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How to Remove Shoe Polish From Leather Shoes: 5 Ways

Fact checked by Andrew Carnegie

how to remove shoe polish from leather shoes

There are three possible reasons why you’d want to remove shoe polish from shoes:

The pair might need it before re-polishing your shoes. Applying a new coat of polish on top of the old coat will just give you a patchy and messy finish.

Or, if you want to avoid wax build-up, you need to remove the excess when too much polish is applied.

Or you applied the wrong color of shoe polish, and you’re not happy with it.

Whichever of these reasons brought you here, don’t worry because this is your ultimate guide on how to remove shoe polish from leather shoes.

Ways to Remove Shoe Polish From Leather Shoes

Removing polish from leather is different but as delicate as removing polish from suede. In removing old shoe polish or the wrong color of polish, you also have to ensure that you use the correct product to avoid damaging them.

More so, before applying any product to your leather shoes, make sure it is clean from any dust or mud. You should also take shoe laces off so they won’t get in the way during the application process.

Method #1: Saphir Reno’Mat

Although you are free to try and use other leather cleaner brands, Saphir Reno’Mat is the particular brand recommended to remove shoe polish from shoes.

Known as the most potent leather cleaner, Saphir Reno’Mat can remove the wax from shoe polish without damaging the leather, provided that it is used only occasionally.

It also removes the pigments of the shoe polish. So, if you want to remove dark polish from brown leather shoes, use this.

Materials needed

  • Saphir Reno’Mat
  • Cotton chamois
  • Water
  • Step 1: Apply a coin-sized amount of the Reno’Mat onto the chamois.

You may want to increase or decrease the amount depending on the intensity of the wax build-up.

  • Step 2: Perform a patch test to check the leather’s reaction to the product.

Make sure to perform the patch test on the shoe’s hidden area.

It is best not to proceed in using Reno’ Mat if you start seeing any discoloration on your shoes.

  • Step 3: Rub the Reno’ Mat all over the shoes using small, circular motions.

If the pores of the leather are already visible, you may rinse the shoes.

  • Step 4: Lightly wet the clean portion of the chamois, and wipe off any residue.

Method #2: Using Rubbing Alcohol, Lighter Fluid or Acetone


With rubbing alcohol, lighter fluid, and acetone, removing shoe polish from any surface can be easily done. After all, they are solvents that dilute wax and oil easily.

However, before using them to remove shoe polish from leather shoes or other leather materials, bear in mind that too much solvent can dry out and damage the leather.

What you will need

  • Alcohol, lighter fluid, or acetone
  • Leather conditioner
  • Old cloth or cotton balls (for product application)
  • Dry cloth (for cleaning dissolved polish)
  • Step 1: Put a few drops of your preferred solvent on the old cloth or a cotton ball.
  • Step 2: Wipe the alcohol, lighter fluid, or acetone onto the leather shoe in a circular motion.

Once you notice that the polish is transferred to the cloth, it means that the polish is already starting to dissolve.

  • Step 3: Clean up the dissolved shoe polish using a separate dry cloth.

It is recommended that you do this step as soon as the polish start to dissolve because the polish might dry up once the solvent starts to evaporate.

  • Step 4: Apply leather conditioner.

This step is essential to rehydrate and replenish the leather’s natural oils.

Method #3: By Saddle Soap

Originally meant to clean horse saddles, saddle soap is widely used to clean leather because of its ability to remove dirt and stain.

Saddle soap, however, is an astringent that can go deep into the fibers of the leather and can strip off the leather of its natural oils. Therefore, it can also be responsible for removing shine from leather which will eventually lead to discoloration.

So, remember not to oversaturate your leather shoes! Saddle soap is only recommended if your shoes are extremely stained, dirty, or thick enough to handle the product’s strength.

In this step, you will need:

  • Saddle soap
  • Damp cloth or cotton
  • Dry cloth
  • Leather conditioner
  • Step 1: Swipe a good amount of saddle soap using the damp cloth/cotton to make a lather.
  • Step 2: Apply the soap and rub the leather shoes until you notice the shoe polish wearing off from the leather.
  • Step 3: Wipe off the soap and polish using the dry cloth. Again, do not oversaturate the soap!
  • Step 4: Apply a leather conditioner to moisturize the leather.

Method #4 With Shaving Cream


Shaving cream has long been used to care for leather products because of its ingredients, such as lanolin, other moisturizing agents, and alcohol.

Because it only contains a small amount of alcohol, you strip shoe polish from leather shoes with shaving cream, and not worry about drying out the leather.

In using shaving cream, you will need the following

  • Shaving cream
  • Stiff-bristled brush
  • Paper towels or clean, dry cloth
  • Step 1: Cover the shoes with a thick layer of shaving cream.

Allow the shaving cream to sit for at least 5 minutes to break down the shoe polish.

  • Step 2: With a stiff-bristled brush, brush the shoes to remove the shaving cream.
  • Step 3: Remove any shaving cream residue using paper towels or clean, dry cloth.

Method #5: Using Heat Gun or Hair Dryer


Heat can melt the shoe polish as it is made mostly of wax. Therefore, if you want to stay away from using cleaners, soaps, or solvents, using heat is the “natural” way to strip shoe polish off from your leather shoes.

Although considered as a “natural” way, extra caution is needed when using this method. You might end up burning your shoes if the steps are not done properly.

In using the hair dryer or a heat gun, you will need the following

  • Heat gun or hair dryer
  • Piece of cloth
  • Leather conditioner
  • Step 1: Apply heat to the shoes.

In doing this step, make sure that the heat gun or hair dryer is several inches apart from the shoes. Applying direct heat to the shoes can damage the leather.

  • Step 2: When the polish starts to melt, wipe it off with a piece of cloth.

Repeat this step until the wax is stripped off the entire shoes.

  • Step 3: Dry the shoes.
  • Step 4: Apply leather conditioner.


Removing shoe polish does not only help you maintain the appearance and quality of the leather. It also allows you to redeem yourself from bad shoe polish work. However, using the wrong products and tools can also ruin your shoes.

Therefore, knowing how to remove shoe polish from leather shoes is as important as knowing how to apply it properly.

After all, keeping your leather shoes nice and healthy doesn’t end with putting shoe polish and making them shiny. It involves a process, and stripping off shoe polish plays an essential role in it.

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