Shoes take a lot of abuse, whether it’s unforeseen storms, an unexpected backcountry detour, or just the regular grime of city life . But there’s no need to let a few puddles keep your favorite white sneakers on the shelf—there are plenty of great products out there that can restore them to their original glory.
The first step to finding the best shoe cleaner for you is knowing what your shoe is made of, regardless of whether that’s leather, suede, nubuck, canvas, or a combination of fabrics, according to Vincent Rao Jr. of Vince’s Village Cobbler in New York City.
“Each material requires a specific application, otherwise you run the risk of damaging it, ” says Rao. “For example, if you choose to add a polish or cream to suede, this will permanently damage it. What’s important is that there is no all-around or straightforward method for footwear cleaning. Each shoe must be cleaned properly using the correct products for each material. And do your best not to put them in a washing machine! ”
Our favorite overall shoe cleaner, the Lincoln E-Z Cleaner , is a tried-and-true liquid that works on a variety of materials. It comes recommended by both Roa and Eduard Shimunov of New York’s Cobbler Express , who stresses the importance of buying products from cleaner-centric companies like 103-year-old Lincoln subsequently Shoe Polish. We also used the experts’ advice to pick the best wipes, natural products, and care for sneakers.
Here are the best shoe cleaners to keep you polished:
Why We Love It: It’s professionally recommended, affordable, and usable on a variety of materials.
What to Consider: Some products offer more in the way of leather nourishment.
Rao calls the Lincoln E-Z Cleaner “a good all-around product for cleaning a few different materials. ” Shimunov is also a fan of the company and includes it on his list of brands that “have been around for quite a while and have extensive experience in shoe care products. ” (Fiebing’s, Kiwi, plus Saphir are his other top brands, and we have picks from them as well. ) You can safely use the E-Z Cleaner on suede (that fussiest of materials), as well as nubuck, leather, satin, and more, so you won’t have to invest in multiple cleaners to handle your whole collection. Note that you shake the bottle and then use only the foam to clean your shoes, not the actual liquid, which would be a bit trickier to use.
Price at time of publish: $8
Sizes available: 8 fluid ounces | Application type: Liquid
Why We Love It: This high-end formula will keep your leather shoes looking brand-new.
What to Consider: It’s on the expensive end of the spectrum and may darken some leather slightly.
For your fanciest leather footwear, Saphir is one of Shimunov’s favorite brands, and the Renovateur leather cleaner rakes in accolades across the internet. The particular Renovateur deep conditions and rejuvenates leather using enriching nutrients from ingredients like beeswax and mink oil. If that sounds a little like your favorite hand lotion, keep in mind that leather is, essentially, skin, and thus still needs nourishment and moisture to prevent cracking. A little bit of this goes a long way; just gently massage it into your shoes with a cloth and enjoy the results.
Price at time of publish: $27
Sizes available: Not listed | Software type: Cream
Amazon . com
Why We Love It: This gentle soap safely takes care of dirt to leave leather looking fresh and undamaged.
What to Consider: This is best followed up with a conditioning product.
Shimunov also likes Fiebing’s products, and its Saddle Soap is popular for its pristine cleaning abilities. It is, after all, originally designed for saddles, although your city strolls probably aren’t kicking up the same level of dirt as life on the ranch. It’s super mild and will leave the finish of your shoes intact while removing debris. Think of this more like a shampoo than a conditioner; the brand says this cleans leather and lubricates fibers but may deplete the natural oils in leather. It comes in black, white, plus yellow so you can get the closest match to your kicks (though no color will transfer from the yellow one or the white one). Just apply it with a rag or sponge.
Price at time of publish: $4 for 3. 5 oz .
Sizes available: 3. 5 ounces, 12 ounces, and 5 pounds | Program type: Solid soap
Why We Love It: It’s an easy spray formula that won’t damage your delicate shoes.
What to Consider: The smell can be a bit strong.
The fourth of Shimunov’s favorite brands, Kiwi makes a variety of sprays for different materials. We appreciate their solid brand reputation particularly for dealing with suede, one of the most challenging materials to clean at home. This spray method evaporates quickly, which is crucial for not saturating the suede. It can remove dust and dirt as well as condition plus soften the surface of your sneakers (and other suede items, for that matter) of any color.
Price at time of distribute: $11
Sizes available: 5. 5 ounces | App type: Spray
Why We Love It: This easy-to-use foam does all the mixing for you.
What to Consider: This might be a bit wetter than other methods.
Jason Markk is known for its extensive shoe-care line, and the Ready-to-use Foam is one of its bestsellers. No need for water or a mixing bowl; the particular foam is designed to provide the ideal ratio of cleaning solution and water without you having to do any math. Just apply the foam directly onto a brush and gently scrub your shoe inside a circular motion, then wipe it clean, no extra steps needed. The brand says the foam is safe on all materials, even suede and nubuck.
Price at time of publish: $18
Sizes available: 7 fluid ounces | Application type: Foam
Why All of us Love It: This particular highly concentrated solution draws its cleaning power from natural oils while being safe for most materials.
What to Consider: You have to mix it with water yourself.
If you’re looking for a cleaner made with natural ingredients, the cardboard-packaged Reshoevn8r is the best shoe cleaner for you. The gentle solution is made from coconut, jojoba, and other natural oils plus cleans and conditions most materials, including leather, canvas, mesh, and even suede. The particular 8-ounce bottle can clean 60 to 100 shoes or boots. However , it’s highly concentrated, so you need to squirt this into a bowl of water before applying.
