How To Clean Smelly Shoes With Vinegar? 4 Methods You Should Know

Cleaning shoes is not the only thing you must do to maintain them. You also need to deal with the annoying odors. Otherwise, the smelly shoes will become a nightmare for you and those who sit next to you.

Luckily, many tools and ingredients can help keep the odor at bay. We highly recommend vinegar for this task as it’s easy to find, cheap, and multi-purpose.

This article will show you how to clean smelly shoes with vinegar in various approaches. You can also learn more about vinegar’s uses.

So let’s read on to discover!

How To Clean Smelly Shoes With Vinegar?

Vinegar is a familiar ingredient in cooking. However, it does an excellent job of cleaning and removing odor from your household stuff.

Bacteria and fungus accumulate in your shoes, causing bad odors. The shoes’ warm and sometimes damp conditions aid in this multiplication and could perhaps develop infections.

Luckily, vinegar can clean microorganisms from shoes and eliminate odors. As a result, it is a wonderful deodorizing product. Your stinky shoes’ unpleasant odor will disappear after some treatment.

You might not like the smell of vinegar, which you may notice after applying the liquid to your shoes. However, once they are dry, the vinegar’s odor will vanish.

There are four ways to clean your smelly shoes with vinegar. Let’s see what is easiest for you.

Method 1: Spray vinegar directly on the shoes

You need tea tree oil, which comes from the tea tree and is also good at killing fungus and bacteria. Now, mix water, vinegar, and tea tree oil in a spray bottle, then mix and shake it thoroughly.

Spray the mixture directly on your shoe interior. You can also spray it onto a cloth and use it to wipe your shoe.

While spraying, cover the shoe exterior, especially the upper section, using plastic paper. The spray only works on the interior.

Once you’ve done spraying, put your shoes in a sunny place and wait for them to dry. You will notice a difference in odor after the treatment.

How To Clean Smelly Shoes With Vinegar? 4 Methods You Should Know

Method 2: Pour vinegar into the washing machine

Shoes made of canvas or fabric are safe to wash in a washing machine. You can put them in the machine and pour laundry detergent to clean them as you do with your clothes.

Next, add a cup of vinegar to the cycle. You can also pour it into the fabric softener dispenser and set a long, warm wash mode for the machine to run.

Avoid using hot or warm water at all costs when washing your shoes in the washer. If you don’t, the heat will shrink your shoe’s fabric.

Method 3: Clean shoe inserts with vinegar

If the odor isn’t too intense, you won’t have to clean or wash your shoes entirely. Instead, focus on the insoles.

Start by mixing water and vinegar in a 2:1 ratio in a bucket. Then, soak the insoles there for five to ten minutes, and rinse them with water.

You can also remove the odor from your feet in the same way. Mix cold water and vinegar in a basin, and place feet there for 15 to 20 minutes. This method will deodorize your feet and relieve your foot pain.

Method 4: Mix vinegar with baking soda

Baking soda has the same benefit as vinegar, which is about killing bacteria and removing the smell. Once you combine the powder with vinegar, the effect will be more powerful.

When mixed with vinegar, baking soda will turn into a paste. Now, use a brush to apply the paste on your shoes in circular motions. Then place your shoes under sunlight for three to four hours.

Once dried, the paste will form some powder. So you need to remove the dried powder to give your shoes a flawless appearance.

What Type Of Vinegar Is Best For Cleaning Shoes?

Vinegar comes in various types. If you want to use it for cleaning your shoes, the four following types will be the best options.

Distilled white vinegar

White vinegar has fermented sugar cane and alcohol as its primary ingredients. Since vinegar has only five percent acetic acid, it’s quite safe to use.

Distilled white vinegar is always the best cleaner you can find in your house due to its safety, versatility, and cost. It’s also an environmentally-friendly ingredient you can buy at any supermarket or grocery store.

Aside from cooking, you can use distilled white vinegar to remove stains, kill mold, and clean shoes. All you need to do is to mix it with water and spray the solution onto the cleaning surface.

Distilled white vinegar also works best for killing mildew. Let it sit on the mold for around one hour. When you wipe it away, the bacteria will disappear.

