Does any of your shoe pairs reek? Do you ever get embarrassed when removing them in front of others? Well, it’s a normal thing. It happens mostly during the summer after your feet sweat or in winter. You may have come out of a workout on a sunny day, and through perspiration, your feet accumulate sweat that’s trapped in your socks. Consequently, it sticks in the sneakers, harboring a bad odor after some time. On the other hand, lacking enough heat to dry shoes after washing or simply airing during the cold season may also result in a stinking smell. More other causes could include when they get rained on, or accidental water immersion without drying them up in good time.


There are numerous remedies to cleaning shoes for getting rid of their stench. The cleaning techniques may be different but by a very small margin. The distinction may be due to the material making the shoe starting from the cloth to its sole. This article gladly shares with you the various ways of effectively keeping your sneakers clean and out of irritating scent. We shall discuss how to clean smelly sneakers inside, polyester, and more other things. But before that, we need to understand how to prevent possible break down of shoe materials. Please keep reading to get more knowledge.


Sneakers care depending on the material used


Avoid cleaning using a washing machine


Do you wash your sneakers using a washing machine? If you do, then you should know the risk you’re posing on its structure. It may be easier work and time saving, but not the best, especially if made a habit. The cycling of items in a machine washer easily affects the integrity of the shoes’ foam, which consequently lowers its ability to provide consistent cushioning. It mostly affects running shoes. If keen to shoe types, you’ll notice different foams having different sensitivities to higher temperatures and water.


The good news is most sneaker brands clearly state the material type used to make its midsole; if not on the shoe, it's on their website. For instance, any rubber made material for producing soft and flexible foam should be hand washed to increase its lifespan. It's because the material tends to absorb water reducing to the cushioning effect. It'd be best to understand that foam material is durable only if it doesn't absorb water. For that reason, spot cleaning is the best choice to extend its life. If that's the shoe kind you love most, would you want to lose it after just a month or a few weeks of wearing?


Another thing is if you must use the machine- because we understand there are instances when handwashing can’t get your sneakers spotless, don’t use agitators. They are rough, therefore, having them thrash your shoes for longer may entirely affect their shape. It’s also recommended that you start by wiping off the muddy shoes before having them in the washer. Furthermore, you should separately wash the laces and shoes by covering them in a laundry bag or pillowcase to avoid tangling. Use very few amounts of detergent and set the machine at a gently spin cycle and cold water. After that, let them air dry. Please never use the drier as the heat may destroy almost all the material used in making the shoe.


Spot cleaning various sneaker materials


We all know that the same sneaker can be made from various materials. It could, therefore, require different washing methods. Here are ways of how to clean sneakers cloth at different points depending on the make. Let’s see;


Synthetic leather


For synthetic leather made shoes begin by soaking a cloth piece in warm water mixed with mild detergent and wipe the dirty parts. Use a brush to gently scrub the area for a few minutes. After that, wipe out any left detergent and air dry the sneaker. You can use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (from melamine foam) on the harder shoe parts for a white pair. It's due to its effectiveness in stain removal. Be warned against using it on other shoe colors to prevent bleaching, only white is recommended.




Shoes made of nylon mesh have high breathability that’s good for runners. However, its netting attracts almost all the dust encountered when exercising. The best way to remove such dust is by rubbing off the dirt. After which you should mix equal amounts of soda ash and vinegar and place on the affected spots for about 15-20minutes. Once it's soaked, scrub, then wipe it clean using a wet rug. Let it air dry.


The secret behind using soda ash and vinegar is simple. It mainly works by neutralizing the unpleasant smell. The powder absorbs the moisture or sweat from your boots when you allow time for them to sit in it. It'd be more effective if you let it sit overnight to wake up the following morning to wipe them. Additionally, you may consider adding a few essential oils in the mixture before filling the sneakers. Be sure it's the best method on how to clean smelly sneakers inside. Nevertheless, remember to empty the powder on waking up. If you don’t, then its stench of the mix may be worse than smelly feet, and you won't believe it.




Canvas made sneakers are durable. Unfortunately, they're easily dirtied. It can be cleaned using different methods, but the most effective is a toothbrush with baking soda paste. Make the paste by adding equal baking powder and water amounts, then stir to evenly combine. Use the brush to scoop the combination, and scrub the dirty area till it's spotless. With the mixture on, let the shoes dry in the air before wiping the hardened mixture with a wet cloth.


Washing canvas shoes can be easier than how to clean polyester sneakers and other fabric materials. While handwashing is the best advisable method for most shoes, canvas’ material is sturdy and can withstand gently set machine cycles as likened to others. Still, you must ensure cold water use and change settings to delicate cycles. The detergent should be mild, and after completion, dry it in air and not by the drier.


