No matter how hard you try, you can’t escape dirty shoes. You can, however, invest in a high-quality shoe cleaner to keep them looking sharp.
From innovative stain removers and repellents to complete shoe cleaning kits, there are more options than ever for keeping your footwear collection spotless. If you have weathered loafers or sneakers that have seen better days, consider these shopping tips and recommendations for some of the best shoe cleaners on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Crep Protect Cure Shoe Cleaning Travel Kit
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner Brush and Solution
- BEST BRUSH: Sneaker Cleaner Brush by KlenBlu
- BEST WIPES: Sneaker LAB Shoe Wipes
- BEST FOR LEATHER: Saphir Medaille d’Or Renovator
- BEST FOR SUEDE: Gear Aid Revivex Suede and Fabric Boot Care Kit
- BEST SPOT CLEANER: Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner Kit
- BEST STAIN REMOVER: Sof Sole Instant Cleaner for Athletic Shoes
Types of Shoe Cleaners
A wide variety of types of shoe cleaners are available on the market. From portable wipes to tough brushes, there is a cleaner that will work for every stain on your shoes. Choosing which one will work best for your footwear collection comes down to the kind of shoes you have and the most effective and safest way to clean them.
Sprays are one of the most common types of shoe cleaners. Most shoe cleaner solutions are a mix of nontoxic ingredients, gentle oils, saddle soap, and conditioners and typically include a spray nozzle to make cleaning your shoes easier. You can spray shoe cleaner solution directly on your shoes, or you can spray it on a cloth first and then clean your shoes with it.
Some shoe cleaner sprays also include shoe protectant, which is meant to guard your shoes against rain, dirt, salt, and other harmful elements. Other sprays include deodorizers to help keep the insides of your shoes smelling fresh.
Shoe cleaning wipes are a more recent innovation in the footwear industry. Built to make shoe cleaning more portable, wipes are ideal for keeping your shoes clean while you travel, especially because they are disposable. They’re also convenient for treating and removing stains as soon as they happen. Some serious sneaker fans use them every day to prevent dirt from staying on their shoes for too long.
Most wipes are soaked in a shoe cleaning solution or detergent, some with natural, nontoxic ingredients. Unless otherwise stated on the package, you can use most shoe cleaning wipes with any kind of shoes, as well as some purses and other accessories, such as leather jackets.
While a strong cloth and some elbow grease will clean most shoes, some extra-tough stains require the help of a shoe cleaning brush. Once you have applied shoe cleaner solution to your shoes, simply use the brush to scrub out the stains. These brushes work for nearly every kind of shoes, except for suede as brushing could result in scratches.
Outside of cleaning, you can also use this kind of brush to shine your shoes. In fact, many shoe brushes are equipped with multiple bristles on each side intended for specific types of shoes. Some even do feature a specialty bristle that will work for suede shoes.
Most shoe creams on the market contain a certain kind of shoe polish that smooths and conditions leather. However, there are also specialty shoe creams that offer an even more gentle clean for delicate leather.
Crafted with a combination of oil and wax, shoe creams not only clean leather shoes, but they also condition and restore the material to its original state. You first apply this shoe cream to a cloth—usually a microfiber cloth—and then massage into the shoes until clean.
You can use shoe cleaning creams on other shoes as well, such as sneakers. Just do a spot test first on an unseen area of one shoe to ensure there won’t be any permanent damage.
Shoe cleaning powders typically clean the insides of your shoes rather than the outsides in an effort to rid them of odors and keep them smelling fresh. With these products, you can either shake the powder inside the shoes or toss the powder in with the shoes when you run them through a washing machine
Shoe cleaning powder is safe for any kind of shoes. Most are formulated with natural deodorizers and protectants like zinc oxide to eliminate odors. You usually have to use them regularly for at least a week to see results.
Shoe cleaning solutions are the most common type of shoe cleaning product. Usually a mix of oils, conditioners, and soap, some are engineered in a water- or oil-based solution, while others are designed as a foam. Today’s shoe cleaning solutions are typically made without any harsh chemicals or solvents.
