How To Clean Stinky Steel-Toed Work Boots: 7 Easy Steps

How To Clean Stinky Steel-Toed Work Boots: 7 Easy Steps

Sometimes only the very toughest of shoes will do. Especially if one’s work demands it of them, people need shoes that can work as hard as they can and do. Seriously! Cute little flimsy shoes just can’t cut it sometimes, unless you’re just *that* overly and, indeed, quite unnecessarily confident that your feet are somehow indestructible (props to all y’all out there, and may your poor peds rest in peace).

I mean, now that’s not to say that the flimsy shoes are like the actual most terrible things ever. You know, they’re sorts of shoes that aren’t good for anything except for being pretty, cost more than a pretty penny, and will make your feet hurt pretty badly should you ever be a big enough buffoon to ever– and I mean ever, like, as in the history of really stupid evers– want to wear those kinds of flimsy things to work. Ok, maybe said flimsy shoes really aren’t that great. I mean seriously, you sneeze and then those darn things scuff– or worse, they could totally just give you the absolute worst blisters, am I right?

But steel-toed work boots have got your back– well, they’ve certainly got your feet, at the very least, and frankly, they do a very swell job of it, typically. They may not be the prettiest of shoes, but steel-toed work boots definitely do what they’re meant to, and that’s to keep your feet in proper order while you clock in and out. 

The only problem? While keeping your feet safe and sound, they also tend to harbor just a wee bit of footwear funk– ok, maybe a lot. I mean, it’s not as though you can simply chuck your boots into the nearest available washing machine, so like, what the heck are we even supposed to do?

In order to fix stinky steel-toed work boots, any of these following options can totally work quickly and successfully to get the job done.

Table of Contents

    1. Freezer Fights Footwear Funk

    2. Use Baking Soda for Better-Smelling Shoes

    3. Coffee Foot Soak for the Win

    4. Kick Stank’s Butt with Cloves

    5. Destroy Dank Shoe Smells with a DIY Sho Deodorizing Spray

    6. Rock Rank Shoes with Rotation

    7. LUMI’s Citrus Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer

    1. Freezer

    Freeze out funky smells!


    Ok, so we’re talking stinky work boots. Now, I know that you read the title of this option, thinking that I must be an utter goose. Like, for real– who the heck in their right mind thinks a freakin’ freezer is going to do anything other than make stinky shoes into unwanted popsicles– shoe-sicles? No, no– let’s just all agree that nobody is asking for shoe-sicles. 

    A freezer can make a dent in the dank smells wafting up from your stinky steel-toed work boots for reasons best explained by just a wee bit of science– oh yes, we’re dragging it into the malodorous mess that is your funky footwear.

    You see, we’re going to be taking a look at the actual source of the sour stench coming from your smelly shoes. That footwear funk? It’s actually from bacteria that live on your feet (and also in your poor shoes, socks, etc. etc.). 

    Said bacteria eats both the moisture from your sweat and the extra dead skin cells naturally hanging out on your feet, meaning that shoes we wear often (ie the steel-toed kind to work) tend to get more moisture and dead skin cells, and therefore are much more stinky than we’d really like them to be (*read: not smelly at all, please and thank you very much).

    But by putting your smelly boots directly into the freezer at least overnight, or perhaps a little bit longer if you’ve got the time, then you’ll be putting a dent in the bad-smelling bacteria’s ability to consume your sweat and produce the pungent punch of odor that we’d all really like to fix for good.

    2.  Baking Soda

    Bad smells are no more with baking soda


    Our next option for how to quickly and successfully deodorize stinky steel-toed boots uses the rather well-known baking ingredient of– you guessed it– baking soda (it’s like you had a segment’s title to read or something…). 

    That lovely dough-raiser that we all love and adore, making our baked goods fluffier and capable of reaching higher heights than any plebeian mortal carby delicacy ought to have any reasonable right to. Also, um if you’ve never tried it, you’ve simply got to try coating your fried chicken in baking soda (along with the usual seasonings and stuff, of course) in order to make it an extra kind of crazy-good/crispy.

