Smelly Shoes? How to get smell out of shoes: Tools & Guide

How to get smell out of shoes - faverie

Have you ever taken your shoes off in public and wished you had not because you realized you had horrendous shoe odor? Have you ever wondered how to get smell out of shoes? If so, then this post is for you.

I will examine what causes shoe odor and show you long-term solutions for taking care of it. Then, I will show you emergency solutions for taking care of shoe odor. You will be amazed at some of the things you can use to stop shoe odor.

Along the way, you will also learn how to properly clean your shoes and take care of your feet so that shoe odors are not a problem. You will also learn the proper way to store your shoes.

Before you discover that your shoes are stinking, let’s explore these solutions further.

Prevention & care

Do you want to hold your nose each time you take your shoes off because they smell so bad? If so, then you will want to read this chapter. In it, you will learn possible reasons why your shoes smell so bad. Identifying the cause is the first step in solving the problem. There are many different reasons that your shoes may stink.

You may be ready to throw your favorite shoes in the trash because they smell so bad. The next pair that you buy may smell even worse if you do not change how you are taking care of your shoes. 

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The great news is that you can often save your favorite shoes by following a few steps. When you do decide to buy shoes, you will want to follow these steps so that your new shoes do not develop an odor problem.

Why do my shoes smell so badly?

There are two significant reasons that shoes stink. The first is that you are wearing them too often, and the second is that you are not taking care of your feet properly. Taking care of these two issues will stop most shoe odors.

Each of your feet has about 250,000 sweat glands, and they produce about 0.5 pints of sweat daily. In fact, your feet have more sweat glands than any other part of your body. Your feet begin to stink when that sweat meets bacteria on your feet. Unless the moisture is rapidly moved away, your shoes absorb the odor.

Your shoes will have more odor if you do not give them time to dry out entirely from the sweat that your body has produced. Shoes that you exercise in are more likely to smell than your other footwear because you sweat more in them.

If water gets in your shoes, your footwear will likely become stinky. While this can happen when you are outdoors and hike in a creek, it can also occur when you step in a puddle. Using a water hose to water your garden or pet can also cause your shoes to get wet. In some cases, even mopping a floor can get your feet wet.

What can I do to avoid smelly shoes?

The first step in taking care of your feet is to take care of your feet regularly and thoroughly. You will also want to consider the type of material your shoes are made of and change your shoes frequently. While this may seem commonsense, you may be overlooking these essential tasks.

Wash your feet thoroughly

Many people assume that because water collects in the bottom of the tub when they are taking a bath, they are getting their feet clean. That is not the case. You should take the time to wash your feet thoroughly. Pay special attention to the areas between your toes. 

If you still notice foot odor, then soak your feet in a mixture of Epsom salt and water for about 15 minutes. This will pull excess moisture out of your feet so that they will not stink as much. Be sure to dry your feet carefully before putting on your shoes and socks.

Take care of your feet

Wearing shoes creates an excellent environment for smelly bacteria to form. Therefore, you need to stop the bacteria. Regularly trim your toenails to help prevent ingrown ones. Wear shoes that fit your feet properly so that no sores develop.

Foot massage with moisturizing and peeling cream by pedicurist hands wearing black gloves close up

Remember that your feet change sizes regularly throughout your life, so measure them regularly. Eczema, athlete’s foot, and severe sunburn can create conditions where bacteria can form. Therefore, take care of any problem areas promptly. 

Lowering the bacteria count on your feet will help them smell less, so wash them often with an antibacterial soap. You may find that you need to wash your feet multiple times each day until you get bacteria issues under control. 

Be sure to consult a medical professional if problems persist. Wearing socks with copper infused into them may help stop some bacteria.

Wash your shoes and insoles

While I will have more to say about this in a little bit, you should regularly wash your shoes and insoles. Dirty shoes do not let air reach your foot, and therefore, they are likely to stink and make your shoes stink too. 

Your shoes will last longer when you keep them clean. You should clean most shoes at least every two weeks. If they start to look dirty, you need to clean them more often. In warmer weather, you will need to wash your shoes more often than in cooler weather because your feet will sweat more.

Wear socks

You should always wear socks with your shoes. They provide a barrier between your feet’s smelly sweat and bacteria and your shoes. While I have already discussed that wearing copper-infused socks can help stop some bacteria, you will want to choose socks that help move moisture away from your foot and encourage it to evaporate. 

