Fetid foot odor may be mostly a hygiene issue, but it can cause severe social embarrassment -- and can be hard to combat. The main cause of smelly feet is bacteria growing in the sweat-moist crevices of your skin, shoes and socks. Prevention is as important as treatment, but cleaning stinking feet is an important component of both. In other words, washing your feet daily is the most important step you can take to remedy the problem.
Fill a basin or bathtub with warm water, and let your feet soak in it until the skin softens. Add a half cup of vinegar for extra odor-fighting and disinfecting purposes. Or, instead of vinegar, use Epsom salts, which in addition to combating foot odor have the side benefit of soothing aching muscles -- perfect for an end-of-the-day treat for tired feet.
Place some soap on your washcloth, and scrub the skin of your feet thoroughly. You can do this while your feet are submerged or over the basin, as you prefer. Don't neglect between the toes. Consider using an antibacterial soap to help kill off the pathogens that cause food odor, unless your skin is particularly sensitive. In that case, try castile or another mild soap.
Exfoliate. You can use a washcloth and soap for this if you scrub thoroughly, but for stubborn calluses you might prefer to use a foot brush or pumice stone.
Rinse your feet clean with cool water. Make sure to rinse away any stray soap suds; left in place, they can cause irritation, and bacteria and fungus can find harbor in irritated skin.
Wipe your feet -- especially between the toes -- with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. This helps to disinfect the skin. Vodka, often recommended as a home remedy for stinky feet, also works. Make sure to thoroughly air-dry after application and before putting on socks or shoes.
Dry your feet with a clean towel. Again, take special care to dry between the toes. Remember that bacteria love to grow where it's moist. Take away their hiding places by toweling thoroughly.
- The best time to clean your feet is at night, just before you go to bed. This way, your feet have a chance to thoroughly dry out before you put on socks and shoes again -- and your shoes have a chance to dry and air out, as well.
- Wear well-ventilated shoes and clean socks in a breathable fabric to help keep clean feet from stinking again. You may wish to rotate which pair of shoes you wear on a day-to-day basis. If your shoes are washable, give them a run through the washing machine.
- In addition to vinegar or Epsom salts, try soaking your feet in a black tea bath, a baking soda solution or an herbal bath using sage and rosemary.
- You can use a spray deodorant and antiperspirant on your feet in the morning before you put on shoes and socks to help prevent further odor. Foot powder or even simple baking soda can also help in this regard.
- Persistent foot odor can indicate a medical problem, from something as simple as an athlete's foot infection to a serious condition such as diabetes.
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