The 7 Best Shoe Cleaners on the Market | 2022 Guide
We researched over 20 products and chose Crep Protect Shoe Cleaning Kit as the best shoe cleaner.
We’re a team of shoe and shoe care experts. I run through about 15 pairs of shoes each year and clean most of them personally. I deal with tough stains and hard-to-clean uppers regularly – so I know a little about shoe cleaners.
To write this article, I spent over $100 to test cleaning products I hadn’t tried. I spoke to my go-to shoe repair guy and picked his brain for recommendations. I read online reviews and spoke to other reviewers in this space.
Crep Protect came out on top for a few reasons. First, it works on all surfaces: synthetic, leather, nubuck, even soft suede. I personally use it on everything from quality dress shoes to athletic shoes. It works quickly, it works well, it doesn’t stain and it has a natural smell. It’s my personal favorite.
I specifically recommend the Crep Protect Shoe Cleaning Kit because it’s so convenient. It has a nice hog hair brush and a premium microfiber cloth that doesn’t stain. It comes with everything you need so you don’t have to think twice about what you’re buying.
During the research process, a few other products caught my eye. The SneakERASERS sneaker cleaner sponges are good if you need to clean a smooth surface quickly. I tried them on dress shoes, tennis shoes and my patent leather pillowcase. I’ve tried sneaker wipes before, but SneakERASERS sponge is the first “wipe” I liked.
I also rate the Angelus Easy Cleaner solution highly. It’s inexpensive, it comes in a huge bottle and it works exceedingly well. If you just want a quick, easy way to clean most shoe materials, consider buying it. It’s great value-for-money and it helped me get rid of an old oil stain – which was cool.
To see the other products we recommend, including our top shoe whitener, read on.
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Table of Contents
Crep Protect Cure Shoe Cleaning Travel Kit is our top overall product. Most of our team has it in their home, and we used it to film our video content. You can see it in “how to clean running shoes”, “how to clean a suede shoe”, etc.
The traveling shoe cleaner kit comes with everything you need. That includes a hog-hair brush, the actual cleaning solution, and a microfiber towel. There’s no suede “magic eraser” – true – but suede rubber is only a quick-fix solution anyway. The cleaning liquid is 98% natural, with ingredients like coconut extract and jojoba. You’d assume it doesn’t clean well – but it really does. We’ve used it on running shoes, walking shoes, fashion sneakers and others. It always gets the job done. When you’re done, it leaves a pleasant, chemical-free smell on your shoes.
The brush has 17,000 hog hair bristles, which are soft and short. Hog hair is a little stiffer than horse hair, but we use it on suede with no issue. It can clean the most delicate surfaces without damaging them. The microfibre cloth is ultra-soft, absorbent and non-abrasive. It also comes in a cool yellow color, which we like a lot.
This kit is safe to use on all kinds of shoe materials; leather, suede, or nubuck. We do not recommend using it on canvas shoes, though. Check out our “how not to clean canvas shoes” page to see why.
All in all, at just $18, this is an affordable product that delivers premium results. The packaging is convenient whether you travel or not. On the road, it’s easy to throw in a backpack or suitcase. At home, it’s an easy way to keep track of your cleaning products.
- Many tools
- Convenient packaging
- Safe to use on all types of materials
- 98% natural
- Not for canvas shoes
Best Premium Shoe Cleaner
Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner and Suede Cleaning Kit
Why this product?
Features a powerful chemical-free solution that can remove about any stain. Has an eraser and suede brush which is ideal for soft suede and nubuck.
If you have a few extra bucks, we recommend the Jason Markk Premium Kit. Like our top overall choice, it’s a bundle. It includes 4 oz premium cleaning solution, a standard cleaning brush, a suede handle brush, and a shoe stain eraser. The eraser and suede brush, which you don’t find in the previous bundle on our list, are perfect for soft suede and nubuck.
The premium shoe cleaning solution is free from abrasive or harsh chemicals. Despite this, a few drops will get rid of just about any stain. We’ve used it to remove dust, mud, scuff marks and more. If your shoe is dirty all over or needs a refresh, you’ll need a little more of the solution. Either way – that modest 4 oz bottle lasts a long time. Since the solution is chemical-free, it’s safe to use on any shoe material – and biodegradable. It doesn’t stain or mark your shoes, even if they leather is very soft.
The standard brush included in the kit is made with synthetic bristles. In our experience, it’s no worse than a hog hair brush. If you do want a natural brush, you can always buy that for a few dollars. The suede rubber rubs off easily and is well-made. It doesn’t fall apart in your hand like some of the other products we tried. Be careful when using it; it’s a little tougher than similar products.
The suede brush is nice and soft. One thing we noticed is that it loses its bristles pretty easily. This appears to be a side effect of its softness. This is the main weak spot of the bundle. It doesn’t make much of a difference, but you don’t expect to see a premium brush losing its bristles so quickly.
This is an excellent all-around bundle. Yes, there are better brushes out there. Yes, we wish this came with a microfiber cloth. Having said that, as far as premium bundles go, this is hands-down our favorite. Be careful to use the solution sparingly; it’s powerful and highly concentrated.
