How to Get Mildew Smell out of Shoes – 12 Professional Tips

Mildew forms mostly in damp and warm places and there’s no better environment than the inside of your shoe. Mildew shoes usually have a foul odor. This odor is different from shoe odor caused by perspiration, but it is just as bad.

If your shoes stay damp for a long time, mildew can form and smell. Of course, you don’t want to be walking around in smelly shoes. Not only is it embarrassing but can also lead to issues with the skin on your feet.

For ways on how to get the mildew smell out of shoes, stay on this page. Today, we will be looking at some of the steps you can follow to keep mildew from developing or to get rid of the mildew smell in shoes.

Remove Mildew Smell from Shoes

Mildew is a fungus, and to get rid of the odor that usually comes with it, you need to kill that fungus. Not only do you need to kill that fungus, but you also need to make sure that you remove moisture from your shoe to stop mildew from forming again.

However, if mildew is already present on your shoes and they smell horrible, try these simple tips to get rid of the mildew smell.

  1. Wash the shoes.
  2. Sprinkle the shoes with baking soda.
  3. Stuff shoe with newspaper.
  4. Try charcoal briquettes in an old sock.
  5. Use vinegar.
  6. Put fruit peels inside the shoes.
  7. Use Kitty litter.
  8. Spray with tea tree oil and water solution.
  9. Stick shoes in the freezer.
  10. Put tea bags in the shoes.
  11. Lay the shoes out in the sun if possible.
  12. Dry the shoes in the oven.

Wash the Shoes

Read the manufacturer’s manual for washing instructions or check under the tongue or inside the shoes for the care label. If the shoes aren’t machine washable do this:

  1. Soak them in a small tub of warm soapy water for five to 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the shoes and wash away the soapy residue with clean water.
  3. Leave the shoes in a well-ventilated area for at least 24 hours to air dry.

Of course, you can’t wash leather shoes this way. To get musty smells out of leather shoes, do this instead:

  1. Mix one part of rubbing alcohol with one part of water.
  2. Take a clean, soft cloth and soak it in the solution.
  3. Wipe the surface of the shoes clean.
  4. Leave the shoe to air dry and when it’s completely dried, apply a leather conditioner.

How to Get Rid of Damp Smell in Shoes with Baking Soda

Baking soda is a classic deodorizer and can be used in almost any situation to get rid of odors.

  1. Sprinkle about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of baking soda inside the shoes.
  2. Leave the baking soda in the shoes overnight and it should absorb that damp mildew odor.

Stuffing Shoe with Newspaper

In cases where you’re dealing with extremely wet shoes, newspapers can come in handy.

  1. Crumple some newspaper and stuff them inside the shoe.
  2. Leave the shoes for a couple of hours and replace wet newspaper with dry ones until the shoes are completely dried.

Trying Charcoal Briquettes in an old Sock

Charcoal briquettes can be used to remove moisture and odor from your home, so why not try them to remove the mildew smell from your shoes?

  1. Fill an old pair of socks with a couple of charcoal briquettes.
  2. Place the sock inside the shoes and leave overnight. This should absorb any excess moisture and odor in your shoe.

Using Vinegar

Vinegar is an effective fungicide that kills odor-causing organisms.  However, skip this method if you have leather shoes since vinegar destroys leather.

  1. Fill a spray bottle with some white distilled vinegar.
  2. Spray the shoes until it’s fully covered with vinegar.
  3. Set them aside to dry fully.

Putting Fruit Peels inside the Shoes

If you want to take an all-natural approach to get rid of the mildew smell from shoes, then there’s no better way than using some fruit peels.

  1. Save the peels from oranges, grapefruits, or lemons.
  2. Place the fruit peel inside the shoes.
  3. Let them sit overnight and the foul odor should be gone and replaced with a fresh smell.

Using Kitty Litter

Kitty litter can also be used as a deodorizer since it already works to absorb moisture and smells.

  1. Take an old pair of socks and fill them with some kitty litter.
  2. Place them in the shoes
  3. Leave them in overnight and the foul smell should be absorbed by the litter.

Spraying Shoes with Tea Tree Oil and Water Solution

Tea tree oil contains compounds that fight odor-causing bacteria and forms a simple solution with water that works wonders.

  1. Mix two teaspoons of tea tree oil with two cups of water.
  2. Fill a spray bottle with this solution and spray the smelly shoes.
  3. Put the shoes aside and let them dry

Spraying Shoes with Tea Tree Oil and Water Solution

Sticking Shoes in the Freezer

One of the easiest ways to get rid of mildew stains from shoes is to stick them in the freezer.

  1. Put shoes in a big enough Ziplock bag or place them in individual bags.
  2. Stick them in the freezer and leave them there for 24 hours.
  3. Place them in a well-ventilated and slightly sunny area to thaw and dry.

Putting Teabags in Shoes

Using teabags is also an easy way to deodorize shoes.

  1. Take a few teabags and stick them inside your shoes.
  2. Leave them in for a few hours or until you’re ready to wear your shoes again.

Laying Shoes out in the Sun

You can try laying the shoes out in the sun but be very careful with this method as the heat from the sun can warp the soles of your shoes. If you are going to be using this method, be sure to check on the shoes every hour to make sure that no damage is occurring. Do not try this method with leather shoes.

  1. Remove the laces and open the shoes as much as possible.
  2. Lay the shoes out in a sunny area and check on them every hour.
  3. If the sun does not affect any of the materials, you can leave the shoes for a few hours and the smell should go away.

Drying shoes in the oven

As a last resort, you can dry your shoes in the oven, but you need to be very careful if trying this method. This is because you run the risk of damaging your shoes as parts can melt or burst and glued parts can become separated.

  • Set the oven temperature to 100-120° degrees C (210-250° F)
  • Place your shoes in, leaving the heating elements off and using the fan-forced setting.
  • Leave the door open and check the shoes after 5 minutes.


There you have a few ways of removing mildew smells from shoes. The best thing to make sure your shoes always smell fresh is to get rid of any moisture in them.

For moldy shoes, read this guide on how to clean mold off shoes.

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