How to clean and deodorize smelly sneakers, cleats, and sports gear!

How to get that smelly sports gear to smell fresh as a daisy(ish) again!


Kennedy was away at soccer camp last week and of course that meant packing up her cleats in her suitcase so that she could take them with her.


One sniff of our mudroom after a soccer game, and you’d know that it was not going to smell pretty in that suitcase. We’ve had quite a few rainy days on game and practice days this year and it’s just made the problem worse. Now, prevention is absolutely the name of the game when it comes to smelly sports gear, but I obviously didn’t do the best job of that this year, did I? Too many late games where we came home and I had to go and feed baby Jack right away and then completely forgot about airing out the soccer gear. Oops!

If you find yourself in a similar situation with some of the smelly gear in your house, here’s what you can do!

How to get that smelly sports gear to smell fresh as a daisy(ish) again!Start out with some nice hot water with a mild detergent, like dish soap, and let everything soak for a few minutes.

How to get that smelly sports gear to smell fresh as a daisy(ish) again!Give everything a little scrub with a soft-bristled brush and rinse the soap off.

How to get that smelly sports gear to smell fresh as a daisy(ish) again!Get an OLD towel (like the one you use to clean the dog after he’s been in the mud) and roll everything up in it to squeeze out the excess moisture.

How to get that smelly sports gear to smell fresh as a daisy(ish) again!Dry the insides of any shoes really well!

How to get that smelly sports gear to smell fresh as a daisy(ish) again!Now it’s time to let mother nature work her magic! Please excuse the bird poop on the railing. I was focused on cleaning soccer stuff, not decks at the time. :)

The hotter and sunnier the weather, the better! There’s nothing better to kill bacteria and get out smells than good ol’ fresh air! To be honest, this is really what you (OK, I) should have been doing all along. As soon as the sports gear comes off, stick it outside to let it air out if it’s a nice sunny day and you won’t have to worry about smells in the first place.

The idea is that you want to get the gear to dry out as quickly as possible. If it’s not quite as hot and sunny as you’d like, you can stuff newspaper into the shoes (or gloves, or whatever’s not drying out as quickly as you’d like) to soak up the moisture.

Now here’s a really neat trick. I’d heard about this before but then I forgot it before I got a chance to try it out. And then, well, I remembered it again, so that’s why I’m telling you about it now!

How to get that smelly sports gear to smell fresh as a daisy(ish) again!


Put your sneakers, cleats, sports gear, what-have-you, etc. into big plastic ziplock bags, seal them up, and stick them overnight in the freezer! This kills off the bacteria living in them and helps get rid of smells. It sounds crazy but it really works! I’ve heard you’re supposed to do this with fancy jeans too to “clean” them when you don’t want to put them in the washing machine.

And there you go! Fresh, clean sports gear! And you didn’t even have to use any crazy scented chemical cleaners or get out the hazmat suit!

If you want to keep things from getting too stinky in the future, remember not to leave everything in your bag for a week after using it. You could even sprinkle a little bit of this homemade carpet cleaner in each shoe between uses to help absorb any smells that might be building up.

I hope this helps some other moms out there suffering with smelly sports gear all Summer long. I know I’m looking forward to a stench-free rest of the soccer season!


Find more of my best cleaning tricks in my cleaning archives!



  1. says

    That is crazy! I’ve never heard of sticking them in the freezer. Now, I need to go buy some fancy jeans so I can try that out. haha!

  2. Myra says

    That’s great, but I can’t put football shoulder pads in the freezer, any idea’s on how to clean them? They stink bad, i’v tried everything. Wow, little boys sweat so much and they have had the same pads for many years, new one’s are not an option :(

    • Courtenay says

      I’m guessing you’ve probably tried putting them outside in the sun and fresh air. What about rubbing alcohol? It’s great at killing bacteria. Or maybe that Detol disinfectant that you can buy at the drug store, I think in the first aid section. I’ve heard of people (super neat freaks) using that to clean and disinfect their bathrooms, and hospitals use it too I think. Not quite as natural, but maybe you need something a bit stronger for this particular challenge. Good luck!

    • Michele says

      Baking soda! Works on everything so well!!! Sprinkle on liberally & shake off e Vess when it’s game or practice time.

      Same for equipment bags & shoes. I would never submerge my son’s $300 cleats in water! Even if I am going to air dry them. It ruins the leather, laces & seams.

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