How to Get Mildew Smell out Of Tennis Shoes

We get it, you go hard on the pavement and the last thing you want to worry about is that mildew smell that can start to taunt you after some use.

There are a few different techniques that we’ll go through as well as our top tips for preventing the mildew smell, to begin with.

The Mildew Smell Just Started in My Tennis Shoes

The good news is that if you’ve just noticed it and it’s not full-blown stench yet, a little baking soda is all you likely need.

Start out by giving the tennis shoes a good dusting of baking soda inside. You might have to remove the laces, if the tongue of the shoe is too narrow or tight.

Allow the shoes to then air out, preferably somewhere warm and dry, like the driveway or back patio.

Once the shoes are completely dry, you’ll want to perform one more dusting with the baking soda and run them through the washing machine on a gentle cycle. Add a half cup of white vinegar and add 2 or 3 towels, as to not throw the load off balance.

Finally, take the freshly washed tennis shoes out and let them sit again somewhere dry and warm overnight. Once they’ve completed their air dry, the odor from the shoes should be faint or gone.

Smelly shoes no more!

My Shoes Have Serious Stench

Not to worry if your tennis shoes have a strong unpleasant odor. You’re going to run through the same section above with one exception; a pretreatment using white vinegar.

The root of most foul odors in footwear is fungus and bacteria and vinegar is a great common household ingredient that gets rid of both.

Once the germs have had their day, the smell will subside and you can move on to preventing that mildew smell, to begin with.

Mix 2 cups of vinegar with a pint of water into gallon ziplock bags, one for each shoe. Let them soak overnight in the solution, being sure the inside of the shoe stays wet.

Once you run them through the wash as noted above, take the shoes and let them air dry.

If there’s no moisture in the shoes from what you can tell, perform a dusting of baking soda inside and let them sit overnight, somewhere dry and warm.

Additional Tips for Sneakers with Mildew Smell

We realize that not everybody lives in a dry, warm climate. Perhaps it’s the middle of winter where you’re at. Shoes need not fret.

Let’s go through a few different ways you can approach our ‘get rid of the odor’ techniques.

Kitty Litter vs Mildew

Perhaps it’s not hot outside or it’s humid, both of which only lend to more odor problems for shoes.

After you clean your shoes and you’re ready for the drying phase, go ahead and fill the inside of the shoe with kitty litter.

Wait overnight and proceed to check your tennis shoes for moisture and odor. If there’s any moisture at all, fill with fresh kitty litter and wait longer.

Once completely dry, you’re ready for a dousing of baking soda to help keep your shoes fresh and ready for their next use.

No Washing Machine for Your Shoes?

Some people don’t have easy access to a washing machine, shoes need not worry!

Rubbing alcohol is a great way to clean the exterior of a tennis shoe. It works well with most fabrics including leather. Not only will it wash, but help to kill any surface bacteria or fungus contributing to that mildew smell.

After the outside of the shoes has had a good cleaning, soak the inside with vinegar using gallon ziplock bags overnight. This is a great way to get rid of the odor.

Allow the shoes to dry, ensuring they’re not damp even in the slightest, including the insoles.

Go ahead and give the inside of the shoes a nice dusting of baking soda, ensuring they stay dry and you should have no issue getting rid of any smell.

Preventing Any Smells or Odors Inside Your Tennis Shoes

Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to get rid of any smell or odor inside your sneakers in the first place? Of course it would!

Stick to the following tips to keep your shoes their best and odor-free.

Keep Your Shoes Clean

Get rid of any dirt or grime that collects on the outside of the shoe with rubbing alcohol. Use a disinfecting spray or powder in between uses to kill odor before it has a chance to begin [1].

Keep Your Shoes Dry

Sweaty, moist feet are the reason bacteria and fungus begin breeding within shoes, to begin with.

Smell them between uses so you can take action at the first sign of any odor.

Keeping your shoes dry inside, means keeping your feet as dry as possible. Wear athletic socks that dissipate heat and wick moisture to keep that mildew smell away.

If your shoes get a soak with rainwater or anything else, be sure to dry them as quickly as possible. Stinky shoes love damp conditions.

Overall Foot Health

If you happen to be suffering from any ailments of the feet such as athlete’s foot, you’re going to need to pay extra attention to the tip and insoles within the shoe.

A foot spray or powder is a great idea before and after each use. Not only should you wear socks as we just mentioned, but use a drying, antifungal powder inside the sock before you wear it.

Wrapping Up

There are a number of headaches our shoes can give us when it comes to using them hard and often.

We hope you found a tip particularly helpful in helping to get rid of any smell or odor that might be coming from your shoes.

Remember that mildew odor, in particular, comes from fungus, which thrives on moisture. Its enemies are things like vinegar.

Keep the feet dry. Keep the feet clean. Keep the shoes clean.

Mildew smell be gone!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do You Recommend Any Feet Products that Help Prevent Mildew Odors Specifically?

Vinegar and baking soda are enough to do the job for most folks.

We do not like to recommend ointments and creams unless absolutely necessary, such as for those with ailments of the feet. If your feet are unhealthy in general, we recommend seeking a dermatologist.

Q: I Have a Tip You Didn’t Mention to Help Fight Nasty Mildew Smells!

Nobody likes to wear smelly shoes. If you have a solution to completely eliminate stinky shoes, we’d love to add it to our tips.



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