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How to Get Rid of Odor in Boots: 7 Quick Ways

Bradon is a fashion journalist intent on helping guys realize their full style potential. After buying his first pair of dress boots in college, he realized how impactful the right pair of shoes can be. He hopes to help you discover your perfect pair so you can experience that feeling for yourself. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Mar 15, 2024
8 min read
Key Takeaways

You’ve got a lot of options: baking soda, boot odor spray, dryer sheets, white vinegar, cedar shoe trees and antimicrobial inserts are all quick solutions to tame boot stink. Make sure you get deep inside the shoe when cleaning because the toe box is often the biggest contributor to boot smell. Prevent boot odor to begin with by wearing socks made with Merino wool.

Boots are sophisticated. Boot odor, not so much. A funky smell can sneak into your favorite pair of boots, leaving you embarrassed and uncomfortable. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of fixes for your boot smell woes. With a little bit of know-how and a few basic materials, you can restore your smelly boots to their former clean and dignified selves.

Why Do Your Boots Smell?

bacteria boot

Boots are designed to keep your feet warm and protected from the elements, but this feature can come with a few undesired side effects.

The underlying cause of most boot odor is bacteria.

When your feet stay tucked away in hot boots, they start to sweat. Foot sweat is a breeding ground for microorganisms to flourish. That stinky smell is the stench of bacteria growing in your boots.

vasque hiking boot on model with socks

Boots that have fabric liners are the worst offenders for having odor-causing bacteria.

Boot odor can be eliminated relatively easily. You just need a few basic items and a couple of minutes.

This is my full video guide on how to deodorize stinky boots fast.

What You’ll Need for Your Smelly Boots

bootclean 1

Depending on which approach you want to use, you’ll need:

  • Merino wool socks
  • Baking soda
  • Boot odor spray
  • Dryer sheets
  • White vinegar
  • Antimicrobial inserts
  • Cedar shoe trees

Some of these methods are better suited to prevention or minor smells. Others are for when you need to bring in the big guns. 

6 Hacks to Deodorize Boots Fast

Method #1: Wear Merino Wool Socks

close up camel city mill work socks with boots in background
Camel City Mill Lightweight wool socks

Cotton socks and polyester socks actually promote sweat. Even if it’s the middle of summer, I highly recommend wearing a pair of Merino wool socks.

Merino wool is 35% better at wicking sweat and releasing moisture compared to polyester.

Keeping your foot sweat to a minimum is the best thing you can do if you want to avoid smelly feet.

Merino wool socks work by keeping your sweat from developing bacteria before it even hits your boot. This keeps the interior free of microbes, thus eliminating the possibility of boot smell.

These Lightweight socks from Camel City Mill are a great place to start. They’ve got a vented knit along the arch and the top of the foot, and they stay comfortable while providing a strong barrier against bacteria.

And because wool is a naturally bacteria resistant material, your socks won’t smell either, and you can even wear the Lightweight multiple days in a row without washing.

BootSpy's #1 Boot Sock
Camel City Mill Lightweight Wool Work Sock
Free Shipping $50+

Made in the USA from Merino wool, these work socks really are something else in terms of quality. They feature compression through the arch and calf which helps your feet recover after a long day. Plus, because they're Merino wool, they're breathable and help reduce foot sweat.

Check Price Read Our Review

Method #2: Use Baking Soda

baking soda

Let’s talk chemistry. Remember the pH scale? No worries if you don’t. All you need to know is: baking soda is a base. Sweat is an acid. Mix the two if you want to neutralize odors.

Bacteria thrives in sweat’s slightly acidic environment.

By adding baking soda to the mix, you can eliminate that acidity and kill the bacteria causing boot odor. 

To use baking soda, simply sprinkle it throughout the interior of your boot and let it sit overnight. Pay special attention to the toe box, as this area tends to be particularly odorous. 

Once the baking soda has rested, empty it out of your boot. You can leave the residue in, as this will actually help keep your boots smelling clean for longer. Just make sure you aren’t leaving so much that it forms a paste.

You may want to repeat this process every few months or so to keep your boots from developing smells again.

Method #3: Use Boot Odor Spray

bootspray

If you want something a bit more powerful, you may want to use a deodorizing spray. These aerosols have a few advantages over other methods. 

For one, sprays tend to be easier to use. Spraying a liquid into your toe box is simple, effective, and keeps you from having to shake your boot or contort your hand. 

Additionally, these sprays don’t leave any residue. This means you won’t have to worry about cleaning out your boots. Spray, and then move on with your life.

Finally, sprays of this sort can actually soak into your boot’s interior. This can help prevent bacterial growth in the first place, keeping your boots smelling nice and clean. 

Our top pick is this one from Lumi. Its all-natural extra strength formula combats even the strongest odors, ensuring bacteria is thoroughly wiped out. The citrus and tea tree essential oils both condition the inside of your boots and leave them smelling like an expensive candle you’d find in a luxury resort. 