Avoid cotton socks because they retain more moisture. Therefore, your shoes do not dry properly, and they start to stink. You should also avoid wearing nylons because they do not move enough moisture away from your foot. The best socks to wear have unique technology built into them to help them remove moisture from the foot.

Trade Out Your Shoes Regularly

You will need more than one pair of shoes that you wear regularly. It takes at least 24 hours for your shoes to dry out completely after wearing them. Unless you wait that long, then your shoes that are wet from sweat will stink. 

Rotating your shoes regularly also helps them last longer. So you should not feel a financial pinch when investing in more than one pair. That way, you will have fashionable shoes to wear with different outfits.

Replace old shoes

Older shoes are more likely to smell because of sweat and dirt buildup. Therefore, you should replace your shoes often. If you are walking an average of three-to-four hours a day, you should replace your shoes at least every six months. 

Therefore, replacing your shoes as winter and summer start means you can always wear fashionable shoes. Of course, if you are walking more than that, you need to replace your shoes more often. As I have already covered, you need to rotate between different shoes. If you buy low-quality shoes, you may need to replace them more often.

Put deodorant on your feet

Using a foot deodorant is a great way to ensure that your feet do not stink. You can buy over-the-counter foot deodorants or make your own at home. If you choose the latter option, combine ¼ cup distilled water, ¼ cup rubbing alcohol, 10 drops jasmine, and 10 drops of peppermint essential oils in a spritzer bottle. 

Before you put your socks on, spitz your feet well. The rubbing alcohol helps disinfect your feet, which can help kill bacteria. The peppermint essential oil helps to keep your feet cooler, while the jasmine helps to give this deodorant an earthly aroma.

Apply a foot powder

You should use a foot powder before putting your socks on to help stop bacteria and odor. You can easily make your own at home or buy one at the store. To create your own, combine 6 tbsp. corn starch and 6 tbsp. baking powder. Add five drops of lemon essential oil and five drops of tea tree oil. Put in a shaker with large holes and liberally sprinkle on your feet.

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The corn starch helps absorb any moisture left behind on your feet, while the baking soda helps stop bacterial spores from geminating. It also helps to neutralize any smell from your sweat. The lemon essential oil helps keep your feet clean, while the tea tree oil helps stop bacteria and fungus growth.

Store your shoes in the freezer

You may be surprised to learn that the best place to store your shoes is in the freezer. Of course, you will want to put them in a sealed plastic bag before putting them in the freezer. 

Freezing them helps kill any bacteria that has formed in your shoes, and it also helps moisture to be released from the shoes. If you are not comfortable doing that and it is below freezing outside, you can seal them up and put them outside overnight. 

This method works particularly well with shoes made from fabrics that are hard to clean, such as leather.

Buy shoes made from materials less likely to stink

If you recognize that your feet stink more than average, you need to pay attention to the type of shoes that you buy. The best solution is to purchase pigskin leather shoes as they naturally release moisture. 

You may also want to consider canvas as they breathe better than many other options, so moisture is not as likely to build up. Sandals can be a good option as more air gets to your feet in the warmer months. Try to avoid options that you cannot wash easily, as the lack of care will make them smell faster.

You should now have a better idea of what makes shoes smell. Additionally, you have some tips on preventing shoes from smelling. In the next chapter, I will advise you on saving your favorite pair of shoes if they already smell.

How to get smell out of shoes

Have you ever purchased a car or gone with someone while they are purchasing one? The dealer may make a point of telling the prospective buyer about how to take care of their purchase.

The same principles apply when you are buying a new pair of shoes. You need to know how to take care of them. If you don’t, your shoes will start to stink, and you will find that you need to replace them with a new pair soon.

Therefore, you can think about this chapter as a shoe maintenance guide. I will teach you how to take care of your smelly shoes to stop odors and advise how to keep odors from forming. 

Following these steps will also help your shoes last longer. Like showing off a well-maintained car, you will be proud to wear your shoes and have no issues taking them off in public.

Under each step, I will give you precise instructions on what you need to do. I will also show you an approximate cost and estimate the amount of time required to carry out each step.