Brushing off dirt from shoes is among the easiest and most effective for cleaning sports shoes. It’d be more relevant if its bristles are gentler to uphold the shoe structure and integrity, but hard enough to remove any stuck dirt. We've got several brushes specifically meant for washing sneakers, such as horsehair, boar hair, or synthetic blends. Besides, an old or vegetable brush may also help. Generally, use softer bristles on softer materials and stiffer for harder makes such as boar hair and synthetic blend.




Knit is among the most fragile materials in shoemaking. They're softer and more pliable than any other fabrics. Brushing them for cleaning with only destroy their composition. Therefore, avoid as much as possible. If you have knit shoes for running, kindly be advised to use a soft wool cloth and gently passing it through the stained areas. Damaging it may require more pressure to clean stains. Take care of the laundry detergent chosen because the ingredients may be harsh on fabrics at times. A sure option may be using a mild bathing soap. Use it with water to rub against the area before using a dump cloth to wipe out the lifted stains and dry air.


How to clean sneakers mildew


What comes to your mind when you realize your shoes are moldy? Throwing them away, right? It's very understandable. But, can't imagine throwing out a pair after another of your favorite shoes. We can help sort the problem. But before that, you need to comprehend the source of such kind of dirt on shoes. Well, molds grow in moist environments. It could be from your feet' perspiration when putting the shoes on or storing in a damp room. Other causes could include rains, water sports, or snowfall, and other factors. Wet shoes can provide a wonderful habitat for mold growth.


The presence of mildew or mold can result in a foul odor emission that can't be withstood. For this reason, it may be very embarrassing. That's why you should eliminate the mildew to get back the freshness of your shoes. Identifying the source of the problem is the beginning of getting rid of molds completely. We’ve got various ways on how to clean sneakers mildew, and basically removing the moisture is more essential to cease the mold’s growth. It again depends on the sneaker’s material. You should be keen to prevent damaging its nap on the surface.


Using crumpled newspaper


Pat newspapers can be useful in various applications at home, including squashing shoe smells and mildew. Start by generously putting crumbled newspaper inside each pair for faster drying of the shoes- through moisture absorption. By doing this, you’d have removed any bacteria and stopped mildew growth. If you need a sweet and appealing odor, begin by spraying the newspaper with vanilla drops to make the shoes gain a funky smell despite doing away with the funky scent.


Additional methods


  • Washing in soapy water- Follow the instructions on the shoes about the cleaning methods. Some require machines to wash while others don't. If not washable by machine, it'd be good soaking them in warm water mixed with soap for a few minutes. After which you’ll pick a piece of wet cloth to wipe the hardened soap before drying in air.

  • Charcoal- Get an old pair of socks or ones not in use and fill them with charcoal. Then, insert it in each shoe to absorb any moisture or smells.

  • Vinegar- Did you know that vinegar is a solution to most pests, bacteria, and fungi? Yes, it’s an incredible fungicide, which kills various micro-organisms. Use it by sprinkling some of it on the areas infested by the mildew. Once you get done, let them dry to rid off the unwanted molds and odor.

  • Fruit peels- Can you imagine putting fruits in smelling shoes? It may probably be irritating to mention, but it’s a very successful way of eliminating mildew in shoes. Fruits such as oranges, lemon, and grapefruit are the best. Peel of the fruits and set the peelings inside your pair of shoes for a night. On waking up, discard the peels, and you'll be happy to have woken up to a new and fresh smell from your shoes.

  • Sun-drying- Remove the shoelaces and open it as much as possible for maximum exposure to the sun. Let it stay in the sun for a full day to clear moisture and prevent molds production. Avoid placing leather shoes in the sun because it causes discoloration.

  • Tea tree oil- Add two to three water cups to the same tea tree oil amounts, then stir to evenly combine. Apply the solution on the shoes and let them dry. The tea tree oil will perfectly eliminate the undesired odor.

  • Teabags- Dry tea bags are the easiest way to deodorize your mildew sneakers. It'll absorb moisture to create an unconducive surrounding for mold's growth.


The bottom line


Sneakers need proper care and maintenance to give long-lasting service. Without that, they may start producing bad odor making us uncomfortable before our friends at the gym or field. Similar to other shoes after use, they get dirty and need washing to remove the dirt and prevent them from smelling. The above article mentions different shoe cleaning methods to fix smells that could be caused by sweat, moisture, dampness, mud, rain, or water sports. For instance, washing using a vinegar and baking soda solution.


The two are great for removing stains on shoe clothes and getting rid of smells. Additionally, we've other remedies such as drying them using crumpled newspapers and tea trees. When washing, consider the sneaker material to guide on the brush type to use for scrubbing- if soft, then a brush with soft bristles is essential, and vice versa is correct. Also, note the kind of shoe material that isn't washable on the washing machine. Doing that will help retain the shoes' form and structure, which will eventually give it a long life.


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