Last updated on December 6th, 2023 at 10:45 am
Shoes easily get dirty and marked. From a splash of tea to a stubborn grass stain, knowing how to remove stains from your shoes will help you maintain your favourite footwear for longer. With different stain removal methods for each material, in this guide we’ll cover how to get rid of some of the most common types of stains – including:
Mud and dirt
Mud and dirt stains can take a lot of scrubbing to remove. Whatever you do, don’t assume you can throw a pair of dirty shoes in the washing machine – this may damage them depending on their material.
One of the best ways to remove mud and dirt is with laundry detergent. Follow this quick process:
- Use a soft-bristled brush to remove clumps of dry mud and dirt.
- Mix laundry detergent with water to dilute the solution.
- Use a clean cloth to rub down the shoes using the solution.
- If the stains fail to come off, repeat the process using bicarbonate of soda.
IMPORTANT: For shoes made of suede or nubuck leather, follow this process without the solution – as this may cause water marks. Instead, scrub the mud off using a soft bristle brush.
You’ll need to act fast to remove an oil stain from your shoes. As soon as you notice the stain, soak it up with talcum powder or salt if you have any to hand. Follow this process:
- Pour talc or salt on the stain.
- Remove the talc with a soft-bristle brush.
- Keep repeating the process until you see the stain start to lift.
Grass stains are some of the hardest stains to remove – particularly from white shoes and canvas trainers. Depending on the material of your shoes, these household items can be effective:
- Distilled white vinegar. This can help remove grass stains from the rubber sole.
- You should be able to dissolve the grass stain by using a circular motion to rub the alcohol into your shoes. If it’s particularly stubborn, you may need to repeat the process a few times.
- Baking soda. This is most effective on canvas shoes, which are particularly susceptible to grass stains. Use baking soda mixed with water and a toothbrush to scrub deeper stains out.
Water marks can cause lasting damage to suede and leather shoes. However, you can also use water to remove these stains. Here’s our top tip to remove water stains from leather or suede shoes:
- Using a brush, apply a light coat of water to the whole shoe.
- Stuff the shoes with paper to make sure they retain their shape.
- Leave the shoes to dry overnight in a well-ventilated place.
- In the morning, use a suede brush to rub them down.
Salt, snow and slush
In the winter months, salt stains can play havoc with your shoes. The worst part is they’re practically unavoidable when you’re walking through snow and slush every day.
White vinegar is one of the best ways to remove salt stains in just a few quick steps:
- Stuff your shoes with paper to help them keep their shape.
- Mix a solution that’s one part white vinegar and two parts water.
- Using a cloth, dab the solution onto the stain.
- Use a dampened clean cloth to remove excess vinegar.
- Finally, dab the stain using a dry cloth.
It’s a little trickier to get coffee stains out of suede shoes. Armed with a cloth and a white vinegar and warm water solution, you should be able to get just about any coffee stain out – after a few attempts using this process:
- Blot the shoes with water until they’re damp.
- Stuff the shoes with paper to make sure they don’t lose their shape.
- Mix water and some dish soap together.
- Use a cloth to rub the stain with the water and soap solution gently.
- Pat the shoes with a damp cloth.
- Leave your shoes to dry in a well-ventilated area.
How to prevent stains on shoes: by material
Once you’ve got those tough stains out, maintaining the appearance of your shoes is key. Here’s how you can make sure your shoes stay looking great whatever the weather:
- Protecting leather shoes with shoe protector before you go out can prevent them from getting dirty or stained. Leather whitener (a stain remover for white trainers and canvas shoes) can also help to cover any scuffs on a pair of leather trainers.
- A multi-purpose shoe cleaner is particularly effective on materials like canvas, suede and leather, which can be resistant to other cleaning solutions.
- Keeping suede looking great involves a little water, a suede brush and suede protector spray.
- Synthetic leather. Stains lift easily from synthetic leather – usually wipes or a little soap and water will do the trick. But if you want to remove stains on white trainers, you could also use a specialist shoe whitener. Read our post on cleaning white shoes for more information.
By investing in these products and taking extra care to look after your shoes, your footwear will stay looking its best for years to come.