Eww, mold/mildew in my shoes! Please help!
January 17, 2012 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Ewww, my summer sandals (technically a water shoe) have visible mildew or mold in them! Help me fix this. Plus, now I'm paranoid about all my shoes and I physically can't smell. Special snowflake details inside.

This has never happened to me before as far as I'm aware.

I moved down to the South a year and a half ago. I am now in Baton Rouge, a very humid place. I just went to put on my favorite sandals (technically a water shoe, the now discontinued Merrell WaterPro Pandi) which I haven't worn since probably October/November. (We're having a warm/rainy spell right now.) And as I'm getting ready to put them on, I see the footbed is covered in small green circles of what appears to be mildew or mold. I grab a different colored pair of the same style, Merrell Waterpro Pandi, that I wear slightly less frequently and same thing. Upon examination, there is also visible mildew/mold on and near the heel on the actual shoe, too, so just removing and treating the soles isn't an option.

This is slightly complicated by the fact that I was born with congenital anosmia and so I'm only able to go off of visuals here. I'm now also a little freaked out that perhaps all my shoes smell even when I don't see the green stuff.

I don't particularly want to ask anyone to come over and smell all my shoes. I mean, I have friends, but that's something I'd only ask of a family member or multi-year-long friendship, and neither live nearby.

How do I treat the Merrell Waterpro Pandi shoes? How about the rest of my shoes? All my shoes are vegan, if that matters, so only man-made materials, but not all are water shoes. I saw this question, but 1) there's no sunshine right now, and it's always humid/rainy, and 2) I feel like perhaps the visible mildew may impact matters, and 3) I now need a routine so even though I can't smell, I'm not walking around with smelly, mildew/moldy shoes.
posted by vegartanipla to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total)
I toss my beloved (and also now discontinued) Merrell Encore MJs into the washing machine along with the rest of my weekly laundry and they've held up fine for the past two years. I let them air dry though, rather than run them through the dryer, so I don't know if that will work in a super humid climate.
posted by jamaro at 1:47 PM on January 17, 2012

Moldy shoes can be a pretty common problem in humid places. Depending on the material, and the degree of infestation, the shoes can definitely be saved.

If the shoe material is not too porous, just wash the shoes with warm water, a scrub brush, and some baby shampoo. It will take them a couple of days to dry, but it should fix the problem. However, if the material is porous, the fungus may have invaded the material itself, which will lead to discoloration.

The smell is a big deal - shoes generally smell, right?

Once clean and dry, consider storing your shoes in a closest in a warm, dry part of your house. The higher up, the better. It may even make sense to store them on the top shelf of your closet.

Consider using a product like Damprid to dehumidify the air in your closet. I use this stuff all the time in Japan where shoes are stored, as well as clothing and futons.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:51 PM on January 17, 2012

I don't think it's a great idea to throw shoes in the drier - just stick them in a sunlit spot and run a fan on them, and shove newspapers into them.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:52 PM on January 17, 2012

I like to wipe my "barefoot" (no socks) shoes out every time I wear them with a paper towel and a splash of rubbing alcohol. Controls odor, reduces moisture, prevents crud build-up. When it's winter time for a month, I put them in a big Ziplock bag with those dessicant crystal paks that seem to be included in everything you buy now days.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:30 PM on January 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ha. Now that I live by the sea after a life in the plains, I am a master at this.

In ascending order of aggressiveness to kill mildew and fungas: Direct sunlight. Dandruff shampoo. Hydrogen Peroxide. Bleach. The microwave. The first four will help with smell, too. The last will make you hate your kitchen for a couple hours.

And when not on your feet, keep them in a box or closet or drawer with its own desiccant, like a sack of rice. Basmati smells nice.
posted by rokusan at 3:59 PM on January 17, 2012

On a trip to southeast Asia my Keens picked up some funk that my usual regimen of washing machine + sunlight couldn't knock out. The thing that finally did work: wrapping them up in a plastic bag and putting them in the freezer overnight.
posted by ambrosia at 6:03 PM on January 17, 2012

Thanks so much to all of you for your help!

Here's what I'm getting:

This only happens with shoes that people wear barefoot. (Please correct me if that's not true.) So my paranoia about other, always-with-socks sneakers having it too but just not visibly and therefore smelling really bad is just paranoia, right?

I think I am going to try washing machine + dandruff shampoo followed by microwave. The microwave making my apartment smell bad *temporarily* isn't a problem for me, because I can't smell. I'm trusting you that it's only going to make my apartment smell for a couple hours, though, because I don't want it to forever smell of mildewy feet to visitors...
posted by vegartanipla at 10:47 PM on January 17, 2012

For future sufferers: Washing machine + small amount of dandruff shampoo + small amount of normal detergent followed by air drying for my manmade boots or for hardier exercise-y shoes, dryer drying, appears to have solved the immediate issue. (I realized more shoes were mildewed than I initially thought, so it ended up being a 6-pair issue.) Didn't need to progress to microwaving.

To try to prevent its recurrence, I dumped some rice in the bottom of my shoe storage plastic bin as well as moved it away from nearer to the window and houseplants as I figured it's more humid there. Only time will tell if the mildew will return...

(And I know, the rice in some areas might end up contributing to a pest problem, but right now where I live it's a non-issue.)

Thanks again.
posted by vegartanipla at 7:20 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Spread some real rice on a baking sheet and put it into the oven overnight at 200 degrees. It dehydrates completely and absorbs moisture even better, and the bugs won't be attracted. Put a teaspoon or so into your salt shakers, too.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 3:45 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

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