How To Get Smell Out Of Work Boots (6 Simple Methods)

Want to learn how to get smell out of work boots?

Great, you have landed in the right place!

In this blog, we will show you:

  • Simple and easy to follow methods;
  • Things you should absolutely avoid;
  • Extra tips and tricks; and
  • So Much More!
Remove smell from work boots

Why Do Work Boots Smell Anyways

Sweaty feet

Boots can become very smelly as a result of sweat and bacteria that form on the skin due to lack of ventilation or air circulation.

As with synthetic or leather materials commonly used for boots. They are absorptive and will retain moisture when exposed when exposed to it for a sufficient period of time.

This is even true for waterproof boots.

Heat may also lead to an increase in bacterial growth that causes shoes to develop a bad odor. Another key reason why work boots become smelly is due to the type of socks that you use. 

Read More:>>> Working in the garden requires a specific set of boots to make sure odor is minimized

Cotton or Synthetic socks (which is better)

It's a common conundrum: when it comes time to choose what type of sock you want to put on your feet, do you opt for natural cotton fabric or synthetic material?

Believe it or not, the choice of sock material can have a huge effect on how smelly your feet get.

Although it may be tempting to stick with cotton because it’s timeless and comfortable, synthetic socks actually tend to trap more odors than their natural counterpart.

Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and spandex all provide a more comfortable fit which helps trap in sweat and odor particles – requiring them to get washed a lot more often.

If you’re looking for an odor-busting solution for your feet, steer away from the cotton and rather go with synthetics.

Understanding the science of boot odor

It always amazes me to think about the science behind everyday smells, like the fragrance of an old pair of boots. A lot of people don’t realize that it’s usually a particular type of bacteria that is responsible for producing the ‘old-boot odor’ we all know and dread!

These microscopic organisms produce smelly compounds such as salycylic acid and isovaleric acid, when these bacteria get trapped within the fibers of your boot. When they find a moist and hospitable environment to thrive and grow that is were you often find the smelly work boot odor developing.

The different types of odor creating bacteria in work boots

Bacteria that cause common odor

It’s not necessary to know these bacteria by name, but if you are a nerd like me and enjoy the nitty gritties, here is a list of common odor causing bacteria in your work boot.

Common Bacteria #1 - Staphylococcus aureus

Staphylococcus aureus, or S. aureus, is a type of bacteria that is commonly associated with the smell of body odor.

It is one of the most common skin bacteria in humans and is found on the skin or in our noses. Unfortunately, this bacterium can break down certain proteins and release unpleasant odors as it occurs naturally on our bodies.

This gives us not just the enticing bouquet of body odor, but also an unmistakable smell of stinky, sour feet when these same proteins are broken down in boots.

Read More:>>> Clean boots are important to keep odor out

Common Bacteria #2 - Corynebacterium

The Corynebacterium that lives in everyone's shoes is an interesting and unique type of bacteria.

It grows quietly in dark, moist corners and often goes unnoticed until the inevitable day when its presence becomes startled by an unmistakable odor.

Corynebacterium is not a specific bacteria but rather it refers to a large family of gram-positive bacteria found naturally on human skin, capable of producing both beneficial and malodorous substances.

This bacteria acts like a mini factory—creating sweat containing fatty acids and amino acids as byproducts resulting in that telltale smell from our stinky shoes. However, taking certain steps to manage moisture levels can keep your feet healthy and smelling fresh.

Common ways to mitigate for this bacteria is by wearing sweat-absorbing socks, rotating shoe choices every day, or using foot sprays and powders before putting on your shoes each morning!

Common Bacteria #3 - Brevibacterium

Brevibacterium is an aerobic bacteria, found mostly on human skin, that can turn sweat into smelly molecules. It's also one of the concoction of bacteria that are responsible for foot odor.

Very interesting to note as well is that this microorganism makes you is also quite surprisingly useful in cheese-making. Brevibacterium is used to give hard cheeses such as cheddar their characteristic flavor! That is just a side note, but in your boots – it creates a poignant smell.

Common Bacteria #4 - Proteus

Proteus is a genus of bacteria that lives in warm and moist places and plays a major role in one of the most universal odors known to mankind, the shoe odor. In fact Proteus is responsible for producing that rotten egg like aroma.

What not to do when learning how to get smell out of work boots

Let’s break the common myths and avoid the things that you should not do, when trying to remove the smelliness from your work boots.

