How to Get Tar off Shoes

Ryan Brown
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The Methods

You need a few tools firstly, and some soft soap and a clean and absorbent cloth to rub it out.

You should first try to brush it off with a stiff brush, but if it still isn’t coming off, then you should start the simple cleaning process to get rid of it.

Mix warm water, dishwashing liquid and the oil-free coolant in equal parts together in a tough plastic bucket.

Then, sponge the shoe with the mix, and try to get the black stain off, using your thumb.

If it’s still not off, you can try using a little more of the mix, but that will mess up the integrity of the material.

After all of this, you should put the shoes in the sun for a few hours, let them dry.

Dish Detergent and WD-40

1 Remove loose grease and grime with a detergent-water mix. Dampen your poultice with the solution.

2 Let it rest on the stain for two to three minutes. This will soften the stain.

3 Scrub the area with a stiff-bristle brush.

4 Rinse the trail and rinse it well with warm, soapy water—but don’t soak it in soapy water. The soap will dissolve the poultice.

5 Wipe down the area with a dry rag. Now, let the the area dry completely.

6 Scrape off the residue with WD-40. Apply the substance to the stain.

7 Let it set for several minutes, then wipe it off. If it doesn’t budge, scrape the area with a plastic putty knife. Use a plastic putty knife to scrape off the residue.

8 Wipe down the area with a soapy cloth. Rinse the area thoroughly.


Once you have used the techniques below, a softener should be used to soften the tar the same way you would remove gum from clothing. Once the tarry substance is softened (which takes a few minutes), scrub the area with a plastic brush. Then use a solvent like turpentine, xylene or acetone to dissolve the tar.

Oil based liquids like WD-40, motor oil or lighter fluid can also be used. Be aware though that these types of substances will discolor the articles they come into contact with.

The use of solvents, even on an old stain, can remove discolored finish which in most cases would be considered preferable to tar.

In general, I would not recommend using a solvent unless the stain is relatively fresh and the solvent and its composition can be tested. Some solvent used for removing ink can remove paint as well.


If the tar is fresh and you can scrape it off, you can clean things in an emergency with solvents like acetone or nail polish remover.

Acetone is the one safe solvent that will not attack vinyl or leather.

Use a dropper to put a tiny amount of solvent over the stain, then use a paper tissue to dab firmly.

Rinse with warm water and add a little dishwashing detergent to wash off any remaining sticky deposits or solvent.

Freeze the Tar

Before you even attempt to scrub off that sticky tar, the first step is to freeze the tar covered area. Use the method below until tar is hard.

This is important because it will prevent the tar from spreading far and wide, and will prevent the tar from softening and sticking so easily to your shoe.

Spread coarse salt or paint thinner on the affected area. Work the product into the tar and allow the area to dry.

Heat up a sponge with boiling water and place the hot sponge over the affected area. Use a towel to rub off the tar that softens due to the warm and wet sponge.

A kind of liquid tar remover will work, but you need to be very careful with it. However, if it gets inside the shoe, it can make removal of the tar even harder.

If you do not have tar remover, you can also remove tar with a paint thinner.

Rub it in with an old cloth, let it work for some time and then remove the tar with another cloth. Repeat the process till the tar is completely removed.

Take a can of compressed air and spray it on a piece of cloth to get tar off. Compressed air helps to break up tar, haze, and oil for easy removal, which means less elbow grease required.

Special Cleaners

If you love to hike, chances are that you’ve stepped in a tar pit at some point. This happens when sticky asphalt on the road starts to break up. The parts of the tar that break off can stick to your shoes, and you may lose your grip and fall.

Unfortunately, tar is pretty hard to remove once it’s stuck to your shoes. It requires a special type of cleaner. I wish I could say how to remove it naturally, but I can’t.

The most efficient way to remove tar from your shoes is by using a solvent specifically designed to break down tar. These solvents can be purchased in pharmacies or grocery stores, in the same aisle as the acetone, stickers, and other things that remove nail polish (note: not all of them will work for this purpose).

A note on the materials that you need for this task: you’ll need some clean rags, a bottle of a purpose-made tar-remover, and some waste material like newspaper or a peanut butter jar.

You also need some patience since it takes some time to completely remove the tar. And you should have a number of cloths to perform multiple passes.

At home, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Remove any loose tar that you can easily remove with a spoon or spatula.

Test Your Shoes

First, try a solution of lukewarm water and dish soap to loosen up the petroleum based tar.

If the tar isn’t permanent, this should help you to easily remove it.

You may also use a solvent product to further break it down.

Is Tar Toxic?

Tars are a category of natural and manufactured substances that are a mixture of a liquid and a solid. They are commonly used as asphalt in road surfacing. It is best not to ingest them.

The tars are mostly hard to get rid of, but there are some simple tricks how to get tar off shoes.

Use water and soap to wash it off.

Tip-If you got tar on the bottom of your shoe, hold the shoe below the stream of water. The tar should begin to fall off.

Use naphtha to remove tar from shoes.

You will need a cotton ball and some naphtha. Naphtha is a flammable liquid that dissolves tars and oils. Naphtha evaporates much more quickly than water. So you need to repeat the process a couple of times.

Make a few cotton balls with naphtha and let them sit in contact with the tarry surface for a few moments. Then wipe the surface with a clean cotton ball and throw the naphtha out.

Use peanut butter to remove tar from a shoe.

Tip-Peanuts contain natural oil that helps to remove tar.

Take a handful of peanut butter and make it spread on the tarry surface. Apply some pressure while you are spreading the peanut butter by working it between your hands.

What is Tar Used For?

Tar has a very long tradition of use in construction, industry, and crafts. Although there are many different types of tar, all are organic and are derived from plants.

Tar is a natural byproduct of these plants, especially when they are burned. Its use dates back to prehistory and has been used for everything from waterproofing boats to sealing the ancient pyramids.

Most people are familiar with tar as a component of asphalt (as the difference between tar paper and asphalt paper). But tar also has an extensive history of use for waterproofing. Some types of tar can also be used to seal wooden boats.

Tar is also used in construction, for waterproofing roofs, for tiles, and for many of the components on airplanes and vehicles. In industry, tar is used to make paints and glues.