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Does baking soda work to remove shoe odor?

Are your rancid running shoes causing concern in your home? If your shoe collection is catching more curled lips and scrunched faces instead of compliments, you may want to consider giving them a good cleaning. Foot odor is inevitable, especially for those of us who wear shoes for several hours a day at work, the gym, or on the go. Temperature changes, stress, diet, and other environmental factors can cause some feet to sweat more than others. And after a while, your favorite pair of kicks will likely smell something akin to a trash can. But what if you could combat the smell without having to throw out your shoes — all without breaking the bank?

Dress shoes being sprayed with product
krit mahawat/Shutterstock

What’s the scoop? 

Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda as it’s more commonly known, is a leavening agent that is used frequently in baking and cooking. It is a salt, and a naturally alkaline compound. It reacts with acid added to the recipe, such as lemon juice, buttermilk, vinegar, cream of tartar, cocoa, etc. This reaction — paired with heat — causes the release of carbon dioxide, puffing up (or leavening) the dough of whatever you are baking.

It’s this science that makes baking soda perfect for cleaning around the house or wicking smells and dampness from its environment. With its slightly alkaline makeup of 9 on the pH scale, baking soda neutralizes, or balances, the pH of the acidic compound it encounters. This brings that acidic compound closer to the neutral center of the scale.  

How does it work? 

Because of baking soda’s natural alkalinity and ability to neutralize acid, it makes for a great odor absorber. Remember those boxes of baking soda hidden deep in the back of the refrigerator? You may remember seeing them as a child in your grandparent’s fridge. Baking soda is often kept there because, much like a shoe, the same principle of odor absorption is utilized. Human sweat has a slight acidity to it,  so baking soda can neutralize it and eliminate the odor attached.

Besides its chemical makeup combatting moisture, baking soda is also a dry powder. This makes it super absorbent and able to combat moisture in your shoes. Damp, slightly acidic footwear is an ideal spot for bacteria to grow – and bacteria can ultimately make your shoes smell like a dumpster.  

The simplicity of baking soda is where the magic really happens. Because it is readily available, almost everyone could use baking soda as a shoe refresher. If you don’t have it on hand in your cupboards, baking soda can be purchased at any grocery store, dollar store, or super center in your area. This levels the playing field and gives you a viable option for getting the stink out of your shoes easily.  

Male holding smelly shoe

Cut the funk with baking soda 

Baking soda — because of its availability and longevity of use — is also extremely affordable to purchase. Prices for this product vary from store to store, and area to area, but most folks can find a box of baking soda for around $1. That’s pretty darn cheap when it comes to solving odors! Because of its inexpensive price tag, you can also use it liberally – and often in more than one situation such as removing odors from your refrigerator, carpets, laundry, shoes, and car seats.  

Baking soda is also a natural fungicide. By fighting off fungus and fungus growth, baking soda can keep feet, skin, and nails clear easily and inexpensively. Fungal infections can cause uncomfortable and dangerous side effects, especially in those with weakened immune systems — such as folks with diabetes. If you suffer from one of these conditions, it’s a good idea to keep a few boxes on hand. Foot care is exceptionally important for folks with diabetes, so keep your shoes fresh with some baking soda and prevent more severe issues. 

In addition to being inexpensive, baking soda is also a great alternative to highly fragranced products. These are usually packed full of chemicals and additives — they can cause negative outcomes when skin is exposed to them. This is where baking soda steps in, making it the perfect shoe freshener for people with sensitive skin. Heavily perfumed foot and/or shoe sprays, powders, and mists can irritate the skin and cause breathing issues for some users. Because baking soda is a simple compound and a single ingredient, users are totally aware of what they are putting onto their skin or into their shoes, thus giving them peace of mind. Say goodbye to overpowering fragrance and add baking soda to your shoes for a quick and effective way to remove odors without risking an adverse skin reaction. 

At the end of the day, baking soda is a versatile and cost-effective choice to help rid your shoes of  unpleasant smells. Even though baking soda is safe and effective to use, we still recommend you speak with your doctor or dermatologist before using it directly on your skin if you suffer from skin allergies, skin irritations, or sensitive skin in general. Free your shoes from their foul stench and prevent bacterial or fungal growths with a dusting of baking soda. Your feet (and your nose!)  will thank you.

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