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How to Get Mildew Smell Out of Shoes: Detailed Guide

Mildew smell in shoes can be a nightmare to deal with. Not only does it leave a musty odour that lingers on your feet, but it can also cause discomfort and lead to fungal infections. Whether your shoes got wet or have been sitting in a damp closet for too long, the mildew smell needs to go. Fortunately, there are practical methods for removing the stink without throwing away your shoes. In this blog post, we'll explore various ways to help you say goodbye to the mildew smell in your shoes for good.

While dealing with unpleasant mildew odour, having waterproof shoes can be beneficial in preventing moisture buildup and reducing the chances of odour-causing bacteria growth. We design our Vessi waterproof shoes to keep moisture out, preventing water from seeping into the shoes and creating a damp environment that easily promotes mildew growth. By effectively repelling water, these shoes help minimize the risk of moisture accumulation and reduce the chances of developing a mildew smell. 

Additionally, the breathable and moisture-wicking properties of our Vessi shoes allow for proper ventilation, further inhibiting the development of odours. Nonetheless, even with waterproof shoes, regular cleaning and maintenance are required to guarantee excellent freshness and odour management.

Now let's get started on how to get mildew smell out of shoes!

What Causes Mildew Smell in Shoes?

Mildew smell is typical for those who wear shoes often, especially if you live in a humid area or wear your shoes for extended periods. The foul smell comes from mildew spores growing within the shoes. Mildew spores thrive in a moist environment, and footwear is the perfect place to grow, especially leather shoes.

Excess moisture is one of the most prevalent causes of mildew odour in shoes. Wet shoes from sweat or rain can cause a foul odour for days. If you don't allow your shoes to air dry properly, they can become a breeding ground for odour-causing bacteria.

Other things can cause the smell of mildew in shoes, such as not wearing socks, poorly ventilated shoes, and improper storage. Additionally, using soap residue or not following shoe-washing instructions can contribute to this problem.

If you have sweaty feet, taking care of your shoes is even more important. Without proper care, stinky shoes can be difficult to wear, leading to a self-conscious feeling in social situations.

Effective Home Remedies to Get Rid of Mildew Smell in Shoes

Effective Home Remedies to Get Rid of Mildew Smell in Shoes

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1. Baking soda

Baking soda is a versatile and effective remedy for eliminating the unpleasant musty odour from shoes. It works by absorbing moisture and neutralizing odours.


  1. Sprinkle a sufficient amount of baking soda inside the shoes, ensuring all areas are covered.

  2. Leave the baking soda in the shoes overnight, allowing it to absorb the odour.

  3. Shake out the excess baking soda and use a soft brush to remove any residue.

  4. Repeat the process as needed until the smell is gone.

2. White vinegar

Due to its acidity, white distilled vinegar is an organic disinfectant and deodorizer which can assist in the eradication of mildew shoe odour.


  1. Add water and white distilled vinegar in equal amounts to a spray bottle.

  2. Spray the insides of the stinky shoes completely and set them aside for 15 minutes.

  3. To remove the vinegar solution, wipe the inside of the shoes with a clean towel.

  4. Dry the shoes entirely in a well-ventilated environment.

  5. Repeat the process if necessary.

3. Tea tree oil

This oil's antifungal and antibacterial qualities can help get rid of mildew and keep your shoes smell-free. It offers a strong aroma which can help disguise mildew odour while eliminating the germs that caused it.


  1. Combine a few drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle with water.

  2. Shake well to combine the ingredients.

  3. Spray the liquid inside the shoes and allow it to air dry.

  4. Repeat the process regularly to prevent the recurrence of musty smells.

4. Sunlight and fresh air

Mildew thrives in damp environments, so exposing your shoes to sunlight and fresh air can help kill the odour-causing bacteria.


  1. Place the shoes in direct sun for a few hours.

  2. Allow fresh air to circulate around the smelly shoes by keeping them in a well-ventilated area.

  3. The combination of sunlight and fresh air helps to dry out the shoes and kill bacteria, reducing the mildew smell.

5. Charcoal

Activated charcoal is highly effective at absorbing and neutralizing odours.


  1. Place a few pieces of activated charcoal inside each shoe.

  2. Leave the charcoal in the shoes for at least 24 hours.

  3. Remove the charcoal and discard it.

6. Freezing

Freezing can kill the mildew and eliminate the odour.


  1. Put your shoes in a sealable plastic bag in the freezer overnight.

  2. Remove the shoes from the freezer the next day and allow them to thaw at room temperature.

  3. Once thawed, air them out to remove any remaining odour.

Using Commercial Products to Remove Mildew Smell in Shoes

Using Commercial Products to Remove Mildew Smell in Shoe


1. Odour-eliminating sprays

Different sprays on the market may remove odour from shoes. They work by breaking down the bacteria which cause the odour, leaving your shoes smelling fresh and clean. Simply spray the product directly inside your shoes, let it dry completely for a couple of hours, and enjoy the results.

