The Complete Guide for Shoe Care Brushes

When you care for leather shoes, you will need to use various types of brushes.

Since there are variations in hair type and handle shape of brushes, it is sometimes confusing to know what type of brush to use and when.

In this article, I would like to cover ALL types of brushes used for shoe care and when to use them!

Use 4 Types Of Shoe Brushes

The following four types of brushes are the most common brushes used for shoe care.

  1. Horsehair Brush” for Cleaning
  2. Shoe Dauber” for Applying Cream
  3. Pighair Brush” for Spreading Cream
  4. Goathair brush” for Polishing

The common shoe care steps for leather shoes are as follows:

Clean → Apply Cream → Spread Cream → Finish

Since every step requires a specific brush, there are differences in the type of brush hair and shape of the handle.

1. “Horsehair Brush” for Cleaning

“Horsehair Brush” is used to remove dust from leather. Since horsehair is soft and flexible, you can clean up leather like a broom.

Brushing with horsehair brush

Dust and dirt on leather make your shoes look dirty and absorb moisture from the leather- this may cause problems, such as cracking and fading.

Therefore, cleaning your leather shoes with horsehair brush not only makes the shoes look great in the long term, but it also helps protect the leather from drying out.

You might want to get a brush with large handle as shown in the picture above for a better grip.

2. “Shoe Dauber” for Applying Cream

“Shoe Dauber” is a small brush used to apply cream without getting your hands dirty.

Applying cream with shoe dauber

If you don’t have a shoe dauber, you can apply the cream with your finger or a cloth.

However, the shoe dauber gets to the places that are hard to reach when using a cloth or fingers, for example, a shoe edge (the area between the outsole and upper) and a medallion (hole decoration).

It is very useful to have one!

3. “Pig Hair Brush” for Spreading Cream

After applying the cream with the shoe dauber, “Pighair Brush” is used for spreading the cream over the whole surface of leather, so the finish is clean and beautiful.

Brushing with pighair brush

To be honest, when I started looking after my leather shoes, I skipped that brush as I didn’t really think much of it. However, I finally gave it a go and soon realized that the finish looks very nice, so now I can’t imagine not using it!

Get a brush with large handle so you can grab it firmly.

4. “Goathair Brush” for Polishing

Goat hair is much thinner and softer than pig hair or horse hair, so brushing with a goathair brush it gives leather a bit of shine.

Brush with goathair brush

This brush is used by professional shoe shiners, but you can also polish the surface with a cloth instead.

As the brush is meant for advanced users, it may be a good idea to purchase one once you get used to the maintenance of leather shoes.

How To Make Brushes Last Long

In order to keep using your brushes for a long time, it is advisable to look after them as much as they look after your shoes!

Here is how:

Washing Shoe Dauber

When the shoe dauber gets “glued” with cream, you want to wash it with hot water and soap so the hair gets back to being soft and flexible.

The pighair brush also gets sticky with continuous use, but I wouldn’t recommend washing it as a bit of cream on the hair actually helps add shine to your leather shoes.

Cutting Protruding Hair

You want to cut protruding hair as shown in the picture below.

It is not really a problem if you leave the brush in this state, but for those who are bothered by the hairs, simply use scissors.

Do not pull out the hairs because the surrounding bristles may get pulled out. (it is a tip I was given at a brush shop.)

Unique Shoe Brushes

There are four types of brushes used in leather shoe care, but there are many other types of brushes.

Below is a slightly unique brush for leather shoes.

Chemical Fiber Brush

“Chemical Fiber Brush” is often used for cleaning and spreading cream.

The hair is slightly firm, in between horse hair brush and pighair brush.

It can be said that it is a fairly versatile brush though it is not really popular since the fiber hair looks a little bit cheap.

Crepe Brush

“Crepe Brush” is made of rubber and used for cleaning suede leather.

(Doesn’t really look like a brush, but it is definitely one!)

By brushing suede shoes with crepe brush, you can loosen the solid suede surface.

The care for suede shoes is explained in the article below and you can see how to use this brush.

How to Care for Suede Shoes

Brass Bristle Brush

“Brass Bristle Brush” is made of metal, and is used for maintenace of suede shoes.

To be honest, I do not recommend the brass bristle brush since it may damage the surface of leather, so use crepe brush instead.

(I have had some hard time with lots of small scratches after using it…)

However, it seems that there is a high-grade brass bristle brush with very fine wire lines, which may allow suede maintenance without damaging the leather.

Wrap It Up

For caring for your leather shoes, use one of the following four brushes in each step.

  • Horsehair Brush” for Cleaning
  • Shoe Dauber” for Applying Cream
  • Pighair Brush” for Spreading Cream
  • Goathair brush” for Polishing

It is not necessary to have them all, but if you gradually build up the whole collection, shoe care is bound to become a more exciting process!

About the author

Ken Kataoka

Hi, I’m Ken Kataoka, based in Tokyo Japan. I’m fascinated by leather shoes and shoe care. Also, I make bespoke shoes. I write articles on shoe care & tools, shoe brands and more from my experience.

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