You don’t need to stop at the cleaner if you’re sold on Reshoevn8r’s line: It also sells a plethora of bundles, accessories, and storage solutions to keep your shoes and boots in peak form at every step.
Price at moments of publish: $24 for 8 fluid ounces
Sizes obtainable: 8 fluid ounces, 16 fluid oz . | Application type: Water
Why We Love It: Sneaker Lab’s wipes are super-portable and designed to have minimal impact on the environment.
What to Consider: Don’t use these on suede and make sure to be gentle.
If you’re on the go, in a hurry, or simply don’t want to mix up some cleaning liquid yourself, cleaning wipes are a great option. Sneaker Lab’s individually wrapped wipes can easily be thrown in your carry-on and taken on the road. They’re safe to use on leather-based, canvas, knit, and mesh. Even better, they use environmentally friendly probiotic cleaning solution without harsh chemicals (though an individually packaged, single-use product isn’t the most sustainable choice within general). CJ Burgos, director of customer experience for Cobbler Concierge and Jim’s Shoe Repair , has a word of caution about wipes, however. “Even though [they’re] delicate, they can rub off color if pressed down too hard, ” he warns, so proceed carefully.
Cost at time of publish: $10 for a 12-pack
Sizes accessible: 12-pack, 30-pack | Software type: Wipe
Why We Love It: Angelus includes a versatile liquid cleaner along with both a brush and microfiber cloth.
What to Consider: Though it says it should work, using liquid solution on suede can be dicey.
If you need to add some tools to your cleaning routine, the Angelus kit amps up its cleaning power with accessories. It contains a cleaning brush to give you some extra scrubbing power and a microfiber cloth with regard to wiping away dampness plus residue without leaving any kind of extra fluff behind. The cleaning agent itself is a liquid that the brand claims can be safely used on suede, nubuck, vinyl, straw, canvas, rubber, mesh, and more. Made it through your whole shoe closet and still want to make more shine? You can also use this on your car’s upholstery or your furniture.
Price at time of publish: $15
Sizes available: 8. 6 ounces | Application type: Liquid
Why We Like it: This combo concentrate both cleans and replenishes.
What to Consider: It should only be used on washable materials.
The top-selling Pink Miracle seems to live up to its name in terms of the cleaning power. The blend contains a mix of saddle cleaning soap, gentle oils, and conditioners to both clean and replenish your shoes. Note that it will only be used on washable materials, so anything that can’t get a bit damp shouldn’t be cleaned with it. It’s also highly concentrated, so a little will go a long way. And as a nice bonus, it includes its own brush so you don’t need to purchase any extra add-ons.
Cost at time of publish: $18 for 4 fluid ounces
Sizes available: 4 fluid ounces, eight fluid ounces | Application type: Liquid
Tips for Buying Shoe Cleaners
Pick an application method that will be convenient for you
Should you be buying a shoe cleaner, you want to make sure it cleans—and that you actually use it. In support of the latter, pick an application method that you’ll find convenient, especially while traveling. A lot of liquid options are super concentrated and therefore need to be mixed in a separate vessel to be used, while solid or foam options can sometimes be rubbed directly onto your shoes.
Choose a versatile product
You also want to choose a flexible product that can potentially be used across your shoe collection. While some materials are certainly fussier than others (again, looking at you, suede), there are products that are gentle enough to be used on multiple materials. If you’re planning a trip where you’ll need to be looking nice and polished for multiple events, it’s wise to have a cleaner that can pull double (or triple) duty.
Frequently Asked Questions
According to Rao, this is entirely dependent on how much you wear them. “If a person wear the shoes infrequently, we recommend cleaning 1-3 times a year, ” he says. “If you wear them every day seven days a week, you might want to consider a monthly cleaning. Any leather sneakers we always recommend in order to clean/condition at least a couple occasions a year to keep the leather moisturized. Shoe trees are also suggested to prevent creases from turning into cracks. ”
Shimunov is more fastidious, recommending cleaning or at least conditioning your own leather shoes once a week, especially if you get caught in inclement weather. “It’s very important after a very bad downpour or a snow storm not to leave your boots or shoes lying around in the house with salt stains, ” he says. “Bring them in and have the salt stains removed immediately or shoes will start breaking and cracking. ”
The consensus among our experts? Absolutely not.
“No NO no, ” says Shimunov, explaining that putting your shoes or boots in the washing machine damages natural leather and destroys the chemicals in the glue that’s holding the shoes together.
What about non-leather shoes? “Do not ever put your high-end sneakers in the washing machine, ” says Burgos. “The whole footwear can fall apart and the threading will come out and fray. If you put them in the dryer, heat will burn the particular mesh. Just don’t do it. ”
“The only shoes we recommend putting in a washing machine are usually colorless fabric sneakers/running shoes and boots, but even this runs the risk of damaging and dissolving the glue that keeps the soles on, ” says Rao. “Any some other shoe we strongly recommend hand-cleaning only, and more importantly having them cleaned professionally. ”
The reason why Trust Travel + Leisure
Rena Behar has been finding the best travel gear and more for outlets including T+L, Wirecutter, Reviewed. com, TripSavvy, and more since 2014. To write this list of the best shoe cleaners, she interviewed CJ Burgos, director associated with customer experience for Cobbler Concierge and Jim’s Shoe Repair ; Vincent Rao Jr. of Vince’s Village Cobbler ; and Eduard Shimunov of Cobbler Express .
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