How to Clean the Odor Inside of Your Steel-Toe Boots

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Keep odor at bay by letting your boots air out for a day in between wearings.
Image Credit: Hemera Technologies/ Images

Steel-toe boots are designed to protect your toes from injury. Steel is placed in the fabric of the boot to protect your toes from things like falling or sharp objects. Regardless of material used to construct the inside of the boot, it may begin to develop an unpleasant odor over time. Steel-toe boots are often pricey, so it's not likely you would want to toss them out once they begin to smell.

Things You'll Need

  • Mild laundry detergent

  • Baby shampoo or mild shampoo

  • Rags

  • Two socks

  • Baking soda

  • Large zippered plastic bags

Step 1

Take out the insoles of your shoes if they are removable. Hand wash them in warm water with a mild laundry detergent, then rinse them very well to remove any soap residue. Often the odor-causing bacteria in boots are trapped in the insoles, so cleaning the insoles may remove the odor altogether.

Step 2

Mix warm water with a few drops of baby shampoo or mild shampoo, then use a rag and the soapy water to thoroughly clean the inside of the boots. Fill the inside of the boots with water to rinse them out until no more suds are present, then dry the inside with a clean rag and let them air-dry completely.

Step 3

Fill two socks with a couple tablespoons of baking soda. Tie the ends of the socks in a knot and place them in the boots overnight. Baking soda removes odor and freshens the inside of your boots.

Step 4

Put the boots into large zippered plastic bags and place them in the freezer. Leave them there overnight, then remove the boots the next day. The freezing temperature kills the bacteria in the boots that are causing them to smell.


Wear wool or polyester-blend socks with your steel-toe boots. These materials help to absorb moisture produced by your feet and reduce odor. Sprinkle cornstarch in your boots before wearing them to further help absorb sweat and moisture.

Place dryer sheets inside your boots when you’re not wearing them. This helps to get rid of the odor and keep the boots smelling fresh.


Avoid using shampoo that have a high pH factor, such as clarifying shampoos. These products are highly alkaline and can damage your boots. Avoid moisturizing shampoos, too; they can be too acidic. Look for products that say “pH balanced” on the label.