How to Clean Stinky Boots: 5 Simple Hacks to Stop the Smell, Now

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by  Jon Wadsworth | Last Updated: 
stinky boots

We’ve all been there, in the locker room, getting changed after a long day at work—suddenly, everyone flinches, and noses wrinkle. 

What’s that horrendous stink? 

You know it’s your boots, and so will everyone else pretty soon.

My immediate reply when I’d been found out was always, “it’s because I work hard; you should try it sometime!” but I needed a solution to fix the odors coming from my work boots. 

Well, through a lot of trial and error I’ve found the answer. Here are five of the best ways to clean stinky boots, starting with the quickest way.

What You’ll Need to Clean Stinky Work Boots

Depending on which of my uber-hacks you choose, you may need to source a few ingredients or appliances. Thankfully, most of what you’ll need to clean up stinky boots you’ll have at hand in the home. 

For the few specialist items on our list, I’ll show you exactly which ones I use and why I use them.

What you’ll need:

  • Deodorizing spray.
  • Baking soda.
  • Warm, soapy water.
  • A clean cloth
  • A spare sock.
  • Shoe Deodorizer balls.
  • A boot dryer
  • Antimicrobial insoles

5 Hacks to Clean Stinky Boots Fast and Easy

Hack #1: Spray That Smell Away

Clever hacks involving a coat hanger, two lemons, and a piece of chewing gum are all outstanding, but when you’re at work, you need to solve a problem quickly and easily. The best choice I’ve found is to use a deodorizing spray such as Mountain Top Organic Shoe Odor Buster Spray.

Mountain Top Organic Shoe Odor Buster Spray

Sometimes great things really do come in small packages. Mountain Top Organic Odor buster fits easily into your bag and destroys foul odors pretty well indeed. At only 8oz, it’s small enough not to get in the way, but powerful enough to quickly do the job.

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I feel silly telling you how to spray your boots after work, but there are a few tricks to bear in mind:

Step 1: Open Up the Laces and Spread Your Boots.

I’ve always found that the more air I can get into my boots, the better they smell. So before sticking my Mountain Top Odor Buster in and spraying, I loosen the laces, pull the boots as wide as possible, and bring the tongue forward.

Step 2: Bust that Odor!

You don’t have to spray for all you’re worth. Just a few well-aimed squeezes will have your boots smelling like summer. Make sure you get down to the toe box—spraying the heel area won’t be enough. Spray the toe box area, the insole, and the heel of each boot.

Step 3: Leave your Boots to Breathe

Let the spray soak into your boots for a while and allow the air to circulate inside. If you’re applying the deodorizing spray after you’re done for the day, you’ll be able to put them on tomorrow with them smelling great.

If you’re spraying before you put your boots on for the day, give them a few minutes to breathe so that the spray can soak into the insole and upper of your boots. And that’s it, your boots have a minty fresh smell, and your colleagues will have to find something else to turn their noses up at.

Hack #2: The Lazy Way with Deodorizer Balls

Deodorizing spray is the fastest way to remove the stink from your boots, but there’s an even lazier way to destroy unwanted smells—deodorizer balls. If you’ve not come across them before, these little balls of delightful magic are self-contained air fresheners for your footwear.

My favorites are the Sufuny Shoe Deodorizer Balls, which come in soccer, basketball, and tennis ball styles. Sports theme aside, these deodorizer balls are great as they’re hard to lose, due to their unique look and bright color, and can be quickly activated or deactivated when needed. . 

Using deodorizer balls is as easy as throwing a football:

Sufuny Shoe Deodorizer Balls

Compact, reusable, and full of freshness, Sufuny Shoe Deodorizer Balls are the ideal “fire and forget” answer to smelly boots. They’re one of the easiest we’ve found to use—simply twist, drop, and leave overnight.

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Step 1: Twist to Release the Scent

Each deodorizing ball is a self-contained plastic ball filled with a stink-destroying scent. Activating the ball is as easy as twisting it to open it slightly. 

Once you’ve twisted the ball open and finished using it, it’s simply a case of twisting it back shut, ready for the next time you use it.

