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This problem isn’t just prevalent in boots and running shoes, though. Shoes, cleats, and sneakers from the likes of Adidas, Nike, Ugg, Converse, Danner, and L.L. Bean are also prone to smelling like cat urine.
If your footwear smells like cat piss, regardless of its type and brand, this post is for you.
I’m going to highlight the reasons why boots, shoes, and sneakers can develop the smell of cat pee. I’m also going to tell you how you can get rid of the smell, so stick around.
Why Do Your Work Boots Smell Like Cat Pee?
“Why do my boots stink?” From perspiration problems and sweaty feet to actually having cat piss in your boots, there are quite a few reasons why your boots stink. Let’s address each one.
1. You Have Sweaty Feet
No, I’m not body-shaming you. I actually have sweaty feet myself!
At first, I thought my boots lacked in terms of breathability, which can be a contributing factor, as you’ll learn shortly, but then I realized my feet were the problem all along.
Comments from Professor James Leyden from the University of Pennsylvania and chemist George Preti from the Monell Chemical Senses Center have helped me overcome my sweaty feet problem.
The two experts stated that sulfur compounds are behind the nasty cat urine smell and that some people’s feet are colonized by bacteria that produce these sulfur compounds.
You can take the edge off the smell with the aid of household essentials like dryer sheets and baking soda, but I’ve found that foot sprays are much more effective.
2. Poor Breathability
Boots, shoes, and sneakers that lack in terms of breathability tend to smell bad with regular use. This is especially the case when combined with sweaty feet.
In addition to the bad smell, work boots with poor breathability can be uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time because they overheat quickly.
To overcome this, footwear manufacturers incorporate certain textiles and synthetic materials that allow for an optimal flow of air.
Note that shoes and boots that are made entirely out of genuine leather tend to suffer greatly in terms of breathability. So just because a boot is 100% genuine leather doesn’t mean it’s perfect for you.
3. Some Leathers Have an Odor
It’s important to note that most, if not all, leather shoes and boots carry a distinctive woody odor. The odor isn’t necessarily bad, but some people might find it unappealing. Luckily, this odor fades over time.
It’s also worth noting that the woody odor is associated with high-quality leather products that have been treated and processed properly.
That being said, if you have a pair of boots that have a pungent, unpleasant smell, chances are your boots are made of a low-quality animal hide, like that of a buffalo, goat, or horse.
Check out this research article, titled Odor Removal in Leather Tannery, for additional insights.
4. Unclean Footbed or Insole
We’re always careful to wash our garments on a regular basis, but we often neglect our footwear. As a result, our boots, shoes, and sneakers tend to develop foul smells.
Depending on how often you wear your boots, it’s important that you set a cleaning schedule. You can clean them whenever they’re dirty or smelly, or you can clean them consistently every two weeks.
You should put great emphasis on cleaning your boot’s footbed, also known as the insole.
Check out this video tutorial on how to deep-clean insoles.
5. There’s Actual Cat Pee in Your Boots
“Why do my shoes smell like cat pee?” Well, maybe because there’s a cat peeing in it!
If you have a pet cat and your boots carry that ammonia smell of cat pee, there’s a good chance your cat has urinated in your boots.
If you don’t have a pet cat but tend to leave your footwear outdoors, like on your porch, you might be dealing with a feral cat that likes peeing in your boots.
6. Perspiration Problems
The sixth and final reason why your boots might smell like cat urine is perspiration problems, like hyperhidrosis, which is excessive sweating in relation to physical effort and heat.
According to Seattle-based podiatrist Larry Huppin, you can overcome perspiration problems with the aid of prescribed antiperspirants, iontophoresis treatment, or botox injections. There’s also a surgical option known as sympathectomy.
Be sure to visit a podiatrist for more insight.
How to Get the Cat Pee Smell Out of Your Boots
Now that you know the reasons why a pair of work boots might like cat piss, it’s time to discuss some of the methods through which you can get rid of the foul smell.
