How to Remove Tar From Shoes

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Tar is a viscous, sticky substance derived from petroleum that is primarily used for road construction, roof repairs and waterproofing of surfaces.

Chunks of tar are very prone to sticking to the grooves of shoe soles and shoe surfaces.

These chunks of tar are very stubborn and if they are not removed immediately, they may cause unwanted black stains in the footwear.

There are several methods by which tar can be removed from shoes, many of which can be done at home very easily.

These methods are described in the following sections.

How Does Tar Gets Stuck on Shoes?

Tar, also known as bitumen or asphalt, is a material used popularly for road construction.

It is refined from petroleum/wood/coal and is a dark, flammable liquid.

In addition to road construction, tar is also used for roof repairs and waterproofing of surfaces.
Tar is known for being extremely sticky.

Chunks of tar can be present on the road which can get stuck in the grooves of shoe soles or get attached to the surface of the shoe.

Issues Caused by Tar on Shoes

Tar is a very sticky substance that can tend to get stuck onto shoes and is very difficult to remove. Moreover, tar can also cause black tar stains on shoes.

Tar is an extremely sticky substance that can easily get stuck onto shoe soles and surfaces. When stuck to the shoe, it is very difficult to remove it without a greasing agent.

In addition to getting stuck on to shoes, tar also spreads a black stain that is not very desirable in shoes.

The first step to do before removing tar from a shoe is to determine how much tar is stuck on it.

A small amount of tar can be removed easily, while other stubborn tar stains have to be removed using cleaners and other professional products.

Also, if the tar has been present on the shoe for a long period of time, then it might be more difficult to remove it.

Cleaning tar of shoes is a very easy task.

A common misconception is to wash shoes with water, which is a harmful way to remove tar stains as it only serves to further spread the stain.

Methods to Remove Tar from Shoes

removing tar from shoes

Some methods to remove tar from shoes are by using disposable knives, detergents, soaps, softeners, tar cleaners, baby oil, elbow grease or by freezing them.

Some methods to remove tar from shoes are given below.

1. Using blunt knives

Using blunt knives such as plastic knives and disposable knives, tar can be removed from a shoe. This method is usually employed in the early stages of tar getting stuck on a shoe.

The knife can be used to scrape the tar out of the shoe and to insert it into the grooves of the shoe to remove stuck tar.

Care must be taken to not make any cuts or gouge holes into the shoe.

This method is useful only for removing stuck chunks of tar on the shoe before it leaves a black stain on the shoe.

2. Using detergent/ soap and water

Dish detergent or soap can be taken and mixed with warm water. Then, an old toothbrush can be dipped into the water.

The toothbrush can then be scrubbed onto the shoe in a circular fashion to remove tar stains.

A toothbrush is preferable as it can go into the grooves in the tread patterns on the sole of the shoe where tar usually gets stuck.

Lastly, the shoe can be left to dry before using it.

3. Using softeners

Softeners are those materials that are used to nourish the shoe’s leather and soften it.

They are generally used for this purpose as they can easily soften tar, thus making it removable when scrubbed.

Some softeners that are available easily are olive oil, eucalyptus oil and other essential oils, petroleum jelly, peanut butter, lard, and margarine.

A substantial amount of softener can be applied on the tar stains and the shoe can be allowed to sit for an hour. After this, the softener can be washed off the shoe using shoes and water.

4. Using solvents

Certain solvents like kerosene, lighter fluid, WD-40, gasoline, and turpentine can be employed to remove tar from shoes.

However, these fluids are highly inflammable and must be handled with care.

The shoe can be soaked in the solvent for a while. The affected area can also be massaged to let the solvent penetrate into the shoe.

Certain solvents can react with the shoe’s material and cause unnecessary blemishes.

Hence, the solvent to be used has to be chosen carefully and is to be employed for stains that are not immediately visible on the top of the shoe.

Finally, the shoe can be washed with soap and water meticulously, to remove the solvent completely from the shoe.

5. Using baby oil

Baby oil is a good greasing agent. It can be applied to the tar chunks and stains.

The stuck tar chunks can now be easily removed using a blunt blade. The stains can be scrubbed off with soap and water.

Elbow grease can also be used to remove tar stains.

6. Freezing

The affected shoes can be left in the freezer overnight to remove tar stains.

Freezing helps in scrubbing the tar stains and chunks out of the shoe.

Ice cubes can be held onto the chunks of tar until it becomes brittle enough to be removed using a blade.

7. Using cleaners

There are several tar cleaners available in the market that can be used to remove tar stains from shoes without causing any unpleasant side-effects.

The cleaners work by greasing the tar, making it easy to remove.


Tar is a difficult material to remove if it gets stuck to your shoe’s sole.

The pitch-black color of the tar also makes it stand out, especially in light-colored shoes.

We hope the methods we mentioned above will prove helpful to you. But the best way is to just stay away from tar and prevent it from getting stuck in first place 🙂

Do share the methods you have tried to remove tar from your shoes!