How to Polish Shoes – Step-by-Step

Ready to grab a super shiny pair of leather shoes?


In this post, you’re going to learn how to polish shoes in the RIGHT way.

In fact, this is the EXACT technique applied and approved by Professionals and Shoes Shining Experts like Jason Dornstar.

So without further ado, Just Roll Up Those Sleeves and implement these Amazingly working 6 Steps Simple Process:

How to Polish Shoes:

  1. Remove the laces from the shoes.
  2. Fill your shoe and brush any dirt, mud, or dust off.
  3. Apply a layer of shoe cream (with an old rag).
  4. Buff the entire shoe (with a buffing brush).
  5. Apply wax polish using a brush or cloth.
  6. Remove any excess polish with a brush or cloth.

Before we get down to that super EFFECTIVE process of shining your shoes, here are 5 basic tools you’ll need to create your very own shoe shining kit! 

What Should Be In My Shoe Shining Kit?

Shoe Polish

Of course, A good quality wax polish is a crucial piece of kit. Shoe polish does exactly what it says on the tingives your shoes a polished finish.

How to polish shoes

It works by adding layers of wax to the outer surface of your leather shoes, which can be buffed to a high shine. It does not seep into the leather.

NOTE: Be alert when using certain ‘high gloss’ polishes and applications as they can contain silicon, which will ultimately dry the shoe out and cause premature cracking.

Shoe Cream

Most of the people believe shoe cream and shoe polish are synonymous with each other. But that’s not.

How to polish shoes

In fact, Shoe cream is a form of shoe polish that adds color to your shoes to help keep their original finish. If your shoes are looking tired, a quality shoe cream can be used to nourish the leather and restoring them to former glory in the process.

This is the mysterious ingredient of professional’s recipes to mirror shin shoes.

Shoe cream can mask scratches and uneven fading but it cannot be polished to a high shine. It leaves more of a matte finish, like the shine you see on satin paint.


How to polish shoes

Definitely – A good quality shoe brush is the ideal tool to be included in the shoe shining kit. But there are a ton of different shoeshine brushes, of course, you can’t grab all of them. And so at a time, it can be a little overwhelming how to select the right shoeshine brush.

To make the puzzle even more simple HIT THE PLAY BUTTON.

Don’t worry we’ll simplify the puzzle for you. At the highest level, there are really two types of shoeshine brushes.

#1. A Horsehair Shoeshine Brush

Definitely A horsehair shoeshine brush is way expensive than more affordable options feasible out there. But believe me – they worth it.

Horsehair brushes are the best because they are sturdy but soft enough to not scratch the leather. They also help raise the fibers of the leather to create a great surface for shining.

If you only have one brush, It’s gonna be a horsehair brush.

#2. Finishing Brush.

It can be a Yak Hair Brush or Goat Hair Brush. This is going to be what you use to buff that shine. It’s a must include tool in your shoe shining kit if you’ve shoes with like textures or a lot of broguing.

These goat hair and yak hair brushes are a multi-generational shoe care tool because the longer they are used, the better you can polish with them.

It’s not incorrect to label these types of shoeshine brush the most rear shoeshine brush in the world. So what you get with Yak hair is an incredibly soft yet dense bristle that is a totally unique blend in the world.

To make these brushes even more unique – they can only be made by hand, all the bristles have to be hand pinned with a split handle.

Shoeshine Brushes in my opinion – falls into the category of things that if you buy once and you buy high quality, you never have to worry about buying that product again.

Shoe Trees.

How to polish shoes

Our feet sweat throughout the day, and the leather and lining of our shoes absorb all that moisture. This can cause the lining to rot, your shoes to stink, and leather to crack over time, thereby ruining expensive footwear.

Shoe trees are an essential investment for any man who wants his footwear to last. Ideally made from moisture-absorbing cedar, this helps retains the shape of the leather, prevent creasing and keep your shoes fresh. But they are also handy when polishing as they open up any cracks in the shoe when inserted.

At the luxury end, they are sold in shoe sizes, width, and toe-shape, but the generic versions are also good. Put them in your footwear as soon as you remove them and always allow at least a day before wearing them again.


A soft polishing cloth is essential for shining your shoes. While you can buy a cloth specifically for shoes, some of the best shoe polishing cloths are also used in the jewelry trade.

Those by the likes of Selvyts, which are standard issue in the British Army, can be used for ‘Bulling’ shoes to a military shine and, when folded into a pad, are excellent at reviving a shine between polishes.  

How To Polish Shoes.

It’s one of life’s little chores and can often seem like it’s more trouble than it’s worth, but learning how to polish shoes really can transform an outfit. From dull, cracked, lifeless leather to gleaming beacons of success, a well-shined pair of Oxfords or Derbies is often overlooked, but put in the work and not only will your wheels look the part, but they’ll also last exponentially longer.

By learning how to shine your own shoes, you will no longer need to shy away from owning a pair of quality dress shoes. 

Educate yourself on How to Polish Shoes with this Video Guide:

And if you prefer to READ – scroll down for step by step visual and written instructions.

Step #1: Remove Laces.

