Dear Home-Ec 101:
I just did some awesome cleaning in my closet and swapped out my winter for summer stuff. I noticed my closet has a funky shoe odor. I googled it and saw a lot of ideas for getting rid of the shoe smell, but I trust Home-Ec 101 ideas more.
Imelda Marco I’m Not
The first thing to do is to pull the shoes out of the closet. If any of the shoes are particularly funky check out the post “What to Do About Stinky Shoes” and address the source of the problem.
Once the shoes are out of the closet, sprinkle any carpeting with baking soda, allow it that to sit for at least an hour or so -overnight is better. Sweep up what you can or use a shop vac¹ and then thoroughly vacuum thoroughly. I don’t mean waving the vacuum in the general direction of the closet. The carpet needs an I mean business kind of vacuuming, give any large areas several passes with the vacuum and then get on your hands and knees with the dreaded crevice tool and attack the corners.
Alternately, some people swear by Febreze and while Febreze does help with odors, it makes me sneeze like crazy -especially the allergen reducing one which I find amusing in a you’ve got to be joking kind of way. Dilute white vinegar can also be misted over the carpet.
If the flooring is hard, wipe it down with dilute white vinegar, then again with plain water. Use a box or oscillating fan to encourage the area to dry quickly. The last thing you want is to replace your shoe funk with mildew odor.
If the odor is still present, wipe down the walls and door with dilute white vinegar and again allow to dry fully before closing the door. Finally, if the odor is especially persistent set a bowl or two of full strength white vinegar in the closet and shut the door. Leave the door closed overnight and then empty the bowls in the morning.
If there is still an odor after all of that, I’m betting you may be smelling mildew or mold rather than shoe funk. In that case your best bet is to make sure the closet adequate ventilation, either by opening the door, installing a door with slats, or using a product like DampRid². DampRid is a desiccant which absorbs moisture from the air making it your closet less hospitable for mildew. There are reusable alternatives out there, most of which you use for a period of time and then dry in your oven to recharge.
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¹Most household vacuums recommend against vacuuming up large amounts of fine dust, this is why I suggest getting the bulk of the baking soda up with something other than your best household vac.