Revitalize Your Favorite Shoes With These Scuff-Removing Hacks

Stylish shoes are the grace note that makes or breaks an outfit, whether you're slipping on a pair of versatile ballet flats, killer stilettos, or chunky-chic Doc Martens. But shopping for the perfect pair can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. So when you do find holy grail shoes that are both cute and comfortable, it's important to do anything you can to extend their lifespan.


Fortunately, some easy shoe maintenance can help ensure that your favorite shoes last longer and look better. From waterproofing suede pumps to stuffing your knee-high boots with shape-preserving inserts, a little shoe care can make all the difference in their look and feel. But even the most carefully maintained shoes fall prey to scuffs and scratches from daily wear. And crisp styles like those tough-to-keep-clean white leather shoes show grime and damage extra quickly. So if you want to keep your shoes in prime condition, how can you remove these scuffs at home?

Apply baking soda and vinegar

An all-time favorite of cleaning aficionados, baking soda is a great place to start when you're facing down pesky shoe scuffs. Thanks to its structure at the atomic level, baking soda naturally breaks down scuff-causing compounds like grease and dirt and is especially effective when combined with vinegar (via Live Science). So if you're trying to keep a pair of kicks sparkly clean, search your pantry for baking soda and vinegar.


Start by mixing baking soda and hot water. About a tablespoon of each should be sufficient. Mix thoroughly until a paste forms, then apply this paste directly to your shoes, targeting the scuff marks. Rub the paste in buffing, circular motions over the scuffs using a clean cloth, then spray the paste with vinegar. Finally, use a second clean cloth to wipe the paste off and reveal your scuff-free shoes. If any stubborn residue remains, dampen the cloth slightly to help wipe it away.

Rub your shoes with an eraser

Dealing with scuffs on vinyl or patent leather shoes? Believe it or not, the humble eraser is another classic scuff-fighting hack, so it may be worth a trip to the stationery store or a quick rummage through your kid's backpack. Look for a standalone eraser, rather than one at the end of a pencil — you'd be surprised how quickly those pencil erasers disappear. And ideally, choose a white eraser over a pink one. White erasers will leave less residue behind as you clean.


Once you have your eraser in hand, it's simply a matter of buffing scuffs away. A gentle polishing motion with your eraser will quickly help remove scuffs from patent leather and vinyl. Erasers can sometimes be used to ease scuffing on suede shoes, as well — just be sure to brush away any dirt first (via The Manual).

Dab scuffed shoes with petroleum jelly

With petroleum jelly's on-again-off-again popularity in beauty circles, chances are good that you have a tub of Vaseline on hand for chapped lips or skin slugging. According to Favored Leather, this multipurpose product can also help your patent leather shoes look clean and shiny. With a clean cloth, apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the scuffed or dull area, then gently rub it into the leather. Dampen a second clean cloth and use it to wipe away all the petroleum jelly so your shoes are left clean, dry, and looking better than ever.


Pro tip: petroleum jelly can also be used to breathe new life into other leather and patent leather goods, such as purses and jackets, adding shine and suppleness while reducing cracking. Just don't use on rawhide leather, and always use a clean cloth when applying (via Lifehacker).

Try nail polish remover

Nail polish remover is another bathroom must-have with surprising cleaning potential. Also known as acetone, nail polish remover can help you remove scuffs and stains on everything from concrete floors to coffee mugs (via Bob Vila). But it's not all heavy-duty home projects — nail polish remover can also be used to refresh delicate leather goods like shoes and handbags. It even works on sneakers, helping remove those stubborn black marks on rubber.


To clean your shoes with nail polish remover, apply a moderate amount of remover to a cotton ball and rub it into the scuff marks with steady, circular motions (via Who What Wear). You should see the cotton ball darken as the scuff mark vanishes, leaving your leather shoes bright and restored.

Banish scuffs with cleaning detergents

Last but not least, laundry detergent and dish soap can be useful allies in your fight against scuffs. But don't toss your shoes in the wash — this "can affect the shape and structural integrity of the shoe," according to Tide Cleaners. As with other tips on this list, using detergent instead calls for a topical, spot-clean approach.


Begin by mixing a few drops of mild liquid detergent or dish soap with a little bit of lukewarm water. Then use a clean cloth to apply this soapy mixture to your shoes, wiping gently. Rinse the cloth out and then wipe the shoes again to remove any lingering suds and dirt (via Tide Cleaners).