No matter how clean you are, your feet always have an unpleasant odor, especially if you wear the same pair of closed shoes day after day. It doesn’t matter if you run, walk, or just sit all day, your feet will sweat naturally – some people more than others. Over time, this moisture in your shoes promotes the growth of bacteria that, you guessed it, make them stink.

While it helps to find the right odor eliminator, it’s also important to get to the root of the problem. To avoid a bad smell, keep your shoes – and feet – as dry as possible. Try to rotate the shoes regularly, so you don’t wear the same pair day after day. While you’re at it, be sure to wear socks so they can absorb sweat or moisture before your shoes.

But when the inevitable strikes, watch these step-by-step instructions from Carolyn Forte, director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab, to take control of your smelly shoes, once and for all.

A step-by-step guide to cleaning smelly shoes

When you feel a strange puff, take it as a sign to properly clean your shoes. By targeting the smell itself and disinfecting your shoes with disinfectants, you will deal with the problem from the inside out. But before you start cleaning, make sure the shoes are completely dry. If they are damp or wet due to daily wear and tear, exercise or inclement weather, fill them with crumpled newspaper and allow them to air dry out of direct heat. If the stench persists, try these methods at home:

  • Fill two socks with baking soda, tie them at the top and slip a sock into each shoe. Let them sit overnight.
  • To eliminate bacteria and fungi that cause odors, spray the inside of the shoe with a disinfectant spray such as Lysol. You can also sprinkle foot powder or baking powder inside for similar effects. For more natural options, choose the Shoe-Pourri spray infused with essential oil, or stick fresh inserts for Woodlore Cedar shoes in each insole.
  • Some shoes, such as Rothy’s and Allbirds, are machine washable. Follow the care instructions for best results. As a general rule, most machine washable shoes should be washed on the gentle cycle with cold water and a mild detergent. Always allow to air dry.

    Just because the stench is gone doesn’t mean your job is done. Prevent future odors by keeping shoes dry and continuing to spin in pairs. If you feel like you’ve done everything you can to get rid of the odors and that nothing has worked, it may be time to invest in a new pair of kicks.

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