June 3


How to Get Smell Out of Tennis Shoes

By Teddy

June 3, 2023

Tennis shoes are a staple for athletes and active individuals, providing comfort and support during physical activities. However, over time, they can develop an unpleasant odor due to factors such as sweat, bacteria, and poor ventilation. If you’re wondering how to get the smell out of your tennis shoes and keep them fresh, this article is here to help. We’ll explore effective methods and preventive measures to combat shoe odor, ensuring your footwear remains odor-free.

Understanding the Causes of Shoe Odor

Tennis shoes can become smelly due to sweat and bacteria that accumulate inside them. The warm and moist environment inside the shoes creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, leading to unpleasant odors. Additionally, fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot, can contribute to shoe odor. Poor ventilation exacerbates these issues, as it prevents proper airflow and moisture evaporation.

Preventive Measures

To prevent shoe odor from developing in the first place, there are several proactive steps you can take. Start by choosing shoes made from breathable materials, such as mesh or suede, that allow air to circulate. These materials promote airflow and minimize the accumulation of moisture and bacteria. Pair your shoes with moisture-wicking socks that help keep your feet dry and minimize bacterial growth. Consider using foot powders or sprays that absorb moisture and neutralize odors, providing an extra layer of protection.

Cleaning and Deodorizing Methods

When your tennis shoes start to smell, it’s essential to clean and deodorize them effectively. Here are some methods you can try:

Handwashing Method

For shoes that are not suitable for machine washing, you can hand wash them. Fill a basin with warm water and mild detergent. Scrub the shoes gently using a soft brush or cloth, paying attention to the insoles and areas prone to odor. Rinse them thoroughly and allow them to air dry.

Freezing Method

Place your shoes in a plastic bag and seal it tightly. Put the bag in the freezer and leave it overnight. The low temperatures will kill bacteria and reduce odor. Take the shoes out of the freezer and let them thaw before wearing them again.

Vinegar and Baking Soda Solution

Create a solution by mixing equal parts white vinegar and water. Apply the mixture to the inside of your shoes using a cloth or spray bottle. Afterward, sprinkle baking soda inside the shoes and let it sit overnight. The vinegar helps eliminate odor-causing bacteria, while baking soda absorbs unpleasant smells. Shake out the baking soda and wipe the shoes clean the next day.

Lemon or Orange Peel Method

Place lemon or orange peels inside your shoes and let them sit overnight. The natural citrus oils in the peels will help freshen the shoes and mask any lingering odors. Remove the peels before wearing the shoes.

Special Considerations for Mesh Shoes

Mesh shoes require special care to maintain their freshness. Avoid machine washing them as it may damage the delicate mesh. Stick to handwashing and use a gentle brush to clean the mesh areas. Ensure they are thoroughly dried to prevent mildew and odor.

Special Considerations for Suede Shoes

Suede shoes are more delicate and require gentle cleaning methods. Use a suede brush or eraser to remove surface dirt and stains. For odor removal, sprinkle baking soda inside the shoes and let it sit overnight. Gently brush off the baking soda the next day.

Drying Techniques

After cleaning your tennis shoes, proper drying is crucial to prevent moisture buildup and further odor development. Here are some drying techniques you can use:

  • Air drying: Place the shoes in a well-ventilated area and let them air dry naturally. Avoid direct sunlight or heat sources, as they can damage the shoes.
  • Using a fan or hairdryer: Set up a fan or use a hairdryer on the lowest heat setting to help speed up the drying process. Keep a safe distance to prevent overheating the shoes.
  • Inserting newspaper or absorbent materials: Crumple newspaper or use absorbent materials like paper towels or silica gel packets and place them inside the shoes. These materials will absorb moisture and aid in drying.

Maintaining Freshness

To maintain the freshness of your tennis shoes and prevent odor from returning, establish a regular cleaning routine. Clean your shoes after each use or when you notice any odor. Proper shoe storage is also essential. Keep them in a cool, dry place with good airflow. Additionally, consider rotating your shoes and allowing them to air out between uses.

Natural Remedies for Persistent Odor

If your tennis shoes still have persistent odor despite cleaning and preventive measures, you can try natural remedies to combat the smell:

  • Tea tree oil: Add a few drops of tea tree oil to a cotton ball and place it inside your shoes. Tea tree oil has natural antibacterial properties that help eliminate odor-causing bacteria.
  • Lavender oil: Similarly, you can use lavender oil to freshen your shoes. Place a few drops on a cotton ball and insert it into the shoes. Lavender oil has a pleasant scent that masks odors.
  • Activated charcoal: Place activated charcoal briquettes or sachets inside your shoes. Activated charcoal absorbs moisture and neutralizes odors effectively.

Commercial Products for Odor Removal

If natural remedies don’t solve the odor problem, you can consider using commercial products specifically designed for odor removal in shoes. Look for odor-absorbing insoles, shoe deodorizers, or sprays available in the market. Follow the product instructions for best results.

Tips for Preventing Shoe Odor in the Future

To prevent shoe odor from recurring, follow these tips:

  • Maintain regular foot hygiene by washing your feet thoroughly and drying them before wearing shoes.
  • Change your socks frequently, especially if you tend to sweat a lot.
  • Consider using odor-neutralizing inserts or insoles to keep your shoes fresh and absorb moisture.

By implementing these preventive measures and cleaning methods, you can effectively combat shoe odor and keep your tennis shoes smelling fresh and clean.


Foul-smelling tennis shoes can be a nuisance, but with the right approach, you can eliminate odor and maintain freshness. By understanding the causes of shoe odor, implementing preventive measures, and utilizing effective cleaning and deodorizing methods, you can enjoy odor-free footwear. Remember to consider specific care instructions for different shoe materials like mesh and suede. Keep your tennis shoes clean, dry them properly, and take proactive steps to prevent odor in the future.


  1. How often should I clean my tennis shoes?
    • It’s a good practice to clean your tennis shoes after each use or whenever you notice any odor.
  2. Can I machine wash mesh shoes?
    • It’s generally not recommended to machine wash mesh shoes as it may damage the delicate material. Stick to handwashing for mesh shoes.
  3. How long should I freeze my shoes?
    • Leave your shoes in the freezer overnight to kill bacteria and reduce odor. Thaw them before wearing.
  4. Are commercial shoe deodorizers safe to use?
    • Yes, most commercial shoe deodorizers are safe to use as directed. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
  5. Can I use the same methods for other types of shoes?
    • Yes, the cleaning and deodorizing methods mentioned in this article can be used for various types of shoes, including athletic shoes and sneakers.
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