Step 2: Place a Deodorizing Ball in Each Boot

Once activated, a deodorizing ball will immediately start releasing its scent, so your next step is to place one in each boot. The smell from your boots will slowly fade, though you’ll need to leave the balls in your boots overnight. 

Step 3: Remove and Close Your Deodorizing Ball

When you’re heading to work the following day, take out the deodorizing balls, re-twist them to close them, and they’ll be ready to use again the next time you need them. 

Each pack of Sufuny Shoe Deodorizing balls has six balls, and you can use each multiple times. I find the advantage of using deodorizing balls over a spray is that they’ll keep the smell away for longer. Spraying is definitely a quicker fix, but deodorizing balls are the business for ease of use and effort.

Hack #3: Baking Soda For the Win

Everyone’s heard of at least one home remedy that seems a bit too far-fetched to be true. Like that flat-earther friend who thinks vinegar and mushrooms cures gout, for instance. One hack that I do know to be accurate, however, is the baking soda trick.

If you’ve never heard of it, here’s how it goes:

Step 1: Fill A Clean Sock With Baking Soda

A clean sock isn’t a prerequisite—you can just as easily pour baking soda into each of your boots. But if you’re a neat freak, putting the baking soda into a pair of clean socks and then placing the socks inside your boots will save you vacuuming them out every time.

Step 2: Pack Your Boot Out

The good thing about using a sock full of baking soda is that you’ll be able to pack your boot right to the end of the toe box. Place the baking soda socks (trademarked, hands off) into your boots and then leave them overnight.

The baking soda will kill the acidity from your sweat, and it’s that acidic goodness that bacteria love to feast on. The baking soda will literally absorb everything that bacteria eat. As the stink from your boots is the smell that bacteria secrete—no food, no bacteria, no smell.

Step 3: Remove the Socks or Vacuum Your Boots

After a night in your boots, the baking soda will have eliminated the smell and left nothing for bacteria to enjoy, leaving your boots smelling almost new. There’s obviously no minty scent, but there’s no nasty pong either.

Remove the baking soda socks, or get a vacuum and vacuum out the baking soda that you sprinkled into your boots. You’ll have to repeat the entire process every few weeks just to keep the acidity from your boots, but for the minutes it takes to prepare, the baking soda hack is a great homemade remedy for stinky boots.

Hack #4: Anti Odor Insoles to Prevent Smells

I’ve touched on three great fixes for smelly boots, but what about a way to prevent the smell in the first place? For that, you’ll need something that can remain in your boots even when you’ve got them on. 

I don’t recommend baking soda, and deodorizing balls feel a lot worse than a stone in your shoe, so I recommend Kaps Anti Odour Shoe Insoles—because sometimes prevention is better than the cure.

I wear Kaps insoles in my sneakers and work boots and don’t even notice they’re there. The charcoal layer inside acts as a sponge for sweat, which means there’s nothing for bacteria to munch on. If time is a factor, or you’re just forgetful, insoles are a great option.

Kaps Anti Odour Shoe Insoles

Kaps Anti Odor Insoles not only feel comfortable—they’ll let your feet breathe more easily. Most insoles are designed to only support and cushion your feet, while Kaps uses a charcoal lining to really fight odors as well as keep your feet comfortable.

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Step 1: Cut the Insole to Size

Kaps Anti Odor Shoe Insoles should fit almost any boot, especially as they’re cut to size. Test one inside your boot, and trim it down to size if it’s pushing past the sole of your boot. 

Use the one that you’ve trimmed as a stencil for the other insole, and you’ll not even notice you’ve got them inside your boots.

Step 2: Wear Your Boots For a Day

Even after cutting your insoles, it’s worth making sure they’ll remain comfortable. I’d advise wearing your work boots for the day with the anti-odor inserts in, and if you feel any discomfort, trim them down a little more.

Trim the insoles in small stages—if you cut too much off, you’ll feel the gap between the insole and the edge of your boot, which can cause blisters. Luckily, Kaps insoles come as a pack of six, so even if you botch the trimming job, you’ll have a few more pairs to play with.

