The Top Five Ways to Get Scuffs Out of Your Shoes, According to an Expert

We’ve all experienced that heartbreaking moment when you accidentally scuff up your favorite pair of shoes.

While many DIY solutions can help work out scuffs, you shouldn’t trust everything you read on the internet. So we asked an expert: Stephen Oberhauser, one of the owners of California-based shoe retail and repair shop The Cobblery.

His biggest piece of advice? Avoid dish soap or laundry detergent. The cobbler explained that many detergents and soaps can bleach the color out of your shoes, especially if the product contains bleach or bleach alternatives. Even for white footwear, these ingredients break down the fibers of shoes and, according to Clorox, “stains caused by undiluted bleach are not reversible.”

To avoid damaging your footwear further, take a look at the tips and tricks Oberhauser suggests. And remember: The best practice is to always test any product on a smaller portion of the shoe first before applying it all over.

For Smooth Leathers: Shoe Polish

Any footwear fan knows that the best thing to keep handy at home is a quality bottle of shoe polish. Oberhauser agreed that for fabrics like leather with a surface-level scuff, this should be your first line of attack.

shoe polish
CREDIT: Amazon
kiwi shoe polish
CREDIT: Amazon

For Patent Leather: Nail Polish Remover

When you scuff up your patent leather styles and don’t have shoe polish handy, nail polish will do the trick, says Oberhauser. The same ingredients that allow you to wipe away nail polish will also help remove marks. Just be sure to pour it onto a paper towel first, not directly onto the shoe.

opi nail polish remover
CREDIT: Amazon
mineral fusion nail polish remover
CREDIT: Amazon

For Rubber, Suede & Leather: Magic Erasers

Sneakerheads, this one is for you. Oberhauser said a surprising solution to scuffed soles on athletic shoes, white sneakers or a shinier fabric is none other than Mr. Clean Magic Eraser and similar products. The soft texture is gentle on leathers and rubbers, and it helps to combat scuffs and scrapes on your favorite kicks.

mr clean magic eraser
CREDIT: Amazon
stk magic eraser
CREDIT: Amazon

For Vinyl: Cleaning Sprays

Oberhauser suggested that cleaning products normally used to wipe down windows or countertops are also handy for cleaning your vinyl footwear. His top choices are 409 and Windex, but only on shinier materials because it can damage suede and unfinished leathers.

windex spray
CREDIT: Amazon
409 spray
CREDIT: Amazon

For Suede & Nubuck Leather: White Vinegar & Baking Soda

“White vinegar has a lot of quality cleaning properties and, when mixed with baking soda, it makes a great paste that can be used and then brushed off clean suede and nubuck,” explained Oberhauser. It may leave your shoe smelling a bit like vinegar after, so it’s best to invest in a shoe deodorizer as well if you choose this technique.

heinz white vinegar
Heinz white distilled vinegar.
CREDIT: Amazon
arm and hammer baking soda
CREDIT: Amazon

All products featured have been independently selected and curated by our editorial team. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn commission and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes. 

Want more?

How to Waterproof Leather Shoes, According to a Shoe Repair Expert

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content