An image of a man putting on his brown leather shoes.

How to remove shoe polish stains from clothes

It’s so easily done: one extra-vigorous brush of your shoes with the polish, and tiny flecks spatter right across your fresh clothes. Don’t worry. Those dark brown or black stains may look intimidating, but with the right know-how, you should be able to give them the boot. Here’s how to remove shoe polish stains like an expert.


An easy guide to shoe polish stain removal

Shoe polish is basically a manufactured staining agent, designed to dry into a single waterproof layer of intense colour. So it’s important to start the shoe polish removal process right away, if you can – you want to attack the stain while it’s fresh. 

With that in mind, here’s how to remove shoe polish stains from clothes: 

  1. Scoop up as much polish as as you can. Use a spoon or a dull knife to lift up as much shoe polish as possible. Remember to lift the polish up and away, rather than smearing or scraping it – you want to avoid damaging the fabric or spreading the stain over a larger area.

    If you’re dealing with a liquid shoe polish stain, it’s best to find something to soak it up, rather than trying to lift it off – use a clean rag or paper towel for this. 
  2. Use a degreasing detergent to pre-treat the stain. Your best option is to dab a little Surf excel Liquid Detergent onto the stain and leave it to work for an hour or so. Just run out? Then your next best bet is dishwashing liquid, as it’s designed to cut through grease and oils. You could also try making up a paste of salt and lemon juice.

    Remember: Certain delicate fabrics may need specialist care – always check the labels on your clothes and your chosen products before you try any new stain removal methods. Test homemade stain removers on a hidden area of the garment first to make sure they’re suitable.
  3. Wash the garment at a high temperature. Use a detergent that’s tough on stains, like Surf excel Matic, or Surf excel Easy Wash if you prefer to hand wash your clothes. Hot water is best for shoe polish removal, but some fabrics can take more heat than others, so check the care label before you go ahead.
  4. Check that the stain is gone. You’ll have a better change of removing any lingering shoe polish stains if you prevent them from drying out. If you can still see a mark (even a faint one!), repeat steps 1 through 3 until it’s gone completely. 

And that’s how to remove shoe polish stains! There’s no need to worry the next time you’re polishing your shoes – with a little elbow grease and some patience, shoe polish stain removal is a walk in the park. 

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