Guide to Shining Shoes the Right Way


Apart from the improved look of your shoes, a good shinning is a key element of maintaining a good pair of leather boots or shoes. The polish delivery moisture to the leather, extending its lifespan and adding to its waterproof features. The buffing and shining on top ensure a clean, sophisticated appearance no matter what the occasion.

This article includes a full guide to how to shine shoes, which we will be getting to in a little bit. But before that, here’s a common question that must be answered. 

Why do I need to shine my shoes to begin with?

The beauty of top-notch leathers shoes is that they will look a thousand times better after you’ve worn them for a year than they did on day one. But this is only applicable if you take care of them. Your shoes will age; you can’t stop that no matter how carefully you use or clean them.

However, through proper maintenance, you can make sure the leather ages gracefully. The color develops a distinct patina which changes depending on your choice of cream while the scratches become a part of its character. If you don’t care for your shoes, they will lose color, the leather will develop cracks, and they’ll be unusable sooner.

DIY-ing a shoe shining kit

Some people learn things the hard way. They learn after having a harrowing experience with a so-called professional shoe shiner as they scrub the life out of the fine leather shoes. This is a sign that you need to personalize over your shoe care. 

We aren’t saying you can’t entrust a shoe shiner with your favorite pair, but we do think that shining them yourself gives you a new level of control that you can’t expect from someone else doing it. So, let’s learn how to put together your shoe shining kit so you can get started.

There are some standard products and tools you need to get started.

Shoe brush: A shoe brush does two things: Allows you to brush the dust and dirt prior to cleaning and shining, and it serves as tool for cleaner application. It’s best to get a wide shine brush, or you can get a dauber style one for leather cleaners. A part of the population likes applying polish with a dauber but we find a cloth a better fit for the job.

Soft cloths: You don’t have to think super hard to find a piece of “soft” cloth to clean your shoes. Old T-shirts can be cut up for shoe shining purposes; simply tear them into strip. Plus, this gives you a chance to review the good ol’ rag pile and pull out the grottiest from the stack.

Leather cleaner and conditioner: Leather cleaner and conditioner are to our shoe as soap and moisturizer are to the human bodies. Leather cleaner removes the unwanted dirt and staining whereas leather conditions coats the shoes with a layer of moisturizing, protecting them from drying out and getting cracked or brittle.

Shoe polish: A good quality shoe polish will lend color as well as shine your shoes. Wax polishes create sheen while cream polishes provide color.

How to Shine Shoes: A Step by Step Guide

  1. Assemble your shoe shining kit: Gather everything you need in one place. You’ll need: a. A tin of shoe polish, b. Shoe polish brush, c. Horsehair shine brush, d. Cotton balls, e. Soft cloth, and, f. Old towel or newspaper. Shoe polish has a nasty habit of getting everywhere. You’ll be surprised at how you thought enough protection but there it is, staining the carpet or painting your clothes. Thus, spread out an old towel or newspaper under your work surface.
  2. Clean your shoes: Brush the dust and dirt off your boots with a damp rag or shine brush. If you absolutely must wet your boots a little prior to the clean, let them dry properly before applying polish.
  3. Apply polish: Coat the whole shoe with a generous drop of polish – this time using the shoe polish brush. Make sure to match the color of your shoes to the polish to the best of your ability. Spread evenly, reaching the seams and doing an even cover. Let sit to dry for 15 minutes.
  4. Brush: Vigorously brush the entire shoe with the horsehair shine brush. You want to remove the excess layer of polish, keeping a small film on the shoe’s exterior.
  5. Focus on the heel and toe: Love your shoe, but love the toes and heels more when it comes to cleaning as these areas could do with extra shining. Dip a cotton ball into some water and wring out any additional moisture so it’s not dripping but damp. Pick up a little polish on it and apply that on the heel and toe of the shoes using small circular motions. This will take a while, so keep patience.
  6. Repeat till expected results appear: You’re almost at the end of how to shine shoes – keep going! Repeat step 5 till you’re happy with the shine level. Use a new cotton piece every time and remember to remove the excessive polish before putting on a new coating.

Keep in mind that the first shine is the hardest and it should get easier with each time. As mentioned before, shining the heels and toe take some time, so expect to spend the longest in these areas. Had you come back in two weeks or three, it would take you half the time to shine them.

Final Thoughts

Now you know how to shine shoes properly and easily. Your shoes are only as good as the amount of care you can dedicate to them, which is why it’s important you set some time out for maintenance for them in the span of a few weeks.

Read: How to Polish Shoes.

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