Many of you have a favorite pair of sneakers you’ve had since forever, and they’re starting to show their age, or some of you have wished those old sneakers you loved were still around today.
Consistent maintenance and taking care of your sneakers is a good way to make them last longer, so you can wear them for years to come, and also a good way to make sure your current sneakers look like they came fresh out of the box.
How Do You Properly Clean Sneakers?
The first question you’re probably asking yourself is, “how do I clean my sneakers to make them look like new?”. There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about it, and here we will give you a quick rundown on the best way to get a thorough clean. Alternatively, you can check out our in-depth cleaning guide on how to clean shoes.
Step 1: Preparation
First off, make sure you have all your essential tools in place and at arm’s length, to be used at a moment’s notice. Secondly, de-lace your sneakers.
Step 2: Remove Excess Debris
You’ll want to remove the built-up dirt accumulated by your sneakers. Start by knocking the sneakers together a few times and then using a soft brush or a damp towel to remove the loosened dirt and debris.
Step 3: Wipe Down
Now you do a bit more of a specific wipe down, by cleaning your sneakers in certain spots using a wipe. An effective way to get off the tougher stains and scuffs is by using a twisting motion on the dirty area.
Step 4: Deep-cleaning
This step is mostly for sneakers that really need it and even after step 3 aren’t completely perfect on the surface. What you should do in this case is have a brush soaked in hot water and then apply some cleaning solution on it. Then gently scrub the affected areas of your sneaker back and forth. Do so until there is a decent amount of bubbling, as the soap is effectively pulling apart leftover dirt and muck from the surface of your shoe.
Step 5: Touch up
Use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the sneakers and then examine them. If there is still prominent markings or dirt, repeat the previous 2 steps.
Step 6: Internals
With the outside out of the way, now you can start to treat your midsole, using a brush and cleaning solution. Gently brush and scrub away until the dirt and stains evaporate in front of your eyes, then use the microfiber cloth to dry your midsoles off. You might not think the inside of your shoe matters, but this step makes your shoe last longer overall.
Step 7: Lacing
If you really like your current laces, they can be put in the washing machine or scrubbed out similarly to the rest of the shoe with a cleaning solution and a toothbrush if they are very dirty. If they don’t matter to you, you can probably find an identical new pair online for relatively cheap.
Step 8: Letting it Sit
With all the cleaning out of the way, let the sneakers air dry naturally overnight or for a few hours. Under no circumstances should you put your shoes in the dryer. The heat from the dryer can cause the glue holding the shoe together to melt and become undone.
Step 9: Weatherproofing- The Cherry on Top
With a completely dry and fresh pair of sneakers, you can now re-lace and spray them with a weatherproofing product, and be sure to give them a solid coating by following the instructions on the product packaging.
With that basic set of instructions out of the way, now you know what to do, and here is a list of what to buy to get the best possible clean. You need the proper tools to achieve a good clean and we’ve included a selection of things from kits to brushes to cleaners, as your needs may vary. Here are what we think are the best shoe cleaners and sneaker care kits out there.
1. Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner
Loved by many, the Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner is considered to be some of the best the market has to offer. No matter what the stain or mess is, Jason Markk aims to give you the brightest clean there is. This cleaner is intended to work on all colors and all materials including suede, nubuck, canvas, cotton, mesh, leather, nylon, and even mesh.
The ingredients that the Jason Markk cleaner uses are all-natural and biodegradable. They are safe to use with your hands, while also being gentle on your sneakers and the environment. The aroma given off by the Markk cleaner is subtle and equally gentle, which is a lot better than some of the other more chemical and synthetic aromas other cleaners typically give off.
They even provide you with a durable synthetic hog-hair brush that is notably gentle on your shoes yet efficient at removing the stains that plague them. You don’t need a lot of product to clean your shoes, either, with 4oz being touted as enough for 100 pairs of shoes. When it comes to suede and other delicate materials, it is recommended that you use the hog bristles on your shoes as they are well-suited for delicate fabric.
And, if you have a pair of yellowed sneakers, or fear that the Markks may induce yellowing, don’t worry, as the P.S.C. will visibly reduce yellowing if not completely eliminate it.
The only foreseeable issue is that when it comes to mesh fabrics, the hog-hair brush is actually not always the best choice, and you would be better off using something like a damp cloth instead to wipe down. When it comes to premium, Jason Markk is one of the best sneaker cleaners on the market.
+ Great for a variety of shoe fabrics
+ Aroma isn’t synthetic or chemical-smelling
+ 4oz can provide a lot of cleaning
+ Can get a good clean with the included brush
– On mesh uppers, the hog hairbrush isn’t recommended
2. ShoeAnew Shoe Cleaner Kit
The ShoeAnew kit is a particularly great set that gives you a cleaning formula, nylon brush, and a microfiber cloth. The brush is intended to be used on hard surfaces and textures while the cloth is to be used on soft fabrics that need a bit more of a gentle touch to them. The cleaner itself is also tough on dirt, but is environmentally friendly, biodegradable and non-toxic.
They also formulated the cleaner to be very potent, so you only need a small amount to get the whole shoe clean. One bottle should be more than enough for your whole collection. A big selling point is a fact that the ShoeAnew cleaner won’t oversaturate your shoes with water, so you can wear them soon after cleaning. On top of all of this, if you aren’t satisfied with the product, they give you a 30-day money-back guarantee if you reach out to them about it.
