Sunlight to Clean Smelly Shoes & Kill Fungus & Germs

Sunlight to Clean Smelly Shoes - What You Need to Know
Sunlight to Clean Smelly Shoes – What You Need to Know

Sunlight keeps the world alive, but can we use sunlight clean smelly shoes? Sunlight is made up of UV-A and UV-B rays. While these rays are harmful to our skin, what will they do for our shoes? Let’s see. 

Does Sunlight Kill Germs in Shoes

Direct sunlight can kill some bacteria and fungi, but not necessarily viruses. 

In your shoes, sunlight will dry the insides, eliminating the damp environment in which bacteria and fungi like to thrive. They will also kill some of the bacteria and fungi in the shoes. 

Your shoes will need to be in direct sunlight. The surfaces will need to be fully exposed for hours at the hottest time of the day. The hotter the sun is, the better. And the longer you can leave your shoes in the sun the better. UV rays are usually strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. 

One study showed that fungal infections were significantly reduced for 3 days of direct sun exposure in socks of patients that has tinea pedis infections (foot fungus) while another one showed that sunlight killed more than double the bacteria in one room compared to another room that had no sun exposure. 

However, the UV-A and UV-B rays that we get from direct and visible sunlight are not strong enough to efficiently kill viruses. For this, you would need UV-C rays, which do not reach the earth directly. 

If you want to use UV light to disinfect your shoes consider getting a: UV Shoe Sanitizer, click here to learn more.Opens in a new tab.

Other great methods to disinfect your shoes are:

Spraying Lysol to Clean Shoes- Is it Safe & Does it WorkOpens in a new tab.

How to Use Rubbing Alcohol to Clean & Disinfect ShoesOpens in a new tab.

Using Vinegar to Clean Smelly Shoes -What You Need to KnowOpens in a new tab.

Does sunlight help remove odor from shoes?

Sunlight can help to lessen or get rid of odor from shoes. 

Shoe odor is most commonly caused by bacteria and fungi that react to the sweat and dampness in our shoes. When these elements are removed, the odor goes away or at least lessens. 

Direct sunlight will dry your shoes, as well as get rid of some of the bacteria and fungi that cause the odor. 

However, this is not a permanent fix. If your shoes can tolerate this treatment, you may need to sun out your shoes often. I recommend using a disinfecting spray like Lysol every day and then sunning out your shoes once per week. Wash your shoes once every month or every few months (depending on how much you wear them and how dirty they are). 

Other ways to get rid of odor from shoes are:

Freezing Shoes to Get Rid of Smell & Fungi – What to KnowOpens in a new tab.

Tea Bags For Smelly Shoes & Feet – Easy Home RemedyOpens in a new tab.

Tips on How Safely to Clean & Whiten Shoes with BleachOpens in a new tab.

How To Use The Sunlight To Clean Smelly Shoes

This method aims to use the rays of the sun to dry and disinfect your shoes. 

  1. If your shoes are very dirty and smelly, I recommend washing them first. If they are not as bad, you can skip the washing. For white shoes, you can also coat them with your whitening agent (any bleaching product) first.
  1. When you are ready to place your shoes in the sun, check your local weather forecast to make sure it will be sunny all day. 
  1. Then open them up as much as possible. Remove any laces and soles from the inside. 
  1. Place the laces and the soles (washed or unwashed) in the sun, separately to dry. 
  1. Place your shoes in the sun in a position that will drain any water out of them if they are wet. Or, if they are not wet, place them in a position where the sun will get as far inside the shoes as possible. 
  1. Make sure that there is nothing to block the sun from hitting the shoes directly. 
  1. Leave your shoes in the sun all day if possible or for a few hours at least. If they are wet, make sure that you leave them until dry. 
  1. If needed, you can repeat the sunning process consecutively for a few days after that. 

Related Article – 7 Hacks To Fix Smelly Shoes Overnight Without WashingOpens in a new tab.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I put shoes in the sun after cleaning and washing them?

Depending on the material of your shoes, it is generally safe to put them in the sun after cleaning and washing them. 

The sunlight will help to dry them properly and help kill the remaining bacteria and fungi.  

Related Articles:

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How to Clean Fabric, Canvas or Mesh Shoes: White & ColoredOpens in a new tab.

Does sunlight kill fungus in shoes?

Sunlight will kill some shoe fungi but not 100% of them. 

Placing your shoes in direct sunlight will kill a good number of fungi in your shoes. The longer you can leave them in the sun, the better. 

Related Article: How to Clean Shoes with a Magic Eraser – Ultimate GuideOpens in a new tab.

How long should I leave my shoes in the sun?

You should leave your shoes in the sun for a few hours or all day if possible. 

This will depend on the material of your shoes and whether they can withstand much sun exposure. 

Related Article: Cleaning Shoes with Toothpaste: All that You Need to KnowOpens in a new tab.

Does the sun help whiten shoes?

Sunlight alone will not whiten your shoes, but when combined with whitening treatments (like hydrogen peroxide, bleach, and baking soda) it can help the whitening process along. 

Most experts recommend applying your whitening treatment and then placing your shoes in the in for 3-4 hours. 

Click here to read about How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Safely Clean Smelly ShoesOpens in a new tab.

Can sunlight damage shoes?

Some types of shoes can be damaged by the sun. This would depend on the material. 

Some shoes warp in direct sunlight. Others will fade in color after prolonged or repeated sun exposure. Some will become brittle and crack when exposed to sunlight and heat for too long.

Make sure to check the material and care instructions of your shoes before leaving them in direct sunlight.  

Can I dry leather shoes in sun?

You should not dry your leather shoes in direct sunlight. 

Direct sunlight can cause the leather to fade and warp. It also causes extreme drying which will cause the leather to peel and crack. 

Related Article: 6 Ways to Clean White Vans Without Turning YellowOpens in a new tab.

Does sunlight damage white shoes?

Direct sunlight can react with the dye on your white shoes and make them yellow. 

This does not happen to every white shoe. It depends on various factors like material and the kind and amount of dye used on the shoes. 

Related Article – How to Clean Shoes with OxiClean – What You Need to KnowOpens in a new tab.

How to remove yellow sun stains from white shoes?

You can use simple home ingredients like toothpaste, baking soda, or any cleaning product with bleach to remove yellow stains from your shoes. 

Toothpaste and baking soda can be applied all over your shoes. However, bleach should only be applied to non-porous surfaces unless the porous surfaces are all-white or you do not mind the loss of color (if there is any color to be lost). 

Ironically, you can use the sun combined with your whitening agent to help get rid of yellow stains!

Video: Christina Morrison – How to Whiten Your Yellowed Air Force 1s with Household Items


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“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants”: The Efficacy of Sun Exposure for Reducing Fungal Contamination in Used Clothes | Request PDF

Grandma Was Right: Sunshine Helps Kill Germs IndoorsOpens in a new tab.

How To Protect Leather Shoes From The Summer HeatOpens in a new tab. 

How To Remove Yellow Stains From White Shoes | Two Little FeetOpens in a new tab.    

Saskiya Inshanally

Saskiya Inshanally is the editor-in-chief at The HomeKeeperHub. She has years of experience researching and experimenting in a wide array of topics. Saskiya has also co-founded which is dedicated to helping individuals have better skin.

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