Sneakers can be tossed in the washing machine with detergent and bleach, but putting expensive dress shoes through the spin cycle could be disastrous. Shoe odor is caused by bacteria, which thrives in damp, moist conditions. The trick is to kill the bacteria without destroying your shoes.
Put the shoes in a plastic bag. Tie it shut and place them the freezer for at least twenty-four hours. The cold will kill the bacteria causing the odor.
Scrub the shoes inside and out with a mixture of three parts water and one part baking soda. Rinse the thoroughly. Insert a shoe tree or crumpled white paper into the toes to keep the shoes in shape as they dry.
Moisten a washcloth with rubbing alcohol or vodka and rub it all over the inside of your shoes to destroy the odor causing bacteria. Don't rinse it off. Let the alcohol air dry.
Sprinkle 1 tsp. of baking soda inside your shoes after every wearing. Leave it there when you put your shoes on the next morning. This works best for keeping relatively clean shoes smelling fresh.
Fill two thin socks with a mixture of kitty litter and baking soda. Tie them shut at the top. Stuff them inside your shoes when you are not wearing them. The homemade sachets will keep your shoes in shape while eliminating odors.
Jenny Rae Armstrong is a freelance writer living in Northern Wisconsin. She studied English Literature at Excelsior College, and has been writing for over a decade. Her work has appeared in magazines such as Plain Truth, Radiant, and Geez.