The only drawback of this kit is the fact that the cleaner is not suitable for suede. It works fine for leather, canvas, vinyl, rubber, knits, cotton, mesh and more, but not suede. Typically, though, if you’re looking to clean suede, it is better off to use a specifically designed cleaner instead of a one-size-fits-all product anyway. Regardless, the ShoeAnew is one of the best shoe cleaning kits on our list.
+ Comes with all the necessities
+ Can be used on a majority of fabrics
+ Non-toxic and one bottle provides a lot of cleaning
+ 30-day money-back guarantee
– Should not be used on suede
3. Shacke Suede & Nubuck Brush Cleaner
Unlike our other listed products, this is just a brush and, there is no cleaning formula included. Instead, this is a product developed by Shacke to be the perfect balance between a tough and firm clean for your suede or nubuck sneakers, and gentle touch at the same time, so the suede does not get damaged. It has a welt surface used for stronger cleaning power on heavy scuff marks and stains, with nylon bristles on the other end for a lighter cleaning for less severe scuff marks on thin and fine suede.
The brush is designed in an arched half-circle shape to allow for easier cleaning on rounded contours. The thin protruding brush in the top corner is meant to help reach tiny crevices and grooves as well, so all ground is covered by a single tool. Not to mention this is actually a tool you can use to clean boots, jackets or furniture as well, in case you also have delicate materials that aren’t just sneakers.
Probably the only serious downside to this product is the fact that it isn’t good on other types of fabrics, so you’ll need an entirely different tool, or set of tools for them. It is a dedicated niche, so if you mostly have suede or nubuck, this is great, but if not, this serves little purpose. On top of that, there is no warranty, so if it were to break or you didn’t like its effects, there is no recourse.
+ Great on suede and nubuck products
+ Has a variety of brush heads for every part of the shoe
+ Great for delicate suede/nubuck furniture, jackets or boots
– Apart from suede and nubuck, it isn’t good for much else
– No warranty if you’re dissatisfied
4. Kiwi Saddle Soap
Now we have the standalone soap, no brush tool, in the form of the Kiwi Saddle Soap. This soap is a product designed to keep your leather shoes as shiny and clean as possible, with ease. It is one of the best on the market and contains a traditional blend of ingredients that easily cleans, softens, and preserves your smooth leather surfaces.
It is formulated with a top-quality wax for added protection after-use. Saddle soap is great for cleaning away dirt, grime, and tough stains. Probably the best part about the Saddle soap is not only how effective it is, but also the sheer volume of things people own that are made of leather.
This is, of course, best used on your leather shoes that take a beating throughout its lifetime, but also great on furniture and jackets, both of which are prone to some form of dirt or grime buildup over time. This is overall a solid product to use on your leather goods, especially shoes and boots.
The Kiwi Saddle Soap is a tried and true product, so when it comes to its efficiency on leathers, that cannot be knocked. The only serious issue with this product is the fact that there is no warranty, and the amount they give you should be good enough for a few cleanings, but if you have multiple shoes or clean often, you’ll need to buy the Saddle Soap frequently.
+ Great for use on leather
+ Softens and cleans at the same time
+ Can be used on all leather products like jackets and furniture
+ Very affordable
– Lacks any warranty
– Only contains 3oz, will require more if used frequently
5. Reshoevn8r Shoe Kit
Our final product up for contention is the Reshoevn8r Shoe Kit, which is a dedicated sneaker cleaning kit that will clean almost any kind of shoe and most materials ranging from leather to mesh. The package includes – different brushes, advanced shoe cleaner solution, conditioner, shoe trees, sole shields, and sneaker wipes.
The shoe cleaner and conditioner are both 100% natural solutions that contain no dyes to ensure that your shoes do not stain when these products are applied. The formula is highly concentrated and effective, with the single kit samples being able to clean upwards of 50 shoes.
This kit thinks of everything when it comes to sneaker cleaning, as it has three different brushes: the soft bristle brush for delicate materials (mesh, nubuck, leather), medium bristle brush for hardier materials (plastics, canvas, vinyl), and a stiff bristle brush for the insoles of your shoes that need the rigidity. The kit has the bare essentials and servers as a great starter kit for someone who’s not used to cleaning their shoes by hand.
The only problem with this kit is the fact that, comparatively, the solution cleans only half as many shoes as other products. This means you’ll have to purchase more solutions individually, and more frequently, than other alternatives. The rest of the package is very thoughtful, though, and all together make it a worthwhile choice.
+ Contains a whole basic set of tools and cleaners
+ Good for beginners
+ All-natural and cleans most shoe types
– The solution isn’t as plentiful and needs to be replenished
All in all, we’ve gone through a very basic list of what we consider to be some of the best care kits, cleaners, and tools for shoe cleaning when starting out. We hope that our guide on shoe cleaning products gives you a good starting point and prevents any common mishaps. It is important to always read the manufacturer suggested cleaning instructions on your shoes for the best level of care.
You could, of course, just throw your shoes in the washing machine and call it a day, but this lazy route will have long term consequences. For one, it will degrade the structural integrity of your shoes. Secondly, it will be hard to get in on those tiny crevices and give your shoe a proper clean it deserves. If you properly look after your footwear, it will easily last you a couple of years before you need a replacement again.
With that said, if you do decide to take the lengthy approach, do note that every product we’ve reviewed on this list has its own merits. Some aren’t mutually exclusive and work well in combination with other products on the list, so feel free to mix and match according to your specific needs.