1. Wash Your Boot Liners
Most work boots don’t have liners, but if you happen to have a pair that does, you need to take out the liners and give them a thorough wash. It’s advised to wash them with cold water and a mild detergent in a delicate setting.
You can throw them in the washing machine or wash them by hand.
It’s also a good idea to wash/clean your boots entirely. Here’s an excellent video guide on how to clean and condition leather work boots.
2. Use a Disinfectant like Lysol or alcohol isopropyl solution
Like we mentioned earlier, the smell of cat pee is mostly associated with sweat and bacteria. So, if you wish to get rid of the smell, you have to disinfect your boots on a regular basis.
Alternatively, you can make your own disinfectant at home. You’re going to need 99% isopropyl alcohol, which is often sold in bulk. Then, mix some of the isopropyl alcohol with water to make an effective disinfectant. You can also mix it with other liquids to make soaps!
Now that you have a disinfectant handy, how do you go about applying it?
All you have to do is take the insoles out and just spray the disinfectant into your boots and onto the footbed. Then, spray the insoles and let them dry before putting them back in your boots.
This process is to be repeated until the urine smell is gone.
3. Use an Odor Eliminator Spray
Odor removers come in many forms, from sprays to deodorizer bags.
When it comes to sprays, the enzyme-powered Rocco & Roxie Odor Eliminator is second to none. It’s designed for carpets, but it’s just as effective with footwear.
To use the Rocco & Roxie spray, remove the insoles from your boots, spray it into your boots a few times, and then let them dry naturally. Consider spraying the insoles once or twice, too.
For best results, grab a small brush (a toothbrush that you no longer need) and just give the insides of your boots a gentle scrape.
If you’re not fond of sprays, you should try the NonScents Shoe Deodorizer. They’re deodorizer bags/pads that offer a long-lasting odor elimination effect. You just place them in your boots and let them work their magic.
You can also try deodorizer balls or use your favorite cat stain and odor eliminator spray.
4. Eliminate Moisture from your boots
If you have a pet cat, try sprinkling some of your cat’s clay litter into your work boots and leave it for a couple of days. Clay litter does an excellent job of absorbing moisture and odor.
If you don’t have replacement boots that you can wear while the clay cat litter does its thing, just leave the litter overnight and remove it in the morning. Do this for 2-3 nights.
When you wake in the morning, empty the clay litter from your boots, put on a pair of old socks that you don’t really need, and wear your boots for about 10 minutes. This will remove the dust and dirt caused by the litter.
If you don’t have old socks that you don’t mind throwing away, you can use a paper towel instead.
What if you don’t have a feline pet, though? This would mean that you don’t have cat clay litter. In this case, you can leave your boots to dry in a well-ventilated environment or you can use a boot dryer.
5. Use a Mixture of Vinegar and Baking Soda
When white vinegar is mixed with baking soda, the baking soda breaks down, releasing carbon dioxide gas. The gas does an excellent job of eliminating odor and dirt from most surfaces, including footwear.
If you don’t have baking soda, you can substitute it for borax powder.
The mixture can be used as an alternative to all-purpose cleaners. So not only can you use it to clean cat urine, but you can also use it to clean your countertops, chrome fixtures, and more.
6. Try Talcum Powder
Talcum powder, also known as talc powder, is known for its impressive ability to absorb moisture and put an end to foul stenches in no time. Talc is a mineral that’s essentially made up of oxygen, silicon, and magnesium.
Sprinkle a dusting of talc powder inside your boots and leave them overnight to reduce the cat piss smell. An added benefit of using talc powder is that it can soothe dry and irritated skin.
Please note that talcum powder is best used as a prevention measure. In other words, it’s best to apply talcum powder before your boots start to smell.
If your boots are already smelly, the powder will help take the edge off the smell, but it might not eliminate it completely.
7. Use Black Tea Bags
Surprisingly, black tea bags offer remarkable odor control. Grab a few used tea bags, place them in your work boots, and just leave your boots overnight. The odor will be reduced significantly when you wake up!
Check out this brief video tutorial.