There are so many things flying all over the internet, from spreading baking soda inside your boot, to sticking them in the freezer, it seems like everyone has heard at least one home remedy for getting rid of odors from boots.

While these methods in all honesty may work temporarily, many of them can cause serious and permanent damage to the material of your boot.

Read More:>>> Hard workers like electricians need proper boots for odor control as they are on their feet all day

Myth #1 – Freezing Your Boots

Let me give you and example for instance, putting leather boots in the freezer could potentially crack them or harm their shape permanently.

Also, I personally do not think that this is an effective method because, freezing temperatures do not specifically target odor-causing bacteria.

What happens however is that exposure to low temperatures can slow down or even temporarily halt the growth of some bacteria, which can help reduce odors. But in all earnestly once the boots return back to ambient temperature the bacteria will just go back to growing again.

In my experience to effectively eliminate odors, it is often necessary to clean the boots thoroughly and use a disinfectant or antimicrobial spray.

Myth #2 – Baking Soda

To give you the low down, baking soda on its own is actually too abrasive for most types of leather and fabric and could dry out the material if used frequently - not exactly a recipe for longevity!

The best way to keep your boots odor-free is through routine care and cleaning. Storing them in a cool and dry place as well as cleaning out any dirt that accumulates can help extend their lifespan and keep them smelling fresh.

5 Simple methods of removing smell from your work boots

Let’s look at some of the most common ways to rid yourself of work boot odor.

Method 1 - Baking soda

Now although I mentioned earlier that baking soda applied directly to your boot can be potentially abrasive, putting baking soda in a small cup/container that can fit into your boot and allowing it to sit for 24 hours straight works wonders.

Baking soda is a natural odor absorber that can be used to remove smells from work boots.

Method 2 - Vinegar

Vinegar is another natural odor absorber that can be used to remove smells from work boots.

Simply soak a cloth in vinegar and rub it into the boots. Let the vinegar dry on the boots overnight and in the morning, the boots should smell fresh and clean.

Method 3 - Tea tree oil

This one is also very effective and a little less known. Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant that can be used to remove smells from work boots.

Simply add a few drops of tea tree oil to a cloth and rub it into the boots. Leave it for about 19 to 24 hours and wait for it to completely dry. This should deal with the stubborn boot odor that remains.

Method 4 - Lemon juice

Lemon juice can also work wonders in removing boot odor! Not only does it have acidic properties which are known for breaking down bacteria in fabrics, but its refreshing scent also helps to mask unpleasant aromas.

All you need is some freshly-squeezed lemon juice and a clean cloth! Start off by dabbing the lemon juice onto your boots and I tend to say let it sit for 12 to 18 hours.

If the smell does disappear you can repeat this step for another 12 hours. In most cases it should completely disappear.  

Method 5 - Coffee grounds

To be honest, Coffee grounds are one of the best kept secrets when it comes to ridding your boots of lingering odors.

The stronger the coffee, the stronger its odor-banishing effect! All you have to do is fill each boot with coffee grounds, tie a knot at the top, and let them sit overnight. When you remove them in the morning, give them a vigorous shake before removing the laces and leaving them open to air out for 12-24 hours.

What I really like about this option, is that it is an inexpensive hack and will leave your boots smelling odor free. Try it it works.  

Final Thoughts On How To Get Smell Out Of Work Boots

Ultimately, getting the smell out of your work boots is not a difficult task, as long as you are mindful of where and when to use different techniques you should be alright. Also If you take good care of your boots, interchange between different pairs. As well clean and let them dry properly, then managing and eliminating odors becomes a lot easier.

Mogale Modisane, PrEng

Mogale Modisane, PrEng

Mogale is a professional engineer (PrEng). With experience working on large-scale Solar, Wind, and Hybrid Projects. He has been exposed to multiple tools throughout his career and has a keen interest in breaking down the often murky world of power tools, machines, and measurement equipment making them more accessible and understandable to everyone.

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Mogale Modisane, PrEng

Mogale Modisane, PrEng

Mogale is a professional engineer (PrEng). With experience working on large-scale Solar, Wind, and Hybrid Projects. He has been exposed to multiple tools throughout his career and has a keen interest in breaking down the often murky world of power tools, machines, and measurement equipment making them more accessible and understandable to everyone.

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