How to get tar off shoes: smart hacks

Who has never got the pesky issue of getting nasty tar stains on the shoe soles?

Tar is a sticky and tricky substance that is quite hard to remove. However, this mission is still possible when you know exactly what to do! In this article, we will share several smart hacks on how to get tar off shoes.

how to get tar off shoes

How to get tar off shoes: is it an easy task?

Unfortunately, as a sticky substance, tar is really stubborn. To deal with the tar stains that got stuck on your shoes, you should understand what tar is and how you can make it supple.

What is tar?

By nature, tar is a kind of dense oil.

For better removing tar from the surface, you should emulsify and soften it.

There are several kinds of tar that you can occasionally get on your shoes:

  • Bar tar
  • Beach tar
  • Black tar
  • Coal tar
  • Natural tar (also known as “rock oil“)
  • Pine tar (also known as tree sap)
  • Roofing tar
  • Turpentine tar

Black tar is surely the most common type of tar that can get stuck on your shoe soles while walking along the road. However, you may have lots of occasions to step into any of the other tar types.


Is it possible to clean the tar spots from your shoes?

If you got stuck with shoes beach tar, cleaning seems almost impossible. However, don’t think that your shoes are fully destroyed! There are always several cleaning options, whatever type your shoes are.

Leather shoes are the easiest to clean as they are quite smooth. You can use any lubricant to clean them, unlike suede shoes where you always have a risk of getting oily stains left.

By their nature, suede shoes are much more delicate than leather ones. A good rule of thumb is to avoid using harsh chemicals on them. Start with gently cleaning these shoes with an old toothbrush or a special suede brush. Keep brushing the surface until you remove the tar residue.

Can you clean hard tar from your shoes?

Of course, the harder tar is, the more difficult it is to get rid of. That’s why you should clean coal tar or pine tar from shoes as soon as possible.

However, hard tar still can be scraped off with a sharp-edged tool or softened with a cleaning solution. Always try to remove tar completely, or else the sticky residue will accumulate extra dust and dirt.

clean shoes

How to remove tar from shoes?

You can opt for a few hacks to get rid of black or beach tar stuck on your shoes.

#1. Sharp-edge scraping

A sure method of removing tar off shoes is scraping it away with a help of a sharp-edged tool. You can take any kind of knife, such as a stainless steel knife, a putty knife, or even a plastic knife. A good idea is also to use a flat-head screwdriver or even a sharp edge of the old credit card.

Use any of the mentioned sharp tools to peel the sticky tar off your shoes. However, be careful while scraping with sharp tools. Don’t press too much so as not to damage your shoes.

In case there is still some remaining tar on your shoes, avoid scraping them away.

Instead, remove the residue by washing it with some mild dish soap. Then, rinse the surface with warm water.

If you are quite late and the tar has been already hardened, it can be difficult to scrape it off with a sharp-edged tool such as a plastic knife. Soak your shoes overnight in the soapy water, and wait until the tar is more supple to get scraped off with a plastic knife.

As soon as you are done, clean off the sticky residue or any tar dust that is left on the shoes, or else they will accumulate dirt again.

If you are not sure that your plastic knife is hard enough to handle scraping the tar stains out of the shoes, then use a metal tool such as stainless steel or putty knife.

If there is some stubborn tar stuck between the gaps of the outer soles, don’t scrape them as well.

The scraping method works best with leather shoes. In case of any tar dust or soft residue left on the surface, clean this area with a leather cleaner.

#2. Specific tar remover

The easiest way to clean your shoes is to buy a shoe tar remover. You don’t need too much elbow grease to clean tar off shoes with this solution that is specifically designed for this purpose!

Here is a list of the tar removal solutions that you can use:

  • Armour All Bug and Tar Remover
  • Gasoline
  • Kerosene
  • Turpentine
  • WD-40 

Some solutions are designed to brittle specific types of tar. For example, if you want to remove pine tar from shoes, use a specific product such as Pine Resin Remover. This cleaner is designed to remove sticky tree sap from the vehicle parts and can be used on your boots as well.

Apply the tar remover in a layer on the affected rubber soles. Let it sit and work for about 60 minutes. Then, take an old toothbrush and thoroughly clean the softened tar away under the layer of the tar cleanser. As soon as you are done, rinse your shoes with plenty of cool water.


#3. Soapy water

You can prepare a great DIY solution with a help of mild dish detergent, mild soap, or shampoo.

Add a few drops of liquid soap, mild dish soap, or mild shampoo into a bowl full of clean hot water.

Mix it well into the foam. Apply this foam on a piece of a clean rug, and start wiping the remaining tar off your shoes.

This method also works well if you have some oily stains on your suede boots.

#4. Alcohol remedy

There is one more hint to get tar off shoes. Dissolve it by rubbing alcohol all over the stain.

Apply a small amount of alcohol on a folded paper towel, a piece of clean cloth, or just a simple cotton ball. Keep rubbing alcohol on the tarred spot until it starts getting off the surface.