Buy the right shoes

The first thing that you should do is buy the right shoes. There are many great options, and they do not have to be expensive. Consider those made from natural materials as they normally breathe easier. Look for options that allow moisture to escape from the shoe but make it hard for moisture to get in.

I can spend hours doing this step, but my mother, who hates to shop, can complete it in under 20 minutes. Likewise, you can spend under $20 on a pair of shoes or spend over $500. It is all up to you.

Wash your feet

As I covered in the last chapter, the main reason that shoes stink is bacteria on your feet. Use a loofah or a washrag and some antibacterial soap to wash your feet at least daily. Be sure to clean between your toes well, as it is a favorite hiding spot for bacteria.

At least twice a week, I like to soak my feet for about 20 minutes. Before I do, I mix up an Epsom salt foot mixture. My recipe contains enough for both soaks during the week. So I store it in an air-tight jar. 

Woman feet in bath with hot water and baking soda homemade bath soak for dry feet skin

Combine 1 cup Epsom salt, 11/2 tbsp. baking soda, five drops lemon, and three drops lavender essential oils. When I am ready to use it, I fill my foot spa and stir in the mixture. This will cost you about $0.50 each time you do it and about $25 for an inexpensive foot spa.

Take care of any medical issues

Many medical issues can make your feet stink, and you need to get these taken care of, regardless of the cost. About 12% of the population have Kyetococcus sedentarius, which causes their feet to smell like rotten eggs. 

People with hyperhidrosis, a hormonal issue, are also more likely to have smelly feet. A visit to your family physician is a great place to start looking for solutions, which will cost you about $150. Then, you may need medicine to solve the issue, but remember that insurance may cover both of these charges.

One of the most common medical conditions to affect feet is athlete’s foot. You can often treat an athlete’s foot with an over-the-counter medication costing about $3.00 for a big can that you can use numerous times. In that case, you need to spray your feet twice daily.

Wear socks

You need to wear socks with all your shoes, except sandals with a very airy design. Socks made with technology to wick moisture away from your feet are usually the best choice. When putting on your socks, be sure to wash your feet first. Then, pay special attention to lining up the toe part. 

Woman wearing jeans and white sneakers

This will help stop the sock from wrinkling, making them more comfortable to wear. It also helps prevent blisters and other foot problems from occurring, which can increase foot odor. It only takes a couple of minutes to put on socks, and you can find excellent options for about $4.50 a pair.

Use shoe deodorizer

While you should not have any problems with foot odor if you have followed the steps to this point, you may want to bet on the safe side by using a shoe deodorizer. You can find options that you can spray into your shoes in under a minute for about $4.50 a can or make your own at home for about $1.00.

You can also find deodorizer balls for about $7.00 a pair. Another option is charcoal deodorizer bags that you put your shoes in when you take them off at night. These bags cost about $5.50, and you can use them multiple times.

Wash your shoes

You should plan to wash your shoes after the second time of wearing them. You can put many types of shoes in the washing machine, including nylon, cotton, polyester, and cotton. Just put it in like you would any other kind of laundry. 

If your shoes are stinky, add a splash of white vinegar to neutralize the sweat in your shoes. You can do a load of laundry in about 50 minutes. Always wash your shoes in cold water. The cost of cleaning your shoes this way will be about $0.50

Other types of shoes you may need to handwash. In this case, use a toothbrush to get off as much dirt as possible. Then, fill your sink with water and add about 1 tbsp. dishwashing soap to the water. Use a washrag to scrub the shoes. 

Pay special attention that you get the insole clean. The time required to do this will vary depending on how dirty your shoes are, but it should not take more than 30 minutes. Then, set your shoes out to air dry. There is only a nominal cost to clean your shoes in this way.

Trade out your shoes regularly

You should never wear the same shoes two days in a row. Therefore, if you like to sleep as late as possible in the morning, lay out your outfit, including a different pair of shoes the night before. It may take you about 15 minutes to complete this step. 

The first consideration for picking out your shoes should be the season, as you will not want to wear winter boots in the middle of the summer or sandals during a snowstorm. Then, consider the occasion and what you will be doing the next day.

Replace your shoes

While it might seem that this step would cost you money, it might save you money in the long run because your shoes will last longer, and they will not stink. You can find shoes at many different price points. 

