Last updated on November 17th, 2023 at 02:23 pm
- How to polish shoes
- Making your shoes waterproof
- What type of shoe can you polish?
- Tools and materials for polishing shoes
From big job interviews to the first day at school, well-polished shoes are your perfect companion when looking smart is all-important. Learning how to polish shoes correctly is a useful skill that can prolong the life of your favourite dress shoes and give them that all-important shine.
Well-shined formal shoes can make or break an outfit, helping you stand out from the crowd and feel confident in your look. Whether you’re buffing out scuffs and scrapes or rubbing new life into your beloved brogues, find out how to properly polish shoes below.
How to polish shoes
Follow these simple steps for polishing your shoes.
- Remove the laces
- Pack out your shoes
- Clean off the dirt
- Apply the polish
- Buff those boots
- Shine your shoes
Remove the laces
First off, you’ll want to remove the laces to prevent any polish staining them. At this point, you may notice how much your laces have deteriorated. If your laces are worn and thinning, you could consider replacing them with a new set.
Pack out your shoes
Place old newspaper or a shoe tree inside the shoe to fill it out and ensure you can clean all areas.
Clean off the dirt
Next, take your welt brush and scrub off any dirt and dry mud from the shoe. Don’t press too firmly as you don’t want to scratch the leather. You can always dampen any mud with a little water to make it easier to remove.
If you have black shoes, you could use a little baking soda to help release any stuck-on dirt.
Tackle tougher stains, such as those left behind by snow and slush, with a teaspoon of warm water and white vinegar rubbed directly onto the problem area.
Apply the polish
Start by applying a little polish to your polishing cloth. Use a wax-based polish if you want to shine and protect your leather shoes, or a cream version if your shoes are cracked and dry. Remember, cream polish can stain your shoes, so it’s best only to use a little amount.
Wrap the cloth around your fingers and rub it into the shoes in a circular motion, making sure to apply it evenly across the exterior leather.
Remember to use a welt brush to apply polish to the welt and leather rims of your shoes.
Buff those boots
To give your beloved brogues or dress shoes that famous glint, you’ll need to take a bristled brush and buff your footwear with a fast scrubbing motion. Don’t press down too hard as you don’t want to scratch the leather.
Continue to buff for around five minutes until you’ve thoroughly rubbed in all the polish and the leather has a distinctive, smart shine.
Shine your shoes
To give your shoes a factory-fresh shine, you’ll want to first rub them over with a rag or paper towel to get rid of any excess polish or dirt.
Then, apply a few droplets of water to the top of the shoe and then proceed to rub it in using the polishing cloth. By working the water into the leather with a fast, circular motion, you can add a spit-shine effect for your footwear.
Afterwards, leave your shoes to dry and thread through your laces.
Making your shoes waterproof
When it comes to polishing and protecting black shoes or other leather materials from the elements, there are several types of oils and creams available which can help.
You can apply a waterproof spray once you’ve finished polishing your shoes to protect your leathers from rain and damp. Alternatively, a little beeswax or Vaseline carefully rubbed into the shoe will add an extra layer of protection.
Read more in our full guide to caring for black leather shoes.
What types of shoe can you polish?
You can polish black and brown leather shoes. Most leather-based shoes will benefit from good protective polishing every couple of weeks.
Specially formulated sprays designed for cleaning canvas and protecting suede are the best tools for tackling stains and returning old trainers and pumps to a brighter look.
Tools and materials for polishing shoes
Here’s what you’ll need in your shoe-shining kit:
- Shoe Polish. Pick the right polish to match your shoe colour or you could risk staining your shoes a different shade. Shoe polish usually comes in two varieties: cream and wax. You can use cream polishes to moisturise the leather and alleviate cracks and stretches. Wax, meanwhile, adds an extra protective layer and gives shoes that shiny off-the-shelf look.
- Clean Rag. An old rag or towel can be helpful to clean off excess polish when you’re done.
- Welt Brush. You’ll need a bristled welt brush or old toothbrush for cleaning off dry dirt and mud. Make sure the bristles aren’t too firm as you don’t want to scratch your shoes.
- Dry Brush. A soft-bristled brush is perfect for buffing shoes for added shine and tackling tough stains.
- This is to dampen up bristles and for mixing with polish for a spit-shined gleam.
- Polishing Cloth. A small polishing cloth is used to add the polish and is your main tool for rubbing clean.
Polishing your shoes every month or so will help prolong their life, add extra protection from the elements and keep them looking fresh for when you want to look your best.