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How To Polish Your Shoes

Gabor Wilma

When you’ve invested in some beautiful and practical shoes, you no doubt will want to keep them in great condition for as long as possible. The condition of your shoes is very important for your overall foot health, including preventing and alleviating pain from conditions like plantar fasciitis, and keeping your feet comfortable and dry when you’re out and about.

Over time it’s inevitable that your shoes will begin to show signs of wear, so you’ll need to apply the right care to ensure they’re always looking their best. To do so, you’ll need to have the correct shoecare products and know the best way to polish your shoes. If you’ve never given your footwear that much-needed TLC to create a mirror shine, don’t fret! We have plenty of tips and tricks to help you get your shoes sparkling for longer. In this guide, we’ll cover:

Why should you polish your shoes?

Barbour Capstan

Shoes are often the key element that ties any outfit together. Whether that’s smart court shoes adding a laid-back look for work, or some beautiful boots you love to pair with your casual weekend outfits — they always play a key role. And while you might try to take care of them as best you can, general wear is bound to happen. Combine frequent use with some tough elements from rainy days and you may have discovered that your favourite leather footwear starts to lose its shine.

Here are just some of the advantages you’ll get from polishing your shoes:

  • Improves lifespan of your shoes: They will look greater for longer
  • Helps to moisturise the leather: This can prevent it from cracking
  • Can waterproof the leather: So, despite the weather, your shoes will be able to stand up to the elements
  • Looks great: This is particularly important if you want to make a great impression, perhaps for work or a special occasion.

There are so many reasons why polishing your shoes is a good idea, but how often should you do it? We’ll be covering this in the next section.

How often should you polish your shoes?

Gabor Ruffle

There are no hard and fast rules about when to polish your shoes, but if you’re looking for a guideline, we would recommend properly cleaning and polishing your shoes every two to three weeks, depending on how often you wear them.

If you wear them out and about every day, you might find the shine needs restoring every week or so. Any scuffs you notice should ideally be dealt with as and when they happen, but if that’s not possible, you can still deal with them at a later date — you might just need some extra elbow grease to polish them to a mirror shine!

How do you polish shoes?

Charles Clinkard Cayenne 3


Because of its smooth surface, leather is typically quite straight forward to restore if done within a good time frame of it becoming scuffed or dull. And usually all you need is a couple of items to get them back to looking like they’re brand new. Here, we will be discussing how you can shine your shoes to perfection, whether they’re real leather, faux leather, or have a patent finish.

How to polish leather shoes

Real leather is perhaps one of the most durable types of uppers used on footwear, which means it usually takes quite a lot to leave it looking battered and bruised. But when your shoes begin to look a little worn, it doesn’t take much to polish scuffs out and achieve a shine once again.

To shine your leather shoes, you’ll need:

  • Polishing cloth
  • Polish (the same colour as your shoes): This can be a wax or cream polish. The former can give greater shine and adds a waterproof layer, while cream polishes will add less shine but moisturise your leather.
  • Welt brush
  • Horsehair brush
  • Clean rag or microfibre cloth

Once you’ve got all the above, you’re ready to make your shoes shine following the below method:

  1. Lay down an old newspaper or a covering to protect your floor as the shoe cleaning process can get a little messy.
  2. Remove your shoelaces to prevent them getting polish on them and pack your shoes with newspaper to make the surface of your shoes firmer and easier to polish.
  3. Use a dry horsehair brush to rid your leather shoes of any dirt or dust. If you’ve got dried on debris, you might want to use the welt brush instead and wet it to make it easier to lift any stubborn marks.
  4. Double check your shoes for any missed specks of dirt as these could scratch the leather as you polish. Once you’re satisfied, take a clean rag and wipe them down..
  5. Add a small dab of polish to your cloth and work it into your leather shoe in circular motions. Doing it this way will warm the wax a little, which encourages it to melt into the leather and give better, more even, results.
  6. Continue to add wax to your shoes until they have a waxy, matte appearance and use the welt brush to apply polish to any trickier areas, such as the heel and welt.
  7. Leave the polish to dry for around 10 minutes.
  8. Make sure your horsehair brush is clear of any dirt from before by tapping it against a hard corner or surface and then use it to buff the entire shoe in a quick side-to-side motion. You should begin to see a shine.
  9. Once you’ve shined your shoes to your liking, use a clean rag or cloth to remove any excess wax and then leave your shoes for another 10 minutes.
  10. Leave your shoes to completely dry for between 10–20 minutes and then add your shoelaces back in.

