Shoes that are in great condition, whose shine catches your eye from a distance, silently but boldly make a statement about the wearer. It simply says... that person cares and takes pride in their self.
The knowledge and tradition of shining shoes has been passed down through many generations. Whether you wear dress shoes daily to the office or only on special occasions, you owe it to yourself and your shoes to learn this very important skill. Once you’ve mastered the skill of shining, you’ll find that taking some quiet time to yourself while you work on each shoe will be therapeutic and rewarding when you step out and present yourself to the world in your new mirror-shined footwear.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- Professional Shoe Polish
- Horsehair Dauber Brush
- Horsehair Shine Brush
- Polishing Cloth
- Small dish with warm water
- Optional: Your favourite cleaner/conditioner
- Optional: Cedar Shoe Tree
STEP 1: PREPARATION
- Choose the right polish for the job (eg. cream, liquid or wax).
- Creams provide nourishment, colour and a soft, natural shine.
- Liquid polishes are quick to use and offer colour and an instant shine.
- Hard, tinned waxes require some time but provide an unmatched, professional shine.
- Cover your work surface.
- Remove any laces (if applicable).
PRO TIP: Insert a cedar shoe tree to prevent creases during cleaning and also to provide a firmer surface to work on.
STEP 2: CLEAN + CONDITION
- Use a clean brush or cloth to remove surface dirt and dislodge any debris within the seams of the shoe. Be thorough, as any fragments could scratch the shoe during polishing.
- If the shoes are very dirty or have stains, use saddle soap, leather lotion or cleaner to rid of any marks and get an even finish. Let dry completely.
PRO TIP: Saddle soap and leather lotion also condition the leather while they clean. This is important to nourish the leather and keep it from drying out. You can also use a shoe cream to restore moisture while also enhancing the colour and cover any scuffs or scratches prior to polishing.
STEP 3: POLISH
- Test first.
- Match the colour polish to your shoe as closely as possible. Test the colour before applying to the whole shoe by choosing an inconspicuous area such as the tongue.
- Apply the polish evenly.
- Use a dauber brush to apply professional shoe polish onto the shoe surface. This brush is made of 100% horsehair and has coarse bristles to help the hard wax penetrate into the leather. Move in circular motions; this friction slightly warms and melts the wax, allowing it to spread more easily. Make sure you get into the seams and apply very thin, even coats. It’s better to build-up multiple light layers than to apply one single thick layer. Continue until the shoe has a waxy, matte look to it. Allow the polish to dry for 15 minutes.
- PRO TIP: Do not mix brushes or cloths for different colour shoes. You should have separate tools for black, various browns, burgundy, etc.
- Remove excess.
- Use a horsehair shine brush to remove excess polish. Use short, quick strokes to swipe the brush back and forth across the entire shoe. The heat generated from the force helps the polish sink into the leather and brings out a natural shine from the wax blend. The shoes should have an even finish with a slight shine.
- PRO TIP: Keep your arm stationary. All of the movement should come from a flick in the wrist.
- Buff to a mirror shine.
- Once the entire shoe has an even, thin coat of polish left and a soft shine, it’s time to concentrate on the toe area. Wrap a polishing cloth around your index and middle finger and tighten to create a smooth surface. Dip into some warm water to dampen and dip back into the polish. Apply onto the toe area in small, circular motions. You will feel resistance at first (it won’t glide smoothly). Keep repeating this process (with less polish each time) until your fingers glide easily and you achieve the level of shine you are looking for. The more circles you make over the leather, the more of a shine you’ll start to see.
- What you are essentially doing with each application, is filling in the pits in the leather grain with polish and creating a smooth surface of wax on top. As you continue to buff, the reflection in the wax becomes clearer and appears shinier.
- This process may take 30+ minutes but will result in an unmatched, high gloss, “mirror shine”. This method of incorporating water is also traditionally called “spit shine” as saliva was often used in the past.
PRO TIP: Some methods also include warming the wax on the shoe with a heat gun or hair dryer. We do not recommend this as it may cause the leather to dry out. Using warm water with the wax and the warmth from your movement should help to reveal that clear, bright, professional shine.
Now that you’ve learned the skill of how to shine your shoes professionally, give yourself a pat on the back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished! Not only will your shiny shoes complete your entire look, you can now present your best self to the world with confidence. With this type of care, your shoes will look great and last for many years. Warning: be prepared to offer tips to everyone that will notice the first time you wear them out!