Monday, 6 January 2014

How To Remove Mildew Smell From Shoes

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Happy new year. I am really happy to be back to blogging. :-)

I have quite a few cleaning posts on my "to blog" list, and am kicking off with a bit of an odd one; how to remove the mildew smell from shoes. I say "odd" because I am not sure how common a problem it is (or if anyone will actually read this post). But the tips in this post are some that I have found very useful, so if I only help a few people then I will consider it worth the time and effort of sharing.

How To Get Rid Of Mildew Smells In Leather Shoes Or Sneakers

A couple of years ago, I went to Disneyland Paris and it rained non-stop for seven days even though it was July. Despite attempting to dry off the shoes every evening with a hairdryer, the shoes remained saturated with water and by the end of the holiday were stinky and ruined. (Still a great holiday though, if you're wondering).

Fast forward to this winter, and a similar problem occurred with a pair of my husband's trainers (that's "sneakers", if you're American). This time I was determined not to toss the shoes, and instead find a remedy for getting the mildew smell out of leather shoes. Below is the method which worked for me.

1) Dry out the shoes as thoroughly as you can. The mildew smell comes from nasty things multiplying in damp, enclosed conditions.

2) Put the shoes in a couple of plastic bags, preferably something like a ziploc bag. Put this in the freezer. Yes, I know it sounds insane - I was skeptical too - but the cold conditions will kill the bacteria, or at least make it go dormant. Also, there is no risk associated with putting well wrapped shoes in with your food, but I have to admit that I had a bit of psychological resistance to the idea and was relieved to have an outside freezer that we don't really use!

3) Leave the shoes in the freezer for at least 24 hours, then remove and thaw naturally. It is a good idea to spray the inside of the shoes with a proper shoe spray afterwards, in order to kill any nasties which are simply lying dormant after being frozen.

4) Just putting the shoes in the freezer worked for me, but if there is still a hint of a smell then try this additional step. Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda inside the shoe (be careful if the shoes are made from suede). Leave this overnight, then empty out the baking soda by  giving the sole of the shoes a good tap.

Please note, the freezer method is best used for reviving smelly shoes when the cause is the shoes getting wet. If your problem is stinky sneakers after a workout then you need a more long term method for dealing with odor.

Okay, so "put your shoes in the freezer" is one post I never thought I'd write. Anyone else got any bizarre shoe care tips?


  1. Happy New Year, Angela! I'm definitely going to give this a try with my son's football boots. He has a habit of leaving them, often damp from the rain, in a plastic bag inside his PE bag - yuk! Unfortunately I don't always remember to remind him about taking them out and airing them and so the next time he comes to use them, they have that damp musty smell. So this might just help! x

    1. Happy New Year, Antonia. :-)

      Definitely try the freezer thing. I was really dubious that the tip would work, but the shoes smelled like new once they had thawed out (and weeks later, the damp smell hasn't returned). I'm quite chuffed, because I came really close to just binning the shoes.


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