How to Get Paint Off Leather Shoes

leather shoes

Few things are more annoying than getting paint on your favorite pair of leather shoes. While some people would retire their kicks for use on grungy jobs, you don’t necessarily need to abandon all hope of restoring them to their former beauty. It is possible to remove paint safely from leather shoes and boots. We offer a few different methods that can help you to avoid throwing them away or putting them in the work shoe category.

How to remove fresh paint from leather shoes

According to Hunker, these techniques require care for leather shoes. It’s the only way to avoid permanent damage. It’s a matter of finding the proper method. If the paint is still fresh, it’s far easier to remove. As soon as you notice a stain on the shoes you should pad the spot with a clean rag. You can often remove fresh paint from smooth leather shoes with a clean rag if it has not yet dried. Apply a little water to the paint stain using a cotton swab, and wipe off the paint with the cloth.

How to remove dried paint from leather shoes

If the paint on your leather shoes has already dried, it’s going to take a little more effort to remove it. The best way to remove the paint is to soak a clean cloth in warm water, then place it over the paint stain. Allow it to lie over the stain for five minutes. The moisture and heat will loosen the paint to make it easier to remove. Next, wipe the remaining paint from the leather, or peel it off slowly. For remnants of the paint that won’t come off, use a small amount of acetone or nail polish remover. This trick usually completes the job nicely. Use a cotton swab or pad to loosen the remaining paint, then wipe it away.

Finishing steps

It’s good to follow up with a quality leather cleaning product after lifting the paint from your leather shoes. Next, use a leather conditioner. This product will help smooth out any dull patches that happened when you removed the stain. In most cases, this will restore the shoes to their original beauty before they become stained.

Other methods for removing paint from leather shoes

If you’ve speckled your leather shoes with a good amount of paint, you can use the method discussed above, or check out our other effective methods for removing paint from leather shoes.

Cooking oil/Baby oil

Cooking and baby oil are both remarkable substances for loosening dried paint from leather shoes and boots. According to BootMood Foot, oils can quickly lift paint stains. Here are the easy-to-follow steps to preserve the integrity of the leather beneath as you loosen and remove stubborn paint stains.

1. Dip a cotton swab or cloth in oil

2. Dab the oil on the paint spot(s).

3. Allow the oil to set on the paint stains for five minutes. This hydrates and loosens the paint and gets in between the leather and the paint.

4. Use a dull butter knife or your fingernail to scrape off the paint. Repeat these steps until all of the paint is removed

5. Follow up with a gentle leather cleaner to remove any dark colors left by the oil, then polish the shoe.

Rubbing Alcohol

You can also use rubbing alcohol to remove paint from leather shoes. It’s not as harsh on the material as acetone, and it isn’t as caustic for dyed leather.

1. Apply rubbing alcohol directly to the paint stain(s) with a cotton swab or a clean cloth

2. Allow to set on the stain for a few seconds, and reapply a few times to allow the alcohol to penetrate deeply into the stain.

3. Scrape away the paint with a fingernail or dull butter knife.

4. Condition the leather with a quality leather conditioner. It’s important to note that rubbing alcohol dries out the leather and this could lead to discoloration if you don’t immediately treat the area with leather conditioner.


Acetone is a fingernail polish remover. While this is a substance that can cause damage to the leather, it can be used in small amounts if done carefully. It’s more powerful for removing paint from leather than alcohol, but it dries the material out more and it can remove the coloring of dyed leather shoes according to How to Clean ).

1. Dip a cotton swab in acetone and apply directly to the paint stain.

2. Allow the acetone to set on the paint for a few seconds, then using clean swabs, begin removing the paint.

3. Repeat the process until all the paint is removed from the sneaker, using clean swabs with more acetone. Try to avoid getting the acetone on any other parts of the shoes.

4. Gently wash the cleaned area of the shoe with leather cleaner, and follow up with a leather conditioner.


If you have Vaseline lying around the house, it works on the same principle as oil. Simply dab Vaseline onto the paint stain with a cotton swab. Allow it to sit for five minutes for penetration. The paint will loosen from the leather so you should be able to peel it off. You can use your fingernail or a dull butter knife. After the paint stain is removed, use a grease-busting yet mild detergent with water to remove the vaseline. If there is a dark spot, use a leather cleaner and follow up with a leather conditioner.

Final thoughts

Getting paint on your favorite leather shoes is disappointing, but it’s not necessarily a reason to throw them away. Most of the time, paint stains on leather shoes can be removed quickly and easily. It just takes a few minutes of your time and a little know-how about how to do it the right way. Follow our simple tips for restoring your leather shoes to their original beauty.

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