5 Effective Ways To Get Paint off Leather Shoes and Boots

Shoes can be like best friends. You have them with you all the time. Shoes go with you to all your favorite places and keep your feet safe.

Therefore, nothing is worse than spilling something on your favorite shoes and feeling as if you may have ruined them. 

remove paint from leather shoes

Photo by Coty Schwabe licensed under CC 2.0

One of the hardest things to remove from leather is paint. If you have spilled paint on your leather shoes, you may feel like all hope is lost.

However, we are here to guide you through removing that stubborn paint from your leather shoes and boots. You can bring your shoes back to their former glory in no time.

How-to Steps

You can remove paint from leather in a few different ways:

  • Using cooking or baby oil
  • Using Vaseline
  • Using fingernail polish
  • Using rubbing alcohol
  • Using soap, water, and a soft brush

The most important thing to remember when removing paint from leather is: do not rub the paint into the leather. In all of the methods we are about to cover, use a dapping or swiping motion. Rubbing the paint will just work it further into the leather and cause permanent damage.

Now that we have covered that important piece of information, it is time to cover the steps for each method.

Cooking or Baby Oil

  • Take a cotton swab or cloth and dip it into some oil.
  • Lightly dab the paint with the oil.
  • Let the oil set on the paint for a few minutes so the oil can penetrate, hydrate and loosen the paint.
  • Once the oil has had time to soak, use your fingernail or a dull butter knife and gentle peel scrape off the paint.
  • You may have to repeat the steps a few times to get all of the paint removed
  • If the oil leaves a dark color on the leather, wash gently with soap and water, and polish the shoe.

Vaseline

Using Vaseline works in the same way as using oil. The Vaseline moistens the paint so it peels off.

  • Dab some petroleum jelly onto the paint.
  • Let the petroleum jelly sit to soak in for a few minutes.
  • Peel the paint off using your fingernail or a dull butter knife.
  • Wash area with soap and water and polish the shoe to remove any excess Vaseline.

Fingernail Polish

Fingernail polish is great for removing all sorts of things. However, it can be damaging. You will want to use as little nail polish remover as possible.

  • Dip a cotton swab or cloth into the fingernail polish remover.
  • Gently dab the polish remover onto the paint.
  • Keep dabbing until the paint begins to come off onto the cloth or cotton swab.
  • You may need to use several cotton swabs or pieces of cloth in order to remove all of the paint.
  • You can gently wipe the paint off as well, just remember, do not rub.
  • Nail polish remover may remove the dye on some leather shoes, so be sure to polish the shoe after you have removed all of the paint.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol works in a similar way to nail polish remover but is not as harsh on leather and is less likely to remove the dye on the leather. However, alcohol can dry out the leather, so using a leather conditioner, like Chamberlin’s Leather Milk, after removing the paint is very important to keeping your shoes looking great.

*note that Chamberlin’s claims their product can remove paint from leather as well as condition after removal

  • Dip a cotton swab or cloth into the alcohol.
  • Dap gently onto the paint.
  • Gently wipe away paint.
  • Apply the leather conditioner.

Soap and Water

Suggesting to you that you try good ol’ soap and water may seem silly, but you would be surprised how many people never think to try it. Soap and water work well to remove paint, especially if the paint is not completely dried.

We recommend using saddle soap or Dawn Dish Soap because they are effective but gentle. Warm water usually works best and soft bristled brush.

  • Dip a cloth into warm water and work into the soap to create a lather.
  • Apply the warm water and soap lather to the paint on the shoe by dabbing.
  • You can also gently place the soapy cloth onto the paint and let it soak in for a few seconds. The goal is to moisten it enough to loosen the paint.
  • Take your soft bristled brush and gently swipe across the paint. Do not use a circular motion because that will work the paint into the leather instead of wiping it off.
  • Keep dabbing and swiping until all of the paint is gone.
  • Allow the shoe to dry.
  • Apply a leather conditioner.

We found this video that demonstrates using both soap and water and oil to remove paint from a leather jacket. However, the demonstrator sometimes uses a circular scrubbing motion, which we do not recommend.


Final Thoughts

The type of paint on the shoe can also determine which method works best.

Using the oil method will not work as well if it is an oil-based paint as it would on an acrylic paint.

High-gloss paints also tend to remove easier than matte finish paints.

how to remove paint from shoes
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Photo by Ylanite Koppens licensed under CC0 1.0

As a last resort, you can use paint stripper to remove paint from a leather shoe or boot. However, paint strippers can be very abrasive and will most likely remove the leather dye.

You will have to immediately wash the paint stripper off the shoe after the paint is removed so it does not soak into the leather. You will also have to apply at least one (maybe more) layers of polish to cover where the paint stripper removed any color.

There are different brands of leather cleaners out there that claim to remove paint, but they are more expensive than the methods we listed and many people do not get great results. All of the methods we have listed here are fairly cost-effective and easy to do.

We know you love your shoes and we hope this article has helped you in your efforts to keep your shoes looking great.

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