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Your Feet Are Revolting. Please, Won't You Wash Them?

Image: Juja Han (Unsplash)
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

I’m sorry to say that the time has come for us to talk about your disgusting feet. Your smelly, cracked, fungus-y feet. I know, this isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time (okay fine, it’s kind of my idea of a good time, you got me there), but it needs to be done. We’ve already used this space to talk about how to clean sneakers, and how to scrub flip flops and other sandals, so you should have a pretty good idea of what to do when a favorite pair of shoes goes rank-smelling. But we haven’t spent a lot of time on the actual grooming of feet, which is an important part of foot odor management, and so today, that’s what we’re going to do.

Ask a Clean Person and Style Girlfriend are teaming up this month to bring you the latest on what to wear for spring and summer...and how to care for your new wardrobe acquisitions. This week: exposed feet.

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Here is some news to break to you: Washing your feet means washing your feet. It does not mean standing in the shower letting shampoo residue roll down your entire body and calling it clean. I think, deep down, you know this to be true, even if you’ve spent all these years employing the shampoo residue roll-down method and considering yourself well-scrubbed.

The problem with the residue roll-down method is that it doesn’t address the root cause of foot odor and other nastiness, which is dead skin. In order to slough off dead skin, you need to scrub! Scrubbing will also scour away dirt and grime, which is especially important in the warmer months when we tend to wear sandals or be barefoot.

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The best and easiest way to wash your feet in the shower or tub — don’t forget to get in between your toesies, please! — is with a washcloth (or a loofah, or a pouf) and a deodorizing bar soap like Irish Spring, Dial, Zest, etc. But honestly, the kind of soap you use is less important than the actual scrubbing so stick with what you like best, even if what you like best is that Old Spice body wash called, literally, Swagger.

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After you’ve scrubbed, the next thing to do for your feet is to make sure to thoroughly dry them, especially in between your toes. That means using a towel, not scuffing back and forth on the bathmat. And, if time allows for it, don’t immediately put socks on to allow the skin to air dry a bit after toweling off.

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That basic foot hygiene routine will be enough for most people, but if you suffer from especially sweaty feet—and hey, that’s super common so no need to feel weird or bummed about it!—you might also want to start using a foot powder like Gold Bond or Dr. Scholl’s to help control moisture during the day. Dove Dry Spray is another good choice that’s a bit less messy than powders. If you find that foot powders alone aren’t cutting it, you may need to level up to a foot antiperspirant like Carpe Antiperspirant Foot Lotion.

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Fungal infections are also pretty common problems. Practicing good basic foot hygiene is important if you suffer from things like athlete’s foot or toenail fungus, but your feet may also need to be treated with anti-fungal powders, creams, or sprays for athlete’s foot, or a nail repair pen or brush-on treatment for toenail fungus. Sorry, I just used the word ‘fungus’ a lot, didn’t I?

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Cutting your toenails is another important part of foot care because it will help to prevent dirt and dead skin from collecting under the nail. Use clippers to, well, clip the nail short straight across, then use a nail file to smooth the corners so that they don’t become ingrown.

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Moisturizing your feet will also help to keep them from becoming dry and cracked, especially the heel. A regular daily moisturizer like Aveeno will be all most people need but if you have particularly dry, cracked or callused feet, you may need something more heavy duty, like Flexitol Heel Balm — good old Vaseline or an ointment like Aquaphor also work just fine. When using heavy duty creams, you probably want to don a pair of socks while the lotion absorbs; for summer, I’d recommend something lightweight but cushier options are available. Just remember to wash them regularly so that the socks themselves don’t start smelling like all that dead foot skin!

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About the author

Jolie Kerr

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person