There’s an elusively misattributed quote (Marilyn Monroe? Bette Midler? We may never know) we love returning to: “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” While we’re partial to believing that someone can conquer the world regardless of footwear, having the perfect pair of shoes certainly can’t hurt.
One of the keys to the perfect pair of shoes is keeping them clean, clear, and scuff-free. Whether you’re looking to shine up your favorite pair of patent leather pumps or everyday flats, here are five of our favorite methods on how to remove scuff marks from shoes, using a handful of items you likely already have on hand.
Use a Traditional Cleaner
Harnessing the same technology as baking soda, toothpaste can be used to achieve similar results. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to a clean cloth, then use this to polish the scuff marks. Avoid using a chemical-heavy, whitening, or gel toothpaste. Use a second, damp cloth to wipe away the marks and toothpaste, and allow the shoes to air-dry.
Unless your shoes contain a fabric that’s likely to be on the dry clean–only list—satin, for example—a small amount of gentle laundry detergent can offer the perfect fix. Mix a few drops of detergent in a small amount of lukewarm water, then use a clean cloth to dab the scuff marks. Once they’ve been removed, wipe away any residue with a second clean cloth.
Try an Eraser
While most mistakes can’t simply be erased, scuff marks on shoes are thankfully an exception. After testing a less conspicuous area of a shoe, use circular motions to gently buff the scuff marks with an eraser. This method works especially well for vinyl and patent leather shoes. We recommend using a white eraser in order to avoid the gummy pink residue you remember from grade school.
Apply Nail Polish Remover
In addition to removing nail polish, this medicine cabinet staple can also work wonders in helping to remove scuff marks from shoes. Apply a small amount of nail polish remover to a cotton ball, then polish the scuff marks using focused, circular motions. Again, testing on a less noticeable section of the shoe beforehand is always wise, but this method tends to work well for a variety of fabrics and types of shoes, from patent leather heels to basic sneakers.
Use Baking Soda
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It’s no secret that baking soda has a wide range of cleaning applications, and you can add removing scuff marks from shoes to the list. Combine a small amount of baking soda (1 to 2 tablespoons should do the trick) with warm water. Mix the paste to an even consistency, then apply directly to the scuff marks. Use a cloth to polish the shoes, then remove the residue with a second clean cloth.
Or, Use Toothpaste