8. Freeze Your Work Boots
The bacteria causing the foul smell in your boots are no match for low temperatures. That being said, by putting your boots in the freezer or somewhere extremely cold, the bacteria will die and the odor will be eliminated.
Make sure to put your boots in a bag that can be sealed firmly before putting them in a freezer.
Also, note that this isn’t the most effective way of getting rid of cat pee smell, which is why it’s at the bottom of my list. It’s worth a try, though.
How to Prevent Your Work Boots From Smelling
If you’ve used some of the above-listed tips, your work boots should now be stench-free. But how do you prevent them from smelling ever again?
Here are some sure-fire ways:
1. Disinfect Your Boots Regularly
Whether you choose to use rubbing alcohol or a Lysol disinfectant, it’s very important that you disinfect your shoes every few days so that you’re one step ahead of bacteria.
2. Make Sure to Clean Your Boots
If you don’t wash your boots and keep them clean, they’re bound to smell no matter what you do. You wouldn’t wear a shirt that hasn’t been washed for a week, now would you?
Treat your footwear the same way you treat your garments!
3. Keep Your Work Boots Dry
Keeping your boots dry will prevent them from developing a foul stench. Now, you should never dry them in a washing machine as they might warp or shrink, depending on their build quality.
There are two ways you can dry your footwear. First, you can air-dry your footwear in a well-ventilated environment by hanging them by the lances. Just be sure not to put them in direct sunlight, as that can cause excessive wear.
Secondly, you can use a boot dryer, like the JobSite Original Ultra Silent Boot Dryer. Boot dryers are basically small units that emit warm thermal air to dry wet boots, shoes, garments, and gloves.
4. Use Foot Spray
Using a foot spray is one of the easiest, most convenient ways of preventing footwear from smelling. My personal favorite foot spray is the Elite Sportz Peppermint Shoe Deodorizer.
5. Charcoal Inner Soles
Charcoal inserts are another cost-effective solution to a smelly shoe. Such inserts feature a layer of activated charcoal, which does an excellent job of neutralizing unpleasant odors and absorbing moisture.
6. Consider Shoes With Built-In Antimicrobial Treatment
Trying to figure out the cause of smelly footwear, along with a solution to the problem, can be a bit of a headache. One of the best ways to avoid this headache altogether is to invest in boots that feature built-in antimicrobial treatment.
The KEEN Utility Men’s Lansing is my personal favorite in this category of work boots. It features CleanSport NXT technology, which is a probiotic-based treatment that breaks down and reduces foot odor.
Aside from odor protection, the Lansing is a well-rounded work boot overall. It’s waterproof, highly breathable, slip-resistant, and houses a resilient steel toe that offers top-notch protection. Not to mention that it looks pretty cool.
7. Personal Hygiene
It goes without saying that personal hygiene plays a major role in preventing foul foot stenches. By washing your feet on a daily basis, you remove sweat and bacteria, which are the main reasons behind smelly footwear.
8. See a Podiatrist
Lastly, if you’re someone who suffers from perspiration problems, it’s best that you see a podiatrist. Your podiatrist will most likely prescribe antiperspirants, or they’ll recommend other treatments like iontophoresis.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Best Cat Urine Odor Remover?
The best cat urine odor remover is Roco & Roxie Odor Eliminator. Even though it’s essentially a carpet cleaner, this enzymatic cleaner works wonders with footwear.
Does Pine-Sol Remove Cat Urine Stains?
Yes, Pine-Sole can be used to remove a cat urine stain, along with its pungent smell. It can also be used to eliminate the smell of cigarettes and vomit.
Note that Pine-Sol can be too harsh for certain surfaces. In this case, you’ll need to dilute it with some water so that it doesn’t damage the surface you’re trying to clean.
I’m Shaun Williams, editor-in-chief of Workwear Digest. My objective to help fellow blue-collar workers make informed buying decisions when choosing their workwear. I have over 15 years of combined experience with many industrial and manual labor jobs. I started out as a construction laborer and a part-time driver, then I worked as a heavy equipment operator. Currently, I work as an estimator for a local landscape company.