Don't Fall For This Bogus Internet Trick To Deodorize Smelly Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are one of those things that almost always end up smelling bad if you own them for long enough. This happens naturally –- especially if you go on long hikes in hot, humid weather — because when there is moisture in your shoes, bacteria will start to grow, thereby creating an unpleasant smell. To solve this problem, many people have their own ways of deodorizing hiking shoes that they swear by. One of the most popular methods touted online to help with smelly hiking shoes is to add a few bags of tea inside your boots and leave them to sit overnight. Proponents of this method claim that the added teabags soak up the smell inside the shoes and replace it with the pleasant scent of fresh tea. However, does this trick truly work?


Unfortunately, not really. When USA Today tested the teabag trick, it was found that it didn't work because while the teabags did add a nice scent to the shoes, they were unable to remove the unpleasant foot smell that was already there. The result of the experiment was shoes that smelled like both tea and feet — which is arguably worse than shoes that just smell like feet.

Why many people believe the teabag trick works

Despite this trick not actually working, many hikers have tried the hack and swear that teabags have helped deodorize their shoes. So, what's really causing the decrease in odor if it's not the tea?

As it turns out, letting your hiking shoes dry out after using them is one of the keys to reducing odor because you are getting rid of the warm moist environment that helps bacteria thrive. With or without the teabag, setting your hiking shoes aside for a few days to dry will help them smell better. Plus, with the addition of the pleasant odor of tea, many people may believe that they've successfully treated their smelly shoes. Unfortunately, as soon as you use your shoes again and they get warm and wet on the inside, the bad smell will return.


The only way to successfully get rid of the odor inside of a shoe is to either absorb it or kill the bacteria that is creating it. One of the simplest ways to do this is to leave your shoes to sit out in the sun. Sunlight has been proven to kill bacteria and remove odor from clothing. So, setting your shoes outside in direct sunlight in the summer is a good way to help remove the odor — and if you want, you can still add a teabag to each boot because while it won't help get rid of the smell, it also won't hurt the process and may add a more pleasant scent at the same time.

Ways to remove hiking shoe smells that actually work

Besides setting your shoes out to dry in the sun, there are plenty of other ways to remove unpleasant odors from your hiking boots that actually work. One great way is to add a little baking soda to your shoes and let the powder sit inside them after each use to help soak up the odor. This method works well because, besides being absorbent, baking soda also has mild antibacterial properties which can help you kill some of those odor-causing microbes. If you also want to add a pleasant odor to the shoes at the same time, consider mixing the baking powder with a few drops of your favorite essential oil.


Another option is to use white vinegar. Vinegar naturally has antibacterial properties and is a great option because it gets rid of smells completely instead of just covering them up. For the best results, spray your hiking boots with a mixture of vinegar and water after each use and then set them out to dry. And don't worry, as your shoes dry, the vinegar smell will also disappear leaving you with a pair of fresh-smelling boots for your next adventure.