How to Polish Your Shoes in Three Easy Steps

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Keeping your shoes well polished should be more of a privilege than a duty. If you take some time to take care of your shoes every now and again, you might find it to be a special time.

Doing manual work, you can see the progress unfold before your eyes. In our day and age few of our achievements are tangible and it can sometimes feel like nothing was done after finishing work. This is the time to take out your brushes and creams.

Shining your shoes is a stress release because it forces you to take your mind off your problems for half an hour, while you hands work the leather repetitively. Taking care of your shoes will also enrich the leather and thus prolonging the life of the shoe. This is sustainable and by working the leather in this final process of shoemaking, you will get an understanding of how much work and care the artisan put into making your shoes.

Now let's look at the three steps to getting a quality shoe shine.


At the beginning it is very important to clean your shoes well. Make sure they are nice and dry and then brush off any dirt and dust. Keep a separate brush for dusting off your shoes, and make sure to clean out all the crevices around the shoe.


Leather is a living material and needs care. After cleaning your shoes, you can take care of the leather. Because leather dries out over time, you have to nourish it to keep it strong. Here, it is important to consider what cream your leather needs. 

You should avoid any neutral creams for your leather, as many can cause discolouration. Instead find a shade of shoe cream that is the closest to your shoe’s colour. If you are in between two shades, you can decide if you wish for your shoe to become slightly darker or lighter over time. Saphir creams and waxes are considered the best by many in the trade and are worth the investment.

Apply the coloured shoe cream to your leather thinly with a cloth. Simply dip a clean cotton rag in the cream and apply it to the upper of the shoe. It is always best to start in a discreet spot on the shoe and do the tip of the shoe last. Once you have applied a thin coat of cream you can take a clean cloth or brush and work the cream into the leather. This will make the matte cream integrate into the leather and will give a fairly good shine after a few minutes of work. If any areas look dry or damaged, just reapply cream and repeat the process. You might like the slightly shiny look after polishing the cream, but if you want a perfect shine you have to use wax and follow the next step.

You should also keep an eye on the leather lining of your artisanal shoes. The thin leather might get dry over time and need a colourless nourishing cream or milk.


With your shoe being clean and the leather well nourished, you can take the next step and get a wax polish. 

Whereas the leather cream penetrates deeply into the leather, the wax creates a shiny protective coat on top of the leather. The wax polish only integrates with the surface layer of the leather, which is achieved by multiple layers of wax being applied with water and friction.

Take a clean cloth and wrap tightly it around two of your fingers. Press the cloth lightly into your wax, in the colour corresponding to the leather of your shoe, and make small circular motions to coat the cloth lightly with the wax. Then use the same small circular motions to apply the wax to the tip of the shoe. 

At first the wax will make the shoe slightly mat, but once you have applied a very thin layer of wax you should put one small drop of water on the leather. Use the cloth, the drop, and small circular motions to integrate the wax into the surface of the leather. After a while, and perhaps after adding another few drops of water, the matte wax will become fixed and become slightly shiny. Now is the time to apply another very small coat of wax and rework it into the surface with friction and water. 

The key is patience, but it is also important not to press too hard with your fingers and to apply an even and thin layer of wax. Continue adding thin coats of wax and polish until you are satisfied with the shine.

The classic polish is focused on the cap toe area and the heel of the shoe with many layers of wax, and the rest of the shoe only gets lightly polished. If you build up a thick layer of polished wax on a part of the leather that moves, the wax polish will crack. 

Polishing your shoes with wax will protect them better agains the elements and will help you and those around you admire the beauty of the leather and the craftsmanship. 

The famous fashion editor, Diana Vreeland, underlined the importance of shining your shoes and being elegant by her famous remark. “Unshined shoes are the end of civilization.”

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  • Your shoes are lovely but I find them expensive.

    Raj Gupta on

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