- Why do your work boots smell like cat pee?
- What you can do about it? Tips & hacks that can help get rid of the smell
- What can you do to prevent your boots from smelling like cat urine?
- Is this bad for your feet? Should you seek advice from a podiatrist?
If your work boots started to smell cat urine or something similar to ammonia you might think there’s something wrong with your feet.
The vast majority of the time this doesn’t have anything to do with your feet’ health. You’re probably just fine but you will have to look into what we have to share with you today because it could lead to potential problems if not addressed.
After doing some research and talking about this topic with our expert, Dr. Bruce Pinker DPM, I came up with these 5 reasons why your work boots stink like cat urine.
Additionally, I’ll share with you five hacks you can use to solve this problem and how to prevent it from happening, and much more…
Let’s get into it!
Why do your work boots smell like cat pee?
There are a few reasons why your work boots might smell like cat urine and the most common one, according to our podiatrist, is…
Work boots can have a foul smell, like cat pee, due to the boots causing the feet to become warm and sweaty.
Dr. Bruce Pinker – Podiatrist & Foot Surgeon
So, in most scenarios, there’s nothing wrong with you or your feet. It’s just sweat produced by your body whilst working and that sweat is retained in your work boot’s footbed or insole.
Let’s dig in a bit more. Here are some known reasons why your work boots smell like cat pee…
1. Your feet sweat too much
Some of us sweat more than usual. Not only that but some people’s sweat is more acidic and has a stronger smell than others.
I remember, many years ago, I used to work at a hotel and I was serving breakfast with another colleague of mine. The dude was the most amazing person in the world, an excellent waiter taking care of his customers…
…but his sweat was so acidic that the manager had to talk with him about having showers more regularly.
It wasn’t his fault of course but sadly that made him quit his job since the customers were complaining about the acidic smell.
All this is to say that some of us sweat more than others and that some people’s sweat simply smells stronger. My feet sweat a lot as well, especially in work boots and that’s why I wash or change my insoles VERY regularly.
I wash them maybe monthly and replace them every 4-5 months. Here’s how insoles can help you avoid stinky feet.
2. The boots are not breathable enough
Work boots are designed to keep the feet dry and protected from the environment and different hazards at work, therefore, typically do not allow for an exchange of air.
The boot’s material, usually leather, is not porous, therefore, preventing the feet from “breathing.”
As the feet begin to become warm and sweaty an odor is produced which leaves the footwear smelly and unusual. One of those smells can be similar to cat urine.
That’s why depending on your situation and type of work you should look into buying work boots that are breathable.
These usually are not made of leather all the way through. Boots manufacturers incorporate some textile or synthetic materials that are more breathable than 100% genuine leather.
3. The footbed or insoles needs cleaning
As we’ve mentioned above, our feet sweat, some more than others.
Add into that mix a bit of dust, dirt, and other things that might come in contact with your feet whilst working … and now you have a “deadly smelling perfume” inside your work boots!
The majority of people I talk to, no exaggeration, more than 95% of people I’ve chatted with never wash or clean their work boots or their insoles.
Not until they might get to learn what is it like to have cat pee-smelling work boots!
4. You might actually have a cat that’s peeing in your boots
I had to include this one!!! Don’t laugh at this because pets DO love to do some crazy things.
If you for example have a cat that’s somehow possessive or overprotective, the cat might actually pee in your work boots to mark its territory, its property, its possession.
That and getting my boots chewed or scratched by my pet makes me place my work boots inside the cupboard away from pets and kids.
5. You might have perspiration problems
Having talked about some of the most obvious reasons your work boots might smell like cat pee there’s one last one that we need to mention.
If the malodor develops regularly in your feet it’s a sign that you might have a perspiration issue according to Dr. Bruce.
This one might require you to go and visit a podiatrist to assess your problem.
What you can do about it? Tips & hacks that can help get rid of the smell
The internet is full of crazy ideas and THE hottest tips when it comes to getting rid of bad smells in work boots but here I’m going to share with you some simple ones that work.
Most of them I’ve used myself and some are recommended by Dr. Bruce.
We often recommend spraying footwear with Lysol disinfectant. Not only does this help reduce the foul odor, but it also prevents the growth of mold and bacteria in the boots.
Dr. Bruce Pinker – Podiatrist & Foot Surgeon
1. Wash the liners of your boot (if they have one)
Not many work boots come with liners but if you’re one of those lucky ones just get the liners out and wash them in the washing machine with hot water.
If you’re not that lucky, you can have a go at washing your whole work boots in the washing machine. If you’re worried that the machine will damage your work boots then don’t do it.
But I’ve always washed my work boots in the washing machine and nothing happened as long as I took some precautions.
2. Disinfect your work boots using alcohol isopropyl solution
Ok, now that we know that the smell of cat pee in your work boots might be due to sweat and bacteria building up inside your work boots the best thing we can do is to clean and disinfect the work boots.
For this, you can either prep your own disinfectant at home as I do, or just buy a bottle of rubbing alcohol online. (something like this one or similar). It has to be either 70% or 80% alcohol concentration if you buy it online.
