How To Get Tar Off Shoes

If you work in the construction industry, especially in road works, one of the problems you will contend with all the time is tar on your shoes. But not to worry, because I will show you how to get tar off shoes, easily and effectively.

If left to linger too long on the shoes, tar can damage them. Besides, it is also quite unsightly, you know, not something that you like seeing on your shoes all the time. When the sun gets too hot, many people find asphalt attached to their shoes. Therefore, you really do not have to be working in the construction industry to find tar on your shoes.

Make no mistake about it though … removing tar from your shoes is not so easy. When tar gets lodged in the treads, it can be nasty to remove. However, that is exactly why you are reading this article on the steps to follow to remove tar from your shoes.

But there is a bright side to it all. All that you need is some time on your hands. You will need to do some scrubbing, but you will find it quite simple.

How to get tar off shoes – things that you will need

You will need just a few items for the job. With enough time on your hands, this should be a simple task.

  • Common dish cleaning detergent
  • Water
  • A plastic knife
  • An old toothbrush
  • WD-40 – this is a solvent that is going to soften the tar and the stain it would leave behind. You may use a softener of your choice.

After you have collected everything that you need, it is time to get your hands dirty. Roll those sleeves up and get busy cleaning the shoes.

Step by step process for removing tar from shoes

Here is where the real work begins. The first thing will be to get the tar off the leather or the soles.

Scraping off the tar with a plastic knife

Tar gets stickier on boots and shoes with time. This is why it is so important that you get it off as soon as you can. That way, you will not spend as much energy. If you work in an environment that has loose asphalt and tar, you might have to check your boots every day and scrape it off.

You will use your plastic knife. If you do not have one, you can use any other blunt object, even a blunt steel knife will do just fine. But first, even before you get to scraping the tar off, you need to assess just how much tar is stuck there.

Is it a lot? Take your time removing the tar, as that is the hardest part. Be gentle with the knife but firm at the same time to get all the tar off.

Cleaning the tar stain out

After scraping the tar off, you will realize that the spot that had the tar gets a stain. It is now time to remove this stain. It is simple though. You just need some warm water, add the dishwashing detergent and then dip the toothbrush in the mixture and start scraping away at the stain.

The remaining tar should come off easier than when you started. However, please note that you might have to use the toothbrush several times until the tar comes off completely.

It is time to take a break and assess what you have done. Have the water and detergent managed to remove all the tar? If yes, nice and well. If not, there are still a couple of tricks left up our sleeves for how to get tar off shoes.

How to get tar off shoes with a softener

Sometimes, the tar will be too stubborn and there will be some remaining even after cleaning with the detergent. If this is the case, you need to apply some softener. The WD-40 is not the only solvent that you can use.

Try a softener. Popular ones include olive oil, lard, mineral oil, margarine, vegetable oil, petroleum jelly to name but just a few of them. Apply whatever you have at home on the part with the tar. This is a stubborn stain, so you want to apply your softener generously. You can then leave it to sit for about 60 minutes as you go about some other business.

Check whether the softener has softened the tar off the shoes. If it has, you can clean everything off with soap and water and hang your shoes to dry.

Please note that this method is best for how to get tar off shoes including work boots. However, there are more things to check out, such as how to get tar off rubber shoes.

How to remove tar off shoes with a solvent

In this case, I am assuming that you are going to use the most common solvent – WD-40. If that is the case, take a piece of cloth, soak it with your solvent and then apply it to the affected area. By the way, the deepest parts of the treads can be hard to reach with the toothbrush.

It is in such places that you should use the solvent. Apply it generously and then let it sit for some time. If you have gasoline, turpentine or kerosene, you can use those good solvents on your boots. As you can see, most common solvents can catch fire easily. Thus, you should be careful with them.

Keep massaging the solvent into the affected area so that it soaks in properly. That way, it will loosen the remaining tar residues. You can then clean off the shoes in soapy water and the stain will disappear.

Other cleaning options for how to get tar off shoes

Sometimes, the methods we have put down here may not be very effective at removing tar off your shoes. However, do not worry about that too much. As I told you, there are more tricks up the sleeve.

Baby oil is very effective at removing stubborn tar from your shoes. Thus, if you have been wondering about how to get tar off work boots, try baby oil. If you have tried other methods and they have failed, try baby oil.

Use store-bought products to clean tar off shoes

Sometimes, especially after tar has been stuck on your boots for a long time, you may not be able to get it off your shoes using the above-mentioned tactics. Such a time would be good for you to get one or two recommended products for cleaning tar.

In case you are wondering where to get these products, check in the automotive sections online or offline. It would be best to order such products from because you can get a variety. You will also be glad to read several user reviews before you can buy the products. The good thing is that since these products are designed for removing tar, they are effective and they do not damage the soles of your shoes.

However, even though the store-bought products are very good, when you have a thick layer of tar stuck on your boots, you still need to dig in (literally) and dig it out with the plastic knife. You can then clean off the residues with the product you bought at the store.

If you do not fancy using the store-bought products for cleaning your shoes, use baby oil. It is a good lubricant that easily manages to get between the tar and the shoe surface, and dislodges it very well. Of course, we did mention before that it is a handy product to have at home if you work with asphalt and want to know how to get tar off shoes.

Can you freeze shoes to get tar off them?

When looking for information online about how to remove tar from shoes, you will find many references to the effect of putting your shoes in the freezer. Well, you can go ahead and try it. Some people have said they succeeded. In any case, putting the shoes for a few hours in the freezer does not damage them. We already saw that this can be an effective way of enlarging your boots in this article. Just put the shoes in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for a couple of hours.


You have seen that how to get tar off shoes is not hard at all. You just need to have time and the few tools that we have shown you here. The most important thing is to never let tar linger too long on your shoes before getting it off. The longer it stays there, the harder it will be to remove. Thankfully, if you are willing to get your hands a bit dirty, this should not be an impossible task. And remember, some baby oil works some magic, so always make sure you have some handy.