How to Remove Shoe Wax

by Michael Rippetoe ; Updated September 28, 2017

In certain circles, a popular phrase is "the shoes make the man." In the military, the level of shine on a soldier's boots demonstrates the level of determination in the soldier. Either way, when the polish on a pair of nice shoes or boots goes south, it's necessary to remove the old wax and start over. The wax can be removed with a dull knife or with chemicals.

Dull Knife Method

Place a hand inside the shoe to gain full control of the shoe to remove the old wax.

Hold the dull knife perpendicular to the leather. Scrape across the leather lightly, or you will scratch the leather.

Remove the wax from the leather in small amounts at a time. This will take several passes to remove all the wax. When bare leather is reached, the knife will feel different when it is scraped across the leather.

Repeat these steps for the other shoe.

Wipe the shoe clean with a paper towel to make sure the wax is gone.

Condition the shoe with a leather conditioner. Allow it to dry and polish with a quality shoe polish.

Chemical Method

Place the shoes on the kitchen type towel on a hard floor or counter. This will help to soak up any additional fluid used.

Soak a make up remover pad in the chemical of choice, such as acetone nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol or 3M adhesive remover. Make sure the pad is soaked, but not dripping. Rubber gloves can be worn, but are not necessary.

Rub the chemical on the shoe wax in small circles. When the side of the make up remover pad becomes caked with wax, turn the pad over to the second side. When the second side becomes caked, use a new pad.

Remove wax in small areas. Every 2 to 3 minutes wipe the shoe with a clean paper towel. The paper towel will remove some wax that the make up pad misses because it is rougher than the make up pad. It will also keep the leather from absorbing too much fluid.

Allow the shoe to dry for one hour after completely removing the wax.

Condition the shoes with a leather conditioner. Allow the shoes to dry for 1 hour.

Polish the shoes with a quality paste wax.


  • Wax the shoes immediately after either process to make sure the leather is protected.

    Conditioning after either process will help to make the leather last longer.

    Remember paste wax works best for shoes and boots polished on a regular basis.

Photo Credits

  • Laura Beth Drilling/Demand Media

About the Author

Michael Rippetoe has been writing for 15 years, and has recently decided to make it his career. He has been a journeyman carpenter, ASE Master Mechanic, certified irrigation professional and currently writes for this site, designs websites, and does professional photography. Rippetoe's articles appear on eHow, Garden Guides, AnswerBag and others.