How to Care for and Deodorize Your Favorite Kicks

How to Care for and Deodorize Your Favorite Kicks

Our boots are made for walking — and stomping and stamping and scuffling. But that doesn’t mean our footwear doesn’t require care and attention, too. For instance, when was the last time you washed them? And do you know how to? Whether it’s a pair of cherished sneakers or lace-up loafers, knowing how to remove dirt, stains, and odor is a must if you want them to last. So, whatever the stain — from mud to sweat — read on to learn how to care for your shoes and deodorize your favorite kicks. By keeping them in good shape, they’ll be able to take you from point A to B for years to come.

Tips For Cleaning Your Shoes

Before you get started on deodorizing and tackling offensive odors, you’ll need to know how to wash your shoes. Here are a few first steps on your footwear cleaning journey:

Give Your Kicks Regular Care

Help make your shoes last and prevent permanent stains by performing regular maintenance to keep them in check. You can do this by brushing off dirt and debris and spot cleaning every few days, especially after especially long or arduous treks. To brush off debris, use a soft bristle brush to remove any dried pieces. This will help prevent the buildup of grime that can damage and stain the material over time.

From there, you can spot clean to treat minor stains and marks. Use a damp cloth with a mild soap solution — you can use SaltyLama laundry detergent sheets dissolved in a bowl of warm water. These plant-based sheets come pre-measured, which means you never have to second-guess how much detergent to use. Simply, rip a strip — two strips to a sheet — and add it to the water until it dissolves.

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Once you have dissolved a strip in a bowl, dip a soft cloth in the solution and gently clean the affected area. Avoid soaking the shoes, as this can damage some materials like leather and suede.

How to Wash Shoes

When it’s time to do a deep clean, here are our best tips for cleaning your shoes in the washing machine or hand washing them:

Machine Washable Shoes

If you have shoes that are machine washable — like cotton, canvas, nylon, or polyester shoes — you’re probably fine to use a washing machine to clean them. To prepare, remove any insoles and laces from your shoes, since they can get caught in the machine. Then, place the shoes, insoles, and laces in a mesh laundry bag to protect them during the wash.

From there, use cold water and a gentle cycle. Add a SaltyLama laundry detergent sheet to the washing machine for an eco-friendly and effective clean.

To dry freshly washed shoes, you should avoid dryers as the heat can warp or damage the shoes. Instead, let them air dry in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight that can cause faded spots.

Hand Washing

Alternatively, you can handwash delicate shoes for an effective clean. So, for shoes that can’t go in the washing machine, dissolve one of your detergent sheets in a basin of warm water and soak your footwear in the mixture. Allow them to soak for about 30 minutes.

If there are stains or particularly dirty spots, take a soft brush and carefully scrub away dirt and stains. Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove all soap residue. Again, air drying is best. Stuff the shoes with a clean cloth to help them retain their shape while they dry.

How to Deodorize Your Shoes

There are many affordable and eco-friendly ways to get rid of shoe odors. Follow these recommendations to effectively deodorize your kicks.

Baking Soda

Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda inside each shoe and let it sit overnight. Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and will help absorb moisture and odors. In the morning, shake out the excess baking soda. You can also use the hose of a vacuum cleaner to get any remaining particles.

Essential Oils

Add a few drops of essential oils (such as tea tree oil, lavender, or eucalyptus) to a cotton ball and place it inside each shoe until ready to wear. Essential oils have natural antibacterial properties and will leave your shoes smelling fresh.

Activated Charcoal

This is an easy one. Use activated charcoal sachets to absorb moisture and odors from your shoes. Place one sachet in each shoe and let it work its magic overnight.

Protecting Your Shoes

Once your shoes are clean and ready to go, take things one step further by waterproofing and safely storing and rotating your shoes.

You can protect your shoes against water damage by using a waterproof spray, especially if they are made from materials like suede or canvas. Plus, this will help protect them from water damage and stains in the long run.

As for storing, shoes are best kept in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Use shoe trees or stuff them with paper or cloth to help maintain their shape when stored away for long periods. It’s also recommended you have more than a few pairs of shoes. Rotating your footwear allows each pair to air out and reduces wear and tear, letting your shoes to last for years of walking, strutting, and sprinting to come.


Whether it’s a pair of white sneakers or durable hiking boots, caring for your favorite footwear doesn't have to be a daunting task. With these shoe cleaning tips and regular maintenance, you can keep your kicks looking great, smelling fresh, and lasting longer. So, step into sustainable shoe care by investing a little time, and your shoes will repay you with comfort and style for years to come.


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