Learning how to shine shoes is initially tedious, painstaking, and dull. If you want to get that perfect shine, you have to really work for it.

So why bother in a fast-food society where everything is disposable? Well, precisely for that reason. In a time where we cradle a loud, distracting device with us wherever we go, it’s more important than ever to find a way to connect to our roots.

Shoe shining is an ageless tradition that teaches the value of monotony.

Stay with me, here. We’ll get into that more as we go.

Through a simple and repetitive task, you bring a dull, crusty old pair of shoes into something worth marveling at. And once you get the hang of it, shining your shoes can become a relaxing task where you can forget about the distractions of the world for a little bit.

Not to mention, that killer look of brand-new shoes every day.

Why You Should Learn How to Shine Shoes

Although learning how to shine shoes seems trivial, you can learn a great deal about life through the process. There’s something to be said for forming healthy habits and self-discipline. And at the very least, you make an ordinary pair of shoes look gorgeous.

Taking care of what’s yours

So, you’ve got a nice pair of leather shoes. Now you have two options. On the one hand, you can neglect them until they get scuffed and gross, and then throw them out. On the other hand, you can properly maintain them and get the most out of your dollar.

Polishing your leather shoes extends their life, saving you money down the road. You waterproof them, keep the leather moisturized which prevents cracking, and you protect them from scuffs.

While it’s not a massive financial loss to buy new shoes, proper maintenance is an important habit to build. Taking care of that which belongs to you will always pay off in the long run. Build the practice now with the small things, and it’ll pay you dividends in your future.

Respecting yourself

Learning how to shine shoes also boosts your fashion game. Nothing completes your look better than a pair of miraculous leather shoes. And when you’re the one that put in the work to shine your shoes, it boosts your confidence even more.

Shining your shoes helps you take pride in your appearance. No matter how you wish things were, appearance matters and how you dress has an impact on how people view you. Mastering the lessons on how to shine shoes is a step towards taking care of your self-presentation, helping you make powerful first impressions.

What It Takes to Achieve That Glossy Finish

You know your leather shoes could look better. Don’t let them lay in the corner cracked, dull, and lifeless. Follow these seven steps to learn how to shine shoes and restore them to their former glory.

Acquire the tools for the job

It’s time to get to work. First on the list of how to shine shoes “lessons” is getting the appropriate polish. If you want a matte finish and care more about maintenance, you’ll want to buy some cream shoe polish. For the classic “shiny as a mirror” look, you’ll want to pick up some wax shoe polish. For beginners, your best bet will be to buy a neutral colored polish, so you don’t have to worry about matching colors precisely.

Next on the list is a pair of horsehair brushes. You’ll want a large horsehair brush for buffing and a smaller horsehair brush for applying polish.

You’ll also want a few pieces of soft cloth. An old t-shirt is perfect for the job. Along with the soft cloth, you might want some cotton balls, but they aren’t essential.

Finally, if you want to go the extra step to take care of your leather shoes, you’ll want to pick up some leather conditioner. This restores and protects your shoes from cracking and fading.

Clean your shoes

It’s essential to clean your shoes off before polishing them. That helps to get the polish deep into the leather, rather than just smearing it on top of a layer of dirt.

To start cleaning your shoes, first, remove your laces. Then, whip out that horsehair brush we told you to get. Brush over your entire shoe to clean away any dust or dirt.

If you’ve been wearing your shoes around for a while, you’ll also want to use some soap and water. Mix a small amount of soap into some water, then soak a cloth in the soapy water. Next, wring out the fabric, so it’s damp, then wipe off the remaining layer of dirt on your shoes. Make sure to go easy on the soap because it can dry out your leather.

Lastly, if your shoes have an old and crusty layer of polish left on them, you can use a cotton ball dipped in nail polish remover to wipe it away. After cleaning your shoes, make sure to give them time to completely dry.

Conditioning your shoes

If you bought a leather conditioner, now’s the time to use it. Put a little bit of leather conditioner on one of your pieces of cloth, and apply it to your shoes. Apply a thin layer of conditioner to your shoes in a circular manner, making sure to cover all of the leather on your shoes. After application, allow 10 to 20 minutes to dry.

Slap on some polish

Now it’s time to apply the polish, the most essential step of learning how to shine shoes. Make sure to prepare the area you’ll be doing this at, as shoe polish is a pain to get out of clothing and surfaces.

To apply the cream polish, put some polish on a damp cloth or your smaller applicator brush. Then, apply the polish evenly across all of the leather on your shoes. Do so in a circular manner, and make sure to get a nice, even layer covering your shoes. Apply one to two coats depending on how even and thick your first layer was.

If you’re using a wax polish, do the same but don’t make your cloth damp. Evenly spread the polish across your shoe’s leather until you have a good and even layer of polish on top.

Bring out the brush

how to shine shoes: shoeshine shoe polish

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Now that you have a layer of polish on your shoes, it’s time to buff them. Use your large horsehair brush and brush the shoes in a sweeping side to side motion while applying a medium amount of pressure. Do this anywhere there’s polish on your shoes.

Your shoes will start to shine when you do this. You can continue until your shoes stop getting shinier, or at least until you notice an even shine. You can skip the next step if you’re happy with the light shine, or move onto the classic step of shoe shining.


Now it’s time for the famous part of shining shoes. The step you see in every military movie, and the way to get that gorgeous glass-like shine. The spit-shine. And no, you shouldn’t actually spit on your shoes, you filthy animal. Unless you really want to, because I can’t stop you…

For this step, first put a light amount of polish on the tip of a cloth or a cotton ball. Then, apply a drop or two of warm water to your shoe using your fingertip. Now, use your cloth to apply polish directly on the water drop, using small, tight, and fast circles. Work your way out from the water drop, and do this for your entire shoe, adding more water and polish when necessary.

Once you cover the shoe, use a clean and dry part of your cloth to rub the polish in with the same small and fast circles. Eventually, you’ll notice a shine come through and that you’ve nearly rubbed the polish in completely. Now give your shoes 20 minutes to dry.

At this point, you can be done, or you can repeat the spit-shining process a few more times. Every time you repeat the process, your shoes will get shinier and shinier. So if you want, you can keep going until you get that glossy shine.

Buff it out

how to shine shoes: shoe polish shine black dress

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Once you’re happy with your results, get a dry and clean cloth and buff your shoes out. Hold the cloth by its ends, pull it down over your shoe, and pull it left and right over your shoe. That will add a finishing touch to your shoes, evening out the polish and bringing a final shine.

Wear Your Shoes with Pride

how to shine shoes man sitting on bench

Source: Pexels

Once you finish shining your shoes you might be scared to walk around in them. You’ve put so much work into making them beautiful that you don’t want to see them ruined. But don’t worry, that’s just part of the process.

Wearing your shoes around might dirty them, but that’s the cost for earning looks of admiration and respect. Eventually, they’ll get dirty and scuffed again, but that’s what maintenance is all about.

Every time you shine your shoes, you’re practicing the habit of maintenance and self-care. Use these opportunities as a chance to improve your skill at the process and find peace in simple tasks that have noticeable results.

Did you learn something new, let us know down in the comments!