Removing Shoe Polish Stains From Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

How to Remove Shoe Polish Stains From Clothing

The Spruce / Xiaojie Liu

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr, 30 mins - 10 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to 25

A pair of well-polished shoes or boots makes a great first impression and may even be a job requirement. (Just ask anyone in the military.) However, solid shoe polish leaves a combination stain with an oily/waxy component and a dye stain. It can be difficult to remove such a stain, but it is definitely possible, as long as you work quickly.  Learn how to remove shoe polish stains from fabrics or carpet.

 Stain type  Oil, dye, wax
 Detergent type  Heavy-duty
 Water temperature  Hottest possible for fabric
 Cycle type  Varies depending on fabric

Before You Begin

If the stained garment is labeled as dry-clean only, lift away any solids with a dull knife. As soon as possible, head to the dry cleaner and point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner.

If the stain is very small, you may want to try using a home dry cleaning kit. Be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the kit's dryer bag.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools


  • Dull knife or spoon
  • Washing machine
  • Bucket or sink (Optional)

Carpet or Upholstery

  • Dull knife or spoon
  • Clean, empty spray bottle
  • Vacuum cleaner



  • Laundry stain pretreatment spray or gel
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Oxygen bleach
  • Water

Carpet or Upholstery

  • Liquid dish detergent
  • Household ammonia
  • Paper towels


Removing Shoe Polish From Washable Fabric

  1. Remove Solid Chunks

    Lift any solid pieces of shoe polish off the fabric with the edge of a dull knife or a spoon. Take care not to press or smear the shoe polish into the fabric fibers.

  2. Spray the Stain

    Cover the stain with a laundry pre-treatment spray or gel, such as Shout or OxiClean. Use your fingers or a soft brush, such as an old toothbrush, to rub the product gently into the stain, working from the outer edge towards the center.


    If you don't have a pre-treatment spray or gel handy, use a small amount of your heavy-duty laundry detergent instead. Work the detergent into the stain with your fingers or toothbrush.

  3. Let Pre-Treatment Soak In

    Wait for 15 minutes while the stain treatment works its magic, and then rinse the fabric from the reverse side with hot water.

  4. Wash the Garment

    Wash the garment in the hottest water recommended by the care instructions. Add heavy-duty laundry detergent and oxygen-bleach to the load, following the manufacturer's directions for amounts.


    Use oxygen bleach, which is safe for all colors of fabric, not chlorine bleach, which can only be used on whites.

  5. Check for Lingering Stains

    Check the washed fabric. If the stain is gone, dry it as usual. If any stain remains, do not put it into the dryer. Instead, go on to the next step.

  6. Treat Lingering Stains

    Mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach, such as OxiClean or Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach, and cool water in a bucket or large sink, following the bleach directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Completely submerge the garment, and allow it to soak for at least eight hours.

  7. Repeat as Necessary

    Check the garment. If the stain is gone, wash and dry as usual. If a trace remains, however, mix a fresh batch of oxygen bleach and water, and soak the garment for another eight hours. Stubborn stains might take two or three such treatments, but eventually, the stain should come out completely. Once it is gone, wash and dry the garment as usual.

Removing Shoe Polish From Carpet and Upholstery

The following steps can be used on carpet and most upholstery. However, if the upholstery is silk or a vintage material, call in a professional cleaner, do not attempt to treat the stain yourself.

Before getting started, It's a good idea to test an inconspicuous area first to be sure that there aren't any unwanted color changes to the carpet or upholstery.

  1. Lift Away Solids

    Lift any solid pieces of shoe polish from the carpet or upholstery with a dull knife or spoon. Take care not to smear the shoe polish into the fabric fibers.

  2. Blot the Stain

    Blot the stain gently with a clean paper towel. Don't rub or scrub and don't blot too hard. Lightly press the paper towel to the stain until no more transfers to the paper.

  3. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Mix one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent, one tablespoon of household ammonia, and two cups of hot water in a clean, empty spray bottle.

  4. Spray and Blot the Stain

    Spray the solution onto the stained area, and then blot the stain with a clean paper towel. Continue to blot until the stain is lifted. You might need to repeat this step two or three times before all of the shoe polish is gone.

  5. Rinse with Cold Water

    Rinse the treated area by blotting with a clean rag or paper towel soaked in cold water. Blot until all traces of soap are gone, and then blot again with dry rags or paper towels until the area feels damp, not wet. Allow the treated area to air dry.

  6. Vacuum Carpet

    Vacuum dry, treated carpet to restore the fibers to their usual fluff.

Additional Tips for Handling Shoe Polish Stains

If the stain remains despite your best efforts, it's time to call in a professional. Take a shoe-polish-stained garment to a dry cleaner, or call a professional carpet or upholstery cleaning service for stains on furniture or floors. Be sure to let the cleaner know the type of stain as well as the products you've used attempting to remove it.