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How to Remove Shoe Polish from Carpet

A person leaving dirty shoe prints on the beige carpet.

Whether black or brown, shoe polish can be a gooey, sticky mess to get out of carpet. Removing a dark, waxy shoe polish stain from your carpet can seem a daunting task, but fortunately there are a number of treatment methods that can work well to lift this stain from your carpet.

You have an important presentation tomorrow, and it’s important to look your absolute best. For that, you’ll need to prepare more than just your material; you need to select the proper attire.

You select a stunning “power tie” and iron your suit the night before. All that’s left is to shine your shoes, which are looking a little drab in comparison to the rest of your sharp suit.

You pull the shoe polish out of the closet and get to work. In your haste, you drip a small amount of shoe polish onto your bedroom carpet.

Not only are you stressed and pressed for time, but how do you remove shoe polish from carpet?

Whether black or brown, shoe polish can be a gooey, sticky mess to get out of carpet.

Shoe polish is made using a number of ingredients, many of which can be a bear to remove from carpets on their own, let alone when combined. Wax, turpentine, lanolin, gum, and various dyes can all present a messy challenge for carpets.

Removing a dark, waxy shoe polish stain from your carpet can seem a daunting task, but fortunately there are a number of treatment methods that can work well to lift this stain from your carpet.

Related: How to get more stains out of carpet

Scrape away the excess

Gloved hands scrubbing the carpet with a brush.

If you’ve dropped a blob of shoe polish on your carpet, the good news is, you still have time to remove most of it before it has a chance to set into your carpet fibers.

The first step toward successfully removing shoe polish from your carpet is to take a dull butter knife, or another blunt, flat object, and begin by gently scraping away any excess product from your carpet.

Be sure to perform a gentle scraping motion, avoiding pressing the polish deeper into your carpet, as this can cause the stain to set further and may be even more difficult to remove.

As you scrape away the polish, wipe it off the knife and onto a plate or a cloth to remove any excess from the knife. This helps to avoid rubbing the product back into the carpet and helps to prevent you from spreading it around to a larger area of your carpet.

Just be careful none of the loose polish drops to the floor when you remove the plate or cloth, causing another stain in another spot. Discard of it carefully.

Blot the stain

A close look at a woman with gloves cleaning the carpet with a brush.

Next, after you have removed as much of the shoe polish as possible through gentle scraping, take a white or light colored soft cloth or paper towel and carefully blot the affected area.

You should avoid pressing down firmly onto the stain, as this may push the product deeper into your carpet’s fibers.

Also avoid rubbing or scrubbing. As natural as this motion may seem for stain removal, it can actually make your stain worse, pushing it deeper into the carpet, as well as widening the area affected by the stain.

It may work well to begin blotting the stain from the outside and work your way inward, as this may help to prevent the stain from spreading further throughout your carpet.

Continue to gently blot at the stain using a white cloth, taking care to use clean sections of the cloth once product has been absorbed onto it, and discontinue once you no longer see the dark polish appearing on the light cloth.

Both blotting and scraping the stain are likely to prove very helpful in removing a significant amount of shoe polish from your carpet, but they may not be sufficient to vanquish the stain entirely.

For that, you will need to apply some treatment to the stain. If you’re looking to avoid chemical carpet cleaners, there are a number of DIY options that you can use to treat your shoe polish stain with products you likely have on hand around your home.

Dish Detergent

A close up of a hand scrubbing the carpet with a soapy sponge.

One of the most effective – and convenient – methods to treat a shoe polish stain is through the use of dish detergent. Using a non-bleach dishwashing detergent on a shoe polish stain can work to lift the stain from the carpet without posing much risk to your carpet itself.

You will want to avoid using a detergent containing bleach, and you should not use dishwasher fluid. Some people may want to use a clear dishwashing detergent, rather than one containing dyes, as there is some potential it could leave a colored stain on your carpet.

Combine one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent with two cups of warm water into a spray bottle and apply a small amount to the area affected by the stain. Then, taking a white, soft cloth, gently blot at the stain, using a new portion of the cloth with each blot until the stain is no longer transferred to the cloth or towel.

Reapply the solution as necessary and repeat the process.

Be careful not to scrub the stain affected area, as this can rub the stain deeper into the carpet. Using dishwashing detergent will also cause a lot of suds to form, so you want to limit your motion to avoid the spot become too sudsy.

This method can be quite effective on its own, but if you find some portion of the stain still remains, there are a number of additional methods to choose from.

Once you are finished using this method, take a cold, damp cloth or sponge and blot at the spot until all of the detergent has been absorbed. Leaving detergent in the carpet will leave it looking drab and will only collect dirt and bacteria over time, causing an additional stain.

White Vinegar

A bottle of white vinegar beside a set of cleaning materials.

Another potential option to fight a shoe polish stain is the use of white vinegar. White vinegar has great, natural stain-fighting properties, both lifting the stain and lightening it, as well – a great option for a dark stain like shoe polish.

Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with ¼ cup of warm water into a spray bottle and apply a small amount to the area of the stain.

Allow it to set for 15-30 minutes.

Take a white cloth or towel and blot at the spot, reapplying the mixture as needed.

This should help to lift the difficult stain from your carpet, while also lightening it.

If you’re looking to take this method up a notch to fight your stain even more powerfully, you can combine a ¼ cup of white vinegar, one tablespoon of dish detergent, and two cups of warm water and repeat the process detailed above to apply the treatment to the stain.

Continue to apply whichever mixture you prefer to the stain-affected area until the stain has been removed.

Take care to thoroughly rinse the area of the treatment solution, leaving none in your carpet. Not only can this collect dirt over time, but the vinegar may also cause discoloration to your carpet.