For the best results, pair a top-quality shoe cleaning solution with either a microfiber cloth or a shoe cleaning brush. In order to maintain your shoes’ cleanliness, consider using a cleaning solution at least once a week.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Shoe Cleaner
There is a large online selection of shoe cleaners from which to choose. Once you’ve determined the type of shoe cleaner that best suits your shoes, keep several factors in mind before you make a decision. Everything from the material from which your kicks are made to the kind of stain you’re trying to remove is essential to consider.
Not all shoe cleaners are effective for cleaning the same kinds of unsightly spots. While there are all-purpose solutions on the market for cleaning an entire shoe, products designed with more specific purposes are also in abundance.
If you’re trying to remove scuff marks, for example, you’ll need a different product than one intended to remove deep stains or one for spot cleaning or basic polishing. Cleaning solutions for insoles are also different from products meant for cleaning the exterior of shoes.
Keep in mind, however—especially if you are in a pinch—that many shoe cleaners will work reasonably well on any kind of dirt or stain.
One of the most important aspects to consider when purchasing a new shoe cleaner is the kind of shoes you’re looking to clean. While most shoes like sneakers, sandals, and heels will respond well to any kind of shoe cleaner, delicate materials like leather and suede often require shoe cleaners tailored specifically to them.
Thus, when searching for a shoe cleaner, check to see if it is recommended for use on the specific kind of shoe you wish to clean. Even once you’ve purchased a shoe cleaner, do a spot test on an unseen part of one shoe to make sure there isn’t any discoloration.
Finally, decide on the type of shoe cleaner application you prefer. While no one type is necessarily any more effective at removing dirt and stains, each has its pros and cons.
Spray and solution applications are easy to use to clean an entire shoe, but they can be messy and may not be the best for spot cleaning. Creams tend to work best on leather shoes and other delicate materials, but they require a little more elbow grease to remove any scuffs or stains.
Wipes provide the easiest application—and they’re the most portable—but it might require some extra scrubbing to remove tough stains from your shoes. Brushes and spot cleaners will work best for the most persistent stains.
Our Top Picks
Once you’ve taken all of these factors into consideration and perhaps have an idea of the best shoe cleaner for your needs, it’s time to start shopping. Read below for a detailed list of some of the best shoe cleaners available online. Whether you’re looking to remove a stain from your favorite sneakers or hoping to keep your leather loafers looking brand-new, there are plenty of available options.
With a natural solution, a strong brush, and a soft microfiber cloth, the Crep Protect Cure Shoe Cleaning Travel Kit will clean practically any shoes in your closet. Combining coconut extracts and jojoba oil, this 98 percent natural solution is safe to use on many materials. Pair those ingredients with the brush included in the kit, which is constructed with 17,000 hog-hair bristles, and dirty shoes don’t stand a chance.
Safe for leather, suede, nubuck, and canvas shoes, the 100-milliliter bottle will clean up to 50 pairs. Plus, this kit includes a non-abrasive and highly absorbent microfiber cloth, which you can use to remove those extra-tough stains and to give your shoes a nice shine. The only downside to this cleaner is that it is travel-size, so it won’t clean as many shoes as kits with larger bottles.
Complete with a 4-ounce solution, a brush, and a resealable pouch, the Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner Brush and Solution gives you the tools you need to clean up to 100 pairs of shoes. Crafted with 98.3 percent natural ingredients with no harsh chemicals or abrasives, this all-purpose cleaner is appropriate for vinyl, nubuck, nylon, canvas, rubber, cloth, and even leather and suede. In addition, the brush’s soft hog bristles are safe for use on delicate materials like nubuck, nylon, leather, suede, and cotton mesh.
The only downside to this product is that it is likely to bleed on suede that has previously been dyed. Be sure to do a spot test on a hidden area of one shoe before you use it to avoid damage.
If you want to remove tough stains from your shoes and keep them looking polished and shiny, consider adding the Sneaker Cleaner Brush/Cleaning Brush from KlenBlu to your shoe cleaning tool kit.
