Using Tea bags to De-stink Your Shoes: Does it Really Work?


I quit drinking tea in April, which was bad news for all of the yet-to-be-had tea in my cupboard.

Not long after giving up my tea-drinking habit, I stumbled upon a pin on Pinterest suggesting I use my leftover tea bags to remove odors from my shoes (anyone else owning flats knows exactly why this pin piqued my interest).

I pinned it, like any good pinner does, to come back to at a later date. I was hesitant to try it for several reasons:

a. I wasn’t quite ready to accept that I’d given up on my delicious habit, and stuffing the last of my tea bags into my smelly shoes would certainly be the nail that sealed the coffin, (is that how the saying goes?)
b. I wasn’t sure how many tea bags I’d need,
c. and finally, I didn’t know which tea worked best

Any tea-drinker knows that there are many different kinds of tea out there. There’s green, white, black, oolong, and herbal, not to mention all the varietals within each of those.

I had 15 boxes of tea in my cupboard, all different varieties of green, black and herbal. I had faith in the pin, but I had very little motivation to start experimenting with my once-beloved teas.

Until now.

We just got back from a week long trip in Boston, MA.

This magnificent city is known as America’s Walking City, and I sure put that to the test. And I wore the same pair of slip on the whole week.

That means, when I came back home to California, I had some gnarly smelling shoes.

I was ready to try out the pin!

But first, I needed to know which tea-bags worked best. The pin I’d found only suggested that tea bags deodorized shoes, but gave no further information.

So I decided to experiment.


The Materials:

I used six different kinds of tea,

The Test Teas
  1. A generic black tea
  2. A generic green tea
  3. Honey Ginseng (green)
  4. Strawberry Vanilla (white)
  5. Chamomile (herbal)
  6. Lemon Ginger (herbal)

And 3 pairs of shoes:

  1. The shoes I wore in Boston (peh-yew!)
  2. A pair of ballet flats
  3. and a pair of my boyfriends most frequently used slip-ons

The Experiment:

I divided the tea up into two smell-categories: Strong and Mild.

Using two tea bags per shoe, I put the mild bags into each of the left shoes and the stronger ones into each right shoe.

I left the shoes alone for a few hours and came back ready to sniff (this was not as fun as it sounded when all was said and done).

The Results:

The generic black tea and generic green tea did nothing to cover the stink, I just got a big whiff of foot (ick!)

The four remaining tea-types on the other hand DID offer results that weren’t just foot.

My hypothesis was that the lemon-ginger, being the strongest of the strong, would overpower the smell of foot the best, but boy was I wrong. While the tea WAS the strongest in the shoes still, it mixed with the foot smell and provided an odor that I actually preferred less than stinky feet!!

The honey ginseng was mild, almost too mild, although it did cover the odor of the shoe fairly well.

The strawberry-vanilla was the best smelling and offered great odor-relief, bringing us finally to the chamomile, which to my surprise actually worked really well! It smelled great and there was no foot smell left!


Generic teas don’t seem to do much to help eliminate shoe odor, while the lemon ginger actually made the smell worse!

Herbal teas seem to work great for covering foot-odor.

If you have odorous shoes and are wondering if tea bags will actually help, my answer is…

But not all teas work.

My top three recommendations for using tea-bags to cover shoe odor are as follows:

  1. Strawberry Vanilla
  2. Chamomile (probably the most common of my tea types)
  3. Honey Ginseng

One last tip before I send you on your way to sniff your shoes…

Two tea bags was effective, but for maximum odor relief you’ll want to use 4-5 tea bags per shoe, especially if they’re extra stinky. I highly suggest chamomile for this use, since it works well and is fairly inexpensive.

Happy sniffing!






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