According to a recent survey, men usually spent $75 on shoes while women spent $85. Of course, you can spend a lot more. As of 2022, the most expensive pair of shoes in the world cost $17 million. The pumps contain real diamonds and gold.

I hope you have enjoyed learning the steps to take to avoid shoe odor or to get rid of it. You can think of it as a maintenance plan on your car where it is necessary to carry out each step regularly. In the next chapter, we will examine how to instantly get rid of shoe odors.

What can you use to remove smell from shoes

You can use several different methods to get odors out of your shoes. In this chapter, we will examine some of them. I will also estimate the cost in terms of time spent and money spent on doing them. Then, you can choose the method that fits your lifestyle and budget the best.

While these methods will remove odor from shoes, they do not replace washing your feet and shoes. You should also always wear socks with your shoes and take care of any medical conditions that cause bacteria to grow on your feet.

One advantage of knowing different methods is that you have other options to explore if one does not work for you. That way, you do not have to throw away shoes that you love, but remember that you need to replace your shoes regularly. That’s great news because you can choose the latest styles.

Baking soda

You can use baking soda to absorb odors in your shoes. Place 2 tbsp. of baking soda in each shoe. Tilt the shoe around so that the baking soda reaches all the areas. Then, wait several hours, preferably overnight. Finally, dump out the baking soda. 

Most smells are acidic, and baking soda is alkaline, so it works as a neutralizer. While this method will not clean your shoes, it will help them smell better. You can complete this process in a couple of minutes, and there is a minimal cost.


Setting your shoes out in the sunlight can help stop odors. Sweat and other liquids cause many shoe odors, so setting them in the sunlight will help the moisture evaporate, eliminating shoe odor. 

Y ozgu ozden on unsplash
Source: Ozgu Ozden on Unsplash

For this method to work, open your shoes up as wide as possible, and leave the shoes for several hours. You may need to move the shoes around so that the sun is continuously hitting them. While this method is free, some shoe fabrics cannot handle the intense heat for long periods.

Essential oils

I have already given you some helpful tips on using essential oils to stop foot and shoe odors, and I will provide you with even more in the next chapter. In those cases, I have talked about combining essential oils with other products to stop shoe odor. 

Still, there are some essential oils that you can try on their own as they will freshen your shoes and fight the bacteria that may be causing the odor problem. You may want to try myrtle, lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary. You will pay less than $0.50 to use essential oils because a few drops are enough.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal has a greater surface area than the charcoal used for grilling. It is excellent at absorbing moisture, which makes it ideal for putting in shoes that are damp with moisture. 

To use it, you need to wrap some in a bundle made from absorbent material or use some that are prepackaged as it is very black and messy. You will not need much, and it will cost you about $1 per ounce. Ideally, you should leave the bundle of activated charcoal in your shoes for several hours.


Putting your shoes in the freezer can help stop odor issues. If the odor is from bacteria or fungus, the cold will kill the spores. Therefore, put your shoes in a plastic bag and freeze them for a few hours. 

You will not have to pay any extra, except for the cost of the bag, and it only takes a few seconds to put your shoes in the freezer. If you do not like the thought of your shoes in with your frozen food, and it is cold outside, you can also place them there.

Cedar Shavings

Cedar contains the compound thujaplicin, which is excellent at absorbing moisture. Therefore, filling your shoes with cedar shavings is a perfect way to get odors out of your shoes. 

It also may help kill bacteria in your shoes or keep them from growing in the first place. While you can get a big bag of cedar shavings for around $7, there are other ways to use cedar to keep odors out of your shoes. 

You may want to get a cedar shoe tree, which adds the benefit of helping to maintain your shoe’s shape and will cost you about $20, or a cedar boot shaper, which will cost about $50. Alternatively, a cedar shoe box makes a fantastic place to store your shoes and costs about $50.

Kitty litter

While we highly recommend using this product where cats cannot reach, or you may get an unpleasant surprise, you can use kitty litter to take odors out of your shoes. Just put one cup in an old sock and put it in your shoes. Then, place it in your shoes for a few hours. 

The litter will absorb the odor and help make your shoes smell better. You can get a large tub of kitty litter for under $20, and you can treat both of your shoes with only two cups so that they will last a long time. This choice takes only a few minutes to complete.

