Shoe Shine Guide | How to Shine Your Shoes

Leather shoes will dry out and become dirty if they have not cared for a long time.

Shine your shoes regularly for getting back the glossy and neat look!

In this article, I will go through how to polish your shoes properly.

STEP 1: Insert Shoe Trees

(Although I will explain only one shoe in the videos, please proceed with both shoes.)

First, remove the shoelace and insert shoe trees in your shoes.

The shoe trees keep your shoes in shape and make the following steps easier. In other words, if you don’t put the shoe trees, your shoes are too soft to clean and polish so difficult to do proper maintenance.

Tool used in this STEP: Shoe Trees

Shoe trees are a must-have tool for caring leather shoes, especially dress style shoes.

It can be used during care for your shoes, and also when you are not wearing for keeping your shoes in good shape like when they are new.

There are two types of shoe trees, made of wood or plastic, and I recommend to have one made of wood because it can absorb moisture inside of shoes.

STEP 2: Brush with a Horsehair Brush

Brush with a horsehair brush to remove dust and dirt.

The edge between the upper and outsole is a spot where dust and dirt can easily get so brush with more attention.

Tool used in this STEP: Horsehair Brush

Horsehair is soft and flexible, so it is the best type of brush to remove dust and dirt on your shoes.

Chose one with big handle for better grip.

STEP 3: Wipe with a Cloth and Cleaner

Put cleaner on a cloth and gently wipe.

Do not forget to shake the bottle of cleaner before using it.

Also, be careful not to wipe too strong to prevent damaging the leather.

The cleaner can get easily dried, so put cleaner several times to clean entire shoes.

Tool used in this STEP: Cloth and Cleaner

Cleaner is used to remove very fine dust which you can not clean with horsehair brush.

In this article, I use water-based and leather friendly cleaner “Stain Remover” from shoe care brand MOWBRAY.

Cloth is one sold specially for shoe care, or you can use worn-out T-shirts instead.

STEP 4: Moisturize with Shoe Cream

Moisturize the leather with shoe cream.

Leather loses water and oil as time goes by and getting weak which lead to some problem such as fading or cracking, so to moisturize the leather is the most important STEP for shoe care.

Take a bit of cream on a small application brush(Shoe Dauber) and paste it in a circular motion.

It will be better to take cream several times to apply the entire surface.

Tool used in this STEP: Shoe Cream and Shoe Dauber

Shoe cream is used for moisturizing the leather and make your shoes long last.

Need to chose “emulsion cream” which contains a little bit of water so you can care your shoes properly.

In this article, I use “Beaute de Cuir Cream” from shoe care brand Saphir.

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

You can apply the cream with a cloth or finger, but I recommend you to have dauber because you can apply the cream around the stitching, perforation with the dauber.

STEP 5: Brush with a Pighair Brush

Brush with a pighair brush to spread cream so that the entire leather will be moisturized evenly.

A tip is to put a bit of pressure so that cream can penetrate into the leather.

Do not forget to brush the edge part too.

Tool used in this STEP: Pighair Brush

Pighair is a bit stiff so that cream can be spread by brushing with it.

Since you want to put pressure a bit when you use, choose one with a big handle for a better grip.

STEP 6: Polish with a Cloth

Polish with a cloth to remove extra cream.

Be mind that if cream remains, the finish may have uneven gloss, and the remaining cream may oxidize and damage the leather.

Let’s wipe the whole leather firmly.

Tool used in this STEP: Cloth

You can use commercially available polishing cloth or a worn-out T-shirt at home.

You can use the cloth you used for cleaning, but make sure that you use a clean surface.

STEP 7: Apply Oil-based Shoe Cream

Apply oil-based shoe cream for a shiny finish.

The shoe cream, which is used in STEP 4, contains a bit of water and is used for moisturizing the leather.

Oil-based cream does not contain water and used for a glossy finish.

You can apply the oil-based cream in the same way as you do for normal shoe cream in STEP 4.

Take a bit of cream on the shoe dauber several times and apply it to the whole surface.

Tool used in this STEP: Oil-based Shoe Cream

Oil-based Shoe Cream is made of wax and oil. You can give the leather a bit of shine with this cream by making a thin layer of wax.

In this article, I use “Creme1925” from Saphir Noir which is popular for professional shoe shiner and luxury shoe brand.

STEP 8: Brush with a Pighair Brush

Brush with a pighair brush to spread oil-based shoe cream.

By spreading the cream, you can make a thin layer of wax and the finish is beautiful.

Just as with shoe cream, brush in strong touch.

Tool used in this STEP: Pighair Brush

The pighair brush can be the same as that used for normal shoe cream.

As a side note, it is better to have several brushes if you use colored shoe cream because the color will stick to the hair and effect to color of your shoes.

STEP 9: Polish with a Cloth

Polish with a cloth.

