How to Remove Shoe Polish from Shoes in 5 Simple Steps

Polish is one of the best ways to keep your leather shoes and boots looking their best. Of course, it only looks good if it’s done correctly. Well-polished leather shoes look good and boost your confidence when they’re on your feet.

However, applying the wrong color polish, such as black polish on brown shoes, can give you and your shoes a less than put-together appearance. Applying the polish in an uneven layer can also make the shoes look terrible. If this happens, don’t despair, you can remove shoe polish from shoes in a few simple steps.

How to Remove Shoe Polish from Leather

  1. Use saddle soap
  2. Try rubbing alcohol
  3. Use lighter fluid
  4. Heat the shoes with a heat lamp, heat gun, or the sun
  5. Use a leather cleaner

Before you begin:

Always remove shoelaces before you even begin to remove polish from the shoe. Shoelaces can get in the way of applying the cleaning product, soak up cleaning products, get discolored, or even catch on fire. Two of the methods mentioned in this article can result in your shoelaces catching on fire, so it is important to remove your shoelaces before you start.

Use Saddle Soap

You will find different brands of saddle soap on the market at varied prices.

What you’ll need:

  • Saddle soap
  • 2 soft, clean cloths or a dauber brush
  • Water


  1. Use one of the cloths to apply a small amount of water to the leather surfaces on the shoe. Dampening the leather will help the soap spread more evenly. Be careful not to get the leather too wet or you’ll have other problems with the shoe.
  2. Take a wet cloth and rub it onto the saddle soap to create a lather. Alternatively, you can use a dauber brush, which is a small soap brush, to apply the saddle soap to the shoe.
  3. Once a good lather has formed, start by applying the soap to the shoes in small circular motions. Keep doing this until you cover the entire shoe with saddle soap.
  4. Using a clean cloth to remove the soap, the polish should come off as well. Be sure to wipe every trace of saddle soap off the shoes because it can dry out the leather.
  5. After leaving the shoes to dry for a couple of minutes, you can now re-polish your shoes.

Removing Shoe Polish with Rubbing Alcohol

One of the most common things to use as a shoe polish remover is rubbing alcohol.

Removing Shoe Polish with Rubbing Alcohol

What you’ll need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Clean cloth or cotton pads
  • Leather conditioner


  1. Saturate the cloth or cotton pad with some rubbing alcohol.
  2. Begin by rubbing the alcohol in using small circular motions to work it into the shoe.
  3. Keep working the alcohol in until you see the polish appearing on the cloth or cotton ball.
  4. Take a clean cloth and wipe away the dissolved shoe polish.
  5. Apply the leather conditioner using a cloth in small circular motions.

Strip Shoe Polish from shoes with Lighter Fluid

This method is a bit unconventional, but many people use lighter fluid to remove the wrong shoe polish on leather shoes.

What you’ll need:

  • Lighter fluid
  • Cloth or cotton ball
  • Leather conditioner


  1. Apply a very small amount of lighter fluid to a cloth or cotton ball.
  2. Start wiping the shoe with the cloth in a circular motion. The polish should be coming off, but you may need to use multiple cloths to get rid of all the residue.
  3. Once all the polish and lighter residue has been removed, apply a thin layer of conditioner.

Stripping Polish from Shoes with Heat

You can use this method to get wax off leather shoes. Shoe polish can create a waxy build-up on leather shoes, and you can remove it by using heat. The heat melts the wax buildup, and it can then be wiped away.

You’ll have to be careful with this method as one wrong move can start a fire, melt the sole of the shoe, or melt the polish so much it soaks into the leather.

What you’ll need:

  • A heat lamp, heat gun, or the sun
  • Pieces of cloth

Heat Lamp Steps:

  1. Turn on the heat or sun lamp and place the shoes in front of them.
  2. Leave the shoes in front of the lamp for 15 minutes to an hour. The length of time will depend on the strength of the lamp.
  3. Touch the shoe with one finger and see if it’s sticky. If it is and polish comes off on your finger, it is heated enough.
  4. Take a cloth and begin to buff the softened shoe polish.
  5. After all the polish is removed, re-polish your shoe.

Heat Gun Steps:

  1. Turn the heat gun on and hold it several inches away from the shoe. Do not hold it too close or you’ll meet more than the polish.
  2. Heat small sections for a few seconds and wipe away the melted polish with a clean cloth. If no polish comes off, heat the area for a few more seconds.
  3. Repeat the process on all sections of the shoes with the polish.
  4. Wait until the shoes have cooled down before trying to polish the shoes again.

Sun Step:

  1. Leave the shoes in the sun for a few hours and wipe the melted polish away.

Use a Leather Cleaner

If you want to give your shoes a thorough clean, a leather cleaner is your best bet.

You can use a leather cleaner to remove excess polish, dirt, and residue.

Some leather cleaners can remove dirt build-up from old shoe polish and conditioners including waxes, silicone, and resins.

What you’ll need:

  • Shoe brush
  • Leather cleaner
  • Cloth


  1. Take a shoe brush and gently brush the shoe to remove any dirt and dust.
  2. Shake the leather cleaner well to mix the ingredients.
  3. Take a small amount on a cloth and apply it to the shoe in a circular motion.
  4. Leave the product to dry on the shoe for 15 minutes and then buff away any dirt, polish, or residue.


There are several ways to remove shoe polish from shoes as you can see in this article. The methods highlighted in this article will require a few products, some of which you may or may not have at home. You can continue reading for other ways to take care of your leather shoes in this article that tells you how to clean leather shoes and boots.

Here’s a bonus tip for you: after you re-polish your shoes and they dry, brush your shoes with a horsehair shine brush. This will remove any excess polish and give your shoes a nice shine to give you that extra bounce in your step.

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