How To Remove Shoe Polish from Fabric

A pair of well-polished shoes or boots creates a wonderful first impression but can be quite messy to use and may accidentally get on your clothes. On the other hand, shoe polish leaves an oily/waxy stain as well as a dye stain. Learn how to get shoe polish stains out of your clothes right here. 

How to Remove Shoe Polish from Washable Fabric

You do not necessarily have to throw out clothing that has shoe polish on it. Try these steps first:

Step 1:

Sponge off the excess shoe polish first. Avoid wiping in a specific direction; instead, focus on dabbing to remove the excess. You can use a butter knife or a spoon to remove the excess polish with better success than with a cloth or sponge, depending on how much polish is on the cloth. 

Step 2:

As with all stains, you will want to pre-treat a shoe polish stain before washing. However, instead of using a pre-treater stain, try using dish soap to remove the greasy substance as that’s its job. Do not use dishwashing detergent that has bleach in it as this can bleach the cloth. If you want to use a gentler treatment, use an enzyme-based stain remover to the area. No matter what you use, rub it in gently, preferably with a silicone sponge, and leave it on for one hour to soak. 

Sometimes the stain may not come out following the steps above, especially if the stain was rubbed in at all. Some people have success with powdered detergent mixed with water and a few drops of ammonia. If you use ammonia, please use the proper safety equipment such as gloves and a mask. If these do not work, follow the steps below to remove shoe polish from non-washable fabric. 

Step 3:

You may notice the shoe polish comes out easily as it did not spend much time on your shoes. However, leave the spray on and then toss it in the machine with other clothing. For clothes that had shoe polish on for longer than a few minutes, you may need to allow it to soak longer. When ready, wash the clothing following the instruction label. Higher temperatures will work more effectively but use lower heat for delicate clothing. 

Step 4:

Do not put your clothing immediately in the dryer as most stains are set in the dryer. Instead, check the clothing to see if the stain is still in the fabric first. If it is, follow steps 1 through 3 again before putting them in the dryer. 

You can use this method for cotton, polyester, spandex, olefin, and sturdy rayon. Be gentle with fabrics that cannot go in the dryer as they are generally too delicate for rough care. You may need to use a little lemon juice and salt for these fabrics and let it sit for one hour before washing as normal. Then, repeat as necessary until the stain comes out, avoiding the dryer completely. 

Removing Shoe Polish from Dry Clean Only Clothes

To remove shoe polish from dry clothing, start by using a spoon or butter knife to remove excessive polish. Next, head to the dry cleaners as soon as possible and describe and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. If the stain is minor and you’re using a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to use the stain remover that comes with the package before putting the item in the dryer bag. 

How to Remove Shoe Polish from Non-Washable Fabrics

Some fabrics are not washable in the machine, such as acetate, burlap, fiberglass, rayon, rope, silk, and wool. For these fabrics, try using a sponge (again, silicone works best as it does not smear as badly as normal foam sponges), spoon, or butter knife without serrations. If you have a dry-cleaning solvent or a carpet cleaning solvent, apply those to the stain. 

Place an absorbent pad or cloth over the spot and place something heavy on top and let it set. Some options of cloths to use are microfiber, a puppy pad, a washcloth, disposable toilet wet wipe or baby wipe, or a non-lint rag. Change the pad as it picks up the stain and add more cleaning solvent and a new pad along with the heavy item making sure to keep both moist. 

If the stain does not come out, take it to your local dry cleaner for additional help. Do not use solvents that require removal, as these can change the color of the fabric. Avoid bleach, too, as this will not bleach shoe polish. Allow the fabric to dry before putting it back in its correct location. 

Shoe Polish vs. Shoe Cream

The main distinction is that shoe cream is used for nourishing and recoloring purposes. A wax polish’s main purpose is to provide firm waxes for a high shine. Shoe polish usually comes in a tin, and it provides a polished finish in multiple layers, and then it’s buffed to a high shine. 

Shoe cream adds color to shoes, and it’s a thick paste with a small amount of wax and rich pigments. It can mask scratches and fading but does not provide a shine, instead offering a matte finish. Also it can condition your shoe and improve the fabric. 

Because show polish has wax, it can be more difficult to remove from fabric than a cream. However, shoe cream can stain clothes because it has pigments. If you accidentally get shoe cream on your clothing, it may not be salvageable. 

Additional Tips for Removing Shoe Polish

If you got shoe polish on a carpet, then use the same methods above to remove the excess before attempting to wash. Next, sponge the stain with carpet cleaning solution and spot treater. Again, you can use dish detergent so long as you have a carpet cleaning machine to remove the excess water to reduce staining. Now you can use the machine to remove the excess and the stain. If this does not work, you may need to call in a professional carpet cleaner to remove the stain. 

Stains on felt, leather, suede, or fur are not fixable at home. You will need to take the item to a professional to get the stain out. 

Your best bet is to avoid polishing your shoes in or around clothing that you care about. Always polish shoes in clothing that is damageable, like old sweat clothes or even painting clothes.  If polishing your shoes on the carpet, put something down to protect your carpet as well.  

Some people have used rubbing alcohol to remove shoe polish with a rag. Please do not put the rubbing alcohol directly on the fabric; instead, put it on a rag and blot the fabric. 

The alcohol will start to disintegrate the shoe polish and extract the stain from the fabric. Turn the stained item over and blot from both sides if feasible. Move to a clean location on the rag after the alcohol-saturated portion of the rag becomes dirty from the shoe polish. Continue in this manner until all of the shoe polish is gone. Now you can launder as normal. 

Final Thoughts on How to Get Shoe Polish Out of Clothes

If you accidentally got shoe polish on your clothing, do not panic. A few different methods can help to remove the waxy substance. However, prevention is always better than a cure, so wear clothing you do not care about when polishing shoes. When home remedies do not work, you can still take it to an expert cleaner for additional help.