How to Shine Leather Shoes


The First Step to a Formal Occasion – Method to Shine Leather Shoes

You are getting ready for a relative’s wedding when you look at your dress shoes and realize that you cannot see your own reflection in them.  You know this is bad, and need to do something about it. I will teach you how to shine leather shoes, Look no further than these pages because they are all you need to fix this problem.  In these instructions we will be going over how to set your shoes up for polish, applying the polish, and finally buffing it all out to create that mirror effect that your shoes you rented for high school prom had.  Be aware that the polish can stain so watch as to not apply it on any surface that is not your shoe.  If done thoroughly, this process should take about an hour for an adequate polish.  The convenient aspect to this is that you can shine your shoes anywhere, your desk, sofa, back porch, garage, etc  Just remember to put down newspaper or magazines onto the surface you are polishing on so that the polish does not get on any furniture.

Shoe Polish:  the paste applied to your shoes

Cotton Balls:  the applicator used to apply the polish

Buffing Brush:  a brush made of horse hairs used to buff your shoes

Buffing Cloth:  a microfiber cloth used to buff your shoes

Materials Needed

  • Leather shoes
  • Small cup
  • Water
  • Open space
  • Newspaper
  • Shoe polish
  • Cotton balls
  • Buffing brush
  • Buffing cloth
  • Rubbing alcohol (optional)


The Prep

  1. Pick out an open, flat space
  2. Apply enough newspaper to cover the entire area that will be polished on
  3. Fill a small cup with only an inch of water
  4. Gather all supplies [Fig. 1]
  5. Remove shoelaces
  6. If this is the first time shining this particular pair of shoes, apply rubbing alcohol to cotton balls and apply this to the shoes by buffing the entire shoe to remove any coating on the shoe that will prevent a clean shine. Use the cotton balls as needed

The Polish

  1. Dip cotton ball into the water, and dab on newspaper so that the cotton ball is moist
  2. Apply the polish to the cotton ball by rotating it around the tin until a generous amount is on the cotton ball [Fig. 2]
  3. Press and move the cotton ball in small circles starting at the toe of the shoe and keeping to small areas (i.e. the toe, tongue, mid sole, sides, back) [Fig. 3]
    1. Keep applying that cotton ball until the matte of the polish turns into a shine
    2. Don’t be afraid to push too hard, the friction between the cotton ball and the shoe heats up the polish which makes for a better shine
  4. Once satisfied with the shine at the toe, reapply polish to the cotton ball like in Step 2
  5. Move back to the mid sole of the shoe and apply the polish there like in Step 3
  6. Repeat Steps 2-5 as you polish the entire shoe
    1. There may be some smudges and other spots left by the cotton balls but these will be buffed out in later steps

The Buff

  1. Buff the shoe to a shine by briskly brushing the buffing brush along the sides of the shoe and across the toes [Fig. 4]
  2. Buff the shoe to a mirror shine by vigorously wiping the buffing cloth along the sides of the shoe and across the toes, similar to Step 2 [Fig. 5]
    1. Between the buffing brush and cloth, there should be no more smudges or marks left on the shoe, only a classy shine to be proud of

Rinse n’ Repeat

  1. Repeat the steps in The Polish and The Buff for the second shoe.

Now you have yourself a pair of shoes ready for any occasion!

Checkout the similar post  Top 10 Best Dress Shoes for Men


Fig. 1 – From left to right, cotton balls, water bottle, shoe polish, cup, buffing cloth, buffing brush, leather shoe

How to Shine Your Leather Shoes, How to Shine Leather Shoes

Fig. 2 – A generous amount of polish on the cotton ball

How to Shine Your Leather Shoes, How to Shine Leather Shoes

Fig. 3 – Applying the polish to one area at a time using circular movements

How to Shine Your Leather Shoes, How to Shine Leather Shoes

Fig. 4 – Using the buffing brush

How to Shine Your Leather Shoes, How to Shine Leather Shoes


Fig. 5 – Buffing with the cloth across the toes

How to Shine Your Leather Shoes, How to Shine Leather Shoes

Troubleshooting Tips

  • Shoe Shining is a practice that takes a couple of times to get a grasp of, if your shoes didn’t come out as expected simply try again
  • The more times you shine a particular pair of shoes, the more able that pair is to get a shinier look. The repeated layers of polish can produce a very sleek look over time
  • If the cotton ball isn’t producing a shine and keeping the polish matte, apply more water to it and keep polishing it

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