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How to Clean Smelly Work Boots? – 4 Effective Methods

Fact checked by Andrew Carnegie

how to clean smelly work boots

Do your work boots retain a musty smell that won’t go away no matter what you do? You are not alone! Stinky work shoes are the problem of many boot wearers, especially during winters and rainy seasons.

So, how to clean smelly work boots? This article introduces four effective methods to help you get smell out of work boots. The best part is you only need simple household products for these procedures. Dive in!

Ways to Clean Smelly Work Boots

Method #1: Wash with soap and water


The number one tip to keep boots from stinking is to clean them immediately when they get wet or dirty. The longer you leave your shoes unwashed, the worse the odor will become.

So, if you got caught in the rain or accidentally spilled coffee on your shoes, quickly gather the following to wash and dry them:

  • Mild soap
  • Lukewarm water
  • Cloth or soft brush
  • Boot dryer (optional)

Follow these steps to get rid of odor in boots:

  1. Remove the laces and insoles of the shoes and wash them separately with soap and water.
  2. Pour a small amount of mild soap into a basin of lukewarm water.
  3. Dip a cloth or brush into the solution and use it to scrub the boots.
  4. Rinse the boots thoroughly with water.
  5. Use a towel to blot up any soap residue and absorb the excess moisture.
  6. Hang the pair in a well-ventilated area to dry.

If the boots still feel damp after a day, you should find a way to speed up the drying process. When your shoes stay wet for too long, bacteria and odor will grow. A boot dryer help with smell and will remove any lingering odor on your footwear. Follow this procedure:

  1. Place the shoes on the heat dissipation pipes.
  2. Put the device on high-temperature mode for 20 minutes.
  3. Switch the dryer to a medium-temperature mode for another 60 minutes.

Method #2: Deodorize with baking soda


Besides absorbing moisture, baking soda can neutralize the acids that come from your sweat and remove shoe odor. Plus, the powder doesn’t cause any skin allergies. So, this method will work for everyone.

All you need to prepare is some baking soda, one pair of socks, and essential oils of your liking.


Follow these steps to fix your stinky work boots:

  1. Sprinkle some baking soda on the inside of your boots.
  2. Let the powder sit overnight.
  3. Flip your shoes and shake off the baking soda.

The steps above work well for cloth shoes, but to clean stinky leather boots, it’s better to make baking soda sachets as this white powder can dry out leather if placed directly on the material:

  1. Fill two socks with baking soda and tie them with rubber bands.
  2. Add several drops of essential oils to the sachets.
  3. Put the sachets in your shoes.

Take these bags out when you need to wear your boots. You can also reuse the sachets and place them in your shoes daily. They will not only remove the lingering odor of sweat but also add a fresh scent to your footwear.

Method #3: Use a disinfecting spray


There are many high-quality disinfecting sprays for shoes, such as the 10-Seconds Shoe Deodorizer and Disinfectant, Footlogix Antifungal Spray, and Clear Gear Sports Spray.

If you have foot fungus, we recommend investing in a disinfecting spray. It is the ultimate work boot odor eliminator. Remember to choose the one that suits your footwear materials.


Follow these steps to stop boots from smelling with a disinfecting spray:

  1. Hold the bottle at the mouth of the shoe.
  2. Keep it in an upright position and spray three to four times, covering the inside and outside of the boot.
  3. Repeat the steps to the other shoe.
  4. Wait for the shoes to dry.

If you are not into commercial disinfectant sprays, you can make a DIY one with some simple household products. All you need are:

  • 70% isopropyl or rubbing alcohol
  • Clean water
  • Essential oils
  • A spray bottle

Alcohol is the main ingredient in hand sanitizer. It can kill up to 99% of bacteria within five to ten minutes. So, rest assured that this smelly boots remedy will effectively keep work boots from smelling. Here is how to mix the ingredients:

  1. Add one and a half cups of rubbing alcohol and ¾ cup of water to a spray bottle.
  2. Add 15 to 30 drops of essential oils.
  3. Tighten the bottle and shake it well.

Before you use any homemade solution on your boots, always do a spot test. The chemicals in alcohol and essential oils can damage and stain leather. So, spray a small amount of disinfectant on your shoes, wait for a few minutes, and wipe off the residue. If there isn’t any stain, you can proceed as instructed above.

Method #4: Use dryer sheets and essential oils



If you have dryer sheets or essential oils available at home, you can use them to get rid of the leather boots smell. Follow these steps:

  1. Each day when you come home from work, take off your shoes, untie the laces, bend the tongues away, and let them air out naturally.
  2. Before you go to bed, place a dryer sheet or drop some essential oil in each boot.

Dryer sheets and essential oils will get the smell out of work boots and infuse them with a fresh scent. Some essential oils can also remove germs and bacteria.

Remember to store your shoes in a dry and well-ventilated place to yield the best result from this method.



Why do my work boots smell?

The primary cause of stinky boots is foot sweat. Your skin contains bacteria, and the less frequently your feet are washed, the more bacteria they hold. These bacteria will mix with your sweat, imparting a musty scent to your boots.

Even if you wear socks, they won’t form an impenetrable barrier between your shoes and your skin.

You can’t stop your feet from sweating, but you can try one of the methods we mentioned to make boots not smell.

What makes the work boot smell so bad?

The thick materials of work boots tend to lock moisture and foot sweat in them. These allow microorganisms to grow in the fabric and cause a stinky smell. Work boots smell like cat pee if you don’t dry them properly after each use.

In addition, safety boots might get smelly more easily than regular shoes because you wear them daily, sometimes to perform demanding tasks like carrying heavy loads or climbing ladders.

How do you clean smelly steel toe boots?

The rule of thumb when cleaning steel toe boots is not to soak them in water as it can corrode the metal. You should clean them as follows:

  • Remove the shoes’ laces and insoles.
  • Make a mixture of soapy water and use the lather to scrub the boots.
  • Dampen a cloth and wipe off any soap residue.
  • Let the shoes dry naturally.

Remember to scrub the inside of the boots thoroughly because it is where most bacteria live.

When the boots are dry, you can take a step further to deodorize them. Simply sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda into each boot and let it sit overnight. Finally, shake off the powder, and your shoes are ready for the upcoming workday.

How do you clean smelly work shoes?

You can use one of the four methods we mentioned above to fix smelly boots:

  • Washing the shoes with soap and water and dry them properly
  • Sprinkling baking soda inside the shoes and leave them overnight to deodorize
  • Using a disinfecting spray to kill bacteria and germs
  • Inserting dryer sheets or adding a few drops of essential oil to refresh the shoes

You can also combine two methods to yield a better result.

How should you store work boots to prevent future odor?

Don’t just rip off your boots and throw them on the floor when you return home after a workday. Leaving your shoes in a humid area of the house (e.g., near the toilet door, on the porch, under the sink in the kitchen) will worsen their musty smell.

To prevent future odor, store your boots upside down in a dry and well-ventilated area to help them dry completely after each use. Avoid putting them in dark places and under direct sunlight.


How to clean smelly work boots? Sometimes, washing them with soap and drying them thoroughly are enough to get rid of the odor. But if you want to further deodorize and add a nice scent to your footwear, you can try baking soda, disinfectant sprays, dryer sheets, or essential oils.

Let us know the methods that work best for you in the comment section. Before you leave, don’t forget to share this article with a friend in need. Thank you for reading!

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