How to Get Tar Off Shoes The Easy Way

There are many ways on how to get tar off shoes, ranging from simple baby oil and castile soap to using the power of WD-40 lubricant.

No matter the method you choose, getting rid of that nasty, sticky tar can be a tough process.

But, it doesn’t have to be as daunting as you may think!

Cleaning the shoes using the right product and tools can help you salvage the situation.

Read through to the end for tried-and-tested processes on how to remove tar off shoes and insights on keeping golf boots and skate wheels clean. 

Here are our four main options on how to get tar off shoes: 

  • Clean the shoes with WD-40.
  • Rub the shoes with dish soap.
  • Clean the mudded spots with baby oil and castile soap.
  • Use Elbow Grease on dirty soles. 

How to Get Tar Off Shoes The Easy Way


Option 1: How to Get Tar Off Shoes With WD-40 or Similar Lubricant 

This tactic is probably the most widely used and effective. WD-40 is an excellent lubricant that removes grime, grease, oil and tar off shoes and metals.

This option works well for chunks of tar on canvas, suede and leather shoes. 

Black boots in a green forest

What You Need 

  • Water in basin. 
  • Any dish soap.
  • Shoe-cleaning brush. 
  • Multi-use WD-40 with smart straw. 
  • Towel or cleaning cloth.


  1. Mix the dish soap in water to make a soapy solution—one scoop of dish soap will do. 
  2. Dip the brush into the cleaning solution.
  3. Clean the dirt and grime off the shoes.
  4. Spray the WD-40 over the surfaces covered with tar. Use the precision spray function for better accuracy.
  5. Rub the lubricant with a towel and wipe the excess dirt off the shoes using the same towel.
  6. Reapply the lubricant and wipe again until your shoes are spotless.
  7. Rinse with clean water.
  8. Dry with a clean towel. 

Option 2: Rub With Dish Soap

Dish soap cleans mud, grease and even tar off shoes effortlessly, and the whole task shouldn’t take you more than two hours. 

What You Need 

  • Basin. 
  • Warm water. 
  • Dish soap.
  • Soft toothbrush.
  • Hand brush.


  1. Use the hand brush to remove the tar as much as possible. Don’t over brush, though since this may chip the shoe surface off. 
  2. Make a solution of dish soap and warm water in the basin.
  3. Sprinkle the solution onto the spots where the remaining tar lurks.
  4. Dip the soft rush into the solution and use it to rub the tar off. 
  5. Repeat step 4 until the shoes are free from tar.
  6. Rinse the shoe’s surface with clean water and leave it to air dry. 

This process should help you remove tar from any type of shoe. However, it may only be effective if you haven’t let the tar settle.

Pro Tips

  • Use a soft hand brush for shoes with soft fabrics.

  • For boots or tough leather, use a hand brush with rigid bristles. These brushes remove the most stubborn tar in a minute without applying too much pressure. 

Option 3: Baby Oil and Castile Soap 

Baby oil works well for leather shoes specifically.

We don’t recommend using it on more porous surfaces, such as canvas, suede or any other cloth-like materials, unless you’re confident in your abilities. Saturating these with the baby oil could damage the material’s condition, ruining your shoes.

What You Need 

  • Baby oil. 
  • Plastic knife. 
  • Warm water.
  • Large bowl.
  • Soft damping towel.
  • Towel for drying.
  • Cotton balls.
  • Old toothbrush. 
  • Castile soap.
  • Clean dish.
  • Fragrance of your choice.


  1. Start by scraping the tar chunks off the surface using the plastic knife. Be careful not to gouge the sole. Also, take care on the stitches as they may tear or wear under intense scraping.
  2. Add two tablespoons of castile soap to the warm bowl of water and stir to mix. 
  3. Dip the soft towel in the solution, wring it out and use it to wipe the boot. While doing this, soak the tough tar spots and rest the boot for 10 minutes to allow the soap to affect the dirt.
  4. Dip the old toothbrush into the soap and water solution. Rub lightly while concentrating on the black spots. Repeat this process until all the tar has gone. 
  5. Use a towel to dry the shoe.
  6. Leave the shoes to air dry for about 10 minutes. 
  7. Once the shoes are dry, pour a tablespoon of baby oil into a clean dish.
  8. Grab a cotton wool ball, soak it in the oil and dab and wipe it onto the tar on your shoes. 
  9. For the best results, you may need to rest the shoes for 24 hours. This way, the coat of oil can excellently soak and soften the surface of your shoes, and eliminate any dirt.
  10. Once done, use a soft towel to rub the oil off your shoes.
  11. Rinse with clean water.
  12. Dry with a towel or let them air dry.
  13. Wrap it up by applying a fragrance over the leather shoes or boots.

This process works perfectly for shoes with tar that’s overstayed its welcome. It also smoothens the shoes’ surface for a glossy look.

Pro Tips 

  • When applying baby oil, make the coating as light as possible. Also, don’t wet the surfaces more than the water used in the oil mixture, as this may cause the shoes to excessively soften. 

Option 4: Use Elbow Grease Over the Dirty Surfaces

Closeup of a person sitting on a desk wearing brown boots

Elbow Grease works perfectly for stubborn tar and soiled suede shoes. However, this cleaning method may not guarantee 100% sparkling results with just one cleaning.

For this reason, repeat the below steps multiple times wherever the tar still lurks. 

