How to Get Tar off Shoes (Fast and Easy)

Ever stepped in tar and thought that your shoes were ruined forever? As it leaves discolored marks behind, this sticky substance might seem impossible to remove. However, by knowing how to get tar off shoes the right way, you can have them clean in no time.

Whether your shoes are suede, leather or canvas, we’ve lined up a few methods you can try.

Our guide includes:

  • Removing tar from leather shoes.
  • How to remove tar from shoe soles.
  • Removing tar from suede shoes.
  • How to remove tar from the side and top of the shoe.
  • How to get beach tar off shoes.


How to Get Tar off Shoes

Removing tar from the soles can be challenging, especially if your shoes have deep imprints or creases where the tar could be stuck. We have a quick and easy method to remove tar from shoes, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Plastic knife.
  • Paper towels.
  • Dish soap.
  • Washing-up bowl.
  • Old toothbrush.
  • WD-40.
  • Clean cloth.


The Method

  1. Using the plastic knife, begin scraping the tar off. Take care not to press too hard and gouge the sole of the shoe.
  2. Wipe the knife between scraping. Tar tends to go from shoe to blade and back again very easily, so keep a paper towel ready when doing this first step.
  3. Add some dish detergent and warm water in a bowl, give it a good swirl to mix well.
  4. Dip a toothbrush in the soapy solution and gently scrub. It will require a few tries, but keep going.
  5. If there’s any stubborn tar lingering, use the WD-40. Spray it onto the stained area and leave it to sit for a few minutes. Do a quick test in an inconspicuous area before using WD-40 to ensure it won’t cause damage. Watch for signs of discoloration.
  6. Use the toothbrush to scrub off the remaining tar.
  7. Once you’re happy that all the tar has gone, wipe over the area using a cloth dipped in soapy water. This will help to remove any final residue.


Pro Tips

  • Never use sharp objects to scrape the tar off as you’ll run the risk of damaging your shoe.
  • Don’t leave the tar until the following day. Remove it as quickly as possible for the best result.
  • Choose a degreasing dish detergent, such as Dawn, for fast results.


Here’s a helpful video that shows the steps above.


How to Get Beach Tar Off Shoes

Another common type of tar is beach tar, which is a natural seepage coming from the bottom of the ocean—also known as “rock oil.” It can be found across the globe; however, it’s particularly abundant along the coast of California.

clean beach tar from shoes

Stepping in beach tar can be frustrating. It can stain your skin and ruin a good pair of flip-flops—luckily, beach tar is easier to remove than the kind you find on the street.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Plastic bag.
  • Butter knife or plastic knife.
  • Vegetable oil.
  • Clean cloth.
  • Warm water.
  • Dish soap.


The Method

  1. Place the shoes in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer overnight.
  2. Once the tar is frozen, you can easily scrape or peel it off.
  3. If there are any stains left on your shoes, dampen a cloth with vegetable oil and rub the area.
  4. In a bowl, mix water and two squirts of dish soap.
  5. Dampen a cloth in the bowl and wipe the shoes clean.


Pro Tips

  • As beach tar has aquatic connections, it’s often saturated with water. This is why when you freeze it, it becomes brittle and easy to manage.
  • If the stains are stubborn, you can scrub them using a small brush similar to what we used in the first method.


How to Remove Pine Tar from Shoes

Other kinds of tar include pine tar, which is a natural substance produced by trees as a defense against insects. This type of tar doesn’t contain petroleum, but it’s still a pain when you get it on your shoes.

One easy way to remove pine tar is by using a product such as Pine Resin Remover. This type of product is meant for erasing this tree sap from car surfaces. Do a small test in an inconspicuous area of your shoe before applying to larger areas. Look out for any discolorations.

If you don’t want to use a pine tar remover, here’s another effective method.

What you’ll need:

  • Plastic bag.
  • Rubbing alcohol.
  • Plastic knife.
  • Paper towel or cotton balls.


The Method

  1. Start by popping the shoes in a plastic bag and placing them in the freezer for a couple of hours or overnight.
  2. Once the tar is frozen and hard, scrape it off using a plastic knife.
  3. Apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball or paper towel and dab the stain. Keep going until the stain is gone.


Pro Tips

  • If you don’t want to put your shoes in the freezer, you can fill a plastic bag with ice cubes and freeze the tar this way.
  • Make sure the tar is frozen solid before you begin to scrape it off. If it’s still sticky, it will be harder to remove and it might spread to other areas.
  • Avoid overworking the tar. This can cause it to soften, which means you’ll have to freeze the shoes again.
  • You can also use WD-40, mayonnaise, peanut butter or any other oily substance to remove the tar. However, they can leave greasy stains on the shoes.


How to Get Tar off the Side or Top of the Shoe

Although you’re more likely to get tar on the sole of your shoe, it does, at times, find its way to the upper area.

During windy or rainy days, black tar on the road mixes with roadside dust. It’s then able to splatter all over your white canvas shoes, hence the tiny black specks that make our shoes look filthy.

Removing tar from the side or top of the shoes can be more difficult—depending on the material. Suede, for example, requires special care. Therefore, we’ve split the following step-by-steps into what the shoe is made of.


