Leather shoes can trap sweat and bacteria, especially when they are too tight or not properly ventilated. These types of bacteria tend to multiply quickly and also cause unpleasant odors.
There are several ways to remove odor from leather shoes and you’ll need to ensure that you don’t damage your leather when doing so. Traditional odor removing methods used on fabric shoes may not be the best fit, as some of them can permanently damage your leather.
In this article, we’ll be sharing the best methods on how to remove odor and smells from leather shoes. We’ll also dedicate a section to discussing some useful tips that you can apply with these methods.
1. Use a Leather Odor Remover
One of the most common ways to remove odor from leather shoes is by using a product that is designed to do just that: remove smells and odor from leather.
You’ll need to look out for a few things when selecting a leather odor remover. Firstly, it needs to have odor-neutralizing properties that are natural (no harmful chemicals) and that are preferably water-based.
Secondly, you should also make sure that the product doesn’t contain any perfume, as any type of scent will only temporarily mask odors and will not help to get rid of the bacteria. Lastly, it should not affect or alter the finish and also not damage the leather.
There are various products out there that help to remove odors from leather shoes and our preferred one is the Leather Master Odor Remover, as it ticks all of the boxes above.
How to Use an Odor Remover to Remove Odor from Leather Shoes
When using a leather odor remover, it’s always recommended to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. However, if you’re looking for a general guide, feel free to follow the steps below:
- Apply leather odor remover onto your leather shoes.
- Gently saturate the inside of your leather shoes with a fine cloth (ensure that you aren’t applying too much pressure).
- Cover the entire leather surface evenly.
- Let leather shoes dry naturally for about 24 – 48 hours.
2. Dry Your Leather Shoes Naturally
One of the best ways to remove any type of smell from leather shoes is to simply let it dry naturally. Odor and bacteria thrive in damp and warm conditions. Therefore, properly ventilating your leather shoes will naturally remove odor effectively.
The only downside to this is that it may take a while and you’ll also need a dry and ventilated place for storing your shoes. Here are some of the best places that are properly ventilated:
- Open shoe rack
- Near a fan
Please note that you should not let your shoes dry in direct sunlight, as excessive heat can damage your leather, as the natural oils evaporate through its porous texture.
How to Dry Your Leather Shoes to Remove Odor
There are several places where you can dry your leather shoes. Simply follow the below instructions for more details:
- Loosen the laces of your leather shoes and widen the collars as much as possible (this maximizes ventilation).
- Store your shoes at your preferred place overnight or throughout the day.
- The next day, most of the odor should no longer be present. Check to ensure that the odors have been removed.
- If odor persists, lengthen the drying period.
3. Use Tea Bags
Believe it or not, tea bags are another great way to remove unwanted odor in leather shoes. The reason why this works well is that tea leaves are excellent at absorbing moisture and are also known to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
In particular, black tea is known to contain a high concentration of a polyphenol called tannin. Tannins have the ability to kill bacteria inside the leather shoe and subdue any type of unwanted odors. While black tea is the recommended choice, green tea or any other type of herbal tea will do the trick.
How to Use Tea Bags to Remove Odor from Leather Shoes
Using tea bags to get rid of smells from leather shoes is a very affordable and convenient method. Follow the steps below:
- Place 2 – 3 dry tea bags into each leather shoe.
- Store leather shoes in a dry place and let them rest for about 12 – 24 hours.
- Remove all of the tea bags and check for any odor.
- If that didn’t work, steep the tea bags in hot water first and place them on any type of foil or sheet inside the leather shoes, before leaving them to dry for 12 – 24 hours.
4. Use Baking Soda
Another great home remedy to remove odor from leather shoes is by using baking soda (also known as bicarbonate soda). Baking soda tends to absorb moisture well, which works effectively against any unpleasant shoe smells.
Due to its moisture-absorbing properties, baking soda can neutralize odor within a relatively short period of time. Although some sources may suggest diluting baking soda in water before applying it to your leather shoes, we do not recommend this, as it may damage your leather.
How to Use Baking Soda to Remove Odor from Leather Shoes
For a guide on how to use baking soda to remove unwanted odors from leather shoes, read below:
- Apply some baking soda onto the inside surface of your leather shoes.
- Use your fingers to gently apply an even layer, but ensure not to rub the baking soda with too much pressure.
- Let your shoes dry naturally for at least 12 – 24 hours in a cool and dry place.
- Use a cloth to remove the baking soda and ensure that the shoes are clean and ready for wearing.
5. Use Vinegar
Vinegar can also work wonders in removing smells from leather shoes, as it has odor-absorbing properties. It’s best to use white vinegar, as it has a pH value of around 2.5. As this is slightly acidic, you’ll need to ensure to mix it with water in a 50/50 ratio.
How to Use Vinegar to Remove Odor from Leather Shoes
Follow the steps below if you plan to use vinegar on your leather shoes to remove any types of odor. Remember not to leave the vinegar on your leather shoes for too long, as it may dry out the leather.
- Mix white vinegar with water in a 50/50 ratio.
- Use a cloth or your fingers to apply a thin coat of the mixture to the inside of your leather shoes.
- Let your shoes naturally dry for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Use a damp cloth to remove the vinegar from your leather shoes.
- Let your shoes dry completely.
6. Freeze Your Leather Shoes
This may sound counterintuitive, but freezing leather is another way to remove odors from leather shoes. While it isn’t our preferred way for several reasons, we have tried it and it did remove unpleasant smells after about 12 – 24 hours.
While there are various accounts of people claiming that freezing leather shoes kills bacteria, it mostly prevents bacterial growth and suppresses any odor instead. Therefore, we recommend that you use this method situationally.
How to Freeze Leather Shoes to Remove Odor
When it comes to putting your leather shoes in the freezer to remove any unwanted smells and odors, you need to remember to place them into a Ziploc bag (so that the bacteria and smells don’t spread in your freezer). Also, ensure that the freezer is empty.
- Place each shoe into a separate Ziploc bag and ensure that they are airtight.
- Place both bags into an empty freezer.
- Let them rest for about 12 – 24 hours.
- Remove leather shoes from Ziploc bags and let your leather shoes dry naturally.
Useful Tips For Removing Smells and Odor from Leather Shoes
Lastly, here are some useful tips that you apply, when using any of these methods that we have listed above. There are some things you should consider doing and others that you should try to avoid.
- Don’t Use Too Much Product – Don’t drown your leather shoes in any of these products or ingredients (odor remover, baking soda, vinegar, etc). Using too much on your leather shoes may damage them instead.
- Don’t Use Harsh Chemicals – Harsh chemicals can also damage or discolor your leather shoes instead of ridding odor. Always check the ingredients of products that you use and ensure they are natural.
- Let Your Leather Shoes Dry Naturally – Always let your leather shoes dry naturally and avoid drying them in direct sunlight, which could crack or dry them out. Never wear your leather shoes if they are not fully dry, as it would only make the situation worse.
- Use Socks When Wearing Your Leather Shoes – Socks help to absorb moisture within leather shoes and can also regulate temperature. Wearing socks can often even prevent any type of smell from occurring in the first place.
- Clean Your Leather Shoes Regularly – Cleaning your leather shoes can also help to remove any type of bacteria before they can spread and create unwanted odors. There are various leather wipes, disinfectants, and cleaners available on the market.
Co-Founder, Researcher & Writer At Leatherskill
I’m a leather enthusiast who spends most of his free time crafting, researching, and writing about the many facets of this versatile material. Thanks for reading!