How to Remove Shoe Polish Stains

Shoe polish can liven up an old pair of boots, but it can ruin other things.
Shoe polish can liven up an old pair of boots, but it can ruin other things.
2009 HowStuffWorks

S­hoe polish is a quick and easy way to breathe new life into shoes that have seen better days. Unfortunately, while it can restore shoes to their former glory, it can destroy clothing and household surfaces. Follow these tips to remove the black marks against you.

Shoe polish is great for shoes but bad for almost everything else. These stain removal techniques will help put these unsightly marks behind you.

After you identify the affected material, follow the steps on these pages to get those shoe polish stains out:

Non-washable Fabrics

Follow these steps to remove shoe polish stains from non-washable fabrics such as Acetate, Burlap, Fiberglass, Rayon, Rope, Silk, Triacetate and Wool:

  • Sponge (the method of using a dampened pad to apply light strokes, moving outward from the center of the stain) the area with a dry-cleaning solvent and apply a dry spotter.
  • Cover the stain with an absorbent pad moistened with dry spotter.
  • Let the pad remain in place as long as any stain is being removed.
  • Change the pad as it picks up the stain. Keep both the pad and stain moist with dry spotter.
  • Flush (the method of applying stain remover to loosen staining material and residue from stain removers) the stain with the dry-cleaning fluid.

If the stain persists:

  • Sponge it with water and apply a wet spotter and a few drops of ammonia. (Do not use ammonia on silk or wool.)
  • Cover the stain with an absorbent pad dampened with wet spotter and ammonia.
  • Change the pad as it picks up the stain, keeping both the stain and pad moist with wet spotter and ammonia.
  • Flush the area with water and repeat if necessary.
  • Allow to dry.

Washable Fabrics

Follow these steps to remove shoe polish stains from washable fabrics such as Acrylic Fabric, Cotton, Linen and Modacrylic:

  • Sponge the area with a dry-cleaning solvent, spot lifter or cleaning fluid.
  • Allow it to dry.

If stain persists:

  • Mix a paste of powdered detergent, water, and a few drops of ammonia.
  • Place an absorbent pad beneath the area and apply the paste to the stain.
  • When no more stain is being removed, flush the area thoroughly with water.
  • Launder as soon as possible.

Household Surfaces

Follow these steps to remove shoe polish stains from household surfaces such as Acrylic Plastic, Aluminum, Asphalt, Ceramic Glass/Tile, Chromium, Enamel, Glass, Gold, Ivory, Jade, Paint (flat or gloss), Platinum, Plexiglas, Polyurethane, Silver, Stainless Steel, Vinyl Clothing and Vinyl Wallcovering:

  • Wipe the surface with a cloth or sponge dipped in warm sudsy water to which a few drops of ammonia have been added.
  • Rinse well with clear water.
  • Wipe dry.

Alabaster and Marble

Follow these steps to remove shoe polish stains from Alabaster and Marble:

  • Wipe the surface with a cloth dipped in warm sudsy water to which a few drops of ammonia have been added.
  • Rinse well and wipe dry.

If a stain persists:

  • Mix a poultice from water, bleach, and powdered detergent.
  • Apply to the stain and let it remain until the oil has been drawn out and the stain bleached out.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clear water and wipe dry.

Carpet

Follow these steps to remove shoe polish stains from Synthetic Carpet and Wool Carpet:

  • Scrape (the method of using a dull tool to gently lift off excess solid or caked-on stains) to remove as much excess as possible.
  • Sponge the stain with a concentrated solution of carpet shampoo or apply a spot remover.
  • Continue sponging the area, rinsing the cloth or sponge in clear water as it picks up the stain.
  • Repeat until no more stain is removed.

Cork, Linoleum and Vinyl Tile

Follow these steps to remove shoe polish stains from Cork, Linoleum and Vinyl Tile:

  • Cover the stain with a rubbing alcohol compress.
  • Let the compress remain in place for 5 minutes.
  • Wipe the area with a cloth dampened with ammonia. (Do not use ammonia on linoleum or vinyl floor tile.)
  • Rinse well and allow to dry.

Felt, Fur, Leather and Suede

Because of the dyes contained in shoe polish, this stain cannot be removed by a nonprofessional.

Grout

Follow these steps to remove shoe polish stains from Grout:

  • Wipe the stain with a cloth dipped in warm sudsy water.

If a stain remains:

  • Dip a wet toothbrush into a little baking soda or powdered cleanser.
  • Gently scrub the spot.
  • Rinse well and wipe dry with a soft cloth.

Nylon, Olefin, Polyester and Spandex

Follow these steps to remove shoe polish stains from Nylon, Olefin, Polyester and Spandex:

  • Immediately sponge the stain with suds made with dishwashing detergent.
  • Sprinkle lemon juice and salt over the area and allow to penetrate for 1 hour.
  • Rinse thoroughly with water and launder as soon as possible.
  • Repeat treatment if necessary.

Wallpaper

Follow these steps to remove shoe polish stains from Wallpaper

Note: This stain might permanently dye the paper.

  • Rub the area very gently with a damp cloth sprinkled with a little baking soda.
  • Wipe the area with a cloth dampened with cool clear water.
  • Do not let the wet area spread or run.
  • Overlap strokes to prevent streaking.
  • Use a clean cloth to gently pat dry.

Wood

Follow these steps to remove shoe polish stains from Wood:

  • Wipe the stain with a cloth dipped in warm sudsy water to which a few drops of ammonia have been added.
  • Rinse well with a cloth moistened with clear water and wipe dry.
  • Polish or wax the wood as usual.