You can also combine white vinegar with baking soda. This combination is excellent for dissolving grease on your shoes, making it a terrific solution for cleaning shoes made of different materials.

Apple cider vinegar

The main substances included in apple cider vinegar are fermented apples, water, and acetic acid. You can dilute it with water and use the mixture to clean your shoes.

This type of vinegar is best for getting rid of water stains. Moreover, thanks to the fermented apples, the vinegar has a pleasant scent instead of the harsh, biting odor of other types. Hence, you can use it as a deodorizer.

However, its color is an advantage. While distilled white vinegar is a colorless solution, the golden hue of apple cider vinegar is not suitable for cleaning white and light-colored shoes.

Cleaning vinegar

Cleaning vinegar is white vinegar but contains more acetic acid. Hence, this solution is stronger for cleaning stuff.

However, you must not use cleaning vinegar to cook because of the extra acidic content. It’s only good at whitening your shoes and removing odors.

When mixed with baking soda, you will have a powerful past to eliminate soap scum and grime effortlessly.

Besides, avoid using cleaning vinegar on wood surfaces, natural stone, metal objects, and electronic screens. Its intense acid level may damage your stuff.

Industrial vinegar

Industrial vinegar is even stronger than cleaning vinegar, with 20 to 30% of acetic acid included. And as you can guess, it’s too dangerous to ingest. The fumes also make it harmful when used indoors.

Although industrial vinegar can clean your shoes, we don’t highly recommend it. If you want to, handle it with extreme care and always use it outdoors. Don’t forget to wear eye protection and gloves because the acid content may burn your skin.

People often use industrial vinegar to kill weeds and clean commercial constructions. Since the solution may damage many types of surfaces, make sure that what you intend to clean can withstand the intense power of the vinegar.

Benefits Of Vinegar On Shoes

Vinegar has tons of benefits on your shoes. Here are the four most outstanding ones that encourage you always to keep some vinegar at hand.

Remove odor

The key to getting rid of odor from your shoes is to deal with the cause, which comes from bacteria and fungus. That’s how vinegar works. It can kill bacteria, giving a clean environment that harmful fungi can’t develop.

Clean stains

Vinegar is a gentle cleaner, so you can apply it on various materials, including canvas, suede, and leather.

Here is how to clean your shoes with vinegar:

  • Remove the laces to access all corners of the shoe easily.
  • Remove loose dirt on the surface using a dry brush.
  • Mix vinegar and baking soda to form a paste.
  • Dip a brush into the paste and apply it all over your shoe, scrubbing gently to clean the stains.
  • When the shoe is completely dry, use a paper towel to wipe off larger bits.

Using vinegar, you don’t have to clean the entire shoe. Instead, only treat the stains and marks.

If the stains are stubborn, consider soaking your footwear in vinegar overnight. The substances will dissolve the stains, making them simpler to clean.

Shrink the material

Shoes made of low-quality leather will stretch out soon. Your feet’s pressure strains the footwear from the inside out, making it conform to the form of your foot.

Over time, leather boots stretch out severely and become loose on your feet. If you don’t want to throw your shoes away, think about how to shrink the material.

Vinegar has a mildly acidic content, and its acetic acid shrinks leather fibers. When you apply vinegar to the material, it soaks in completely and makes the footwear shrink.

Not only does vinegar shrink leather, but it also effectively cleans your leather shoes. It can remove stubborn stains from footwear while maintaining the leather.

The instructions for applying vinegar to make your leather shoes shrink are as follows:

  • Immerse two socks in vinegar. Once they are completely wet, take them out and place them inside your leather shoes for one to two hours. During this time, your shoes can soak vinegar into their material.
  • Take the socks out after two hours.
  • Let your shoes dry in sunlight as it helps them to shrink more. But do not place your shoes there for too long, or the material will crack.
  • Wear them when your shoes are dry to check how fit they become. If the result doesn’t satisfy you, repeat those steps.

Eliminate fungal growth

Because of its antifungal and antibacterial qualities, vinegar can be a simple and efficient solution to treat many types of molds.

In general, household white vinegar has an acetic acid concentration of 5 to 8%. With a pH of about 2.5, acetic acid is a relatively strong acid that can prevent the development of fungi and other bacteria.

