How To Remove Shoe Polish From Leather Shoes

Polish is the best way to keep your leather shoes and boots looking pristine, or that is, of course, if you do it right.

Applying the wrong color polish or uneven layers can give your shoes a stained, dirty appearance. But before you deem your leather boots doomed and throw them in the back of your closet, we have a post for you.

We’ll show you how to remove shoe polish from leather shoes, as well as everything else you need to know.

How to remove shoe polish from leather shoes:

  • Dampen a cloth.
  • Rub the shoe to loosen the old polish.
  • Create a lather on the saddle soap.
  • Apply the lather to the shoe in circular motions.
  • Remove the lather with a clean cloth.
  • Let the shoes dry before applying a new polish or conditioner.

Remove Shoe Polish From Leather Shoes

Removing Shoe Polish With Saddle Soap

Saddle soap is specifically formulated to clean gear, and it’s one of the most common ways of removing shoe polish. It’s easy to use, and it’s available in almost all supermarkets and online. You can try the Bickmore Saddle Soap Plus.

What You Need

  • Cotton pads or soft cloths.
  • Water.
  • Saddle soap of choice.

What You Do

Step 1. Dampen Your Cloth

Take your soft cloth or cotton pad and dampen it with lukewarm water. Avoid using colder or warmer temperatures.

Step 2. Moisten Your Shoe

With your damp cloth or cotton pad, gently rub the surface of your shoes to loosen up the wax and any dirt. Use a circular motion and re-saturate your rag as needed.


To avoid making a mess, switch to clean parts of the rag as you go on.

Step 3. Lather the Saddle Soap

Grab a new clean wet cloth or cotton pad, and rub it over the saddle soap to create a lather. Next, apply the lather to your shoe using a circular motion.

For the best results, use small circular motions, covering only a tiny area at the time. Continue until you’ve applied the product to the whole surface.

Step 4. Remove the Lather

With another rag, remove the lather from the shoes. You should see the polish coming off now. Change to a new, cleaner area of the rag to avoid reapplying the soap.


Avoid letting the saddle soap sit on the shoe for an extended time. Make sure that you remove it as fast as possible; otherwise, it might leave an unsightly residue.

Step 5. Let Dry

Once all the soap is gone, allow your shoe to dry before applying a conditioner or new shoe shine.

How To Remove Shoe Polish Using Heat

Perhaps not the most conventional technique, the heat method plays on the theory that shoe polish is based on wax. As you apply heat, it should melt, making it effortless for you to wipe off.

However, you need to be careful with this method as it can damage your shoes or cause burns.

What You Need

  • A heat source—heat lamp, hairdryer, or heat gun.
  • A rag.

What You Do

Step 1. Apply Heat

Position your heat source at a reasonable distance from the surface of your shoe. You don’t want it too close to damage the material or too far away that it won’t work.

Depending on the intensity of your heat source, aim for a few inches to a foot’s distance. Move it around to cover the entire surface.

Leave it to work until you see the old wax melting—it might become shinier or even start to drip off.

Step 2. Wipe Off

With a clean, dry rag, wipe off the wax. If it’s stubborn, rub gently in circular motions to get everything off.

Step 3. Set to Dry

Set your shoe aside and allow the surface to dry fully before applying a conditioner. If you’re not happy with the result, you can repeat the steps.

Removing Shoe Polish With Saphir Reno Mat

Saphir Reno Mat is a specialized product that has proved excellent at removing old polish and dirt from shoes. You can use it for various materials, including silicone, resins, wax, synthetics, and, of course, leather.

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What You Need

  • Saphir Reno’Mat.
  • Soft cloths.
  • A shoe brush.

What You Do

Step 1. Remove Dirt

If your shoes are dirty, use a soft rag to wipe away any dust and debris, this will give you much better results. However, don’t apply moisture as the Saphir Reno Mat requires a dry surface to work on.

Step 2. Apply the Product

Apply a thin layer of the Saphir Reno Mat on the shoes. Use a new rag or soft brush to gently distribute the product across the material. Work in circular motions and clean small areas at a time for best results.


Before you apply the product, do a patch test in a small, less noticeable area. Saphir Reno Mat is a chemical solution that may discolor or remove the original finish from your shoes.

Step 3. Remove the Solution

With a new soft cloth, remove excess product. The old wax should come right off.

Step 4. Let Dry

Set your shoe aside and let it dry for a few hours before you apply a new product.

Removing Polish With Acetone or Rubbing Alcohol

Acetone or alcohol is another common method used at home since both ingredients are readily available.

However, as these can dry out the leather, you should always apply a generous layer of leather conditioner after removing the shine. Otherwise, your shoes may become brittle and will easily break.

What You Need

  • Cloths or cotton pads.
  • Alcohol or acetone—nail polish remover.
  • Gloves—optional.

What You Do

Step 1. Remove Shoelaces

Acetone or alcohol is highly flammable, so always remove the shoelaces beforehand. The laces can soak up the solution and catch fire should they be too close to a heat source.

Step 2. Infuse a Cloth or Cotton Pad With Acetone

Take your acetone, and apply a generous amount to a clean cloth or cotton pad. Ensure that it becomes wet, although not so much so that it drips.

Step 3. Apply to Shoe

Gently apply the product to the shoe using a circular motion. Make sure that you cover the entire surface.

Step 4. Let Sit or Remove

Now, you can either allow the acetone to sit for a few minutes to loosen the polish or use the same cloth to continue rubbing.

Both ways work, but if you’re worried you might forget or accidentally let them sit for too long, it’s better to keep rubbing.

Step 5. Dry With a New Cloth

Using a new cloth, dry the surface to remove any excess acetone. Then, apply a leather conditioner, such as the Leather Honey Leather Conditioner.

Grab a new clean cloth and rub the conditioner using small circular motions across the surface. Allow it to dry before wearing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Get Old Shoe Polish off Leather Shoes?

There are plenty of ways to remove old shoe polish from leather shoes. You can use any of the methods above, or you can try an alternative, like shaving cream.

It’s fairly straightforward: Apply the shaving cream in a thick layer across your shoe, then let it sit for approximately five minutes. The cream loosens up the old polish.

When the time is up, buff the cream and old polish away using a clean cloth.

Is Shoe Polish Bad for Leather?

Shoe polish isn’t bad for leather, and in fact, it’s a vital step to preserve the longevity of your leather shoes.

Leather is skin, and without the body to take care of it and condition it, we need to treat it to keep it healthy. Polishing is one way to do this.

With that said, there’s one type of polish you should use in moderation, namely liquid polish. This version is excellent for coloring, for instance, turning your brown shoes black.

However, it doesn’t penetrate well and may dry out the material, causing cracks in your shoes. Instead, opt for thicker types, like wax polish or cream.

How Often Should I Polish Leather Shoes?

How often you need to polish your shoes depends on how frequently you use them. If you wear them several times a week, then you should aim at polishing once a week.

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Final Takeaway

How to remove shoe polish from leather shoes? There are several ways you can strip old or the wrong color polish off your footwear. Two of the easiest ways are using either saddle soap or a product like Saphir Reno Mat.

After removing the old polish from your shoes, condition the leather before applying a new layer. And always allow your shoes to dry thoroughly before wearing.


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