Hydrogen Peroxide

A small bottle of equate brand hydrogen peroxide with cotton balls.

While either of the two methods shared above will go a long way to addressing your shoe polish stain concerns, you may find that, despite your efforts, it is hard to completely lift the remaining stain.

One additional option is to apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to the area.

Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent, which can make it great for use when lightening a dark stain like that left by shoe polish.

But hydrogen peroxide can also cause damage to your carpet if you are not careful, and it may not be appropriate for use on certain types of carpets. Always check with your carpet’s manufacturer or retailer before using any stain fighting solution to ensure it will be appropriate for use on your carpet.

If you do elect to use hydrogen peroxide to treat your carpet, combine one part hydrogen peroxide with three parts water (usually one teaspoon hydrogen peroxide will suffice – you don’t want to use too much).

Use a spray bottle to gently apply to the stain, or apply some solution to a white cloth and use it to blot the stain.

Once the hydrogen peroxide solution has been applied, allow it to set for several minutes to begin absorbing and lightening the stain.

If the area of the stain is exposed to a significant amount of natural light, you may want to cover it with a towel or cloth while it sets, to avoid the sunlight having a bleaching effect on your carpet when it reacts with the hydrogen peroxide.

Then, gently dab at the stain until removed.

Use cold water to gently press and remove any remainder of the hydrogen peroxide solution once the stain is gone.

Avoid using hydrogen peroxide on your stain if you have previously used any product containing bleach, as this can be dangerous when it reacts with hydrogen peroxide.

Some will also combine hydrogen peroxide with vinegar, dish detergent, and water for additional stain-fighting action.

Ammonia

A small bottle of ammonia with child-proof lock.

Another effective method to fight your shoe polish stain is to use ammonia. This should never be attempted if you have applied any bleaching product, such as chlorine bleach, as ammonia and chlorine bleach can produce dangerous fumes.

Ammonia can work well for use on a carpet to lighten a stain, and if you’re still struggling to remove that final pesky shoe polish hue, you may find it useful to give it a try.

Because it can have a bleaching effect on your carpet, however, you may want to test a small, non-visible spot on your carpet first before applying it to the stain affected area.

Begin by combining one tablespoon of ammonia, one tablespoon of dishwashing detergent, and two cups of warm water into a spray bottle. You don’t need a large amount of either ingredient for them to work well.

Apply a small amount to the area of the stain and allow to sit a few moments before beginning to dab the stain with a soft, white cloth, taking care not to rub it into the carpet.

Repeat this application and process until the stain has lifted.

Once complete, be sure to rinse the area thoroughly using a clean cloth or towel with cold water, making sure to remove the ammonia and detergent solution entirely, as leaving it on could damage your carpet, cause dirt to collect, and expose your household to ammonia.

WD-40

WD-40 Multi-Use Product with SMART STRAW SPRAYS 2 WAYS, 12 OZ
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As counter-intuitive as it may sound, WD-40 can also prove an effective stain-fighter. This product is designed to dry out moisture, and as a result, it may work well for absorbing the moisture in your stain.

Spray a small amount of WD-40 to your shoe polish stain and leave it to set in for a few minutes, allowing it to draw out some of the moisture.

Take a clean, dry cloth, towel, or paper towel and blot at the stain, continuing to use clean areas of the towel until no stain appears on the towel and the stain has been removed from the carpet.

Once the stain has been removed, it’s important to get all the remaining WD-40 from your carpet.

Take a clean towel or cloth, soak it in cold water, and blot at the area where you applied the WD-40 until all of the product has been removed.

Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing Alcohol)

A bottle of Green Cross brand isopropyl alcohol.

Isopropyl alcohol, or rubbing alcohol, can also be an effective way to treat a stubborn stain. However, when it comes to the combination of carpet and rubbing alcohol, it’s important to be very careful.

If rubbing alcohol penetrates too deeply into your carpet’s fibers, it can destroy the adhesive attaching your carpet to the floor and leave it damaged.

As a result, it’s probably a good idea to avoid this step unless you’ve exhausted all of your other options, or if it’s the only product you have on hand.

Take a small amount of rubbing alcohol and apply to the end of a clean towel or cloth. Repeat the blotting motion detailed in the above steps on the area of the stain as needed, until stain is lifted.

Take care not to over-saturate the cloth with rubbing alcohol – just one drop will suffice – and do not press it deep into the carpet. Only blot at the surface.

Once you are finished with the solution, take a cloth dipped in cold water and dab at the stain until all of the rubbing alcohol is removed from the carpet to avoid over-exposure or damage to the carpet.

Nail Polish Remover

A small bottle of nail polish remover.

Another alternative for use on shoe polish carpet stains is a non-acetone based nail polish remover. Nail polish has a similar chemical composition to shoe polish remover, and as a result, it may react well to lift the shoe polish from your carpet.

Apply a small amount of this nail polish remover to a clean, white cloth, and repeat the process as detailed under rubbing alcohol above.

You will want to be careful to avoid using too much nail polish remover and you should take great care to rinse the nail polish remover from the carpet once you are finished treating the stain.

Finishing touches

Regardless of which stain treatment method you select from above, it’s important to clean the area thoroughly following the treatment of the stain.

Rinse the area using a cold, damp cloth until the treatment product has been fully removed. Take care not to over-saturate the area, as this can be difficult to dry, and dry quickly, causing mold or mildew to grow.

Dry using a soft, dry cloth, and you may also find it useful to use a gentle fan on low. Some may elect use of a wet-dry vacuum.

Once the area is dry, run over the carpet with a vacuum cleaner, as this will help to smooth out the carpet and restore its natural fluff.

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