    Baking soda, you see, is actually also pretty amazing for how it can easily fix stinky work boots with hardly any kind of effort on your part. What’s way cool about baking soda is how it directly goes after the food source of that stinky bacteria we chatted about earlier. Basically, do ya’ remember how said bacteria  eats the moisture from our sweat? So baking soda can absorb that.

    What’s pretty great about baking soda (and not so great for the rank bacteria) is that it’ll slurp down the moisture from your sweat, leaving your shoes a much less hospital place for any kind of stank-producing suckers looking for spare sweat to chow down on.

    So how do you fix stinky steel-toed boots with baking soda? Simply dash in a couple of tablespoons of the stuff straight on into the smelly shoes, and leave at least overnight, or longer if you think you can spare your shoes for that long. Another (slightly more mess-free) option is to put that same amount of baking soda into a sock, tie it off with a rubber band or something like that, and then put that sock into your boots for the same amount of time as well.

    3. Coffee Foot Soak 

    Coffee: a toasty beverage and a bomb shoe deodorizer


    So let’s start this section off with an easily answerable question: how do you deodorize stinky shoes with coffee? And why the freakin’ heck do we want to soak our feet in it? Isn’t coffee, like, just a toasty lil’ beverage? Ok, maybe I got a wee bit ahead of myself, and that was more than one question, but they’re all totally still easily answerable, I pinkie-promise ya’.

    So coffee has nitrogen in it (on top of possessing the seemingly magical ability to wake up the dead– AKA plenty of drowsy folk before the sun is up). Nitrogen, my very dear, yet quite likely smelly reader, is great for absorbing odor. Pretty rad, don’t you think? If not rad, your shoes will at least not be smelling quite so rank.

    If we’d like to use coffee to deodorize stinky shoes, we can look in the easy (and perhaps– possibly– just a little relaxing) direction of a coffee foot soak. All you have to do is get two cups of coffee and perhaps a third cuppa just for your lovely yet (soon-to-not-be) stinky self, plus some water (hot or cold doesn’t particularly matter all too much, but definitely go for about 1 gallon here). Soak your feet for about 15 minutes, and then feel free to rinse, dry, and moisturize (if we’re counting this as our own wee little DIY spa day, then we for sure might as well go all out and make it just a touch bougie, am I right?).

    4. Cloves (powdered or whole, btw)

    Cloves drive out funky bacteria in droves


    Our next item up on easy ways to fix stinky shoes is a crazy little spice that you probs already have in your pantry or kitchen cupboard: cloves. 

    Not familiar with it? Don’t you worry yourself too much about it– chances are, you’ve probably consumed cloves at least several times already in your lifetime. 

    Cloves, if you didn’t already know, are a key ingredient in that fabulous mixture popularly known as “pumpkin spice,” which the very concept of is probs considered nigh-on holy to some of you, unless you’ve somehow been living under a rock for the past couple of years (in which case, I’d love to know the address because DANG dude you have literally done it and gone and protected your own bitty little peace like no one else has done before).

    Despite pumpkin-spice’s popularity with all of the Starbs-lovers over the past couple of years, you might also just know cloves from gingerbread cookies, which are also flavored by the pungent spice. 

    Basically, just think of cloves (and pumpkin spice, in general, one might suppose) as all things good that are associated with fall. Got a great-smelling Yankee candle themed for autumn? You could probably thank cloves for that? Delicious and delicately-scented October Krispy Kreme? Cloves strike our nose hairs, once again.

    If you want to know how to make your steel-toed boots smell better with cloves, all you need is some porous material (you could use cheesecloth or something like that) or even something more mundane and likely already chilling in the house (or the back of your bureau drawer): a sock. 

    Put a couple of tablespoons of cloves in whatever material you use, tie it off, then stuff it all straight into your smelly shoes, and then you’ll be wanting to leave everything be for at least overnight, but longer if you can manage without your (hopefully no longer) funky footwear for just a little while longer, then feel free to call it good after that.

