Can You Get Nail Polish Off of Tennis Shoes?

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Certain stains have the reputation of being "stubborn" and hard to remove from clothing. Among these, nail polish can be nearly impossible to remove from clothing. If you spill nail polish on tennis shoes, there is the added difficulty of removing the product from a surface composed of several different materials, from mesh to suede to canvas. However, a variety of tricks can help you remove nail polish from a tennis shoe.

Excess Product

Before attempting to remove the stain from your tennis shoes, scrape the excess nail polish off of the shoe first with a putty knife or the dull end of a butter knife. Because nail polish usually drops in a glob, you will often find excess product in nail polish stains. Chip away at the polish, being careful not to scuff the shoe, until you have nothing but the stain left on the shoe. If you attempt to remove the polish before removing the excess product, you risk blurring the product and widening its borders, creating a larger stain.

Nail Polish Remover

Use nail polish remover to swab the stain. Before approaching the stain, try a small amount of the nail polish remover on a cotton swab elsewhere on the shoe, preferably somewhere not visible. Tennis shoes with colored leathers, for example, may fade when exposed to nail polish remover. If your shoe does not react badly to the nail polish remover, place a small amount on a new cotton swab and gently blot the stain until it disappears.

Dry Cleaner Fluid

If the stain refuses to come out of your tennis shoes using nail polish remover, or if the polish remover causes the shoe's fabric itself to bleed, consider using dry cleaner fluid. This fluid will gently remove many stains, and can be applied in the same manner as the nail polish remover; however, if you are working with a particularly stubborn stain, you might consider taking your shoes into a dry cleaner for professional help.


Allow your shoes to dry completely after removing the stain with one of the above liquids. Once dry (usually after 24 hours), buff the entire shoe with a soft dry cloth to polish away any remaining traces of the stain. Consider using a shoe protector, such as Scotch Guard, to protect your shoes from stains in the future.