How To Remove Stains from Leather Shoes

How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes
How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes

Investing in leather shoes is worthwhile due to their durability and aesthetic appeal, but they do require special care, especially when it comes to stain removal. So, how to remove stains from leather shoes?

In this guide, I’ll share effective methods for removing stains from leather shoes and provide techniques to protect them.

What Stains Leather Shoes?

How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes
What Stains Leather Shoes?

Leather shoes are a valuable investment, offering longevity and style, but they require specific care, especially for stain removal. Here’s a concise guide to tackling common stains:

  1. Water Stains: Quickly wiping leather can prevent water stains. For existing stains, wet the entire shoe and let it dry uniformly. Regularly apply leather polish or wax to protect against water damage, especially for suede shoes.
  2. Salt Residue: Common in winter, salt can dehydrate and crack leather. Remove salt stains with a solution of cold water and white wine vinegar, then air-dry the shoes.
  3. Caked-On Dirt: Use a leather shoe brush for routine cleaning. For heavier mud, a warm water and mild dish soap solution works well. Dry the shoes thoroughly after cleaning.
  4. Oil Stains: Apply baking soda or cornstarch to absorb the oil, leave it overnight, and then wipe off. This method helps draw out the oil from the leather.
  5. Ink Stains: Use non-acetone nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol applied with cotton balls or swabs. Dab gently on the stain, avoid rubbing, and wipe off the cleanser after the ink is removed.

Regular maintenance and prompt attention to stains can keep your leather shoes in excellent condition, preserving their appearance and durability.

How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes

How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes
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Leather shoes are prone to scuffs and scratches, but various household items can effectively remove these marks. Here are some simple remedies:

  • Petroleum Jelly: Gently rub petroleum jelly on scuffs and buff away with a moist towel. It’s gentle and effective for most scuff marks.
  • Pencil Erasers: A new pencil eraser can gently rub away scuffs from leather shoes.
  • Baking Soda: Mix baking soda with water to form a paste, then scrub it into scuffs with a cloth or toothbrush. Be cautious not to damage the leather.
  • Dishwashing Detergent: Apply a mild detergent with a moistened towel to wipe away scuffs, ensuring to rinse off any soap residue.
  • Nail Polish Remover: Use non-acetone nail polish remover with a Q-tip or cotton ball to gently scrub scuffs. Avoid acetone-based removers as they can damage leather.
  • Toothpaste: Apply toothpaste with a moistened, soft toothbrush to scuffs, scrubbing gently until the paste foams. Rinse with water and repeat as needed.
  • Shoe Polish: Commercial shoe polish is specifically designed for shoe care. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.

These methods offer a range of options for maintaining the appearance of your leather shoes, using items commonly found at home.

Read Also: How to Remove Scratches from Leather Shoes

How to Clean Leather Shoes with Household Products

How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes
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I personally love to clean my leather shoes with anything I have at home. In this case, I mean, dish soap. It’s cheap and easy, so I’d love to share with you my step-by-step guide below!

  • I’ll generally start with brushing the shoes to remove loose dirt or debris.
  • Next, mix a small amount of mild dish soap with warm water in a bowl.
  • Damp a soft cloth in the soapy solution and wipe the entire surface of your shoes.
  • If I have stubborn stains, I’ll take my toothbrush to scrub the area.
  • Now, rinse the soapy residue with a damp clean cloth.
  • In case you have stinky shoes, dab a cloth in a white vinegar and water solution.
  • Once they dry, apply a small amount of olive oil to condition the shoes, and voila!

How to Remove Stains from Tan Leather

How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes
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Cleaning stains from Tan Leather needs a different approach, depending on the types of dirt. But, I usually do this trick and it works wonders. Here’s how to do it:

  • I’ll use a clean cloth to bolt fresh stains.
  • Then, I prepare a mixture of water and mild soap and damp a soft cloth into it before gently rubbing the stained area in a circular motion.
  • After that, I’ll take another clean damp cloth to wipe any remaining soap.
  • Next, air dry the shoes. You can use a fan to accelerate the process.
  • Lastly, apply a leather conditioner to restore the leather’s natural oils. That’s it!

How to Remove Stains from White Leather

How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes
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Having stains on white leather shoes can be quite frustrating. Hence, I have quick and easy tips for you to solve this issue below!

  • Take your clean cloth to blot the fresh stain.
  • I usually use a small bowl to mix baking soda and water to create a thick paste.
  • Now, use a soft cloth and apply the paste to the stained part. Then, allow it to sit for 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Next, gently scrub the area with a sponge in a circular motion and wipe away the residue.
  • If you have stubborn marks, clean them with hydrogen peroxide (3%) using a cotton ball and dab the area.
  • Let them dry and condition the shoes using a leather conditioner. All done!