If you make your own it has to be alcohol isopropyl 99% concentrated so you can mix it with water and other liquids in order to make disinfectants and soaps at home.
Anyway, the process is the same. Just spray the solution into your work boots as you please. Remember to take your insoles out and spray them on the footbed as well.
Now leave the work boots to dry naturally on the balcony or in the garden. Make sure it’s somewhere where it’s ventilated but there are no risks of getting the boots wet if it starts raining.
Repeat this process until the smell has gone!
Here’s how I do it if you’re curious about it…
3. Use a cat stain and odor eliminator spray
Yeah, I know. This is a carpet cleaner, but it’s a cleaner that can remove pet urine stains and odors.
It’s not going to break the bank by trying this and you might need it anyway if you have a cat at home!
To use a spray like this to remove the cat pee smell from your work boots just apply a decent amount of the odor eliminator solution into your boots (remove insoles if you have them). Then allow the solution to do its magic for about an hour or so.
You can use a little brush if you want or a toothbrush to make sure the liquid penetrates as deep as it can into the material and reaches as many areas as it can inside the boot.
Then leave it to dry naturally.
5. Absorb the moisture and the odor from inside the boot
If you already have a cat around the house you might also have some clay cat litter somewhere in the house.
If that’s the case, another thing you can do to try to get rid of the smell is to fill up your boots with some clay cat litter and leave it for a day or two inside your work boot. I’m assuming you have a replacement work boot you can wear for a few days.
If not, just leave it overnight and try this process for a few nights in a row. In the morning put on some of your oldest socks that you don’t mind throwing away and wear the boots for 5-10 minutes before you go to work.
This should help remove most of the dust and dirt caused by the cat litter.
Now put on clean socks and you’re ready to rock and roll. As I said above, you might have to repeat the process a few consecutive nights.
5. Vinegar and baking soda
My wife and I used this hack a few times to clean our mattress and the couch from pee stains and also pee smell.
Personally, I haven’t used this on my own work boots so I have no idea if will work or not (great idea for a test though, I’ll update the post if I do this on my own boots).
But I thought I should add it to give you more solutions/ideas to can try!
6. Add talc powder
I’ve read somewhere an honest and helpful person recommending talc powder for this purpose.
Honestly, this should be done before this situation happens. Adding talc powder to your already stinky work boots won’t do much (other than making your socks all white).
7. Deodorize your work boots
This step is more relevant and effective only after you have washed your work boots inside out and disinfected them.
Deodorizing your work boots every day before going to work and after taking them off will help to keep the fresh and avoid bad smells like ammonia or cat litter.
What can you do to prevent your boots from smelling like cat urine?
To prevent the foul odor from developing in work boots, it is best to apply superabsorbent powder to your feet or tap some into your socks, prior to wearing work boots.
I do both, especially in summer!
This will help absorb moisture and reduce malodor. Also, wearing socks with a moisture-wicking quality can also help prevent the foul smell in work boots.
Socks with synthetic materials, such as polyester, nylon, or rayon help wick away moisture from the foot to keep feet dry. Silk and wool socks will also wick away moisture, however, they can be somewhat expensive. And before you ask me, yes, wearing wool socks with work boots is a great idea.
When it comes to your work boots, try and go for breathable work boots or at least make sure the boots you’re buying have moisture-wicking lining.
Is this bad for your feet? Should you seek advice from a podiatrist?
In the majority of the cases, you’re going to be just fine. Most of the time you can get rid of the cat pee smell in your work boots by applying one of the tips we’ve shared with you above.
And then it’s just a matter of doing the simple things we’ve mentioned in this article in order to prevent it from happening!
But, if nothing has worked for you or if the smell keeps developing in your feet you might want to visit a podiatrist.
A condition called hyperhidrosis [1,2,3] occurs when the feet perspire excessively.
There are a few treatment options for this condition, such as using superabsorbent foot powder regularly, soaking feet with tea bags, and injecting botox to help reduce perspiration.
Dr. Bruce Pinker – Podiatrist & Foot Surgeon
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Love technology, going to the beach, taking care of my body, and writing (amongst other things). You’ll see my face around here a little bit since I’m responsible for part of the research and writing of some of the articles you’re reading on BestForMyFeet.com. I hope you’ll find our content helpful and enjoyable! See you around, thanks for reading!
Construction Professional, driver, crane operator, cleaner, head chef … these are just some of the jobs I did in the past. Working in all these different environments taught me that having good footwear to protect your feet from different dangers at work IS PARAMOUNT for any worker! On this website, I aim to share all my knowledge and personal experience in dealing with different footwear and foot care issues, and hopefully, you can get something out of it. Enjoy!
Medically reviewed by our expert
I am a board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon based in New York. When not treating patients I enjoy exercising regularly by cycling 30-40 miles/week and lifting weights, writing music and playing the piano/synthesizer, and spending quality time with my family. My approach to medicine includes offering many different treatment options to my patients so they can choose the one that is best for them. I enjoy helping out the guys here at BestForMyFeet.com answering questions related to foot problems. If you have concerns with your feet, feel free to schedule a consultation with me at ProgressiveFootCareNY.com and I will be happy to address your concerns.