I have basketball shoes that have a putrid smell and I can barely stand it. Besides the smell, the shoes are in pretty good shape and I hope to keep them a bit longer.

So far I have tried washing the shoes, which helped for about 2 hours before the shoes started smelling again, putting tea bags in my shoes (a hack I found online), but that did nothing to get rid of the stench, and using car fresheners, but that didn't do anything either.

Is there anything else I can try to get rid of the stench that wouldn't damage the shoe?

  • 1
    I spray mine with Febreeze when I get home after sweating a lot Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 4:09
  • 1
    I'm not sure how washing and then drying the shoes wouldn't help a lot if you haven't washed them in a while. Did you forget to put laundry detergent in? Maybe you could try wearing two pairs of socks, to possibly help keep the sweat more at bay. Or leave the shows on the porch to get fresh air after using them.
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 4:31
  • @Sompuperoo Washing them was my first idea, and I was surprised when it didn't work. In fact, I tried it a few times, but it never worked.
    – michaelpri
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 4:33
  • This isn't exactly a hack, but spray your feet with anti perspirant before wearing the trainers to prevent the problem in the first place, specially if you rewash them. There are also deodorising sprays meant specifically for spraying inside the shoe just before putting them on (odoreaters foot and shoe spray for instance).
    – Bamboo
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 13:12
  • Dupe lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/7872/…
    – giorgio79
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:48

7 Answers 7


Try the cheapest alcohol gel you can find (hand sanitizer from the 99 cent store)

That will kill the bacteria in an instant, instead of just masking their smell

I use it on all sorts of clothing when washing is not an immediate option, and never had any problems with dye fading, or anything like that...

  • @ dwilbank wouldn't alcohol damage the leather (I'm guessing that it is leather sneakers) Commented May 11, 2015 at 9:20
  • I bet it would. Never thought about sneakers being leather. But the inside rubber/foam footpad is where I concentrate my alcohol anyway.
    – dwilbank
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 14:55
  • I'm asking this because I have the same problem. I have tried many things and I managed to get to the smell out of the footpad, but the real problem is that the leather soaks the smell and that's something that I can't figure out. Commented May 12, 2015 at 7:54
  • Don't know for sure then. according to this, army folk use alcohol... ask.metafilter.com/181899/…
    – dwilbank
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 13:31
  • UV light. Check this out. Then go buy a UV bulb. youtube.com/…
    – dwilbank
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 4:18

I heard that sticking it into the freezer for an hour or so will help kill the bacteria. I wouldn't recommend doing so if your shoes didn't dried off completely.

Warning: do not microwave your shoes!

  • What does microwaving your shoe have to do with freezing it? Also microwaving shoes is completely fine unless there's metal on it Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 16:04
  • 1
    @ZachSaucier The shoes have metal around the holes where you put the shoelaces. And if you freeze the shoe, and you want to use it quickly, you will be tempted to stuff it in a hot place. The microwave is the "easiest" place and the first that some might think to use. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 16:46
  • I wouldn't consider microwaving shows "completely fine", especially at the rate most modern shoes contain large amounts of plastic.
    – Seth
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 3:45
  • @Seth Some people just want some quick drying action. You never know what someone will try. There's people doing that weid challenge! Commented May 11, 2015 at 4:21

You can use baking soda to dry out the inside of the shoe and neutralize the smell. Just sprinkle a bit inside the shoe and it will work in a few hours.

It's the same principle as removing odors from a fridge.

You can also use the gold bond foot powder stuff that's supposed to prevent athlete's foot. It's pretty much the same thing as baking soda.

This should be perfectly safe for your sneakers, but I wouldn't use it on shoes made of real leather. I think the leather might crack if it dries out too much from the powder.


Wash the shoes in chlorhexidine surgical scrub disinfectant. The brand called Hibiclens is common. (WalMart has it.) You need to bump off the evil smelling bacteria you're carrying. Wash your feet with it and Use it on your armpits too and that can remove odors there, as well.


Use baby powder! It will keep the shoes dry and prevent bacteria from growing as well as provide a nice deodorant. Several of my basketball mates used it.


Try packing your shoes with newspaper and leave it in there for 2 or 3 days and then remove the newspaper... Then, if u can, put them in direct sunlight for about 3-4 days but make sure when u do - remove the laces and pull the tongue of the shoe as open as u can exposing the shoe to as much sunlight as possible. Oh and if u hadn't already, rip out the in-soles and replace them with new ones


Your previous attempts have failed because they haven't actually killed the bacteria.

The alcohol method will work however I have found freezing them over night, let them thaw out. You can then wash them after this process if necessary.

It's very important that they are 100% dry before freezing otherwise you risk damaging your shoes.

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