- Strong cleaning solution that will last long
- Safe and biodegradable solution
- Includes a suede brush and stain eraser – great for soft suede and nubuck
- The brush loses its bristles quickly
- No microfiber cloth
Best Shoe Cleaning Solution
If you’re looking for a standalone cleaning solution, the Angelus Easy Cleaner is our top choice. It’s cheap, it’s highly effective, and it comes in a large 8 oz bottle – which we quite liked.
We tested Angelus Easy Cleaner on several leather and suede shoes. It got rid of oil, dust, mud and general muck quickly and easily. It helped me get rid of a stubborn stain left by mechanical oil. This is something the previous two products failed to do. Yes, this one doesn’t have the same kind of pleasant, natural smell – but we didn’t mind. It may not be natural, but it doesn’t stain or damage shoe uppers – even soft suede.
One thing to note is that the Angelus Easy Cleaner is best used with other shoe care products. After you’re done cleaning, we suggest applying a soft wax (leather) or a waterproof spray (nubuck). It could be just us, but unlike the natural products on this list, Angelus seemed to remove some of the protective treatment we’d applied to our shoes prior. This isn’t a problem for natural suede – but is something to consider for treated leather and nubuck.
It’s also worth noting that this product has excellent value-for-money. It costs a fraction of what some other brands charge for their cleaning solution. If you already have a brush and a microfiber cloth, Angelus is probably your best choice.
- Highly effective
- Large bottle
- Doesn’t stain or damage the material
- Not natural
- Best to use with other care products
Best Suede/Nubuck Eraser
Looking to clean a suede and nubuck shoe quickly? Then consider the Kaps Quality Nubuck and Suede Eraser.
If you’ve tried other shoe stain erasers before, you know they tend to fall apart in your hands. This is not the case with the Kaps Eraser. It’s thick and well-made. It feels very solid in-hand. It still rubs off easily when applied to suede and nubuck, but it keeps its shape and form well.
As an eraser, Kaps works well. Just have realistic expectations. Suede and nubuck erasers really aren’t made to clean a dirty shoe. They’re made to help you remove scuff marks and excess dirt quickly. Do not use this on wet suede. Do not expect this to clean a dirty shoe. Do not expect it to remove old dirt that’s been absorbed by the suede.
The product is a little on the expensive side. It’s also smaller than the images suggest. At the same time, it’s very well-put together. Other rubbers flake off, break up and quickly become unusable. This one, made by a brand with 25 years’ experience in shoe products, lasts the distance. It’s worth paying a couple of extra bucks for the quality. And as far as shoe erasers go, you don’t want a large, chunky one anyway. The thickness makes up for its medium size.
- Doesn’t fall apart
- Lasts long
- Effectively removes scuff marks and excess dirt
- A bit small
- Only for suede and nubuck
Before we get started, let’s get one thing out of the way. We do not recommend using shoe cleaning wipes on suede. Nubuck is fine, but wipes can easily dry up and damage sensitive suede. Only use wipes for smooth leather, patent leather, tough nubuck and synthetics. The kind of tough mesh used by Yeezy brand and NOBULL is fine too.
SneakERASERS pre-moistened wipes are unique. They’re not really wipes; instead, each unit is a double-ended sponge. The white side is made for buffing and cleaning; it naturally breaks apart as you use it. Since it’s so soft and brittle, it doesn’t damage even the softest shoe uppers. Once you’re done using it, flip the sponge around and use the orange side to clean the shoe from debris. Voila! You’ve got a clean, clean shoe.
These SneakerErasers sponges are a little pricey. We know. At the same time, they’re excellent value-for-money. If they dry up, just apply a few drops of water and keep using them. If you’re smart, you can keep rotating each sponge to get the most use out of the white side. I used it to clean the same formal leather shoe 3-4 times before it wore out.
Since the sponge falls apart, make sure to use it very gently. Otherwise, it’ll fall apart before you get a chance to clean your shoe.
- Effectively clean leather, tough nubuck, and synthetic materials
- Can be used multiple times
- A bit pricey
- Require gentle approach since they tend to fall apart
- Not for suede
Best Saddle Soap
Before writing this article, I’d never used saddle soap. I thought it was an outdated product that’s inferior to any modern shoe cleaner. I thought it’d dry out and ruin my leather boots. Fortunately, my shoe repair guy convinced me otherwise – and gave me a few dabs of this to take home. I’m glad I did.
Here’s what happened. I used Otter Wax on an old boot with layers and layers of shoe polish on it. By this point, all kinds of dust and muck are deeply embedded into said polish layers. I’ve found it impossible to clean well before. Anyway… I applied the Otter Wax and left it on the leather for a couple of hours. When I came back, I applied a little more and got to cleaning.
To my surprise, all the excess polish and wax started coming off. It made a mess of my microfiber towel, to be sure… But it also got rid of all that embedded muck. It didn’t dry the leather underneath either. It actually nourished it – probably thanks to the beeswax in the formula. I could tell there really were no nasty chemicals, no silicone and no petroleum here.