Dryer sheets

If you need to remove odors from sandals and other footwear with an open design, then tuck a dryer sheet around the part that touches the foot. Next, let the shoes sit for a few hours or overnight. You will want to fold the end of the dryer sheet under the shoe’s sole before placing them in your closet. 

Businessman deodorizing his feet with charcoal inside a black shoes after rain hand disinfecting shoes inside shopping bag with antibacterial deodorant

Using this technique will cost you about $0.08 per time. An added advantage is that if you keep your shoes in your closet, they will smell great. This can be a fantastic choice if you have shoes that you cannot wash.

Despite your best attempts to keep your shoes odor-free, you may discover times that your shoes still stink. There are some tricks that you can use to stop shoe odors instantly. I will cover those tips in the next chapter. Therefore, you should keep reading.

How to remove smell from shoes instantly

While you will want to keep shoe odors away by taking care of your shoes properly daily, there may still be times when you notice that your shoes stink. You need an emergency solution that works quickly and reliably when this happens. You can try several methods to get rid of shoe odor instantly.

You can think of these methods as being the 911 of shoe odors in many ways. You should not wait until an emergency to keep odors out of your shoes. Yet, they may still occur at times despite your best efforts. Then, you can turn to these solutions to quickly get rid of odors in your shoes.

On the other hand, if you have a friend who needs to take their shoes off in front of you for some reason and apologizes for their shoe odor, share these techniques with them. They are likely to be very thankful to know how to stop their shoe odor.


If you walk through a puddle and your shoes, suddenly start to stink, or you encounter other situations that cause you to experience embarrassing shoe odors. There are several techniques that you can use to solve the issue.

Hand sanitizer

Using hand sanitizer can be a great way to stop shoe odor. Choose a hand sanitizer that is at least 65% alcohol as it will kill the bacteria, which may be causing the odor issue. While this may seem like an unusual solution, it will work as long as you pull the insoles out of your shoes and are careful to get the sanitizer on all parts, including the insoles.

Woman hand applying hand sanitizer on a pink background in the studio premium photo

You can do this easily by putting the sanitizer on a paper towel and rubbing your shoes down. Remember to get the inside and outside. It is best to let your shoes dry for a few minutes before putting them back on.

Rubbing alcohol

You can use rubbing alcohol to stop shoe odor. Put the rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and spray the inside and outside of your shoes thoroughly. This method works best if you pull out the insole and spray it separately. Rubbing alcohol works well because it evaporates the moisture in your shoes. 

This moisture, which is mainly sweat, can cause your shoes to stink, so getting rid of it helps. You can find large bottles of rubbing alcohol at most drug stores and many big-box stores and fill your bottles. Alternatively, consider carrying a small bottle in your purse or briefcase, so you always have it available.


Using vodka is another solution that you can easily carry with you. Fill a small spray atomizer bottle about 66% full with vodka. You must choose a high-quality vodka containing at least 70% alcohol by volume. Then, finish filling it with water and shake vigorously until the two are combined. 

Afterward, pull out your insoles and spray all parts of your shoes well, including the insole. Vodka works by killing the bacteria that may be causing your shoe odor. You will want to let the shoes dry for a few minutes before putting them back on.

White vinegar and newspaper

Using white vinegar can be a great way to eliminate shoe odor. While vinegar is a great agent for breaking down substances in your shoes that make them stink, it has its own scent, which some find offensive. Therefore, after you thoroughly clean your shoes with vinegar, wad up some newspaper and stick it in your shoes. 

Let them sit for a few minutes, and the newspaper will absorb the vinegar smell so that you can be on your way. The newspaper will also absorb any moisture in your shoes, so you also eliminate any odor coming from it.

Fabric refresher sprays

Fabric refresher sprays are an easy way to eliminate shoe odor. Simply spray the solution on your shoes and make sure to get both sides of your insoles. You can choose between a pump bottle or a spray can. 

You can also easily create your own at home by combining 15 to 20 drops of geranium or lavender essential oils with a pint of white vinegar and spraying on and in your shoes as the essential oils will help take care of the vinegar smell.

Cleaning erasers

Cleaning erasers are a great way to get rid of grime on and in your shoes, which can cause odor issues. Just dampen the sponge a little and use it to eliminate all the dirt. Then, dispose of the eraser. 

