4 Effective Ways to Remove Old Shoe Polish

Methods of removing old shoe polish

A well-polished pair of shoes look better obviously. But when you have the wrong polish on it or too many layers of the old polish, the reverse would become the case.

You do not need to panic. There are simple ways you can remove the wrong polish from your leather shoes. It does not matter whether it is a brown or black leather shoes, you can apply  any of these 4 actionable methods to get the polish off.

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  1. Use Saddle Soap to clean.
  2. Apply a wax solvent like alcohol or acetone to dissolve the polish.
  3. Apply Suphir Renomat, a leather cleaner
  4. Apply some heat from a heat gun, a heat lamp or even the sun

You might be in a haste to learn the steps involved in the methods listed above, but I hope you would not want to make serious mistakes?

So do the following before you proceed with the steps:

  • Remove the shoelaces to avoid the interference they might cause you. Also, if you leave the shoelaces, they might retain some of the cleaning substances and therefore cause the shoe to have a bad odor.
  • Wipe the shoe of dust or mud before you begin. This is to ensure a better performance of whichever method you choose to use.

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1. Clean with Saddle Soap

To save you from that disgusting and an untidy look that could be caused by a poorly kept shoe, you can simply get a saddle soap and clean up the old polish.

It would cost you between $11 to $15 to get the best brands like Fiebing, Kiwi and Bickmore.

When you have the saddle soap, you will also need other supplies like two pieces of clean cloth and some water.

When these are ready, then you can proceed following these steps:

Step 1: Clean the shoe

Use a cotton ball or one piece of cloth to dampen the leather of the shoes you want to work on. This will help the soap to spread evenly and easily.

Do this carefully so that you do not damage the leather with too much water.

Step 2: Rub the shoes with the soap

Now the shoe surface is ready to receive the proper action, rub a wet piece of cloth on the saddle soap to create lather.

When the piece of cloth already has enough lather, begin to apply the soap on the shoes moving your hands in a circular motion.

You would aim to wash the polish into the soapy lather. So you might need to put in a little pressure (depending on the texture of your shoe leather).

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Step 3: Wipe off the lather on the shoes

Now that you have spread the saddle soap across the shoe surface, use a clean and dry cloth to wipe off the lather.

When you do this, you will notice that the polish will come off onto the cloth.

Make sure the lather does not dry on the shoe because it will be difficult to wipe off.

At this point, you can go ahead and re-polish the shoe.

2. Use a Polish (wax) Solvent, like Alcohol or Acetone

If the first method is too much of a process, you can apply this one. This method is probably one of the most common ways of removing shoe polish.

It applies a basic chemistry principle “likes dissolves likes,” and you will need the following:

  • Some alcohol or acetone (nail polish remover)
  • A piece of cloth
  • Quality leather conditioner

We recommend you use quality leather conditioners like Lexol, Bickmore, or Meguiar brands.

When you have all your supplies ready, go ahead following the steps below:

Step 1: Apply the solvent

Apply the alcohol or acetone on a piece of cloth or a cotton ball. Start rubbing the alcohol/acetone carrier on the shoes in a circular motion.

Step 2: Clean with clean cloth

Support the cleaning action by wiping off the rubbed surface with a clean cloth.

Step 3: Repeat the process

Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you clean off all the polish.

N/B: The solvent (alcohol or acetone) would not last on the shoe surface because it is volatile. So you might need to wipe it off almost immediately so that it doesn’t dry up with the polish.

Step 4: Apply leather conditioner

After removing the unwanted shoe polish, ensure you apply a leather conditioner all over the shoe to prevent the leather from drying out.

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3. Apply Saphir Renomat Leather Cleaner

Saphir Renomat is a solvent especially designed to thoroughly clean leathers. It removes dirt, residues, and old layers of shoe polish.

No matter the type of polish it is, Renomat cleanses both synthetic and silicone-based polishes. Follow these steps to clean your shoe with this product

Step 1: Shake the Saphir Renomat bottle

Shake the product bottle to ensure better mixing. Get some quantity of the product onto a piece of cloth.

Step 2: Apply the product

Apply the saphir renomat all over the shoe moving your hands in a circular motion.

Step 3: Let sit for 15 minutes then buff to shine

Allow your shoes to sit for 15 minutes. Buff the shoes afterward. Now, your shoe is ready to receive a new layer of polish.

4. Use the Heat Method

Shoe polish is primarily made of wax and when you heat it, it tends to melt.

You can apply this basic principle if you want to get the old polish layers off your shoes.

But then, you must apply this method with serious caution especially when using a heat gun.

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Step 1: Expose shoe to heat

Expose the shoe surface to the heat source (sun, heat lamp, or heat gun).

If you are using a heat gun, place the shoe several inches away. Direct or too much heat can melt the shoe materials.

When it is either the sun or heat lamp, you will need to leave the shoe for 15 minutes to 1 hour depending on the strength of the heat source.

Step 2: Clean melted wax with cloth

When you notice that the shoe surface has become sticky, or that the polish has started melting, get a dry piece of cloth and buff the shoe. You can also use a brush to buff.

If an area remains unaffected by the heat, expose it more to the heat source. It may just be being stubborn…smiles.

Step 3: Polish and and buff after cleaning

When you have wiped off the entire polish, go ahead to re-polish the shoe.

What dissolves shoe polish?

So far we have found four major things/substances that dissolve shoe polish. There

  1. Saddle soap
  2. Solvents like acetone (found in nail polish remover) and alcohol
  3. Saphir renomat
  4. Mild heat

How do I remove polish from rubber soles?

Except you take extra measures, the polish must certainly stain the sole especially if it is a white or bright colored rubber sole. Nevertheless, you can get it off in any of these simple ways:

  • Put some amount of stain remover, preferably Oxiclean in warm water. Mix until it dissolves.
  • Using a clean piece of cloth, dampen the rubber sole with the oxiclean-loaded water
  • Allow the sole to soak for some time, but don’t let it get dry. You could keep applying more liquid for more stain remover to get on the surface
  • Gently scrub off the polish stain on the rubber sole using a brush. You could get this 4-piece Anerong brush if you want something you could also use for other purposes.
  • Clean off the lather using another slightly-damp piece of cloth. That’s it!


Feel free to apply any of these 4 methods of removing old shoe polish from your leather shoes; you will get similar results.

Nonetheless, the first three methods seem to be most effective.

Please share this post if it was helpful.

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