#5. Nail polish remover

A simple colorless nail polish remover can also be a remedy that helps you to delete coal tar from your boots! This acetone-based substance can brittle the tarred areas.

Gently rub over the sticky area using freshly soaked cotton balls. Keep cleaning until the tar will be gone.

However, be careful so as not to destroy or discolor your shoes. Make a test on a small hidden area of your boots before cleaning.

#6. Freezing hack

One more good idea is too brittle the tar on your boots by freezing them. It may sound strange, but this method really works!

Put your shoes in the freezer and leave them overnight. The beach tar that got stuck on your shoe soles will be brittle which makes it much easier to get rid of. Then, take away your shoes. Peel the tar with a hard bristled brush or a sharp scraper.

If you don’t feel like placing shoes in the freezer that is not empty, place them in a big plastic bag. Fill the plastic bag with ice cubes and put your shoes inside it. Then, place the bag in the freezer and leave it overnight.

This freezing hack works especially well for removing turpentine tar, a common form of tar that is naturally produced from coniferous trees.


Lubricants vs sticky tar stain

Such sticky and tricky substances as tar can be removed with a help of lubricants. The oily substances are always good at dissolving tar stains, so you have multiple options to remove shoe tar.

As you already know, tar removal is much easier if you emulsify it. As a dense oil, tar can react with oily substances and get softer so you can remove it better.

You can make use of Vaseline or baby oil, common vegetable oil, or get a tube of WD-40 Multi-Use Lubricant Spray.

#1. Vegetable oil

Vegetable oil is a good way to remove tar from your shoes. This method works especially softly on suede shoes.

Use high-quality vegetable oil for the cleaning process, or opt for olive oil as well. Soak a piece of clean cloth in some vegetable or olive oil. Then, start gently rubbing the tar stain away. In case the tar sticks too much, a good tip is to let the oil sit for a while and soften the hard tar stain.

However, there is one drawback to keep in mind as you can easily get oily stains on your suede shoes.

#2. Mineral oil

Mineral oil is a good solvent that can help you to remove tar on your boot soles. Since mineral oil is an odorless and clear substance, it works great on many types of shoes, including suede or leather shoes. Generously soak the tar spots with mineral oil, and let it work for an hour.

Then, you can easily get tar off your boot soles with a help of an old toothbrush or a folded paper towel.


#3. Baby oil

Baby oil is one more great lubricant that can easily remove tar from shoes. Press a cotton ball soaked in the baby oil to the tarred spot. Leave it to soften the tar for an hour. After that, scrub the residue away.

#4. Turpentine oil

Turpentine oil is a great cleaning agent when it comes to painting stains and spills.

However, you can use it to remove coal tar on your boots.

Pour some turpentine oil on the folded paper towel, and start rubbing the tarred area in a gentle circular motion. Keep rubbing until the nasty stain is fully gone. Repeat the procedure some more times if necessary. Then, wash your shoes with clean water and dry them completely.

#5. Petroleum jelly

As a variant, try to remove beach tar from your shoes with some Petroleum jelly or Vaseline. This commonly used ointment can also be an efficient tar remover, especially for hard tar spots.

Rub some petroleum jelly all over the tar spot with a fresh paper towel. Let it sit and work for several minutes. The ointment can quickly loosen the hard tar.

Now, use an old toothbrush on the dirty area to get rid of the tricky stain. Keep brushing until most of the tar falls off the surface. As a final step, just take the remaining tar off with another fresh paper towel.

Rinse your boot well with mild dish soap and a lot of warm water. Then, dry the surface off with a clean towel.



Does Vaseline remove tar?

As a lubricant, Vaseline is a good solution that can quickly remove tar from shoes.

Apply a layer of Vaseline all over the shoe tar. Then, let it soak for a few minutes to soften the tar stain. As soon as the tar is brittle, you can easily brush it away using an old toothbrush.

Then, wipe the sticky residue away with a damp cloth or a clean paper towel, and rinse the cleaned shoe well with cold water.

What can dissolve tar?

Since tar is a dense oil, you have to emulsify it for a better removal process. The emulsifying includes such methods as rubbing alcohol or mineral spirit, using a degreasing dish detergent, a special tar remover, or any lubricant.

Does vinegar remove tar?

Like any other acid, vinegar is an effective cleaning solution that can remove tar from your shoes.

Mix 3 spoons of vinegar and a spoonful of dish detergent with lukewarm water. Apply this mixture to the affected spot and gently brush the tar traces from your shoes.

How do you remove dried tar?

The easiest way to remove dried black tar from shoes without any extra solutions is simply to take it off with a sharp-edged tool.

In case the tar spot is too stubborn, try to dissolve it with a help of the WD-40. Soak the stubborn spot for about 10 to 30 minutes. The Goo Gone can also be used as it works similarly to the WD-40.

Final thoughts

Now, you know several tips on how to get tar off shoes. It is always better to try any of them rather than say goodbye to your tarred boots. We hope that you can find the right cleaning tip that works for you!

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