How To Properly Shine Leather Shoes

How To Properly Shine Leather Shoes

No matter how nice your shoes are, they can start looking worn and ugly over time if nor properly cared for. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to properly shine a pair of leather shoes.

If you haven’t shined shoes before, don’t worry — it’s actually really, really simple. You will need a few things beforehand, though, which you can buy very cheaply anywhere from a professional shoe shop to somewhere like Target or Big W:

  • A soft cloth. This can really be anything from a rag or an old t-shirt to a special buffing cloth (in practice, an old t-shirt should work just fine).
  • A can of shoe polish. Grab them in whatever colours you need for the shoes you’re shining.
  • A good shoe brush.

Shining your shoes is a simple process that should only take you a few minutes. Here’s what you do:

  1. First, brush off any dirt, mud, salt or other debris on your shoe with your brush or a damp cloth. Wait for the shoe to dry before continuing to the next step.
  2. Next, apply a little bit of your shoe polish to the shoe with your cloth or t-shirt. Make sure not to get it on the carpet or anything else, it won’t come out easily! Rub the shoe in small circles, using just a bit of shoe polish at a time–remember, less is more (and you can always add more if need be).
  3. Use your shoe brush to brush any excess polish off the shoe. Don’t be afraid to put a little elbow grease into this step, you won’t ruin the shoe.
  4. Lastly, take your cloth or t-shirt and buff out the rest of your shoe so it shines.

Check out the video above from to see it in action. If you prefer to have a little cheat sheet, weblog Art of Manliness put together a great little illustration that goes through all the steps. And remember: if you run out of shoe polish, you can always substitute a banana in a pinch, not to mention clean your tennis shoes with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser or bicarb soda.


  • C’mon Lifehacker – the above text is a direct rip from the AoM cheat sheet, coming out only a few days after they posted it. Padding it with some aussie specific stores and a tip to not get it on the carpet does not equal original content.

  • No-one mentioned using a brush for rubbing in the the polish – essential for city shoes and getting into the creases where the flexibility and polish needs to be. Rub the brush with polish on it in little circles using the tip of the brush (focus on the hard to get places) first, leave for 10 minutes. Then buff off the excess with a second brush, and follow-up with the cloth. More elbow grease = better shine Always have a polishing brush and a buffing brush. My grandfather taught me how to do it properly – whatever happened to all those uselful handed down skills, eh? Oh, wait… Lifehacker allows us to share…. 🙂

  • As you can see, we’ve had our eye on you for some time now, Mr. Anderson. It seems that you’ve been living two lives. In one life, you’re Thomas A. Anderson, program writer for a respectable software company, you have a social security number, you pay your taxes, you have clean shoes and you help your landlady carry out her garbage. The other life is lived in computers, where you go by the hacker alias Neo and are guilty of virtually every computer crime we have a law for. One of these lives has a future, and one of them does not. I’m going to be as forthcoming as I can be, Mr. Anderson. You’re here because we need your help to shine my shoes. We know that you’ve been contacted by a certain individual, a man who calls himself Morpheus. Now whatever you think you know about this man is irrelevant. He is considered by many authorities to be the most dangerous man alive. My colleagues believe that I am wasting my time with you but I believe that you wish to do the right thing. We’re willing to let you wipe my shoes clean, give you a fresh start and all that we’re asking in return is your cooperation in bringing a known shoe terrorist to justice.
    Neo: Yeah. Wow, that sound like a really good deal. But I think I got a better one. How about I give you the finger… and you give me my phone call.

  • My Dad tought me how to shine shoes the way he learned in the army.
    You need two brushes – a double sided brush from the supermarket is fine.
    As @lambchop mentioned, a small brush is essential for getting your polish into the nooks and crannies. Then if you have time, let it set for 10 minutes or so.
    Then you need a bigger brush to buff your shoes with. The brushing action in the video was all wrong. I don’t know how to describe it properly, but imagine yoy swing your brush back and forward in a shallow arc so it only brushes the shoe at the bottom or the arc. That’s what you want. This motion is very easy to maintain for long periods without becoming tired. You want to get a rhythm going where it’s “forward-back … forward-back … forward back… forward-back”

    After you have polished your shoes with the brushes, it’s time to add a little shine.

    @Scootah mentioned the secret finishing touch – Nylon stockings meke the best polishing rags you will ever find! Ball them up, or use them like polishing rags you see in the movies. Either way, old nylons give a great shine!

  • Hey don’t forget you need to condition your shoes as well! It is one of the most important things to keep your shoes looking great. There are some great Australian shoe conditioners out there such as Oakwood or Dubbin . I use Oakwood which contains all natural ingredients such as tea tree and ecualyptus oils and bees wax and lanolin. A quality conditioner will soften the leather of your shoes and waterproof them. I use a new soft cloth and dab a small amount of the conditioner onto the cloth. Then rub the conditioner onto your shoes in small circles as I did with the shoe polish. Let the conditioner penetrate the leather for a few minutes then wipe of the excess with a new clean cloth. Check out my blog for more info:

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