I have no idea why, but certain shoes … leather or not … like to hold a stink. Stank. Stunk.

  25. Kacia says:

    Brilliant! I’ve tried baking soda, then MORE baking soda, then baking soda AND febreze, all to no avail. I like this idea.

    Suggested topic for next shoe post: How to Convince Your Brutish Male Roommates That Yes, Their Shoes Do Stink, and Kitty Litter Really Is The Best Solution. Without Hurting Their Feelings.

    I’ve just been sneaking sprinklings of baking soda into their shoes when they’re not looking. I have a feeling kitty litter will be a bit more difficult to hide.

    • Karen says:

      I have always found that honestly is the best policy. You need to just say “Your shoes? They stink.”. Otherwise the litter is going to be realllyyyy hard to explain.

  26. Pax says:

    I have limited expectations of thanks for telling you this BUT I’ve been told that human urine is used to tan leather in some countries so….ah, damp can make the shoes take a little tip down memory lane for lack of a better way of putting it.

    Probably just an urban legend, right?

    • Karen says:

      Hah! Well … no … no thanks from me, but I did laugh! ~ karen

    • man says:

      Hello ladies,
      Pleasant blog indeed… Uhm, not that I have stinky shoes or anything, just perusing, really.

      In fact, it is Urea, found in urine, that was for a very long time used in tanning. In many countries.

      Often, if someone wanted to make some quick cash, they could sell their urine. Of course, most people were not as poor. But some were. Some were even poorer. They could not sell their urine, because they were so poor, that they didn’t have the necessary “means” of getting the urine to the tannery.

      So no tupperware, no dishes, no pots. So poor, that they didn’t have a pot to piss in.

      Hence the idiom. Ha!

      PS: Sorry for swearing. It was for art’s sake, I swear.

      PPS: I do have a few more, but unlike my boss (and my brain) who have endless hours to… uhm… “p***s” away, I must get back to work now.

  27. Rachel says:

    Vodka is actually an amazing smell remover. It (mixed 30:70 w/water sprayed like febreeze) is what costumer’s used to remove body odor from costumes before they invented Febreeze. It’s practically magical. Also, the vodka is an antibacterial. So, is you used it straight it’ll kill all the nasty bacteria.

  28. Casey says:

    my youngest son has the stinkiest feet ever so I was just dumping a bit of baking soda in his shoes and shaking them. I’ll try the litter next! thanks!

  29. Tina says:

    I love your experiment. You are a brave soul. We found soaking our feet a couple times a month in a pekoe or black tea (solution 1/2c of tea to 1/2 cup water)for 15 minutes, or watered down cider vinegar (same amount of time) worked well for helping with the stinky shoe enhancement. And wiping the inside of the shoe each evening with a wet wipe that is anti bacterial. It helped a lot!

  30. Rebecca says:

    Try rubbing alcohol! My fathers doctor told him about it and it seemed to work great for him! Only use on the inside of course and let dry before wearing again!

  31. Niella says:

    Thanks for this post. It’s hilarious and very helpful!
    One question (well, two, actually): Can the litter be reused? And if so, does it ever need to be replaced?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Niella – I’ve never actually reused my litter so I’m not sure, but others have said they’ve tried this method and reuse their litter several times. Since it’s inexpensive ($3 or so for a jug of litter) I’d probably just throw it out and use fresh when needed. ~ karen!

  32. Sandra says:

    You are hilarious! I can only hope you are a writer. You have talent girl!

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