How to remove scuff marks from shoes

Last updated February 14, 2017

scuffed Chase and Chloe KimmyScuff marks are dirty marks on shoes that were left by rough items like black rubber soles from a dancing partner’s shoe, painted walls, stairs or furniture. Contact with any abrasive object may leave your shiny shoes scratched. Fortunately, people know many ways of how to get rid of scuff marks.

Start with determining your shoe material type. Different shoes requires different treatment. Marks on leather shoes will be treated differently from plastic or canvas footwear.

Leather shoes

Dockers Men's Gordon Leather Oxford Dress Shoe,Black,10 M US

  1. Petroleum jelly or Vaseline works good on leather of all colors. This method is best for white and brown leather shoes. Treat the scuffs with Vaseline and then keep the shoes in a plastic bag.
  2. Nail polish remover without acetone is good with removing scuff marks on most types of leather. Use cotton Q-tip and apply promptly. Do not hold for long as nail polish may compromise the leather.
  3. Mineral oil or vegetable oil may be used to clean the scuffs without damaging the leather. Rub it on a small test area first to see if it alters the color. Take a clean soft piece of cloth, apply the oil on the surface of the shoe and rub gently until the scuff is completely disappeared. Take another clean soft cloth and wipe out the oil.
  4. Pencil eraser, microfiber cloth or terry cloth may be used to remove mild scuffs. Do not rub too hard.
  5. Toothpaste. Apply directly of the scuff and rub with a damp, soft cloth or clean toothbrush. This method is good for white patent leather.
  6. Magic eraser or any white melamine foam easily removes white scuff marks from black leather shoes.
  7. Professional leather cleaner may be the safest way to clean your shoes. Used regularly they also maintain your footwear from damages.
  8. Shoe polish. Many people wonder if shoe polish removes scuffs. The answer is no. It doesn’t remove them, but the right color of shoe polish may cover them totally. It works better if the scuff is lighter than the leather of your shoes. Sponge it on and let the shoes dry. This method is best if you have shoes with lots of heavy scuffs.
  9. Saddle soap is effective in cleaning any smooth leather. The leather becomes soft and maintains strength after use.

Synthetic leather shoes

Synthetic or faux/fake leather is cheaper than real leather but provides the same look and shine. It is a durable material and require less care. Normal cleaning does little for removing the scuffs and may damage the look of the shoe.

In addition to all the remedies of the real leather you can also try to wash the scuffs of the faux leather with rubbing alcohol. Soak soft cloth in a mixture and rub gently until the marks are gone. Wipe the alcohol off with a wet cloth afterwards.

Make sure that what you are cleaning are scuff marks. It is common for synthetic leather to be spray painted for a color. If the scuff is a color wearing off it might get worse if you try rubbing it. In this case you need to repaint the shoe with a fabric paint.

Patent leather shoes

Stacy Adams Men's Gala Tuxedo Oxford, Black Patent, 10.5 M US

Patent leather is a type of leather that has been coated in a special substance to make it shiny. Patent leather doesn’t require polishing, oiling or conditioning. Scrubbing the scuffs off may damage the surface and make the shoes fade.

Removing scuffs from patent leather is just like getting rid of them from real leather.

You can also try glass cleaner. It removes the scuffs and polishes the leather.

Suede and Nubuck shoes

Clarks Men's Bushacre 2 Chukka Boot,Sand Sable,9.5 M US

Suede and nubuck are soft grain leathers and must be cleaned with special care. There is one rule of thumb for suede shoes: clean them dry!

  1. Pencil eraser or clean magic eraser are simple remedies available at hand. The shoes should be dry. Rub an eraser gently over the discolored spots. Eraser lifts up the dirt from suede fibers.
  2. Suede or nubuck brush or bar are the best remedy to remove scuffs. These are essentially an eraser with a brush. They get the rubber bits off the shoes and can be used for a long time.
  3. Professional leather cleaner for suede and nubuck types of material are non-toxic gentle concentrates that work miracles on your shoes. Follow the instructions on the bottle for best result. Even special designed cleaner may damage your shoes by altering color, texture or feel. Make sure to test the mixture on a hidden spot before applying everywhere.

Rubber shoes

MuckBoots Edgewater Camp Hiking Shoe,Black,13 M US Mens

Rubber shoes are the easiest to clean the scuffs off. The process is the same as for leather shoes.

Canvas and fabric shoes

Nine West Women's Gilboy Canvas Ballet Flat, Light Natural Multi 9 M US

Scuffs on fabric shoes can’t be polished with a shoe polisher. You may be able to wash them, but if not here are some tips on how to get the scuffs off:

  1. Baking soda. Dry the shoe before cleaning. Scrub the scuffs with a brush and wet baking soda. Wash after scrubbing. Repeat if the scuffs remain.
  2. Liquid soap or any other household detergent. Scrub the shoe with a toothbrush and a mixture of water and soap. Wash afterwards.
  3. Simple pencil eraser or magic eraser. This may work if the scuff is not deep. Use fresh quality erasers without the color. Eraser may make the scuffs worse. Works best on sneakers and tennis shoes.

Vinyl and plastic footwear

Native Unisex Jefferson Fashion Sneaker,  Jiffy Black/Jiffy Black,5 US Men/7 US Women

  1. Pencil eraser or Mr. Clean magic eraser works good on small areas. Rub the scuff with an eraser until it goes off.
  2. Toothpaste, backing soda or dishwasher detergent are the remedies that can be used to scrub your plastic shoes and get rid of scuffs. Mix it with water and apply on a clean soft cloth rubbing the scuff with circular motion. Do not overdo and make a hole though! Wipe off and wash when finished.
  3. Nail polish remover or rubbing alcohol. Apply it on a clean cotton ball and wipe the scuff out. It will either work at once or won’t work at all so don’t push it. Suitable¬†for removing the scuff from vinyl shoes.
  4. Liquid soap or any washing remedy like dish detergent. Mix with some water, apply on a microfiber or terry cloth and scrub. Then dab to dry with a clean soft cloth.
  5. Shoe cleaner that suits for vinyl surface is an easy to use solution to deeply clean all stains and marks on vinyl shoes. Clean the shoes with a dump cloth. Shake the bottle and apply thoroughly. Rub until clean. Reapply if needed. Such product often repel snow and water as well and help keeping your shoes clean.

Apply mink oil on vinyl shoes after cleaning the marks so they will not scratch up so easily.