How to Remove Nail Polish Stains from Shoes

Nail polish drops on shoes can cause damages which will end up making your footwear old, dirty and undesirable.

Following are the right steps and tricks to get rid of nail polish stains and spills from leather shoes, boots and Suede.

Leather Shoes and Boots

The very first step in getting rid of the polish is to test the leather. The test is carried out to make sure the leather will not become damaged in the course of removing the stain. Certain products like acetone may remove dye from the leather, so take extra caution when using these products.

The test is done at an inconspicuous area on the leather, then wait 24 hours to observe if the leather is damaged. If the leather seems fine, then carry on to treat the stain with the product.

Remove the stain with rubbing alcohol. This is because rubbing alcohol can cause less damage to leather than acetone, but it may dry out your leather, so take caution when using it. After you have tested it on part of the leather, soak cotton swabs in rubbing alcohol and gently dab the stain. As the cotton swabs soak up the stain, change them out with fresh ones until the stain has been removed.

Always take care not to oversaturate your stain with rubbing alcohol as this will more than likely damage your leather. You may also consider soaking your swabs in alcohol, but you should ensure that you do not make them to be so wet that they drip the alcohol on the rest of the surface

If rubbing alcohol was not effective to remove all of the stain, you should consider a harsher product. Apply non-acetone nail polish remover to the stain. Non-acetone remover should not bleach your leather, but you will still have to test your product first because it may also dry out your leather.

After you have checked your product on the leather, moisten a cotton swab with the nail polish remover, and carefully dab at the stain, making sure you don’t touch the parts of the leather unaffected by the stain.

Get off nail polish from leather shoes,
Nail polish removal from shoes before and after

Nail polish remover may take a lot more attempts, so in between each attempt to remove the stain, allow the leather to dry. Then, proceed to treat the stain until it is removed with a new cotton ball each time. The benefit of non-acetone nail polish remover is that it bleaches your leather, but it may not be powerful enough to remove the stain.

If non-acetone nail polish remover is not removing your stain, you can try acetone nail polish remover. This is a harsher product and will more than likely damage your leather, but the damage can be repaired very easily.

Apart from that, you can also create a mixture of white vinegar and olive oil. Using one part white vinegar and two parts olive oil, combine ingredients and then using a tooth brush or cleaning brush, gently scrub the stain with the mixture.

This will pick apart the nail polish and it should begin to flake off. Then, clean the mixture off of the leather with a paper towel and let dry. 

This is the safest nail polish stain remover as it works like leather conditioner and does not dry out or stain your leather. However, it may be the less effective in removing your stain.

Suede Shoes

How to clean nail polish off suede shoes
Suede Shoes

The procedure used here is quite easy and straight forward to follow:

  • First of all, carefully scrape excess with a dull knife or spatula. Mix a solution of mild soap in lukewarm water.
  • Swish to create a great volume of suds.
  • Apply only the foam with a sponge, but avoid spreading the stain.
  • Dry with a clean cloth.
  • If the polish has hardened, try gently rubbing an art gum eraser across it.
  • As a last resort, cautiously file the area with an emery board or a piece of very fine (most preferably grade 6/0-8/0) sandpaper.
  • As a thin layer of hide is removed, take a lot of care while working.


When applying nail polish, always ensure that you keep watch any drops landing on the shoes. It is better to do your nails perhaps outside away from your shoes

If you must use nail polish with your shoes, do remember to protect them

If possible catch the spilled varnish while it is wet. It is easier to deal with while in this state compared to when it is dry

See also

Originally posted 2021-04-02 05:45:00.

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