How to Remove a Black Shoe Polish Stain

shoe polish stain headline imageLast week my husband came home from work and announced that he had a black shoe polish stain on the cuff of his white Brooks Brothers dress shirt. Apparently he had decided to clean up his shoes before an important meeting, but things didn’t quite go as planned. My reaction? Yay, a laundry challenge! Something tells me this is not the way normal people react to such things, but I’m sure you, my blog readers, will understand.

The Shoe Polish Stain

I had actually never dealt with a shoe polish stain before. I’ve removed pen, machine oil, coffee, food and many other things from his dress shirts, but not shoe polish. It sometimes surprises me how my husband manages to get into all those things while having a desk job, but then again I’m not one to complain. In fact, I usually complain about the exact opposite – that he doesn’t produce enough dirty clothes to satisfy my laundry requirements. For some reason no matter now much I try to talk him into changing 3 times a day I am never successful.

shoe polish stain closeupBut back to the black shoe polish stain. There it was, sitting on his cuff. It wasn’t too big of a stain, and it was fairly fresh, so I wasn’t very concerned.

Here’s my thought process on how to tackle something like this. First of all you start out by thinking what type of stain you’re dealing with. I figured that shoe polish would be primarily oil and wax based (although after googling it I now know that it also contains solvents). To tackle oil and wax based stains you want two things: 1. liquid laundry detergent, since that works better on oil than powder and 2. hot water.

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The Stain Removal Process

I normally do my laundry on weekends, and this happened in the middle of the work week. I figured I’d pretreat the stain and then deal with it once I had a full load of whites to launder. Since Persil ProClean 2in1 had done so well with oil stains in my previous test, I figured I’d give that a try, but any heavy duty liquid detergent or stain remover should do. I poured some detergent right on the stain, gave it a bit of a scrub with an old toothbrush and set it aside for several days. I also buttoned the gauntlet button on that sleeve to make sure I could tell which cuff was the shoe polish stain one.

On Sunday I was finally able to put together a semi-full load of whites, and I chose to wash on the Wrinkle Free cycle of my Miele W3038 washing machine on Hot (60C/140F) with a prewash and additional rinse. There is also a dedicated Extra White cycle that I really like to use for heavily soiled clothing, but with clothes that need ironing you really need that cool down before the spin cycle that Wrinkle Free and Dress Shirts offer. Instead of going straight into a cold rinse after a hot main wash, the washer gradually adds some cold water to the main wash to cool it down before the spinning begins. That keeps creases from setting, and makes ironing a lot easier.

I used a half cap of Persil ProClean 2in1 detergent divided between the prewash and main wash compartments. By the way, the Persil ProClean is so thick that I’ve been having issues with it washing out of the shallow prewash compartment even when I don’t use the special insert for liquids. From now on I’m just going to be adding the prewash amount of detergent to the drum, that will ensure that I won’t be dealing with any detergent residue in the dispenser.

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The Results

shirt sleeve afterAs you can see, the cuff came out perfectly clean! The stain was completely removed, and there isn’t even a faint mark left in its spot.

So if you ever find yourself dealing with a shoe polish stain, here  are the steps that I’d recommend:

1. Pretreat the stain as quickly as possible with liquid laundry detergent or stain remover, preferably one that has removed oily stains for you in the past (shoe polish is primarily oil and wax, and liquids are better at tackling that type of stain than powders);

When you can run a wash cycle, use the hottest water your fabric can handle and once again use liquid laundry detergent for the prewash and main wash (as with dishes, if you want to fully remove oil you need a good dish liquid and hot water – cooler water will leave you with residue, or in the case of laundry, the stain won’t get fully removed);

3. Inspect the garment thoroughly before you put it in the dryer!
I can’t stress this enough for any kind of stain: if you accidentally run a stain that hasn’t been fully removed through the dryer it might set and become virtually impossible to remove.

[bctt tweet=”To remove shoe polish use liquid #laundry detergent and the hottest water your fabric can handle.”]

And after you’ve taken those steps, you should be left with a clean, stain-free garment that you can wear as though nothing ever happened.

clean shirt

Have you ever dealt with removing shoe polish stains from clothing? Were you successful? Any tips or tricks you can share? Let me know in the comments!

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4 thoughts on “How to Remove a Black Shoe Polish Stain

  1. maria losh says:

    Great Blog Olgas,

    I would like to recommend you that if you will face any problem related to black shoe you can use amway home LOC product it will clean without any washing.

    Maria Losh

  2. Rashid Ali says:

    Removing a black shoe polish stain from a white shirt is not an easy job as shoe polish is one of the heaviest stains to remove. For removing oil and wax based stains, liquid laundry detergents and hot water are generally used. Liquid detergents work better on the oil and wax stains than the powder detergents.

  3. Andre says:

    Not bad results actually Olga – appreciate the tip for this. One thing I found from my customers is they need a quick solution to cleaning shoes, gotta hate those rough deep stains!

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