What You Need 


  1. Dip the rag or towel in water and use it to rub the shoes’ surface. This will get rid of any loose tar, dirt, mud or grime. 
  2. Spray the elbow grease on all the spots covered by tar.
  3. Use the old toothbrush to spread the grease. Then, brush gently while concentrating on the black spots. 
  4. Repeat step three until the spots fade and your shoe becomes clean. 
  5. Dip another clean rag or towel—or use another portion of the previous one—in a bowl of warm water and wipe your shoes’ surface.
  6. You can then leave the shoes to air dry before applying a shoe protector or fragrance.

Note: If you’re getting the tar off work boots, check out our article on how to dry wet work boots.

How to Remove Tar off Golf Shoes 

Golf shoes are unique because of their spikes for grip while playing, but they can pick up tar when walking on tarmac.

If you’ve ever had tar on the spikes, they’re tricky to clean, but we have the best way to remove tar from golf shoes’ spikes: 

What You Need 

  • Warm water in the basin.
  • Dish soap. 
  • Elbow Grease H2O spray: instead of dish soap.
  • WD-40 multi-use lubricant. 
  • Soft hand brush. 
  • Tough hand brush. 
  • Towel/cloth for wiping.
  • Towel/cloth for drying.


  1. Pour some water into the basin. 
  2. Partially submerge the shoes in the water—only the bottom surface and a part of the midsole should touch the water. 
  3. Leave the shoes to soak overnight. 
  4. Use the tough cleaning brush to scrub off the tar, dirt, grass and anything else. Be as gentle as possible not to damage the spikes.
  5. Clean the basin or bowl and form a soapy solution of water and the dish soap.
  6. Dip the soft hand brush in the solution and rub the outsoles and spikes. 
  7. Wipe excess dirt with a towel or any cloth. 
  8. Spray the WD-40 on the outsoles of your shoes and leave to rest for around four hours, ensuring the spikes are covered in the WD-40. If the tar is super thick, leave them for 24 hours.
  9. Use the soft hand brush to remove the dirt formed. 
  10. In case some gunks still lurk on the spikes, apply more WD-40, and repeat from step 8.
  11. Rinse any WD-40 and residue with fresh water.
  12. Dry the shoes with a clean towel and hang to dry if needed.

Pro Tip

  • If the tar is particularly stubborn, use the Elbow Grease spray as a substitute for the soapy water.

How to Remove Tar off Roller Skate Wheels 

An inline skater sitting in a skater park

If you love skating on tarmacked roads, you’ll know how the roller skates or blades can pick up tar between their wheels.

While this can be frustrating, this simple guide can clean them up super easy for your next skate.

What You Need 

  • Bowl of warm water.
  • Dish soap, such as Dawn.
  • Plastic knife. 
  • Dry towel. 
  • Hand brush.
  • Socket wrench. 
  • Basin. 
  • WD-40 lubricant.


  1. Using a socket wrench, loosen and remove the nuts that hold the wheels in place. 
  2. Use the plastic knife to scrub dirt, grime and tar off the wheels.
  3. Make a soapy solution of water and dish soap. Dawn is good since it’s awesome on tough dirt, grease and tar.
  4. Submerge the wheels inside the soapy solution and leave them for 30 minutes to soak. Don’t soak the wheels if they consist of metallic parts since they can rust. Also, don’t put the axle inside the water since it is mainly metallic.
  5. Alternatively, you can use WD-40 instead of water from step 5 and skip to step 8.
  6. Remove the wheels from the bowl, and wipe them with a clean, dry towel. You should’ve removed most of the tar without even needing to scrub!
  7. Spray the WD-40 lubricant over the wheels. 
  8. Scrub with the hand brush until you remove all remaining tar.
  9. Add WD-40 to the axle and scrub if needed.
  10. Rinse the wheels and axle with fresh water.
  11. Dry the wheels and axle with a towel.
  12. Use the socket wrench to attach the wheels back onto the boot. 

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Get Tar off Shoes

Will Goo Gone Remove Tar? 

Yes, Goo Gone is one of the automotive lubricants you can use to remove tar off your shoes. While it’s usually used to get rid of tar from your car tires, it still works on shoes. Just be careful to not use too much and test a small part of your shoe first—it contains powerful chemicals.

Does Vinegar Remove Tar?

Yes, vinegar removes tar, but you need to combine it with water and dish soap for it to be powerful enough. When you’ve made the solution, saturate the tar with it and follow up by wiping cold water over the area. Simply repeat as necessary until the tar is gone.

Does Acetone Remove Tar?

Yes, acetone removes tar and is an industrial solvent that has multiple uses. Even so, you should err on the side of caution when using on shoes. Even though it occurs naturally in the body, it’s powerful and breaks down certain chemical compounds. With this in mind, it’s best used on shoe surfaces like leather rather than suede.

Can I Use Petrol to Remove Tar?

While petrol will remove tar from car tires, we don’t recommend using it to remove tar from shoes. The shoe surface will absorb the petrol, and you’ll likely ruin your shoes completely. You might as well leave tar on your shoes than use petrol to remove it. Instead, use one of our methods, such as WD-40.

Can I Put Baking Soda in My Shoes?

Baking soda is an excellent option for ridding nasty smells from your shoes after you’ve cleaned tar off. You’ll need to sprinkle the baking soda directly into the inside of your shoes, but note that it serves no purpose in removing any tar. If you have any tar on the inside, you need to remove the tar first.

Bottom Line 

Your success depends on what fabric the shoes are made from—suede, leather or canvas

If you’re afraid of using a chemical product, such as WD-40, we recommend you go for the dish soap method. You’ll likely have all the needed materials and tools at home already, so can get started immediately.

Let us know if you’ve managed to remove tar from your shoes via any of these methods. We’d love to hear what works for you!


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