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How to Remove Shoe Polish From Leather Shoes?

Fact checked by A. Thompson

how to remove shoe polish from leather shoes

Polishing leather shoes should be done rather frequently to remove the unsightly scratches, replenish the leather oils and protect its fibers. But it’s true that the task is not so easy when the polish goes everywhere and some layers are darker than the others, etc.

Since anything can go wrong in this process, we have to be well-prepared. Read on to know how to remove shoe polish from leather shoes to make sure you act fast and correct the color before it settles in.

How to Remove Polish From Shoes With Alcohol/Acetone


Acetone has always been a good cleaning solvent for oils, inks, paints, grease, and even markers and adhesives. Therefore, it’s no surprise that it can be used as a shoe polish remover.

Rubbing alcohol is also a common, versatile, and inexpensive agent to have around the house for cleaning purposes. It is actually among the few safe cleaners applicable for leather shoes, even expensive ones.

Both of them are also usable to remove wax from shoes. So, whether you are polishing or waxing your leather pair, prepare the following items beforehand:

  • Acetone or rubbing alcohol
  • Some pieces of clean cloth or cotton ball
  • A compatible leather conditioner

Now, you have to act fast if the polish is wrongly applied to your shoes:

  • Step 1: Immediately dip the cloth/cotton ball with rubbing alcohol or acetone, whichever you have at hand.
  • Step 2: Rub the dampened cotton ball onto the applied polish marks. You should use some pressure while circling the cotton ball for a few minutes.
  • Step 3: Keep on pressing and cleaning until the polish gets onto the cotton ball. You can move to another piece of cotton ball and work it against the shoes some more or leave the cleaner there for an hour.
  • Step 4: Now, use a clean piece of cloth to wipe off the dissolved wax or polish.
  • Step 5: Then, take another cotton ball to apply the conditioner onto your shoes to prevent cracking and chafing the leather due to drying.
  • Step 6: You can carry on polishing if the task is not completed.

How to Remove Shoe Polish From Boots With Saddle Soap

Whenever we choose a type of product, be it for conditioning, cleaning, or waxing our leather items, its compatibility with leather is important.

That’s why it’s saddle soap and not other detergents that can be used in this situation. This soap is compatible with leather, often used as a deep cleaner for removing old shoe polish or excess polish and wax buildup.

You should also know that the soap will make your shoe darken a little bit.

However, the soap’s penetration power makes it unsafe to remove shoe polish from suede as it might dry and stain your shoes. That’s another thing to note down before using the product.

Below are what you should prepare:

  • Clean water
  • Several pieces of clean and soft cloth
  • Saddle soap
  • A brush (optional)

Here’re the steps to follow:

Step 1: Moderately dampen the leather

Soak the piece of cloth in water, squeeze the excess moisture out, then proceed to dampen your shoes.

You should focus on the area with wrongly-applied polish.

Step 2: Rub the saddle soap for lathering

Afterwards, dampen the clean cloth with water again and rub the saddle soap on it.

You should notice the soap lathers on the wet cloth.

Step 3: Clean the polish

Now, wipe the lathered soap onto the leather polish, moving in a circular motion with a bit of pressure.

Step 4: Wipe the soap off immediately


Wipe the soap off right after when you notice that the polish has already dissolved and stuck onto the wet cloth.

Step 5: (optional) Brush the shoes

If the polish layer has been there for too long already, you can use a small brush to rub the saddle soap onto the leather fabric.

With a brush, you can also reach tiny corners of the shoes to clean them.

Other Methods to Remove Polish From Leather Shoes


1. Lighter fluid

Powerful cleaners that we can use for leather products include lighter fluid, which you can apply the same way you do with rubbing alcohol and acetone.

Make sure to get a tiny amount of lighter fluid for the whole process. Also, apply a leather conditioner to your shoes, too, to make sure the harsh cleaning does not dry them.

2. Heat gun

Some people actually tried and then recommended this method. But it requires extra caution and care due to the risks of melting the shoes, soaking the polish into the fabric, and even causing a fire.

So, we do not recommend it. If you want to remove a polish layer, stick with the safe methods above.

How to Remove Black Polish From Brown Leather Shoes?

If you want to remove black polish entirely, something as potent as saddle soap might be the best choice.

However, do not apply them to your suede shoes; it’s safe for use with thick and genuine leather only.


Caring for and maintaining our beautiful leather footwear is not an easy task. There is so much effort put into researching the products, learning the technique, and preparing for things that can go wrong in the process, like applying polish and wax. The list does not seem to end.

Hopefully, our guide on how to remove shoe polish from leather shoes can help you in this one mission. If you have any difficulty keeping your pairs in good condition, we have more information and great tips for you to consider like shoe polish vs shoe cream if you needed. Take a tour through the site!

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