How To Get Mildew Smell Out Of Shoes

Mildew loves dark, moist areas, which means your shoes are a prime location for mildew to settle.

Not only is this unhealthy, but it also makes your shoes smell awful.

If you live in a humid climate or often use your shoes in a wet environment, throwing out your shoes because they smell like mildew can get expensive.

Luckily, we’ve done the research and learning how to get mildew smell out of shoes, and then doing it is easy.

All you need are a few household items and a little sunshine.

What You’ll Need

It’s important that your sink be located outdoors because cleaning the mildew out of your shoes will release spores.

If you clean your shoes inside, there’s a risk of those mildew spores settling elsewhere in your home.

Don’t take the chance.

Wash your shoes outdoors. If you don’t have an outdoor sink, I recommend using a bucket or plastic tub.

Now that you have everything you need to clean your shoes, read on to learn how to get mildew smell out of your shoes.

Step By Step Instructions For How To Get Mildew Smell Out Of Shoes

Finding mildew in your shoes can be shocking, but removing the mildew is easy.

If you follow these six easy steps, your shoes will be free from mildew and any lingering smell. 

1. Remove The Inner Soles From Your Shoes

If your soles are removable, take them out of your shoes.

You will need to wash these separately, so set them aside until you have cleaned the rest of your shoe.

If you have added additional padding or insoles, throws those away and replace them with new ones.

2. Dry Out Your Shoes Completely

Mildew thrives where there is moisture, so make sure your shoes are completely dry.

The best way to dry your shoes is to open them up as wide as possible and let them sit in the sun.

The sun has anti-mildew properties that will naturally kill some varieties of mildew, and the sun will also dry out any water, sweat, or other moisture in your shoes.

Pro tip: If you don’t currently have access to much sunlight, you can also dry your shoes by rubbing them with a clean towel, by stuffing newspaper inside your shoes overnight, or by using a hairdryer. 

3. Brush Off As Much Visible Mildew As Possible

Use your firm cleaning brush to brush away any visible mildew.

If you don’t have a good cleaning brush, try the Amazer Scrub Brush Comfort Grip that we found on Amazon.

The bristles are super firm, and it gets excellent reviews.

Make sure to check every part of your shoe, both inside and outside.

You need to remove all the mildew to prevent it from growing back but be gentle with your shoes as you brush.

Any mildew you can’t brush off will come off once you wash your shoes. 

4. Wash Your Shoes in the Water-Vinegar Mixture

Combine the ½ cup of water and the ½ cup of vinegar in your bucket or outdoor sink.

Wet your cleaning rag and wash the affected parts of your shoe.

The vinegar naturally kills mildew and other fungi, so this mixture will kill and remove the rest of the mildew.

The vinegar will also help get rid of the mildew smell because vinegar is a natural deodorizer.

If you’re looking for excellent white vinegar, try Calyptus 45% Pure Super Concentrated Vinegar.

It’s 9x stronger than you’re regular vinegar and can be diluted and made into 9 gallons of cleaning solution.

5. Dry Your Shoes in the Sun

Once you have washed all the mildew off your shoes, set them out in the sun to dry completely.

Again, if you don’t have access to much or consistent sunlight, you can use other methods, such as a towel, to dry your shoes.

The most important thing is to get your shoes completely dry so that mildew can’t start growing again.

6. Pour Baking Soda Inside Your Shoes

If, after you have cleaned and dried your shoes, you notice the mildew smell has remained, pour ¼ to ½ cup of baking soda into your shoes and let them sit overnight.

Baking soda is also a natural deodorizer; it tends to absorb smells, leaving your shoes free from that nasty mildew smell.

Commonly Asked Questions

Will this method work on leather shoes?

No, this method will not work on leather or suede shoes.

The above method is likely to damage your leather shoes because vinegar can ruin the leather.

Instead, after making sure your shoes are completely dry, mix ½ cup of rubbing alcohol and ½ cup of water.

If you need more, you can make more using equal parts of water and rubbing alcohol.

Wipe the mildew off with a soft cleaning cloth soaked in your mixture, allow your leather shoes to dry, and apply a leather conditioner. 

Don’t allow your leather shoes to dry in the sun.

While the sun has anti-mildew characteristics, it can also discolor the leather.

Instead, let your leather shoes dry in a well-ventilated area.

Air circulation will also dry your shoes without the risk of discoloration. 

If you need more help, visit our dedicated article on how to remove mildew from leather.

How do I get rid of the vinegar smell in my shoes?

Vinegar is a strong smell, so you may find your shoes smell like vinegar for a while.

Usually, pouring baking soda into your shoes will get rid of any remaining smell, but you can also spray a little of your favorite essential oil into your shoes to get rid of the vinegar smell. 

How can I prevent mildew from growing in my shoes?

The best way to prevent mildew from settling into your shoes is to keep your shoes dry.

Of course, shoes do get wet, whether from rain or sweat or spills.

When your shoes get wet, you should dry them out as soon as possible.

Keep your shoes in a well-ventilated area and let them dry out completely.

It’s best to have two pairs of shoes, so you can alternate which pair you are wearing.

This will allow the other pair of shoes to dry out before you wear them again.


I hope you have enjoyed learning how to get mildew out of shoes.

There is no reason to throw out perfectly good shoes just because of a bit of mildew.

Instead, by using a few everyday household items, you can dislodge the mildew and reclaim your shoes for good.