Lumi Outdoors Natural Shoe Deodorizer Spray & Odor Eliminator - Extra Strength Eucalyptus Lemongrass
Check Price

Method #4: Use Dryer Sheets

dryersheetboot

If you’re in a pinch and looking for an easy method to make your boots smell nicer, dryer sheets can help. Dryer sheets help mask the odors in your boots in a few ways. 

The heavy scents used in dryer sheets can overpower boot odors, effectively eliminating them.

Dryer sheets are also designed to absorb other smells. They can soak up the offensive odors, leaving behind boots that smell like freshly folded laundry.

You can use dryer sheets either by leaving them in the boots overnight or by simply wearing your boots with dryer sheets inside. Either way is completely fine. All that matters is that the sheets spend a good amount of time in your boots.

Bounce Fabric Softener Dryer Sheets
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Method #5: Use White Vinegar and Water

How to Clean Suede Boots Cartoon Graphic of Chelsea Boots next to a Suede Brush and Vinegar Bottle

By mixing water and white vinegar, you can create a potent antibacterial rinse that won’t harm your boots.

To start, mix together water and vinegar in equal parts. Dab a sponge or towel into the mixture and apply it to the interior of the boot. Once the inside has been thoroughly scrubbed and coated, let the boots dry before wearing them again.

Back to the pH scale: Vinegar is very, very acidic. So much so that it can create conditions that kill the root cause of boot smell, bacteria.

The only downside to this method is that your boots may smell like vinegar. You can solve that issue by spraying them with a bit of cologne or some other fragrance to mask the vinegar smell.

Method #6: Use Antimicrobial Inserts

superfeet green insole in hiking boot

If you’re looking to prevent boot odor from occurring in the first place, you might consider investing in antimicrobial inserts. 

Antimicrobial inserts are constructed from materials that change the environment inside your boot. This can eliminate any bacteria already in your boots and keep them from developing smells in the future.

It’s important that you choose the right insert size. Inserts that are too large will change the way your boot fits, causing discomfort or blistering. 

We recommend these ones from Kaps. Not only do they feature three cushioning layers for comfort, but they can be cut to fit the inside of your boot. This means you can cut them to ensure your boots still fit correctly.

Kaps Dirt Free Shoe Insoles
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Method #7: Use Cedar Shoe Trees

Red Wing Iron Ranger with cedar shoe trees and leather balm

Bacteria and sweat go hand-in-hand. Best buds ’til the bitter end.

That’s why keeping your boots dry and aerated is another powerful prevention method. Don’t throw your soggy boots under your bed. Let fresh air flow all the way to the toe box, and use the natural liquid absorption properties of a cedar shoe tree.

A cedar shoe tree is essentially a piece of wood you can throw into your boots when you’re not wearing them. Not only do they help support boot structure, the cedar leaves behind a natural wood aroma that pairs perfectly with leather boots.

Conclusion

folding sock over to blouse boots

Boot smell can be an embarrassing and persistent issue. If your favorite pair starts developing odors, try as many solutions as necessary to stomp out the problem.

But as always, prevention is the best tool. Stop the stank before it starts.

The single best way to prevent stinky boots before they develop a rich, nasty smell is to wear Merino wool socks every day. My favorites are the Camel City Mill Lightweight, but any Merino wool sock will do.

BootSpy's #1 Boot Sock
Camel City Mill Lightweight Wool Work Sock
Free Shipping $50+

Made in the USA from Merino wool, these work socks really are something else in terms of quality. They feature compression through the arch and calf which helps your feet recover after a long day. Plus, because they're Merino wool, they're breathable and help reduce foot sweat.

Check Price Read Our Review

Cedar shoe trees also are a good preventative measure. Keep an open channel of air flow deep within your boots to keep them dry inside and out.

Household items like vinegar, baking soda, or dryer sheets can all work to eliminate odors in your boots. If you want a slightly more convenient method, consider buying this spray from Lumi or these antimicrobial inserts from Kaps.

Regardless of how you do it, getting rid of boot smell will let you get back to wearing your boots with pride.

Did you enjoy the article? How do you keep your boots smelling fresh? Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more handy boot wearing tips.  

FAQs

How do you deodorize waterproof boots?

Deodorizing waterproof boots is very easy. Simply spray the interior of the boots with a deodorizing spray like this one from Lumi and let it sit overnight. This will kill the bacteria in your boots and leave them smelling fresh.

How do I stop my feet from smelling in my boots?

One of the best ways to keep your feet from developing a funky smell in your boots is to wear moisture-wicking socks. These socks pull the sweat from your feet, keeping them from that dreaded foot smell. Antibacterial socks like the Kodal Copper Infused Athletic socks can help even further by killing bacteria.

What soap is best for smelly feet?

Soap for smelly feet needs to kill bacteria and fungus. This one from Derma-nu is a great option. It features tea tree oil that kills microbes while leaving your feet smelling fresh and clean.

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