When polished with a cloth, a thin film of wax contained in the oil-based cream is formed and becomes glossy.

A tip is to gently polish so that the wax doesn’t peel off.

Tool used in this STEP: Cloth

For the final polishing, use a commercially available shoe polish cloth or a fine mesh cloth such as flannel.

Polishing with a fine-textured cloth can give a delicate gloss without damaging the wax layer.

How to do Mirror Shine

For those who want to make leather shoes even shinier, there is a method called “Mirror Shine” that makes your shoes shine like a mirror.

For doing mirror shine, the steps you follow are similar to which I explain above but you want to use “Shoe Polish” instead of “Oil-based Shoe Cream”.

STEP 1: Preparation

Before starting mirror shine, complete the STEPs from “STEP 1: Insert Shoe Trees” to “STEP 4: Moisturize with Shoe Cream” introduced above.

Once you apply Shoe Polish, you can not moisturize the leather so you need to care for the leather before you put Shoe Polish.

STEP 2: Apply Shoe Polish

Apply Shoe Polish to the shoes, the toe, and heel per red frame in the photo below.

If you apply Shoe Polish to the other area, the Shoe Polish may crack while you walk and making your shoes look dirty.

Lightly apply the shoe polish to your finger and apply a thin coat on the leather.

After applying the shoe polish, you want to let it dry for a few minutes so I recommend doing as follow;

Apply one-foot toe → heel, another foot toe → heel.

Tool used in this STEP: Shoe Polish

Shoe Polish is used to make a thin layer of wax on the surface of the leather and make it shine like a mirror.

There are many products available but I recommend “KIWI Parade Gloss” for those who do mirror shine for the first time.

STEP 3: Polish with a Cloth

Once the wax is dry, polish with a cloth to make the layer of shoe polish flat. the wax.

When you polish, water is needed as a lubricant so prepare water in a container such as a shoe polish lid.

Wrap the cloth around your finger without wrinkles, and put a drop of water on the area you apply shoe polish, and gently polish in circular motion.

If you put too much pressure, the shoe polish may come off so be careful.

When you started to spread the shoe polish, the surface of leather looks as shown in the photo below.

If you continue to polish gently, it will look like the photo below.

As when you put shoe polish, please do this step in the order of one toe → heel and the other toe → heel.

Tool used in this STEP: Cloth

For mirror shine, use a cloth specially made for shoes polishing or a very fine mesh cloth such as flannel cloth.

If a fine mesh cloth is used, it does not damage the wax layer.

A tip for Mirror Shine

To finish mirror polishing beautifully, it is important to use the proper amount of shoe polish and water.

I explain as “Put a drop of water”, but it depends on the amount of shoe polish so the water might not be enough.

It sounds difficult at first, but if you try a mirror shine several times, you will get to know the best the amount of wax and water.

If there is too much water, the leather will absorb water and become blisters as shown in the photo below. You can not do a mirror shine with this condition because it will repel the sho polish.

On the other hand, if the amount of water is not enough too small, the fabric fibers will become waxed and also difficult for polish as shown in the photo below.

STEP 4: Repeat STEP 2 and 3

Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the desired gloss is obtained.

The photo below shows how the leather shines according to the number of times step 2 and 3 were repeated.

2~3 times
4~5 times
6~7 times

STEP 5: Finish

Finally, polish with a cloth which a bit wet.

Rewrap the cloth with a finger on a clean surface, and polish gentle strokes.

F.A.Q. about Shoe Shine

Here are some frequently asked questions about shoe shine.

If you have any questions, please feel free to comment on this article so I will respond to you.

What is the Best Shoe Shine Kit?

Shoe shine needs a variety of tools, so it is easy to buy a shoe shine kit.

Here are some recommended shoe shine sets:

“Full set with WI-MoS Mouvely shoe tree”
“Shoe shine set with good shoes for a long time [with shoe keeper]”

The above two shoe shine sets can cover up most of the tools you need, but not enough so it is better to get the needed tools accordingly.

What is the Best Shoe Polish?

I recommend following Shoe Polish.

I experimented with which shoe polish was the BEST, and it turns out that these 3 shoe polishes above are very easy for a mirror shine.

If you do not know what to use, please give it try!

Is there any way to shine easily and constantly?

It is easy to shine your shoes using the “shoe shine machine”.

The machine can be used while you standing so very easy and quick to use.

However, you can not moisturize the leather and can not make your shoes glossy as you use oil-based shoe cream or shoe polish.

There are some people use “shoe shine sponge”, but I do not recommend to use it because most of the sponge type polish contains silicone which is not good for leather.

Wrap it up

Shoe shine needs various tools and procedures and takes some time, but as long as you spend time, the leather shoes will become shiny and you should have fun wearing them.

Please polish your shoes and enjoy your leather shoes!

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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