In between cleans and polishes, you might also want to consider doing the following:

  • Use shoe trees to maintain your shoe’s shape and prevent creasing.
  • Use a shoe horn when putting your footwear on to preserve the heel structure.
  • Apply water and stain protectors every few weeks to keep on top of general shoecare.
  • Use shoe conditioner if the leather is looking very dull and worn out.

How to polish patent shoes

Patent leather differs from smooth leather as it is coated in a plastic, varnish, or lacquer to give it that beautiful high gloss finish so many of us love.

To shine your leather patent shoes, you’ll need:

  • Two clean rags or cloths
  • A horsehair shoe brush
  • Patent cleaner

Once you’ve collected the above, you’re ready to shine your leather patent shoes using the following technique:

  1. Remove any shoelaces and give your shoes a wipe down with a cloth.
  2. Get rid of any build-ups of dirt, debris, and mud with a horsehair shoe brush until you’ve removed it all. It’s worth noting any leftover debris can cause scratches on patent leather during polishing, so you need to get rid of it all.
  3. Clean your horsehair brush of any dirt as you’ll need this again.
  4. Dry your boots with a clean cloth.
  5. Shake your patent cleaner and spray all over your shoes. Wipe off any excess liquid before polishing to give a smooth, even finish.
  6. Grab your horsehair brush and begin buffing until you see a beautiful shine coming back through.
  7. Leave your shoes to dry for 10 minutes or until completely dry, and then re-lace if necessary.

In between wears and cleans, there are a couple of other ways you can preserve your patent leather shoes:

  • Keep them out of direct sunlight to avoid softening or cracking of the leather.
  • Use a shoe tree to keep their shape.
  • Put your shoes on with a shoe horn to preserve the heel structure.
  • Remove moisture by leaving them outside to air dry if they’re wet.

For some inspiration on how to show off your newly polished patent shoes, check out our blog post on styling your patent leather shoes.

How to shine faux leather shoes

Faux leather is a great option for those with a leather allergy, or people who don’t want to wear animal by-products, but still want to look great. Faux leather is typically made from a plastic base, which is then coated with wax, polyurethane or dye to create the desired colour and texture.

Unlike its real counterpart, faux leather is waterproof, which means, for the most part, it is very stain resistant. But without the natural oils that real leather has, faux leather can become duller, quicker.

To combat this, you’ll need to gather the following:

  • Two clean rag or cloth
  • Water
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Glass cleaner
  • Faux leather protector/conditioner

Once you’ve collected the above, you can then follow these tips for shining your faux leather shoes:

  1. Mix a solution of equal parts cool water and distilled white vinegar.
  2. Use a clean rag to spot clean any dirty areas on your shoes.
  3. Leave your shoes to completely dry (around 10–20 minutes).
  4. Remove any scuffs by placing a dab of petroleum jelly on them and buffing them out with a clean rag.
  5. Finish your clean and polish by spritzing a little bit of glass cleaner onto your faux leather shoes and buffing with a soft, clean rag.
  6. Spray your shoes with a faux leather protector to prevent the material from drying out.

Faux leather is quite resistant to wear and tear, so there are no particularly special guidelines to follow. Just be sure to give them a clean to refresh the synthetic uppers and improve their appearance and longevity.

Take proper care of your real, patent, and faux leather shoes with our guide. By following the tips to suit your footwear, you can keep your favourite pairs in great condition for longer.

Here at Charles Clinkard, we have fantastic ranges of footwear for men and women, in plenty of styles, and from many reputable brands. So, you can guarantee there will be something to fit your style and budget here. We offer free UK delivery on all orders over £40* (T&Cs apply), so treat yourself today.

For more inspiration and advice, make sure you keep up to date with our blog. We cover everything from foot care and shoe care to gift and style guides. You’ll also find the latest Charles Clinkard news here, so you can keep up to date with our company movements. For any questions regarding our shoes or proper shoe care, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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