On leather, vinegar helps kill mold. According to anecdotal evidence, many suggest mixing vinegar with water. This mixture can prevent over-moisturizing and leather damage.

Other Remedies To Remove Odor From Shoes

Vinegar is one of many solutions to dealing with smelly shoes. We will share some other tips to solve your problem in this section.

Baking soda

Baking soda, like vinegar, is an environmentally-friendly and easy-to-use ingredient to remove odors from your shoes. The powder can absorb the smell effectively.

You can sprinkle baking soda inside your footwear and set it aside overnight. Then, wipe off the powder before wearing your shoes.

This video will show you more tips for removing odors from your shoes using baking soda:

Lemon peel

Try putting lemon peels or fresh limes in the footwear overnight to remove the smell. This method might also make the shoes look cleaner.

If you don’t have fresh lemons or limes, go for essential oils. But make sure to dry your shoes completely before wearing them.


You can store your smelly shoes in a big bag and put them in your freezer overnight. The bacteria-causing odor will go away because of the intense cold.

Rubbing alcohol

Spray some rubbing alcohol inside your shoes. This approach will dry your odor sources and may help you eliminate them.

Rubbing alcohol has antiseptic properties and a rapid rate of evaporation. It can evaporate so quickly to aid in the drying out of some forms of moisture, including sweat.


Because of its natural antifungal characteristics, cedarwood is an excellent deodorizer. You can insert the cedarwood insoles inside to prolong the time that your shoes will retain their fresh scent.

Baby powder

Your feet getting sweaty also causes your shoes to smell. You can apply baby powder on your feet or socks.

The powder can absorb moisture, keeping your feet dry all the time. Hence, there will be fewer chances for bacteria to accumulate.


You can put a bar of soap inside your stench-filled shoe. Because of the porous nature of the soap, it will remove smells and leave a fresh, pleasant aroma.


1. Can I soak shoes in vinegar?

Yes. You can soak your shoes in a tub of vinegar and water overnight. You need two cups of vinegar for every three gallons of water added to the soaking tub.

When the sneakers have done soaking, it’s crucial to let them dry quickly and completely. No more bacteria may then begin to form within the shoe.

2. How do vinegar and baking soda get rid of smelly shoes?

First, if baking soda is in your shoe overnight, the powdered substance will form over wet areas. The product’s components are also effective at preventing fungus, as well.

And when it comes to white vinegar, the liquid, when distilled with water, can rub out or spray away terrible smells.

You can apply the vinegar using a spray bottle or a cotton ball to combat smelly footwear. Just let the mixture break down the bacteria and dry for about 30 minutes.

3. How do you get rid of smelly shoes without washing them?

There are multiple ways to eliminate the smell from your shoes without entirely washing them. For example:

  • You can spray a mixture of water and white vinegar, then apply it to the shoe interior.
  • If the odor is not so harsh, you just need to clean the insole. Try soaking it in vinegar overnight to get rid of the smell.

4. Does apple cider vinegar help with shoe odor?

Yes. Apple cider vinegar is a powerful food ingredient, natural remedy, and effective deodorizer. When applied to the interior of dirty shoes, it works wonderfully.

Just apply some raw apple cider vinegar to a cotton ball, then dab it all over the interior of the smelly shoe. Perform these steps two or three times daily until the odor starts to disappear.

Avoid using too much vinegar; if you do, your shoes may smell like vinegar rather than their original odor.

5. Do tea bags help with smelly shoes?

Black tea contains tannins, which kill odor-generating bacteria in your footwear. Here is how to use tea bags:

  • Steep two tea bags in boiling water for around three minutes.
  • Allow the bags to cool down after taking them out from the boiling water.
  • Insert the tea bags into your shoes and set them aside for one hour.
  • Remove the bags and clean up the remaining moisture.
  • Let your shoe air dry.


Vinegar is an excellent solution to eliminate bad odors from your shoes. It can kill bacteria and fungus, so they won’t attack your boots and leave smells behind.

You may already have vinegar in your kitchen. There are four ways to use it to treat your smelly shoes. Please follow the steps carefully and regularly. Then, the odor won’t reappear.

Hopefully, you find this article helpful. If you know of any additional vinegar benefits, do not hesitate to share them with us.

Thank you for reading!

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