Once I got all the saddle soap off, I applied some extra beeswax. When I polished the boot again, it looked a few years younger than it had before I started. I ended up resoling it and am now happily wearing it again. I know that’s not a very technical product description, but it’s hard to be partial with a product this solid.
The one downside is that this little 5oz tin is pricey. That’s probably why I’ve never heard of it until my shoe repair guy gave me some. It’s absolutely worth the money, in hindsight – but it’s an investment, for sure.
- Cleans and nourishes leather
- No chemicals, silicone or petroleum involved
Best Shoe Whitener
This KIWI product isn’t a shoe cleaner. That’s because some white shoes are impossible to clean. This can be because you’ve scuffed them, exposing the material underneath the leather. It can be because the upper is permanently discolored. Whatever the reason, there’s nothing you can do to clean shoes like these. You can, however, use a smart shoe whitening product to get rid of the stains. And that’s where the KIWI comes in.
This product solves two problems common to most alternatives. First, it’s excellent at matching the white of your shoes. I chalk that up to KIWI being such an old, experienced brand. The solution seems to blend with the white of a leather, synthetic or canvas upper.
Once dried, you can’t tell the difference – especially from a distance. No streaking, no discoloration, no white dust. Second, the KIWI is excellent for moving shoe parts. It doesn’t dry up and come off in solid pieces. This is a common problem with many alternative brands, but not with KIWI. This makes it a good choice for white sneakers and athletic shoes.
Since this is a whitener and not a cleaner, be careful when using it. It’s a little hard to remove, like I mentioned above. The fine sponge edges make it easy to apply in narrow places, so you should be fine.
- Masks untreatable stains
- Easy to apply, even in narrow places
- Doesn’t damage the shoes
- Excellent for sports shoes
- Hard to remove
I’ve tried dozens of shoe cleaner products in my life; about 20 for this article alone. Here’s what I suggest you look for in your next cleaning product.
Cleaning Solution Quality
You can always replace a brush, a sponge, a cloth, etc. The one thing you can not replace is the actual cleaning product. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking cleaning solution, saddle soap, whitener, etc. It has to be high-quality.
“Quality” here means two things. First, how effective is the cleaner? Does it get rid of stains effectively? Second, does the cleaner damage your shoe in any way? A tough magic eraser may clean suede – but if it damages it, it’s not your best choice. The same is true for other product categories.
Look… If you’re going to spend $50 on a fancy premium shoe cleaner, you may as well consider the dry cleaner’s. A shoe cleaning product needs to be cost-effective. Personally, I don’t buy anything over $15-20. The exception is high-volume products and combo backs. If something’s going to last you years, then sure, spend a little extra on it. Always look for value-for-money.
How many shoe types can a product clean? Our top overall choice is good for just about everything: leather, suede, nubuck, synthetics, mesh, etc. It’s not great for waxed boots, but that’s okay. It’s incredibly versatile.
Most of the time, you want the same from the product you choose. Cleaning shoes shouldn’t mean owning 25 different products. One saddle soap, one cleaning solution, and maybe one shoe whitener should be enough for the home. A suede rubber and some shoe wipes should cover you on the go.
Accessory Product Quality
Many shoe cleaner products come with accessory products. This usually means brushes, cloths and erasers. The quality of these products matters. If they’re sub-par, you’re going to have to buy replacements anyway – which you don’t want. Here’s what to look for.
Brushes – I recommend brushes with natural bristles, e.g. hog and horse hair bristles. These tend to last longer, clean better and keep the shoe upper intact. Some synthetic brushes are fine too. Others can scratch a shoe and don’t hold moisture, which we don’t want. As a rule, look for natural materials.
Microfiber cloth – A quality microfiber cloth will have two qualities. First, it won’t mark your shoes. Second, it will be a true microfiber cloth that absorbs moisture well, has a fine texture and doesn’t scratch your shoe upper. Microfiber is inexpensive, so if it’s no good, we don’t want it as a free bonus.
Magic eraser – A “magic eraser” is also known as a suede and nubuck eraser. It can remove excess dirt from these materials quickly and easily. Look for rubbers that are neither brittle nor too hard. The former will fall apart quickly- the latter can damage the shoe upper, which we definitely don’t want.
Now let’s recap. The Crep Protect Travel Kit is the best all-around product. It comes with a quality natural hair brush, a microfiber towel and a handy travel box. Most importantly, it comes with an excellent cleaning solution that’s natural, stain-free and effective.
I like the cleaning solution a lot. It removes all but the toughest oil stains and it’s easy on the shoe. It leaves behind a pleasant smell and is highly concentrated. You only need a few drops to get the job done.
I also have to admit I’m a fan of the little box this comes in. It’s hard, durable and mine has lasted me over 24 months. I store it in my IKEA organizer at home. Thanks to the box, I can start cleaning any pair of dirty shoes in about 30 seconds. Very convenient, and not just for traveling.
To buy the Crep Protect Travel Kit, click this link. To buy the other excellent products on this page, scroll up and click the buttons next to the images.