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I have a pair of water shoes with a thick rubber sole and a neoprene upper. They provide good protection from coral cuts, stonefish etc.

shoes

In the past I've used these in the Ontario wilderness (fresh water and mud) for a day or two, then left them kicking around my house, and never had a problem. On this trip, I'm wearing them in the ocean, and walking along trails that cross rivers repeatedly or involve long sections of walking in the river. I am wearing them almost every day, and when I'm not wearing them they are often in a plastic bag in a suitcase. (https://transpacifictrip.wordpress.com/ if you're wondering what I am up to.) Getting them dry is a challenge.

Well, you can probably guess where this is going. They reek. But I don't think soap or detergent are good for neoprene. And I don't have access to newspaper as a general rule. At the moment I am getting a bit obsessive about getting them out of the plastic bags as soon as we arrive at a new hotel. If there's a deck or balcony, I put them out there. It is helping a little. Is there anything else I can do? Should I get obsessive about finding some newspaper and packing them in that when they have to go in the plastic bag again? Should I rinse them out with clean water whenever I take them off? I wasn't expecting them to need so much looking after and I don't really know how to give them whatever looking after it is they need. So, what do they need?

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Care for your neoprene water shoes as you would for any neoprene wetsuit.

http://scubadiverlife.com/2011/03/15/scuba-wetsuit-care-101-removing-odors-extending-suit-life/

You can use any search engine and search for 'wetsuit soap' or 'wetsuit wash' and will find suitable products. Stop by any dive shop where you are travelling and they will likely have some.

If you are using them every day, you probably should not be storing them in a plastic bag. You should be washing them in fresh water (warm or cold, not hot) with cleaners/soaps designed for use with neoprene wetsuits. In a pinch, a mild tearless baby shampoo can be used. Washing them thoroughly, rinsing them well, and hanging them to dry in a well ventilated place is appropriate. You do not want to dry them in direct sunlight as it will over time break down neoprene. Ventilation and circulating air are the key factors.

Storing wet neoprene that has not been effectively cleaned, especially in a plastic bag, will only encourage bacterial growth which contributes to bad odors. Additionally, I would say do not use newspaper or paper towels stuffed inside them, as this impedes air flow and the damp paper will only serve to confine moisture inside the shoes. You're better off washing, rinsing, hanging, and letting air circulate through/around them. If you can turn them inside out, this will also help them dry more thoroughly. In a hotel, a few minutes with a hair dryer on a low setting and held about two feet away will help--but be careful, you do not want to heat the neoprene, just simulate the equivalent of a warm breeze flowing.

If you are wearing them every day, and even after taking them off considerable time passes before you can wash and rinse them, you should be checking to see if they are in fact drying 100% overnight or if they are still slightly damp when you use them the next time. If this is the case, you have insufficient airflow and too little time. A fan helps. A better solution might be to buy a second pair, and wear one, while allowing the other a full day or two to dry before their next use. If it will be any length of time between wearing the shoes and being able to wash/rinse them, clip them to a pack or your waist/belt (using a snaplink, D-ring or spare bootlace/shoestring) and let them air dry as you walk. If you finish crossing the last fresh water river or stream near for the day, rinse them in that water, before clipping them to your pack/waist and moving on. Keep in mind that even freshwater streams/rivers will have bacteria.

If you're unable carry them outside your pack/person then a good wash/rinse at the end of any day's use and ensuring they have plenty of airflow/ventilation is all you can really do. Just make sure you have them out drying whenever possible.

Another possible solution/option is to get non-neoprene water shoes that have mesh uppers, or some sport/water sandals so that the neoprene is not an issue. I make use of sport sandals with a closed toe for uses where there will be frequent immersion in water and wear my neoprene shoes or boots usually for short term activities, like diving or a cold weather kayak trip. It's just easier for bacteria to hide in neoprene and it will be an ongoing struggle against odors with daily/prolonged use.

  • I agree with the suggestion to check out cleaners made for wet suits. I used to dive. I used to wash my suits and booties in something I got from my dive shop. If you can, wash/rinse out your shoes on-site. It will help a little bit. My dive buddies and I would rinse our suits out before leaving a vacation spot. We would then wash them at home with the cleaning solution at home. We would dry our neoprene in the shade outside, not in the direct sunlight. – Junco Aug 16 '15 at 19:50
  • Thats a nice answer outlining a lot of different alternatives. Like the part about getting different shoes, maybe thats the best alternative :) +1 – Paul Paulsen Jun 2 '16 at 11:10
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Rinsing them in clean water when you are finished using them will definitely help stop them smelling.

To deal with the current smell I would just leave them in a sink/bucket of clean water for a couple of hours/overnight.

I wouldn't worry too much about drying them as long as they are cleaned.

As you said using soap is not a a good idea unless you get specialized stuff.

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Apart from what all options suggested by other users here,

If you are up for investing a bit, You might want to look out for Neoprene shampoos that are used by Scuba Divers to clean their Scuba suits.

The Bacteria and the stinking has a close relation. The other way to go is Vinegar with water. A bucket of water with 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar should do. The Ph kills the bacteria if there are any.

If you don't have access to newspapers, is it the same for tissue-paper? They would work just fine.

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