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Found a stubborn shoe polish stain on your best shirt? Find out how to remove shoe polish stains from clothes with the fast, simple method here.

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A man tying the shoelaces of his brown polished shoes.

How to remove shoe polish stains from clothes

Gotten a little carried away while polishing your shoes? Leather looks so much better with a bit of polish on it, but you can’t really say the same for your regular clothes. A shoe polish stain can look pretty daunting, but fear not – help is at hand! We’re about to explain how to remove shoe polish and get your clothes looking as fabulous as your freshly-shined shoes.


How to remove shoe polish stains from clothes

If you want to successfully remove shoe polish stains from clothes, you need to act fast! Shoe polish is essentially designed to dry into a waterproof, richly-coloured stain, so it’s best to start treating it while it’s still wet. Here’s how to remove a shoe polish stain:

  1. Lift off excess shoe polish. Remove as much polish from the fabric as you can, gently lifting it off with a blunt knife or a spoon. Be careful not to spread the polish around – the idea is to scoop off the polish, rather than scrape or brush it. If you’re dealing with a liquid shoe polish, you’re best off dabbing the stain gently with a paper towel to soak up some of the stain.
  2. Pre-treat the stain. There are a few household staples you can use to pre-treat and help remove a shoe polish stain. Dishwashing liquid is a good bet, as it’s designed to cut through grease, as is OMO Ultimate Liquid, which has the added benefit of being designed to work on clothes. If you don’t have either of those options to hand, salt and lemon juice can work. Apply a dollop of your preferred pre-treatment and leave it to work for up to an hour.

    Hint: Check the garment’s care label before you use any stain removal method to see if it is suitable – delicate fabrics might need the care of a professional. It is also best to test the method on a small, less-visible area of the garment before you treat the whole stain, just to make sure you get the results you want.
  3. Put the garment in the wash. If the care label confirms that you can use colour-safe bleach on your garment, add this to the wash along with a high quality laundry detergent like OMO Ultimate Liquid. Wash at a hot temperature – as high as your garment’s care label will allow. 
  4. Check before drying. It’s important to make sure that your garment doesn’t dry out with the stain still on it. If the stain is still there after the wash, repeat steps 1 through 3. If not, go ahead and dry the garment naturally. Avoid putting it in the tumble dryer or ironing it, as the heat might set any remaining stains.


The next time your enthusiastic polishing leaves you with stains, relax – you know exactly how to remove shoe polish stains from clothes. They can be stubborn, but with a bit of perseverance you should get there in the end! For more advice on how to tackle tough stains, check out our other stain removal tips.