How to Remove Dark Spots on Leather Shoes

How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes
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Dark spots are challenging to remove from your leather shoes. Thankfully, I’ve tried this easy guide and it works like magic! Check it out!

  • In a small bowl, prepare the cleaning solution by mixing equal parts of olive oil and lemon juice.
  • I usually take a soft brush to remove any loose debris from my shoe surface. before cleaning.
  • Then, I’ll do a damp sponge into the cleaning mixture and rub gently on the dark spot, and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Now, sprinkle a small amount of baking soda on a toothbrush and scrub the stained area.
  • Next, damp a cloth with warm water and remove the residue from your shoes.
  • For the last part, dry them naturally and condition the leather shoes with a leather conditioner.

How to Remove Water Stains on Leather Shoes

How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes
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If you are in a rush and spot the water stains on your leather shoes, you should use my trick here.

  • Grab a pack of baby wipes with no alcohol and unscented.
  • Blot the water stain with the baby wipe. I’ll usually rub it gently to avoid damage.
  • After that, take your dry cloth to remove any excess moisture. You can also use dry paper towels.
  • Next, allow the shoes to air dry. Repeat the process again if necessary.
  • Last but not least, apply a small amount of olive oil or leather conditioner to keep the shoe material moist.

Common Types of Leather and Their Care Needs

Here is a brief explanation about types of leathers and their care needs! I’ve compiled them into a table for your ease of reading.

Leather TypesCharacteristicsCare Needs
Full-grain leather Durable, develops a patina over time, expensiveKeep clean and conditioned, protect from moisture, and polish with a wax-based polish
Top-grain leather
Smoother and more flexible, it resists moisture and stainsClean regularly, use conditioner, and polish with a cream-based polish
Suede leatherSoft and supple, prone to staining and scuffingUse a suede brush or eraser to remove dirt and stains, avoid water exposure
Nubuck leatherSimilar to suede, but with a finer texture, prone to staining and scuffingUse a nubuck brush or eraser to remove dirt and stains, avoid water exposure
Patent leatherShiny and waterproof, easy to clean Wipe clean with a damp cloth, use a patent leather cleaner or conditioner for deeper cleaning, and avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasives
Synthetic leatherDurable and affordable, lacks natural texture and patinaRegular cleaning and conditioning, and avoid direct sunlight and heat
Exotic leather (e.g., snakeskin, alligator)Unique texture and pattern, expensive and delicateUse a soft cloth to remove dirt and stains, avoid water exposure and excessive bending
Distressed leatherVintage or worn look, prone to fading and crackingUse a leather conditioner to restore moisture, avoid water exposure and excessive heat
Pull-up leatherFades and darkens over time, develops a patinaRegular cleaning and conditioning, and avoid direct sunlight and heat
Oiled leatherWater-resistant and durable, prone to darkening and discolorationUse a leather conditioner to restore moisture, avoid excessive exposure to water and heat

Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Leather Footwear

Use a soft-bristled brush to remove dirtDo not use bleach or ammonia-based cleaners
Wipe down with a damp clothDo not use hot water
Use a leather cleaner or mild soapy waterDo not soak leather shoes in water
Apply a leather conditioner after cleaningDo not dry leather shoes with heat
Allow shoes to air dry completelyDo not expose shoes to direct sunlight
Use a waterproofing spray for protectionDo not use strong vinegar or alcohol-based cleaners


In summary, this guide on “How to Remove Stains from Leather Shoes” aims to equip you with effective techniques for maintaining the appearance of your leather footwear. Understanding the frustration that comes with leather shoe stains, I’ve shared insights on tackling various types of stains, including water, oil, and ink.

Additionally, I hope to encourage proactive measures for stain prevention and emphasize the importance of regular leather shoe care. With consistent maintenance, your leather shoes can remain stylish and durable for many years.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How often should you clean and condition leather shoes and boots?

Typically, I aim to clean my shoes and boots at least once every two weeks or more frequently if I notice any visible dirt or stains. I also try to condition them every month or so to keep the leather supple and prevent cracking.

Of course, the frequency of cleaning and conditioning will vary depending on how often you wear your leather footwear and the conditions you subject them to.

2. What to do if stains won’t come out of your leather shoes?

If stains won’t come out of my leather shoes, I would first try to identify the type of stain and what caused it. This can help me determine the best approach for removing it. If I have to deal with stubborn stains, I might try using a specialized leather cleaner or taking my shoes to a professional cleaning service.

It’s important to avoid using harsh chemicals or scrubbing too aggressively, as this can damage the leather. In some cases, it may not be possible to completely remove the stain, but I can still take steps to minimize its appearances, such as covering it with shoe polish or strategically placing accessories like laces or shoe clips.