How to Remove Tough Stains from Shoes

As it so happens, tragedy struck on my Hawaiian adventure, and it went a little something like this:

  1. Book a spectacular kayaking adventure.
  2. Be smart and put shoes into a bag so that they don’t get lost if our kayak gets flooded in the ocean.
  3. Remove soaked shoes post kayak adventure to find that a pair of Rainbows* has completely stained my glorious blush slip on’s.

(*For those of you that don’t know, Rainbows is a California brand that makes leather sandals that are really comfortable, but the moment they get wet they bleed a lovely brown color onto anything they touch including skin and other shoes! I guess they don’t get much rain out there…)

Needless to say, I was devastated. Ok, it wasn’t that bad. The shoes only cost $20, but they were sold out and simply scrubbing them with soap and water was not doing the trick.

I asked for suggestions over on my Instagram Stories, and my lovely followers came to the rescue with some amazing DIY ideas for covering up the stain with pearls or fabric, adding more stain to turn the brown into a pattern, and more. I was determined, though, to find something that would remove the stain completely.

Things that I tried that did not work:

  • Scrubbing with soap and water
  • Soaking in soap and water
  • Wiping with nail polish remover
  • Scrubbing with Shout stain remover spray

Things that I tried that DID work: BLEACH! Check out the simple process below for how to remove stains from shoes!

How to Remove Tough Stains from Shoes


2 Tbs. Bleach
Plastic Cup or Container Large Enough for the Shoe


1 – 3 hours, depending on the stain



1. Pour your bleach and water into your plastic cup almost all the way up to the top. If you have a larger shoe, use a bucket or a bowl.

2. If you have something like a sandal, turn the shoe over so that the strap is fully submerged and add more water so that the sandal strap is fully covered. Leave the shoe submerged in the water for about an hour.

3. Check to see the progress of the stain removal after one hour. If it is still noticeable, leave it and continue to keep checking every hour. Once the stain is fully removed, take the shoe out of the cup and rinse with warm water.


  • The shoe I used this method on was made from faux leather. I cannot speak to how this would work on any other material.
  • The bleach will slightly lighten the color of the shoe the longer you leave it submerged. I left my shoes in the water for about 5 hours (on accident) and they still remained light pink after soaking, though they did lighten about one shade.
  • Make sure the faux leather section is fully submerged. As you can see in the photo below, one strap of the shoe was only partially submerged and it got a white stain line where the water stopped. It is not on the top of the shoe, so thankfully it is not noticeable when I wear them!
  • You can also see in the photo below exactly where the dark stain used to be! From afar, you can’t see the stain at all, but close up there is still a trace of where it used to be.

9 thoughts on “How to Remove Tough Stains from Shoes

  1. Wooooow! Thanks for sharing this! I didn`t even know it`s so easy. I will definitely try it as my shoes are begging for that. All the best 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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