10+ Ways to REMOVE [Mildew] Smell from Wet Shoes

Your shoes started stinking badly like a Zoo or Vomit etc. and you couldn’t find a solution for getting rid of the bad mildew odor of wet shoes, except replacing them, and spending another 100 or more bucks for a new pair of shoes.

But wait…..

There are some very simple and easy ways to get rid of mildew odor from wet shoes, by using these ways I’m sure you can easily remove bad odor from your shoes, remove mildew and deodorize them without buying new ones. If none of the methods work for you it’s time to toss them with new ones.

Why Shoes smell after getting wet?

There are some types of Bacteria and Fungus which causes them to smell. The most common fungus is “Mildew” which thrives in a warm, wet/moist and dark environment. Our shoes are most likely to host these organisms by providing a suitable environment for their survival. Mildew infestation of shoes leads to the emissions of foul odor.

The insoles are often subjected to moisture due to perspiration of the feet.

The shoes may also get moisture due to rain, fog/damp weather, stepping into a puddle, washing and water sports.


The growth of Mildew can be stopped by thoroughly drying the shoes, in order to prevent the shoes from smelling.

Ways to get rid of the Mildew smell from wet shoes

The following are some simple hacks to get rid of the smell from wet shoes:

By Washing Shoes in a Laundry

For Sneakers, Workout, and Sports shoes, an easy solution to eliminate odor is to wash them in a laundry machine with a detergent, a little amount of bleach (for disinfection) in cold water and no spin cycle.

Before washing, separate the shoelaces and insole.

Remember to turn off the spin cycle as it can destroy the shoes.

After washing, you’ll need to dry them in the sun for a couple of days, on a clothesline hanging from the tongue. If you live in a humid climate, you may need a shoe dryer.

“Please note, don’t use this method on leather shoes or sandals. Also, read the manufacturers instructions before washing, if the shoes are not machine washable you can use the vinegar soaking method explained below “

Using Baking soda

If the stinky odor remains even after washing and drying the shoes, use baking soda. Baking soda is a classic deodorizer. Pour some fine amount of Baking soda about 1/4 to 1/2 cup inside the shoes and leave them to sit overnight. Remove the powder the next day by shaking them.

If any stubborn powder remains in the corner of the sneakers, you can remove it by using the hose attachment on your Vacuum cleaner.

Using Charcoal

Fill a couple of charcoal pieces in an old pair of socks and place the socks in the shoes.

This will absorb excess moisture and odor.

Using Alcohol or Vinegar:

Alcohol can be used as a disinfectant. You can use alcohol to kill bacteria which causes odor, by spraying them with a solution of water mixed rubbing alcohol (the one used in first aid).

In a spray bottle mix one cup of alcohol with one cup of water. Thoroughly spray your use both inside and out. Then place your shoes in a well-ventilated area to dry.

The alcohol will kill any odor-causing bacteria present in your sneakers and should prevent the smell from returning.

Using Vinegar to soak your sneakers overnight is also a good idea. Mix two cups of vinegar for every three gallons of water you add to your soaking tub. Again when the sneakers are completely washed, it is important to dry them thoroughly, to ensure that no bacteria or fungus begin growing again within the shoe.

“Please note, Vinegar can destroy leather shoes.”

Use dry tea Bags

It is the easiest way to deodorize any type of shoes. Simply just place some dry tea bags in sneakers for a few days.

It will remove the odor (caused by mildew) from the sneakers and will also impart a much cleaner scent of its own.

Using Tea tree oil

Mix 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil with 2 cups of water. Spray this solution on the smelly shoes, and keep them aside to dry. Tea tree oil will help eliminate the unwanted smell. Using tea bags is better and easy but in case if it not works, than you can try this one.

Thorough Drying

Remove the laces and insole, and completely open up the shoes as much as possible and lay them in the sunshine for a day. This is not a long term solution as the bacteria may again start growing and create odor. Do not place leather shoes against sunshine, this causes discolorization.

Kitty Litter

Fill an old pair of socks with Kitty Litter and place them in the shoes. Leave them overnight.

Litter will absorb the foul smell.

Using Peels of Citric Fruits

Citric acid can eliminate the foul smell caused by mildew. You can use peels of citrus fruits like orange, lemon, grapefruits, etc. Simply place the peels in the shoes overnight and discard the peels in the morning. It will not allow the mildew to grow again for a long time.

Using Paper or Dry Cloth:

If the shoes are wet and you’re living in a humid climate, then you can use a crumpled newspaper or a piece of dry cloth to dry them.

Simply place the newspaper or cloth inside the shoes until they get completely dry. This may not remove the odor completely sometime but this will help to dry the shoes.

Replace Insole

You should also replace the insole of your sneakers with a new one in order to prevent shoes from smelling again.

How to Remove smell from Leather shoes?

As you may know, leather cannot be washed or cleaned by vinegar and water.

You can remove the bad odor or smell from leather shoes by using rubbing alcohol and water. Simply mix a cup of water with a cup of rubbing alcohol and soak a piece of soft cloth in this solution. Use it to wipe the surface of the solution clean and dry the leather shoes using air dryer etc. and apply a leather conditioner.

Odor Prevention tips

  • Always keep your shoes in a dry and well-ventilated place.
  • Don’t wear damp shoes or with damp socks etc.
  • Always place your shoes in an open and dry place or in direct sunshine after a workout, playing, etc.
  • Clean your shoes regularly to prevent the accumulation of dust, which may endorse mildew growth.
  • Change your shoes every 5,6 months or after 500-600 miles of running etc.

Thanks, for reading the post. If you have any queries, comment below!