    5.  DIY Shoe Deodorizing Spray

    Save the day with this DIY shoe cleaning spray!


    But perhaps you’re not entirely sold on using cloves to save your stinky shoes from olfactory oblivion– and I get it, like maybe we’d be better off leaving the pumpkin spice to the brilliant bakers and baristas of the world (the method totally works but, of course, as always you get to decide what you’d like to give a go!).

    If that’s you, then let me suggest something easy for ya’ to try– a simple DIY shoe deodorizing spray for your steel-toed boots. This stuff is made up of regular old water and then vinegar– that stuff is going to do literally wonders for your shoes, alright? Hear me out on this, ma’ dear reader.

    Ok, so vinegar is supes acidic, which certainly isn’t the greatest for the stinky bacteria that are presently making your poor pungent peds so rank. Vinegar is merely a wee bit– alright, I guess it’s more like very– sour, but to a small way-faring bacterium any kind of vinegar spells out doom for the dank smells wafting up from your shoes.

    Use any kind of vinegar, but white vinegar is one of the more common (and therefore cheaper) options and you also probs already have got it stored in your pantry somewhere. I mean, apple cider vinegar should also work just fine, but be careful to test it on a swatch of the fabric of your boots to ensure that it won’t permanently stain anything. White vinegar, ya’ see, ought to go on clear, so that’d be my recommendation in this particular case.

    Stir up a concoction of half white vinegar and half water, put it all into a spray bottle and then just give your stinky shoes a good couple of spritzes (paying extra particular attention to the insides) and then wait to let everything completely dry out– this last part with waiting to dry is actually probably the most important, because if you slide on your steel-toed boots before they’ve had a chance to air and dry out, then the water in the DIY deodorizing shoe spray will just go on to feed any remaining bacteria, and the stank will be renewed instead of gone for good– patience is a virtue, am I right? Say it with me now!

    6. Rotation

    Rock the rank bacteria with some rad rotation


    It can be difficult to put yourself through all of this hard work just for cleaning stinky shoes that ought to last just one more day without our doing a single darn thing about it, right? Right!? Wrong! Totally and most absolutely wrong, because you really should be wanting to learn how to fix stinky steel-toed boots ASAP for the sake of all of our nose hairs (and sanity), please and thank you very, very much. If you’re bent on going for the easier options here, then this next trick for deodorizing your pungent peds might be right up your alley. 


    Rotation, ma’ good reader, rotation. Now, I know that it really can get rather tedious having multiple versions of the same sort of shoes, but trust me when I say that even shoes with lots of stank– especially and most particularly shoes with lots of stank to go around– need a good little breather every now again, just like the rest of us mere mortals.


    Let’s talk about it all from a sensible perspective, shall we? All of that stinky bacteria we’ve been chit-chatting about? It needs a fairly consistent buffet of moisture (easy to come by, most of the time, thanks to feet just naturally sweating, as they do) and of course the dead skin cells that also are just kind of a natural part of being a human being with feet. Without that steady input of nutrition, the bacteria won’t have the ability to stink up your poor shoes, you see!


    Try rotation out with at least two sets of steel-toed work boots, and alternate how often you wear them. The time off in-between wears ought to deprive the stank-producing bacteria of their prime food sources (AKA you and your poor pungent peds), and in the long run, rotation ought to work to ameliorate the footwear funk!


    7. LUMI’s Citrus Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer


    Rotation may be simple, but LUMI’s Citrus Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer is simple on steroids. For real, this stuff is about as easy as it gets when it comes to quick fixes for shoe deodorizing. 

