By Auntie Shelley
Our kids love to wear Keen sandals, and Anna and I love our Vibram 5-Finger Shoes. As a result, I know a thing or two about stinky sandals, and I know a lot about long van rides with kids with stinky sandals. Not good. So this summer a few days before our first canoe trip I decided to be proactive and I ran all of our sandals through the wash and dried them in the sun.
The day before our trip I sprayed them with this spray which is supposed to "break down and eliminate organic residues that cause odours." I was proud of my foresight and that for once I was ahead of the game, but you know what they say about pride, it comes before the fall.
Later that day we put several pairs of those "clean" sandals into a dry bag and then sealed it up. The bag was placed in our canoe trailer that night. It spent the next day in the hot sun and by the time we got to the launch point it really should have had a warning label on it. Like the ones on the bleach bottles that warn you not to mix bleach with ammonia because of the toxic vapour the mixture will give off. The spray did NOT work and our sandals smelled like a nasty mix of the spray and some kind of stinky foot bacteria on steroids. And the worst part, the stinky spray smell only got worse throughout the course of the trip.
When we got home I conducted exhaustive and in depth research (i.e. I did a search on Google) and then tested out some of the recommended solutions. Here are three of the solutions that worked for us.
Solution # 1 - Nikwax or Granger's
I picked up a bottle of Nikwax's Sandal Wash ($8.50). I also got a bottle of Granger's Footwear Cleaner ($5.25) and their Odour Eliminator Spray ($5.50). The Nikwax Sandal Wash bottle claims that it deodorizes. Granger's Footwear Cleaner does not make this claim, which was why I picked up their Odour Eliminator Spray. All of these products got decent online reviews, so I figured they were worth trying. I took four pairs of sandals (at varying degrees of smelliness) and washed each of the left foot sandals with Nikwax and each of the right foot sandals with Granger's (I figured I might as well run a controlled experiment). I followed the directions on the bottles for how to use the products and let the sandals air dry. After washing and drying the sandals I found that the ones washed in Nikwax smelled better than the ones washed in Granger's. The ones washed in Granger's still smelled a little bit, but after spraying them with the Odour Eliminator Spray I found the overall results were comparable to Nikwax. I used about the same amount of each product. 4 individual sandals used up half a bottle of product (unfortunately by the fourth sandals the spongey applicators on the bottles were ripping off). I still have more than half a bottle of the Odour Eliminator Spray (which can be used on bike helmets and other stinky gear). Since the price of Nikwax's Sandal Wash is comparable to Granger's Footwear Cleaner and Odour Eliminator Spray together I would say that these products are about even in terms of performance and value. The benefit of having the separate Odour Eliminator Spray is that, unlike the first spray I mentioned, I have been able to use it a couple of times to freshen up sandals when I don't have time to do a full on washing.
So, how long did these sandals stay stink free? About 2 weeks, regardless of which product was used on them. By the end of our second canoe trip all of the sandals washed with these products were getting pretty stinky again.
Apparently sandals and Vibram 5-Finger Toe Shoes should be washed about every two weeks, so I don't think these products really bought me any extra time in terms of keeping the stink factor at bay, but they did work.
**On a side note, I really owe my gym partner an apology because I can't remember the last time I washed my Vibrams, and I work out in them at least three times a week. Sorry, Shannon.
Solution #2 - Mouthwash
While I was conducting my "extensive" research into this topic I came across a very old thread on a forum where someone said that Teva recommended that they mix 1 part Listerine Mouthwash with 2 parts water, soak the sandals in the solution for 15 minutes and then rinse them well. This solution made sense to me since the stink in sandals is caused by bacteria and Listerine is antibacterial. So I took our stinkiest sandals and soaked them in watered down mouthwash for 15 minutes. I rinsed the sandals and the stinky feet smell was gone. Now a word of warning about this, rinse the sandals REALLY well. If you don't the next morning when you go to church you will be able to smell your son's nice minty sandals even though he's two pews over. Sorry, Josh! The mint smell did dissipate within a day or so, but it was pretty strong at first.
So, how long did these sandals stay stink free? Well, it's been over three weeks and they are still pretty much stink free. And the cost of this solution? The bottle of mouth wash cost me $3.49 and I still have half left.
Solution #3 - Vinegar and Baking Soda
There are a few variations for this cost effective solution. Wash your sandals well. While they are still damp sprinkle baking soda all over them. Let this sit for a few minutes and then spray with a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water. Let that sit for 15-20 minutes, rinse well, and then air dry (preferably in the sun). I found that sandals washed this way stayed stink free for 2-3 weeks.
Another alternative is to wash the sandals well and then once they are dry liberally sprinkle baking soda all of them. Let the baking soda sit overnight and then dust them off in the morning. The drawback to this solution is that if you don't get all the baking soda out, and this can be hard to do, you get baking soda all over your feet. If this happens with a pair of Vibram 5-Finger shoes that you happen to workout in you will end up with a slimy baking-soda-sweat-paste all over your feet which really doesn't feel very good.
I read on another forum that if the sandals are really bad you can soak them in the vinegar water solution overnight, douse them with baking soda, let that sit for awhile, rinse and finally dry them in the sun.
These are just a few of the solutions that we've tried. If you have any suggestions please share them below in the comments section. We'd love to hear them.