How to Disinfect Shoes – Easy and Cheap Methods

By Dimi | Tips

Shoes or boots which we wear on a daily basis definitely need to be disinfected periodically in order to keep the feet healthy, odor and fungus free, and in order to prolong the longevity of the footwear. Wearing shoes for hours will cause perspiration of the feet, which makes them prone to the formation of bacteria and nauseating odors.

You can easily avoid this, and make sure your shoes are fresh and safe to wear by taking the following simple steps to disinfect them:


Things you will need:

water, mild laundry detergent, white vinegar, baking soda, bleach spray, rubbing alcohol, anti-fungal spray, a sponge or towel, a plastic bag, a freezer, a steamer and a washing machine.

Methods how to disinfect shoes:

Always start with the insoles

Insoles are the part of your shoes which absorb the most perspiration and are most likely to start growing microbes and emitting foul odor if left soaking in sweat inside the shoes. Remove the insoles and wash them with laundry detergent and warm water. Use a sponge to scrub off any stains and dirt. Rinse them off and let them dry naturally and completely before you place them back inside the shoes. If after this the insoles still have a bad smell, you can further treat them by powdering them with baking soda generously, placing them in a plastic bag and letting them sit in your freezer overnight. On the next morning, the odor should be gone. Once again, if you still can sense the nasty smell, you can also try soaking them in a mixture of lukewarm water and distilled white vinegar for a few hours, after which you should wash them with laundry detergent and rinse them our so that the vinegar smell is removed. Again, always let the insoles dry before placing them back into your boots.

Disinfection method 1 – Freezer and mild detergernt

To disinfect the shoes themselves, make sure you remove the insoles, clean the shoes from any dust, dirt or other residues with the help of a cloth and mild detergent and water and let them dry. After they are dry, place them in a sealable plastic bag and put them into your freezer. Let them stay there overnight. The extreme cold temperature will kill of bacteria. In the morning, remove them from the bag and let them dry and thaw outside if the weather is hot. Heat too helps kill of the harmful bacteria. Make sure you don’t leave your shoes, especially if they are leather under the direct sunlight for long, as they will dry up and can crack from the heat. Keep them at a safe distance from direct heat sources too.

Disinfection method 2 – Washing machine

Wash your running, walking or crossfit shoes and insoles in your washing machine. Remove the laces and insoles and place each shoe in a pillow case, so as to avoid them banging on and possibly damaging your washing machine drum. Wash them at 40 to 50 degrees, and if necessary wash them once again at the same temperature in order to remove the foul smell. Let the shoes, insoles and laces dry off by placing them in a well aerated area, but not directly under the strong sunlight or near a heat source to prevent them from getting deformed, cracked and damaged by the excessive heat. Just remember:

  • use a short washing cycle
  • remove as much mud as you can beforehand
  • to avoid banging throw in an old towel with the shoes

If your shoes can be washed safely at higher temperatures, you can disinfect them by washing them at 60 degrees Celsius in order to eliminate any bacteria growing in them, and to refresh them.

Disinfection method 3 – Dryer

Steaming in a dryer or with a steam machine is perfect for removing unwanted germs. Make sure you footwear can handle the high temperatures before you proceed. Read the instructions by the manufacturer just to make sure that you do not damage your shoes before steaming them!

Disinfection method 4 – rubbing alcohol plus bleach

Treating your shoes with rubbing alcohol or bleach spray is a highly efficient way to get rid of the germs and smells from your footwear. Soak the inside and outside of the shoes with enough rubbing alcohol in order to ensure that all germs are killed. Let the shoes dry in a place where there is sufficient air circulation, but again keep them away from direct sunlight and other strong heat sources in order to prevent damaging them.

Another method includes using a mixture of water and some bleach in a spray bottle. Apply the bleach to the inside of the shoes and if necessary – on the outside as well. The bleach will eliminate all bacteria. Before using this method for disinfection, test the spray on an inconspicuous part of the shoes and watch for discoloration or another negative reaction so that you don’t damage your shoes with the bleach.

Special anti-fungal shoe spray can also be used for killing the microbes and fungus. This specialized product will help remove the nasty odors and will prevent the development of athlete’s foot in your shoes.

In conclusion

To prolong the shelf life of your shoes and to prevent them from growing harmful microbes, fungus and nasty smells, you need to take care to clean and disinfect them on a regular basis. Make sure you always remove the insoles of your shoes when you take them off and let them and the shoes themselves dry and air out completely before wearing them again. Clean your shoes and use one or more of the methods for disinfection listed above and you will be able to wear them comfortably for a longer period of time without risk of harming your feet.

Never have smelly shoes again by taking these easy steps to keep them clean and safe at all times!