Removing Shoe Polish Stains From Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

How to Remove Shoe Polish Stains From Clothing

The Spruce / Xiaojie Liu

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, shoe polish leaves a combination stain with an oily/waxy component and a dye stain. Learn how to remove shoe polish stains from fabrics.

Washable Clothes

If a blob of shoe polish lands on the surface of the fabric, use a dull knife to lift it away from the fabric. Do not rub because that will only push the stain deeper into the fibers.

For washable fabrics, start by treating the oily/waxy component of the stain with a pre-treater such as Shout, or any enzyme-based stain remover. If you don't have a pre-treater, use a bit of liquid heavy-duty detergent, such as Tide or Persil or a paste made of powdered detergent and water to treat the stain. Work the detergent into the fabric, and rub the stain lightly with a soft brush. Let it work for at least 15 minutes and then rinse in hot water.

Next, wash the garment in the hottest water suitable for the fabric using detergent and an all-fabric bleach to remove the dye in the stain.

If there is still a trace of the shoe polish color on the fabric, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Country Save Bleach, or Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach are brand names) and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Completely submerge the garment, and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the stain. If it is gone, wash as usual. If it remains, mix a fresh solution and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the stain but it should come out.

Dry-Clean Only Clothes

If the 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 small and you are 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.

Carpet and Upholstery

When shoe polish hits the carpet, move as quickly as possible to get rid of the stain. Do not try to rub or wipe up the shoe polish because that will drive it deeper into the carpet fibers. Use a dull knife or the edge of a credit card to scrape away any solids.

Following the product instructions, blot the stain with a dry cleaning solvent. Use a clean white cloth or paper towel and start at the outside edge of the stain, working toward the center. This will help keep the stain from getting larger. Keep blotting until no more color is transferred from the carpet to the cloth.

If you do not have a dry cleaning solvent or carpet cleaning product, mix one tablespoon of hand dishwashing detergent in two cups of hot water. Add one tablespoon household ammonia. Blot the stain with a sponge or soft-bristled brush dipped in the cleaning solution and then with a dry paper towel until the stain is removed.

Be sure to "rinse" the area with a cloth dipped in plain water to remove any soapy residue that will actually attract more soil. Repeat the cleaning steps until no more stain remains.

Allow the area to air-dry away from direct heat or sunlight. Vacuum when completely dry to lift any crushed fibers.

The same techniques can be used for upholstery, but take care not to overwet the fabric. If the upholstery is silk or vintage, call a professional cleaner or if you need more stain removal tips.