How to Get Black Tar off Shoes

Oh no! You’ve just stepped in some black tar and now need some removal methods?


That’s just too bad.

Your shoes are doomed for the trash.

Just kidding.

I know mistakes happen and stepping in a pile of asphalt is one you will make only once in your lifetime, I guarantee it.

So is there anyway to remove the tar and get you on your merry way?

Yes. There are a few things we can do to help rid your shoes of tar and get them 99.9% tar free

But first we need to talk about what not to do.

What NOT To Do

Do not and I repeat:

Do not sit your shoes in a container filled with gasoline.

Some swear by this method but I promise you it’s a very, very bad idea.

Yes this will work and your shoes will be free of tar, but they will absolutely reek of gasoline.

Not to mention that you will be highly flammable!

Well not you personally, but your shoes will be.

Do You Wait Till It’s Dry First?

Tar takes 48 – 72 hours to dry enough for foot traffic and vehicles to go over safely.

This means you have 2 – 3 days to remove the tar while it’s still wet and easy to remove.

Unless you had the unfortunate event of stepping in the tar on day 2, which gives you about 24 hours to remove that sucker before it gets too hard.

However no matter what, tar is incredibly difficult to remove so don’t worry if you don’t get to it in time.

But if you’re wondering when should you try and remove it, the answer is now.

This’ll make it at least a little bit easier, and the methods below work on wet and dry tar.

Methods Proven to Work

First lets start of with things you can use around the house.

1. Oil (Of Your Choice)

Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
My rating: 4.6/5

Oil is a common method used to remove tar from shoes.

And it doesn’t have to be a certain type of oil, because any works.

Some use baby oil, canola, corn, olive, coconut, etc.

It’ll take a lot of paper towels and elbow grease, but eventually you’ll prime that pupper back up to good health.

This is my preferred method of choice as it’s non-toxic and everyone has some type of oil.

But if you want to use chemicals, stick with WD-40 and not gasoline.

2. WD-40

Time: 10 minutes
My rating: 5/5

WD-40 is great for removing tar off shoes.

Simply spray the WD-40 directly on the tar, wait a few minutes for it marinate, then use a toothbrush to scrub it off.

When you think you’ve got it all scrubbed off, or very close to it, use water and dish detergent to clean off the WD-40.

I also do not recommend using your toothbrush ever again, if that’s what you were thinking.

Bad dad joke? Yeah, sorry.

Spraying and brushing is the name of the game with this method, and it’ll take about 10 minutes, give or take.

My rating is so high because this method works on hard, caked on tar and you should be able to get them 99.99% clean.

Everyone says they come out near-perfect.

3. Tar Removal Products

Time: Varies
My rating: 4/5

If you don’t want to try any of the methods I’ve outlined above, there are products out there specifically designed for tar removal.

However, some of them are subpar and may not be as useful as the WD-40 or oil methods.

A popular choice is Goo Gone.

Cheap, works, but may need a lot of work and a few doses to fully remove.

Tar removal products work better than others, but I recommend trying the other methods first since you probably have them around the house anyway.

Tools Needed

Plastic knife – A plastic knife is still not safe when you’re gouging into a blog of tar, but it’s a far better option than a real knife.

Paper towels won’t do much if the tar is caked on and blobby, so use the WD-40 before gouging it off with a plastic knife.

Then finish using the paper towels.

Paper towels – Lots and lots of paper towels, especially if you’re going the oil route.

Of course this does require a lot of elbow grease. Be prepared to get a good workout.


Oil – Any oil imaginable will work. Choose one and start scrubbing with that toothbrush.

WD-40 – A more intense approach. Use if you need something more aggressive

Tar removal products – Pretty good but then you have to shop around for the best one. Why do that when you can use products at home!

Get Scrubbing

Yeah, it sucks.

You’ve stepped in a blob of tar and now you’re left with a problem.

The best way is to get to work right away and start scrubbing.

Here’s what I would do:

  • Scrape off the big chunks with a plastic knife
  • When you’re left with the little bits, put oil on it
  • Start wiping with paper towels
  • Use a toothbrush if you need two
  • Alternate between the two


It’ll take anywhere from 10 – 30 minutes.

But in most cases the tar will be completely gone.

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