Even before removing shoelaces – You may want to cover the surface you’ll be working on with a towel or a newspaper, as the shoe-shining process can potentially get messy.

How to polish shoes

Every Gentelmen knows that Contrasting shoelaces highlight the lacing systems, and since they don’t match the leather, they really stand out, and the look appears to be entirely different.

No one aspires to ruin this look changing laces. Remove the shoelaces to prevent getting polish on them.

Step #2: Fill your shoe and brush any dirt, mud, or dust off.

Unquestionably – You can use a paper roll to fill your shoe.

But if you own a Quality Dress shoe (That’s Great) and want it to last decades (Yes Decades) – That’s where Shoe Tree comes in.

How to polish shoes

Some Gentlemen find that wooden inserts as useless purchases, but shoe trees are crucial to keeping shoes in amazing shape as they age.

Hit the Play Button Why & How You Should Use Shoe Trees.

So either by paper balls or shoe trees, ensure a firm surface (over the shoe) to work on.

After filling the shoe – Use a dry brush to remove any dust and dirt from your shoes. You can use the welt brush and water to get into small spaces, but make sure to let the leather dry COMPLETELY before moving on to the next step. Scrub the welt of any dirt or grime with your small brush.

Step #3: Apply a layer of shoe cream (with an old rag).

Applying SHOE CREAM – This is where most people mess-up, just because of which they fail to hit that professional shoe shining touch.

How to polish shoes

Shoe cream can help keep your shoes vibrant and maintain their color. Unlike leather dye, which changes the shoe color, a cream polish leaves a thin layer that enhances the original color.

The benefit of this is if you happen to choose the wrong color, or you don’t like it then you can remove it. Some shoe creams have a natural shea butter base, which also adds some conditioning to the leather.

Here’s all you need to do – Use an old rag to apply a thin layer of shoe cream all over and allow to dry. This nourishes the leather, keeps it supple and prevents cracking. 

Step #4: Buff the entire shoe (with a buffing brush).

Once dry, buff with a light brush or by rubbing gently with a cloth. You will now have a subtle sheen to the shoes.

It is vital that you clean the welts (where the uppers are attached to the sole) of the shoe. Whereas on Quality shoe, there will be visible stitching (known as Goodyear welting). They are dust traps and should be brushed regularly. If the edges of the soles are scuffed, you can repair them with shoe cream.

Step #5: Apply wax polish using a brush or cloth.

Apply (in circular motions) a wax polish using a brush or cloth, paying particular attention to the welts. Apply medium pressure and make sure to coat the surface evenly, paying special attention to the toe, heel, and welts which get the most wear.

Circular motion causes friction that slightly melts the wax and allows it to spread more evenly.

If you feel like your shoes require another layer of polish, apply this second layer using the same technique as above.

Step #6: Remove any excess polish with a brush or cloth.

Once the wax polish has set, remove any excess with a brush or cloth, making sure every part of the shoe gets equal love. Wait at least 10 minutes before moving to the next step. This should be done quite vigorously to create a good shine.

Tip: Bull polishing.

How much shine you want on your shoes is a matter of personal choice. This bonus step will take it to the next level.

How to polish shoes

BullingBull polishingspit polishing or spit shining is a term commonly used by soldiers and refers to a method for polishing leather products in such a way as to give an extremely high shine effect.

All you need to do is – use your finger to place a droplet of water on the shoe.

With the polishing cloth, rub a small amount of polish into the water droplet in fast, small circles. Repeat this process around the whole shoe.

With similar movements, wipe down your shoe with a dry section of the polishing cloth. Repeat the “spit shine” stage once or twice to your liking.

Re-lace your shoe and you’re up to with glowing leather shoe ready to nail your next formal event.

Do You Really Need to Shine Your Shoes?

So you’ve already invested (Not spent) a hundred over dollars on a pair of leather shoes and you would most definitely want to ensure it can last a long time. Now, how do you do that? 

How to polish shoes

Before scrutinizing the importance of shoe shining It’s good to note that leather is a piece of skin that no longer has a living body to take care of it. Thus, even for the best and most expensive leather in the world, if you do not condition it on a regular basis, it will dry up and eventually crack and break down quickly. Once the shoes show signs of cracking, there is no going back. 

Okay, you don’t care about the lifespan of your shoe but learning how to polish your shoes can really transform an outfit, too.

Whether it’s an upcoming job interview or your friend’s wedding, the formality of the shine on your shoes is an ideal pairing for tailoring and not to mention – it also exudes confidence and shows that you’re well-kept.   

How Often How Often I Should Polish My Shoes?

While there are a lot of tutorials on how to polish and condition your shoes, there is not enough useful information on how often you should do it and when.

We recommend on average, you should polish your shoes once a week, but depending on how often you wear them, whether you use shoe trees or not, and how often you brush and condition them, you can get away with polishing them only a couple of times per month.

But the big question is Do I Need To Polish Brand New Shoes?

YES, doubtlessly so. Polishing your new shoes will not only help restore some moisture back to your leather – you don’t know how long they’ve been sitting idle in a store – but also adds a layer of protection so when you spill something on them, it’s the polish that gets attacked and not the leather.

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