    Haven’t heard of it? No worries, as over 1000 reviewers on Amazon who have tried out LUMI have given it a perfect 5-star review (averaging out at an overall 4.4-star rating) and would like to tell you all about it. One such reviewer, a certain “MamaKo99” who said that she just loved all of the LUMI sprays they’ve tried, sprays her own shoes after long 12 hr shifts at the hospital and her husband sprays his steel-toed boots, and that other sprays simply didn’t work for them:

    *cue the choirs and confetti, because LUMI has just saved the day

    Beyond what the good people of Amazon have to say, LUMI itself is simply a rather fabulous company. They make sure to only use the highest quality of all-natural ingredients, never ever (and they really truly mean ever) test on animals, all of their products are made in the United States, PLUS the company is a small, family-owned business.

    What’s also pretty awesome about LUMI’s Citrus Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer is that it works to fix stinky smells beyond what’s wafting up from your shoes. Got a funky kitchen sink or garbage can? Perhaps a smelly bathroom? Spray LUMI and fix all of those things (and more!) with ease!

    All you have to do to use LUMI’s Citrus Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer to easily deodorize your steel-toed boots is spray it directly on into the shoe, and then you’re all set to go! That’s it! Spray away, and then you’re totally good to go.

    So let’s get down to business and go over all of these easy ways to deodorize stinky shoes at least one more time because I don’t know about all y’all but as for me, myself, and I a quick little summary is always just the thing after one has had an absolute butt-ton of information spouted off at them (even if the said deluge of information was well-sprinkled with *the most fabulous of puns ;) ). 

    So here we go– off to summarize everything you need to know to deodorize steel-toed boots successfully!

    The frigid option of freezing your shoes overnight or longer is the very first option up on our list of methods to fix stinky shoes with. The bacteria that originally produce all of our footwear funk doesn’t take too well to the hypothermic temperatures, and so as a result their ability to produce funk is severely curtailed when we stick ‘em on into the freezer overnight or even longer if you can manage it.

    Baking soda works to easily fix stinky steel-toed boots by drawing out the moisture that’s soaked into the fabric of your smelly shoes and would normally go into feeding the bad-smelling bacteria, but instead now that moisture will get clapped out along with the baking soda once all is said and done. Simply dust in a couple of tablespoons of baking soda (or for easier cleanup you can totally just put the baking soda into a sock or something, tie it off with a rubber band, and stuff that into your shoes), and then leave said baking soda in your stinky boots for at least overnight, but longer will definitely help us all out a bit more; you’ll know that the baking soda can’t slurp up any moisture once it’s started to clump up, either way.

    A good old coffee foot soak is just going to take you 2 cups of coffee and then one gallon of water (temperature doesn’t matter altogether too much– I’d just make it comfortable, whatever that may be for ya’). Soak your feet in the coffee/water mixture for about 15 minutes, and that’ll do ya’!

    Cloves are a fabulous scent that COULD be what your shoes are smelling like, instead of the present radioactive cheesy scent that is an actual and most total hazard to good and honest nose hairs everywhere. In order to use cloves to make stinky shoes smell better, simply put a few tablespoons of the stuff into some porous material (like cheesecloth, for example, or even a sock ought to work just fine), tie it all off with a rubber band, and then stuff the secured cloves straight on into your stinky boots. Leave it all to hang out overnight, but longer if you’d like the cloves to really make your (soon-to-be previously) stinky shoes smell AMAZING!

    Or perhaps a quick and easy-to-make DIY deodorizing spray is more along the lines of what you’re looking for. Mix up one part water and then one part white vinegar (or whatever you’ve got in the pantry– apple cider ought to work as well, just make sure that whatever vinegar you go for doesn’t stain the material of your boots). Spritz the shoes, and make sure to pay extra attention to the insides!

    Then rotating between several sets of steel-toed boots will give your poor stinky shoes a chance to breathe and the bacteria a chance to skedaddle between wears. Easy-peasy, alright? 

    LUMI’s Citrus Tea Tree Natural Shoe Deodorizer is the final (and perhaps the most easy to use) strategy on this list of methods to fix stinky shoes. Simply spray it straight on into your shoes once or twice and that’s it! 

    That’s that folks! 7 simple tricks for fixing stinky steel-toed boots! Try any of these quick hacks for deodorizing work shoes quickly and with every kind of ease!

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