Keep your kicks fresh with these top shoe cleaners that reviewers are raving about

Say hello to pristine shoes once again

Two types of shoe cleaners side by side
(Image credit: The Container Store / Amazon)

We've all been there. You start your day (or night) with a fresh set of heels or sneakers, only to return home with each shoe caked in mud, drinks, or scuffs. Keeping shoes in tip-top condition can feel like a full-time job, especially if you're rocking them on the regular. But don't sweat — there's hope.

Any shoe obsessive or sneakerhead can vouch for the power of a handy shoe cleaner in extending their shoes' lives. Sure, conservative use is one way to slow the signs of aging on your leather or suede favorites, but why put your life on hold just to keep them fresh? After all, shoes were made for wearing. 

Ever since the advent of shoe cleaners, I've been stepping out of the house in my best shoes, safe in the knowledge that they're only moments away from a quick touch-up, fresh and back to their former glory — whether they're leather loafer, suede desert boots, or an ice-cold pair of Nikes. So, before you throw yours in the washer, look to these savvy sprays, foams, and travel kits — all suitable for an unforgiving student or young professional's budget. Thank me later.

These nine shoe cleaners weren't just featured because the Real Homes team loves them, but most importantly, because they scored highly with shoppers. Serving users in their quest to reinvigorate beaten and bruised shoes, these shoe cleaners have you covered. Patent leather? All good. Suede and nubuck? Squared away. The Hypebeast sneakers you plopped in a puddle? Good as new. Including everything such as easy foams, wipe-clean solutions, and conditioning serums, this guide has something for every material and need. For clean shoes, this is your foot in the door.

The best shoe cleaners to revive your shoes

Shoe cleaner for sneakers

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Keeping your sneakers in box-fresh condition is no small feat, but with specialized solutions, you can keep your whitest whites gleaming with just a few simple applications. Of all the shoe types, sneakers have the hardest time, acting as a go-to for casual events and lunchtime strolls, although fine leather and suede are a little more sensitive.

Shoe cleaner for leather

Leather is a sturdy material but requires a unique type of care. And that's where these smart and safe cleaners come in. Sure, many sneaker cleaners double up as leather cleaners, however, we would always err on the pedantic side, opting for fine-leather-specific formulas like these, avoiding tears over destroyed dress shoes or stilettos.

Shoe cleaner for suede

A textural alternative to leather, suede is another animal-derived hide, distinguished by its softness. Due to the fibrous surface, it requires a brush for cleaning, so consider investing in one of these, too. Before diving into our picks though, it's worthwhile brushing up (sorry, not sorry) on your suede cleaning techniques. Ultimately, as long as you're light-handed and comb with the grain of the nap, all should go swimmingly.

How we chose these shoe cleaners

Shoppers spoke; we listened. Only choosing top-notch picks that reviewers can vouch for, we curated this list of shoe cleaners based on affordability and quality. In short, these are tried-and-tested products, guaranteed to freshen up your fav footwear. 

Where to buy shoe cleaners? 

For the most sought-after shoe cleaners, check in with some of our reverred retailers, all handily listed below.

Can you use soapy water to clean shoes?

Ideally, we would suggest using a specialized shoe cleaner, like those listed above. However, there are times when soapy water does the trick. Certainly, for suede and leather dress shoes, it's best to stick with a shoe cleaner as these can be a little more delicate or nuanced — especially if they're particularly expensive. As for most sneakers, though, you're good to proceed. 

To begin, start by brushing away dry debris like mud, gum (yuck!), and twigs. Then, you can get cracking. Keep in mind that your soapy water should never be too concentrated as it can damage treatments on the shoe or lead to discoloration. Remove the laces and place them in their bowl of solution, rubbing them to remove the dirt. Then, fill another bowl with your solution, before dipping an old toothbrush in it, and gently scrubbing the shoes' surface. Finally, grab a microfiber cloth, blot the soap suds, and leave your shoes (and laces) somewhere to air dry. If you're. For white shoes, you can also incorporate baking soda and other tips but tread carefully as these are harsher products. 

How can I wash my shoes without ruining them?

Easy does it, is the short answer. It's about taking the softest approach you can. In practice, placing your shoes in the washing machine should be a last resort and a no-no for things like fine leather or suede. If you're at this point, though, opt for a low temperature to prevent melting the glue on your shoes. Elsewhere, steer clear of excessively potent products, such as kitchen bleach, as this can strip the surface oils. 

Ideally, the safest way is to use a shoe cleaner and a brush, working away the dirt with smooth and light circular motions. Remember: suede and specially treated or textured leathers are their own kettle of fish, so proceed with caution, opting first and foremost for a suede- or leather-specific cleaner. In the case of sneakers, a sneaker cleaner from the likes of Jason Markk is wise, but if they're less fancy numbers, a little soapy water has it covered. 

Joseph Bobowicz
Freelance Contributor

Working across digital and print publications, Joseph Bobowicz is a London-born writer obsessed with books, culture, and all things new. When he's not writing about fashion for i-D and the Independent, he's out sourcing the best homewares to incorporate into any humble abode, fixer-upper, or first-time buy alike.