The brush features intentionally firm double-sided bristles, with one side having short bristles for harder spots and the other side having longer bristles for a more gentle clean. Because this tool is safe to use on multiple surfaces, you can pair any solution with this brush to clean most shoe fabrics, such as mesh, rubber, foam, suede, nubuck, prime knit, canvas, cloth, and even leather. However, the manufacturer recommends being careful with suede as that material is more likely to scratch.
Innovative shoe technology and portable packaging make the Sneaker LAB Shoe Wipes an effective and convenient product for taking care of stains or messy shoes on the go. These two-in-one wipes can clean and condition leather shoes, as well as other shoe materials, thanks to a water-based lotion mixture. This lotion acts as a natural hydrator and a protectant against water, UV rays, and dirt.
Travel-friendly and convenient to carry, these shoe wipes are also biodegradable and free of soaps or harsh chemicals. The package of 12 individually wrapped wipes is affordable as well.
Engineered with essential nutrients, mink-based oils, and waxes that help to restore leather to its original color and shine, the Saphir Medaille d’Or Renovator Leather Shoe Cleaner not only cleans but conditions your leather shoes.
With just one jar of cream, you’ll cover your leather shoe care basics: cleaning, conditioning, removing loose pigment, smoothing, and polishing. The manufacturer recommends using this cream with a cloth to provide a gentle clean on even the most delicate materials. While it’s slightly more expensive than other shoe cleaning products, regular use could save you the cost of a professional shoe polish down the road.
While suede tends to be the most challenging material to clean. Dirt and scuff marks on your favorite pair of suede shoes are no match for the Gear Aid Revivex Suede and Fabric Boot Care Kit. Complete with a 4-ounce bottle of gentle cleaning solution, a 4-ounce bottle of water repellent, a brush, and an eraser block, this kit will be quite effective at cleaning your suede, nubuck, and canvas shoes.
The cleaning solution creates minimal suds while still removing grime from your shoes, and the eraser block is particularly powerful at taking out scuffs. Rub the eraser block back and forth over the scuffed area to remove it, and, if needed, you can follow up with the brush to completely rid the shoe of any remaining residue. Once your shoes are clean, apply the water-repellent solution to prevent future water spots from leaving damage.
The formula in the Pink Miracle Shoe Cleaner Kit includes gentle oils, conditioners, and saddle soap to remove tough stains from washable fabric, such as leather, vinyl, nubuck, suede, canvas, cloth, and more. Nontoxic and safe, this concentrate is an effective and money-saving spot cleaner, as just a few drops will help rid your shoes of stains like grease, dirt, and scum.
Because this kit consists of an 8-ounce bottle of concentrate and a shoe cleaning brush, you can actually use this shoe cleaner for cleaning items around your home as well.
The only downside to this product is that it may not work well on some suede shoes. As with any new product, be sure to do a patch test first in an inconspicuous spot on one shoe.
While it may be designed for athletic shoes, the Sof Sole Instant Cleaner Foaming Stain Remover can remove tough stains from canvas sneakers, sandals, and other shoe materials as well. Its scrubbing cap makes stain removal a breeze as it easily distributes the solution and massages it into the fabric to lift out stains.
This shoe cleaner is not recommended for use on leather or suede shoes, as the scrubber will most likely be too harsh for those more delicate fabrics. If you’re unsure about using the product, spot test it on a hidden area of one shoe first.
The product is available in two sizes—a 5-ounce bottle and a 9-ounce bottle—and you can also use it in conjunction with a cleaning brush.
FAQs About Shoe Cleaners
Now that you’ve explored several options for some of the best shoe cleaners on the market, it’s time to answer a few remaining questions. Check out the questions and answers below about how to keep your kicks spotless and stain-free.
Q. Why did my white shoes turn yellow?
White shoes can turn yellow due to prolonged exposure to the sun, as well as because of dirt and sweat stains.
Q. Can I use shoe cleaner on boots?
You can use shoe cleaner on boots as long as the cleaner will be safe and effective for the material the boots are made of.
Q. Is a patch test on shoe cleaner advisable?
Yes. Prior to using any shoe cleaner, you should do a patch test on an unseen area of one shoe to ensure it doesn’t cause any damage or discoloration to the material.