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Gear Guy

How do I get the nasty smell out of my old shoes?

How do I get the nasty smell out of my old footwear? I like to buy quality boots and shoes that will last a long time, but inevitably, long before they are worn out, they start to stink (my feet tend to sweat a lot). Any suggestions as to removing the offensive odors and bringing these old friends back into service? Bill Charlottesville, Virginia

A: There are multiple ways to attack this odoriferous problem. Start with the feet. Wear absorbent socks—socks with wool in them are good—so that the sweat doesn't leach into the shoes. If you really sweat, you can always spray your feet with anti-perspirant. It works, really!

Then, smell-proof the shoes. Charcoal insoles such as Odor Eaters ($3 each) go a long way toward vacuuming up bad smells, thanks to the charcoal (an odor neutralizer) and baking soda (which absorbs odors). Use one for a few weeks, then replace.

The shoes themselves can be handled several ways. There are odor-killing sprays that are extremely effective—Febreeze is an excellent one. Spray a little in each shoe, and the odor literally goes away. In most cases, it's also OK to rinse the shoes out (especially hiking boots) with a little warm water. This will help cut the sweat smells, and also prolong the shoes' lives by washing out the acid that sweat contains. I wouldn't recommend this for dress shoes, but most footwear can take it. I wash tennis-type shoes in the washing machine, and they come out fine.

So there you go. Good luck, and I hope never to run into your shoes. Anywhere.

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