You probably already love this product for cleaning other areas of your home. And it is a great asset for getting in those tiny creases and other areas of your shoes where smells may be hiding. This method is incredibly excellent for shoes you cannot put in the washing machine.

Shoe disinfectants

You can find specific shoe disinfectant sprays made for your shoes. These spray products often work in as little as 5 seconds, which is excellent when you are in a hurry. You can also use your favorite disinfectant cleaner. 

A young woman spraying deodorant on sweaty running shoes for eliminate unpleasan sport footwear needs in cleaning and odor removal

Just make sure that you are wearing socks because most contain ingredients that you do not want your feet coming in contact with regularly. You can also make a disinfectant spray by combining tea tree and lemon essential oils in a bit of water and using it to give your shoes a quick cleaning.


Regardless of which product you choose, the procedure is very similar. Therefore, you will want to concentrate on learning this routine. Then, see which product you like to use the most.

Pull out soles

Sometimes, shoes’ insoles can easily be removed by just lifting them and pulling them out. Some shoes have the insole glued in place. In that case, you can often use a hairdryer to get the glue hot, causing it to release. Other times, you may find that tacks hold the insole in place. 

In that case, you may be able to use the end of a flathead screwdriver to pry the tacks out and release the insole. If the insole refuses to come out in one piece, you will need to replace it with a new one.

Remove shoelaces if present

You cannot do a great job of cleaning your shoes with the shoelaces in them. Therefore, you need to take them out so that you can get around the eyelets to clean. While you have them out, put them in a little soapy water and give them a quick wash. 

Afterward, rinse them under clear running water. You can then blot them dry and put them in the sun to finish drying or use a hairdryer to dry them. Removing the shoelaces also allows you to open up the shoe more to get where you need to reach to clean all shoe areas.

Spray both shoes and soles

It may be tempting to spray only the outside of your shoes, but that may not take care of the odor problem. Therefore, you need to open up the shoes as wide as possible and spray every surface you can reach. 

Start spraying in the toe cap and work your way back to the heel. Don’t forget about spraying the tongue of the shoe if it has one. Then, move on to the outside of the shoe. Spray the tops and the sole.

Wait a minute

After you spray your shoes, then wait a minute. Most cleaners take time to soak into the grime and loosen it. You want to give the cleaner plenty of time to work before moving on to the next step. When possible, let the shoes sit for 10 minutes. Then, respray them before moving on.

Rub the shoes and insoles with a towel

While a paper towel will work in a pinch, you will want to rub your shoes with a towel. Use a white one not to risk colors running off the towel onto your shoes. In most areas, it is best to use a blotting motion so that you do not spread the grime.

Cleaning leather shoes with a polishing cloth premium photo

If you find places where the grime is stuck, you may need to rub it back and forth. A toothbrush can help remove stuck on dirt. After you have finished drying the shoes, do the same with the insoles.

Put the insoles back in

The next step is to put the clean insoles back into your shoes. If you tore the insoles or they are creased, then replace them. Walking on creased insoles is uncomfortable, and it can cause blisters and other foot problems. These can lead to areas where bacteria can grow, causing your shoes to stink again. 

If the insoles were glued in, then glue them back using some super glue, or if they were tacked in, you should replace the tacks. This is a great time to replace them if they are looking worn.

I have enjoyed teaching you how to take care of shoe odor instantly and how to clean your shoes. I hope you will keep reading to find some concluding thoughts.


Now you understand that your feet may stink with over 250,000 sweat glands in each foot and countless bacteria. I hope you know how to take care of the problem. In addition, in this post, you have discovered the importance of regularly washing your shoes and feet.

If that is not enough, then gather supplies to take care of the problem regardless of where life takes you. Now that you know how to keep odors from getting in your shoes and what to do if they occur, you are more prepared to take on the world without worrying about embarrassing odor problems.

The next time you are at the gym or somewhere else, and someone apologizes for their shoe odor, share a copy of this post with them. They will be thankful that you did. You may also want to share it with your partner and your children.

Make sure to check out our other fashion articles. That way, you’ll stay up-to-date on all the latest news and trends.

I will be glad to answer any questions about keeping odors out of your shoes. Do you know a method that works for you that I did not cover? Let us know in the comments below.

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