Stinky Socks

For years I have worn Muck Boots or Extra-Tufs while paddling. Both are made of neoprene and make my socks stink. I mean really bad. Socks are smart wool or similar, and I have tried different material with no improvement. I’ve also tried using powder that supposedly reduces odor but it didn’t help. On our long trips (10-20 days) I have been know to burn socks rather than encapsulate and store them in the stern. I won’t change my foot ware because they offer real support on our rocky beaches and in the forest – they are also warm, which is part of the problem, but necessary here in Southeast Alaska. So, any suggestions? My wife is starting to avoid me in camp.

You already have the answer…

Distilled white vinegar.
Clean those boots good by soaking them in a bucket with water and distilled white vinegar. If you can afford to let them soak two days before drying, that works well. Then dry well. I have found a single treatment will last several river dunkings in some pretty yuck water. Reminds me, I have a pair of river sneakers that are so ready for the treatment.

I 2nd the vinegar
It is cheap and works great! I let our water shoes soak overnight. Socks can be soaked also.

stinky socks
Try baking soda in your socks.

vingear and soda
I’ll give the white vinegar a try, though again, it isn’t the boots that smell awful, its my socks. As to the baking soda.

I recently read a report that baking soda doesn’t really even help in the fridge, so are you making this suggestion from experience or based on the myth of soda?

My experience with the baking soda-like powder I used a couple of years ago wasn’t very positive.

thanks for these responses!


Don’t wear socks

one capful of bleach per gallon
Make the solution spray it on your socks let them dry over night.

I use it as a broad spectrum anti-stink when supplies run thin. Been using it with stinky neoprene for more than a decade.

Do you wash the socks?

– Last Updated: May-18-10 10:52 AM EST –

I didn't see anything along those lines, just that you clean the boots.

The socks are the ones in direct contact with your body oils and sweat, so they need cleaning, too.

And in case you were wondering, a simple rinse or even soap may not do the trick. I found this out after doing a test on a 10-day Lake Powell trip. Although I brought the usual assortment of varied-temperature clothing, I paddled wearing only one pair of Taslan shorts and one synthetic t-shirt. I washed them every day in either plain water or with a little bit of "biodegradable camp soap."

The clothing took on a hint of odor even with the daily washing. When I got home, I put the two items away, left them for a few days, and then pulled them out for a sniff test. I had to run them through a real washer cycle using detergent before the smell went away.

Wool just gets less stinky than synthetics do. It'll still absorb smells eventually. Where it's good is if the air is so damp that even synthetics don't dry out--then I'd much rather be wearing wool.

If it’s sunny:
just wash and hang out on the sun. Sun will desinfect it.

Can’t hang up the boot insides
The boots need to be hung upside down on vented boot “trees”. You can make these by drilling holes in small-diameter PVC tubes and inserting the tubes in some kind of stand. Better still, put the boot and stand over the hot-air heater vents. I do this at home.

I hang all the rest of my paddling gear outside in the sunny, dry air here in Colorado.

This doesn’t necessarily work elsewhere, esp. in SE Alaska where I think Umnak is from. I remember that wet gear simply did not dry until we got the heat spell.

The funky stuff
is in the boots. The socks absorb it. But the socks release it at much higher levels to you can detect it much easier. But the bad stuff is down in there. Go get it.

Very On Topic :slight_smile:

Just some ideas

  • silver is, supposedly, anti-bacterial, search for socks with that. Google for “antibacterial socks”

  • I like my feet warm, but hate neo boots. I discovered that a rigid sandal with toe protection combined with a light neo sock ( and regular sock as a liner) works very well at protecting my feet and keeping them warm. Neo socks dry out better than the boot, but I still have to wash those liners.

More Suggestions
Thanks for the new suggestions: The febreze and/or bleach spray may be something that we can do while on trips.

Got to wear socks, the water is cold here.

Washing socks on trips is pretty risky because they won’t get dry. We paddle 8-10 hours a day and even with 20+ hours of daylight the sun simply isn’t out much in Southeast Alaska.

Is the Listerine suggested because it eliminates bacteria? If so, I wonder if using an antibacterial solution would help with the boots?

Will look into the anti-bacterial socks again, last pair didn’t work out well but that was a few years ago.

cold weather idea
You could wash the socks with 90% rubbing alcohol. It will smell fine and dry in cold weather. Then you’ll have to carry a bottle on trips though.

The vapor barrier is a great idea, as are many others on here. Just use caution with the vapor barrier. You truly do have to watch for trench foot. As you wear/break down the skin on your foot you increase the chances for Cellulitis, MRSA, etc. If you do allow you feet to get/stay wet you really need to give them a chance to dry as often as you can. Feet are important, especially to us outdoors types, loosing feet/toes to infection as a bit of a damper on our life styles. I’ve seen some nasty trech foot courtesy of being with the infantry, and as a Paramedic. I’ve even fallen victim to it in long field ops in the NC swamps. Just use caution, although it really may help with the odor some.

Take Care,


No more stink
A follow up to the initial post about my stinky socks. Looks like those of you who said it was the boots and not the socks were correct. I tried the bleach solution and it did seem to at least mask the smell, resulting in markedly less stink on an overnight trip a couple of weeks ago. Earlier this week I was in Anchorage ( 600 miles north of where I live) and found a shop that had something called Mira Zyme. It claimed to eliminate – not mask – odor in neoprene and even from skunks! I tried it earlier this week and it seemed to work. The big test came this weekend. It has very hot and sunny here (mid 70s) and my feet were baking in the cockpit for two days. No smell! None! It works.

I had the opposite experience

– Last Updated: Jun-01-10 7:45 AM EST –

Mirazyme and Sink the Stink did nothing other than drain my wallet.

The single most important thing you can do to prevent stinky water shoes/boots is to LET THEM DRY COMPLETELY between uses, preferably in the sun whenever possible. That kills the bacteria more effectively than any commercial product and if you read their instructions, they all tell you to dry your footwear completely, too. If you can't do that, stuff them with newspaper to remove as much moisture as possible, quickly.

Second, wear socks in them, which you're already doing. That helps to keep dead skin cells and other bacterial food sources from accumulating in your footwear, so large bacterial colonies can't form and create a stench.

If you do these two things, which are essentially free, you won't need to buy anything else.