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The Eternal Problem of Fur-Lined Shoes

Fur-lined shoes are warm, cozy, and smelly.

Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

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Out, Damned Spot has long provided general tips to keep your fashions looking amazing, but now, twice a month, I'll also be answering questions about the very specific problems your new (or old!) purchases may present. Do you have questions for me? Ask away!

How do you keep fur-lined shoes from smelling? — Elana Fishman

This question is so timely for so many reasons, the first of which is that I'm writing this column on the day when the polar vortex emerged from up north to put a deep freeze on the Northeastern part of the US (I'm swaddled in fleece as I type this). We're also just days away from both Christmas and Hanukkah, which means that new pairs of furry shoes, from slippers to boots, are quite likely to turn up in your life in the form of a gift from Grandma.

Since we're now all quite clear that Uggs are here to stay, and our editor-in-chief is threatening to wear her fur-lined Chelsea boots clear through until March, this is a very good time to talk about keeping furry footwear free of, well, that horrible furry footwear odor.

Deodorizers Are Pretty Much Essential

The very nature of our furry footwear demands that we take prophylactic measures that our less plush footwear does not require, and here's why: A fur-lined shoe, even if the fur is of the faux variety, is intended to do two very specific things. The first is that the fur is meant to keep your tootsies quite warm, and the second is that it is intended to feel lovely and soft. A side effect related to both of those qualities is the development of a distinct foot odor caused by sweat and exacerbated by the fact that, due to the aforementioned softness, we often forego socks when sporting our furry shoes.

Because of that, when you're working with a pair of fur-lined slippers, boots, what-have-yous, it's important to plan ahead to prevent, or at least contain, odors. The easiest course of action is to get a set of Sneaker Balls and pop them into your fur-lined footwear in between wearings.

Another option is to use a spray deodorizer like Kiwi Fresh Force Shoe Freshener to keep your furry kicks smelling fresh; if you go this route, you may need to play around with how often to use the stuff — for some people, once a week to once a month will be fine, while others may find that they need to use the product every time they take their shoes off.

How to Clean and Fluff Up Matted and Dingy Fur

Even if you keep smells at bay by being a diligent user of deodorizers, from time to time you'll still want to clean that fur, which will become matted and dingy in the course of regular wear.

A very easy way to perform regular cleaning is to use a baby wipe — bathroom wipes are also fine for this operation — to clean and freshen up the interior of a fur-lined shoe. The wipes are perfect because they have a mild soap in them and just enough moisture to clean without leaving the shoes sopping wet. You can perform a similar operation using a rag dipped in a solution of mild detergent and water, as long as you're careful to wring it out very well.

If you find that your fur lining often becomes matted and tangled, use a slicker brush, which is intended for use on pets like cats and dogs but can be used equally as effectively on pets like your Uggs, to gently brush out and fluff up the lining of your fur-lined footwear.

But there's also this weird trick for cleaning fur-lined or -trimmed footwear without the use of water or detergent, and weird tricks are so much fun! Cornmeal can be used to eliminate dirt and absorb oil from fur. Yes, cornmeal! Side note: Cornmeal, not cornstarch. I mention that not to insult your intelligence, but because I've heard from people in the past who have confused the two and who were very annoyed when cornstarch didn't work for them. Easy mistake to make, but it's also pretty embarrassing to send a mouthy email to a stranger to let her know her cleaning advice didn't serve you well only to find that, actually, the problem is that you have a reading comprehension issue.

Of course, there's an important "but, like, how?" question to be answered regarding the use of cornmeal to clean fur linings. What you'll want to do is pour a cup or two of cornmeal (less for slippers, more for boots) into a brown paper bag, Ziploc bag, or a garbage bag for larger pairs, put the shoes or boots or slippers in the bag, seal it up, and then get to shaking. This is, essentially, Shake'N Bake for your shoes. After you've given the whole thing a good shaking, allow the shoes to sit in the bag with the cornmeal for an hour or two before removing them and discarding the bag. You'll likely have to knock the shoes over a trash can a few times to dislodge lingering cornmeal, because even though this is a weird and great trick, it does have the potential to leave grit behind, which would utterly ruin the feel of your otherwise sumptuous furry footwear!


Watch: How to Style Your Furry Shoes