Chemistry Behind Stink Foot

A friend of mine whom I’ve known since high school earned the nickname “Shoe” because his feet smelled so bad. We’d always yell at him to put his shoes back on. It got to the point that if any of us smelled anything foul, we’d assume it was John and just yell “Shoe” and on went the footwear.

The name stuck but his smelly feet have since become a thing of the past. After that much ribbing, you either embrace your odor or find ways to combat it. He chose the latter.

But not everyone is as good natured as my friend Shoe. That’s where this Reactions video from the American Chemical Society comes in handy. You can send this to your smelly friends under the guise of work-related material. Make up some story that involves bacterial waste products and your concern that they will cause issues with your work and voilà -- you’ve provided an ever-so-subtle hint and solution to their problem.

Enjoy – you can thank me later.


Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor and olfactory monitor. You can email her at


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  • <p>I'd like to produce a synthetic version of foot odor for joke purposes. My company sells novelties. What could I use to create something virtually identical. Would simply mixing the correct proportions of 3-Methylbutanoic acid, Propionic acid, Butyric acid &amp; Methanethiol do it? Would I need Ammonia? I found this: <a href=""></a> I probably don't need all the other fatty acids. Since Methanethiol is a gas, how would I integrate that?</p>


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