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A 2-Ingredient Natural Shoe Refresher For Summer (So Long, Smelly Feet)

Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor
By Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
Image by SeaVees / Contributor
May 14, 2021
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Sandy strolls on the beach and long walks through town can leave our heads clear, our hearts full, and our shoes smelly. To freshen up your footwear now that temps are starting to climb, the key is keeping moisture under control. "Where there's moisture, there's odor," explains Melissa Maker of Clean My Space.

Using store-bought sprays will mask smells, but it often doesn't do much to dry shoes out (and who really needs another spray sitting in the cabinet?). Instead, you can make your own deodorizer that quickly neutralizes odors while absorbing moisture. Here's how to put it together.

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What you'll need:

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Essential oils (optional)
  • White vinegar (optional)

The method:

  1. Combine equal parts baking soda and cornstarch in a small bowl. "Baking soda is an odor absorber, and cornstarch is a moisture absorber," Maker says of the combo.
  2. Sprinkle the mixture into your shoes, and spread it around so it forms a thin layer on each sole. "You don't have to use a ton," environmental toxin expert Tonya Harris, M.S.. says. "If you spread it out more evenly, in a thin layer, it will absorb more than a pile dumped in the shoe."
  3. Let your shoes sit in the sun for a few hours to further dry them out and clear lingering odors.
  4. Dump the powder out. Your shoes are ready to go! If you're in a hurry, you can also skip the sun soak and simply sprinkle, shake, dump, and wear.
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Bump it up a notch with:

Vinegar

If your shoes are still smelling funky after this initial cleanse, use white distilled vinegar as a second line of defense. Combine a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water in a spray bottle and lightly spritz the inside of your shoes, then leave them to sit outside.

"That vinegar will help absorb the smell, and letting them sit outside in sunny weather will also help to dry out that moisture," says Harris.

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Essential oils

To add scent to your baking soda and cornstarch mix, you can throw in your favorite essential oils (Harris is partial to tea tree or anything in the citrus family). You can either put a few drops directly into your powder mixture or onto a cotton ball that you then place into your shoes.

If you're missing any ingredients.

If you're fresh out of cornstarch, you can use the same method using only baking soda. If you don't have that either, kitty litter is another alternative that Harris has used in a pinch.

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What about leather shoes?

Since leather shoes dry out quickly, they call for a slightly different method. Instead of placing baking soda and/or cornstarch directly into the shoe, put a teaspoon or so of the mixture into a coffee filter and tie it with a string or rubber band. These little sachets can be left to sit in shoes overnight; they'll freshen things up without drying them out too much.

And always double-check the manufacturer's instructions whenever you're cleaning something as finicky as leather, just to be safe.

How to maintain freshness.

Wearing socks to minimize moisture and letting your shoes sit out in the sun every once in a while should keep your newly refreshed shoes smelling good all summer long. But if not, now you know the ingredients to grab.

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Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor

Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 articles on mbg, her work has appeared on Bloomberg News, Marie Claire, Bustle, and Forbes. She has covered everything from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping to a group of doctors prescribing binaural beats for anxiety. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.