2. Moisture-absorbing products

Another effective way to remove the mildew smell from shoes is using moisture-absorbing products like silica gel sachets or activated charcoal. These products work by absorbing excess moisture, which can help prevent bacteria and mildew growth in your shoes. Simply place the sachet or charcoal bag inside your shoes overnight, and let it work its magic.

3. Odour-neutralizing insoles

Some shoe insoles are designed to neutralize odours and do not develop odour-causing bacteria in the first place. These insoles often contain activated carbon or other odour-fighting materials. They're a great option for those frequently wearing shoes prone to mildew or other foul odours.

4. Shoe deodorizers

Several companies offer shoe deodorizers designed for direct insertion into your shoes. These deodorizers often incorporate essential oils or other natural ingredients which help to combat odours effectively and safely, providing a convenient solution to eliminate mildew smell. Insert the deodorizer into your mildew-affected shoes overnight, and in the morning, you'll discover your pair of shoes smells fresh and revitalized.

5. Commercial odour removers

Finally, a variety of commercial odour removers available on the market can eliminate the mildew smell from your shoes. These products work by neutralizing odour-causing bacteria, leaving your shoes smelling fresh and clean. Still, follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully, as some products can damage certain materials like leather or suede.

Mildew Prevention Tips

Mildew Prevention Tips

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To prevent the recurrence of a mildew smell in your shoes, consider implementing the following tips:

  • Maintain proper shoe hygiene: Dirt and dust can create a moist environment in shoes, leading to mildew growth. Regularly washing your sneakers with warm soapy water and a soft cloth can help prevent mildew spores from forming.

  • Ensure proper drying: After wearing your shoes, allow them to dry completely before storing them. Wet shoes are a breeding ground for mildew, so it is essential to keep them completely dry. Avoid wearing wet shoes or storing them in plastic bags. Instead, air-dry them in a well-ventilated area or under direct sunlight.

  • Use a natural moisture absorber: Moisture-absorbing materials, such as kitty litter or silica gel sachets, can help to remove excess moisture from shoes. Place them inside the shoes overnight or for a few hours to absorb moisture and prevent mildew.

  • Rotate your shoes: Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day. Rotating your footwear allows them to dry out completely between wears and reduces the likelihood of mildew formation.

  • Choose breathable materials: Opt for leather, canvas, or mesh shoes. These materials allow air circulation, preventing moisture buildup and potential mildew growth.

  • Store shoes in a dry environment: Select a well-ventilated dry storage area. Avoid storing shoes in damp basements or humid closets, as these conditions can promote mildew growth. Consider using shoe racks or shelves to keep them organized and properly aired.

  • Treat shoes with antifungal sprays: Use antifungal sprays designed for shoes to help prevent the growth of mould and mildew. These sprays typically contain ingredients which can inhibit fungal growth and minimize odours.

  • Essential oils: Oils, such as tea tree oil, can help kill odour-causing bacteria in shoes. Simply spritz the inside of the shoes with a spray can with water and a few drops of your preferred essential oil.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS) on Getting Mildew Smell Out of Shoes

1. What kills the smell of mildew?

To effectively eliminate the smell of mildew, you can use various solutions. Vinegar is a natural and effective option; mix equal vinegar and water, apply it to the affected area, and let it sit for a few hours before rinsing. Baking soda also works well; sprinkle it over the mildewy surface, let it sit overnight, and then vacuum it up.

2. Does mildew smell ever go away?

Yes, the smell of mildew can go away with proper treatment and remediation. By addressing the source of moisture, thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the affected area, and ensuring proper ventilation, you can eliminate mildew and its associated odour. Prompt action is crucial to prevent further growth and spreading of mildew, which can help ensure the smell dissipates over time.

3. Is mildew smell in shoes a sign of a health concern?

Bacteria and fungi growth primarily causes the mildew smell and is not necessarily a direct health concern. Still, prolonged exposure to mildew and the associated allergens may cause or worsen respiratory issues or allergies in some individuals. To maintain a healthy and comfortable shoe environment, addressing the problem promptly is critical.

4. How do you get rid of bad smells in shoes fast?

You can try a few methods to eliminate bad smells from shoes. Sprinkle baking soda inside the shoes and let them sit overnight to absorb odours. Alternatively, you can use activated charcoal sachets or dryer sheets to neutralize the smell. Additionally, ensuring proper ventilation and allowing the shoes to air out in sunlight can help reduce odours.

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