Removing Tar from Leather Shoes

which way to Get Tar off Shoes

Here’s what you’ll need:


The Method

  1. If there are any large blobs of tar, use a plastic knife to scrape it off.
  2. Take a paper towel and apply a small amount of tar remover onto it.
  3. First, test the remover out on a small inconspicuous area of the shoe leather. Check for any discoloration or signs of damage. If nothing becomes apparent, continue with the next step.
  4. Begin to wipe the tar away gently. Avoid over-saturating the leather.
  5. Once the leather is clean, wipe the shoe down with a soft cloth to remove any residue from the remover.
  6. Apply a small amount of leather conditioner to bring moisture and shine back to the leather.


Pro Tips

  • Always be gentle with leather, although it’s a durable material, you don’t want to scratch it with a sharp tool.
  • Tar is relatively easy to remove from properly-maintained leather due to the slick surface. This is also why it’s essential to take good care of a new pair of leather shoes by using shoe shine cream. You’ll eventually create a protective layer for the leather. We’ve put together the top 6 best boot polish on the market for you.
  • As automobile tar remover doesn’t contain petroleum or other chemicals that could damage car paint, it’s considered safe to use on leather. Always test the product before applying it to your shoes.
  • If you don’t want to use a synthetic remover, try vegetable or baby oil.


Removing Tar from Suede Shoes

Get Tar off Shoes which it is white

Here’s what you’ll need:


The Method

  1. Start by scraping any larger clumps of tar by using a plastic knife. Follow the natural grain of the suede to prevent the tar from spreading into the fibers.
  2. Use a suede brush to brush away any remaining tar specks.
  3. If tar remains, spray or apply a small amount of leather cleaner to the area. Gently scrub using the brush until the stains are gone.
  4. Wipe any excess cleaner and tar away using a cloth or paper towel.
  5. Allow the shoes to dry thoroughly.


Pro Tips

  • Before wearing suede shoes for the first time, consider applying a water-repellent spray. This will protect the suede material from water damage and it will make it much easier to clean the shoes.
  • Never saturate suede as it’s sensitive to excess moisture. Use only small amounts of cleaner.


Removing Tar from Canvas Shoes

learn how to Get Tar off Shoes

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Plastic knife.
  • Lubricant, such as baby oil.
  • Paper towel.
  • Cotton ball.
  • Dish detergent.
  • Warm water.
  • Empty spray bottle.


The Method

  1. Begin to scrape off any large clumps of tar using the plastic knife.
  2. Apply a small amount of baby oil to a cotton ball and dab the stains.
  3. Use a clean paper towel to wipe off the tar and oil.
  4. Mix two squirts of dish detergent in a spray bottle with warm water—give it a good shake to mix well.
  5. Spray the tar stained areas on the canvas shoes and allow it to sit for a couple of minutes.
  6. Use a clean towel to wipe the shoes down. Avoid using a brush since the bristles could damage the canvas material.
  7. Pop the shoes in the washer on a cold, low spin cycle. If the shoes are white, add a sprinkle of OxiClean.


Pro Tips

  • Always pre-treat the tar, as shown in the steps above, before putting them in the washer. If you attempt to machine wash them without removing the tar first, you could risk permanently staining the shoes.
  • If possible, wash the shoes alone in the washer. The tar can cause the water to become really filthy, which could alter your laundry.


Frequently Asked Questions

How to Get Tar off Bottom of Sneakers

Sneakers are generally made with rubber soles; therefore, you can follow our first method to remove tar.

Start by scraping off as much excess as you can. Then, use warm water, a degreasing dish soap and some elbow grease to scrub the rest away. If there’s any tar remaining, finish off with some WD-40.


How Do You Remove Blacktop From Shoes?

As with tar, it’s important to get rid of it as quickly as possible. Once the asphalt is gone, you’ll need to know how to remove the asphalt stains from shoes.

If it’s only on the soles, use the first method we discussed. However, if the stains are further up on the shoe itself, use an appropriate approach that suits the type of material.


How Do You Remove Sticky Residue From Rubber Soles?

A quick way to remove any sticky residue from rubber soles is by moistening a cloth with ammonia or window cleaner—such as Windex. Simply wipe the sticky rubber sole with the cloth.

If the sticky residue persists, mix equal amounts of water and baking soda to create a spreadable paste. Apply it to the sole using a cloth or paper towel, allow it to sit for a few minutes then rinse until clean.


Does Vinegar Remove Tar?

Mixing vinegar with water and dish detergent can remove tar. The high acidic levels in vinegar work effectively at cutting through grease, including road tar. However, you shouldn’t use pure vinegar on synthetic rubber as it can damage over time.


A Sticky Note

Stepping in tar is no fun. It leaves a sticky, black residue behind that could leave you shopping for new footwear. However, as we’ve seen, you can restore your kicks if you know how to get tar off shoes the right way.

Don’t forget, it’s not just the soles that can be a casualty of tar, it can also leave nasty stains on the shoe itself. It’s also important to take extra care when dealing with suede since this material is sensitive to excess moisture—so keep any cleaner light.

Do you have any shoes with tar on them? Now you have the know-how to try to remove it. We’d love to hear how you got on in the comments below. Moreover, please share this article with anyone who might also benefit from it.


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