Step 3: Say Goodbye to Smelly Boots

With nothing for bacteria to stay for, your boots will be noticeably fresher when you take them off. Store your boots somewhere cool and dry at night to minimize any chance of bacteria looking for somewhere warm and moist to live, and you’re good to go.

Hack #5: Moisture-Absorbing Socks

CCM Lightweight Socks Lifestyle 4
My secret weapon against smelly boots—the Camel City Mill Lightweight Wool Work Socks

Sadly, the best way to keep your boots smelling fresh is to avoid wearing them. It’s your smelly man-feet that is bringing the sweat, skin, and heat that bacteria love. Yeah, it’s not the ideal solution.

An ideal solution is to minimize the amount of sweat you leave inside your boots—and that’s where moisture-wicking socks come in. 

A pair of lightweight boot socks like the Camel City Mill Lightweights will massively reduce the amount of moisture left inside your boots. These from CCM aren’t cheap, but they’re backed by a decade guarantee and they’re a super breathable, durable sock that will help you reduce the sweat and thus, the stink.

I won’t tell you how to put a pair of socks on, but these tips will increase your chances of keeping your feet and boots smelling fresh:

Camel City Mill Lightweight Wool Work Sock

Made with Ironside Merino wool, these work socks feature compression through the calf which promotes better bloodflow and helps your feet recover after a long day. Plus, because they're Merino wool, they're breathable and completely knock out foot-sweat.

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Step 1: Wash Your Socks Daily

We’ve all done it—wearing a pair of socks for two days in a row after doing the sniff test. I don’t advise it with the Dickies moisture control sock, as they really do absorb a lot more sweat. 

They do that to keep your boots smelling better, so pushing those socks back into your boots tomorrow just increases the chance of them smelling.

Step 2: Remove Your Boots When Not Working

Letting your feet and your boots get as much air as possible is always a good idea, so don’t wear them for any longer than necessary. I often catch myself stomping around the house in my work boots for hours after work, too lazy or forgetful to take them off.

Let your feet breathe, and minimize the time your boots are in contact with hot, sweaty feet.

Step 3: Consider the Addition of Insoles

Moisture-wicking socks combined with a pair of anti-odor insoles is an awesome combo—you’re making life miserable for bacteria and making your boots and feet much happier. 

Your workmates will thank you, too. No one ever says your boots smell like something crawled inside and died. Dickies Dri-Tech socks sat on top of Kaps anti-odor insoles? Yes, please.

Fresh Smelling Boots

I’m a big guy that wears work boots A LOT. It’s always been inevitable that I sweat and that my boots would smell. 

Pure laziness kept me from doing anything about it for years, but once I did, I found that there are plenty of easy, quick, and often cheap hacks for keeping my boots fresh.

I use almost all the above hacks every week, especially my Kaps Insoles and deodorizing spray, and my boots smell good enough to drink out of (I won’t, but I could). 

I hope you’ve found at least one of my hacks of use.

Kaps Anti Odour Shoe Insoles

Kaps Anti Odor Insoles not only feel comfortable—they’ll let your feet breathe more easily. Most insoles are designed to only support and cushion your feet, while Kaps uses a charcoal lining to really fight odors as well as keep your feet comfortable.

Check Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.


Can you wash smelly boots?

Washing smelly boots are best done by hand, as a washing machine can damage both the machine and the boots. Use warm water with a cup of vinegar and a pinch of detergent, and gently scrub your boots inside and out. Allow the boots to dry naturally, and the smell will have gone.

Why do my boots stink?

Bacteria inside your boots cause them to smell, and the bacteria are there because your boots are a perfect habitat—warm, dark, and often damp with moisture. The more you sweat, the more acidic the inside of your boots become, which causes bacteria to grow. As the bacteria feed, it secretes the smell, which is what causes your boots to stink.

What works best for smelly boots?

Antimicrobial insoles and deodorizing spray are great ways to remove the smell from your boots. Insoles help to reduce and prevent the smell, and a strong deodorizing spray can mask any residual odor. Wearing sweat-wicking socks is also a great way to minimize sweaty feet and boots.

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