The Proper Way to Polish Your Shoes : A Guide

Proper Way to Polish Your Shoes Guide

With a little TLC, shoes can last much longer than you think, and a pair of good leather shoes can last for years and years. It may seem like a tedious job, but taking good care of your shoes only needs about 10 to 15 minutes every so often.

There is no specific time frame needed between each polish session, it basically depends on how often you might wear the pair and in what conditions. In any case, the process is the same and quite simple.

As a starting point, and to avoid having to polish your shoes too often, I would recommend a quick cleaning right after every wear and storing them properly. This only takes a minute or 2.


Brush off any dirt from your shoes, or just use a cloth to wipe them. If you have a suede pair, use a suede brush to brush it. This makes sure the suede stays clean and maintains its rich shine (like I've done for the beautiful Dinieh 5cm Block Heel photographed below). Next, insert your shoe trees (or paper puffs) and let the shoes rest. 

polish black leather dress shoe

It is best to avoid wearing the same shoes again for 24 hours. In winter when you are walking around in wet conditions, it is especially important to do this - and better yet wait 2 days before wearing the shoes again. It is critical that the shoes really dry to avoid fast wear of the leather and sole.

When the time comes to actually polish, follow the easy steps below to ensure your shoes last as long as possible!

  1. Prep.
    Before beginning, it is important to make sure your shoes are not wet or damp (so do not do this at the end of a day wearing them). Remove the laces (if any) and make sure your shoe trees are inserted. If you do not have any, just stuff them with newspaper or paper puffs (the wax paper that usually comes inside the shoes).
    Polish Your Shoes Preparation Remove Laces
    Stuff Shoes Paper Puffs before Polishing
  1. Dust
    Wipe any dirt or dust off the shoes, you can use a shoe brush or a regular cloth for this. It is important to make sure the leather is clean before using any products.
    Dust Shoes Before Polishing
  1. Polish

    Begin by selecting the polish you want to use (and the right one for the type of leather), this can be in a neutral no-colour or a colour similar to that of the leather. Make sure to use a clean and soft cloth to apply the polish onto the shoe (a cotton cloth or even an old t-shirt would do).
    It is very important to always test a small amount of the product on the internal back side of the shoe to make sure is matches and/or does not cause any discoloration. Once you’re good to go, apply the polish to the rest of the shoe in a circular motion. Do this in small amounts and build up as needed. If you do not do this often, it might take a few layers to get a good shine. Applying a little pressure will also help push the wax into the pores of the leather and help bring out that shine as well. Once complete, set the shoes aside for a while to dry.
    Test Your Shoe Polish
    Polish Circular Motions

  2. Shine & Buff
    Next, you can take a buffing brush and give it a good brushing in long, firm strokes. This allows the shine to really come through and also removes any excess polish. You can also just use another clean cloth to do this.

    Buff Wipe Shoes After Polishing
  3. Dry
    Finally, set your shoes aside to dry in an open space (preferably open air). Make sure they are not in direct sun or close to a heating source as this will cause leather discoloration or cause the leather to dry and crack! You can then put your laces back in and store them in your shoe closet till the next wear.
    Shoes rest After Polishing

And voila! A few minutes of prep and polish and you have yourself a pair of shoes that will last and keep looking great for much longer. Always make sure you are using the correct product for the right kind of shoes, you don’t want to start by polishing and finish with ruining your favorite pair of shoes!

You can also read the guide: How to Keep Your Shoes Shining for more tips on caring for your shoes, or the blog: How To Fix Scratched Leather Shoes for tips on treating those surface scuffs and scratches. With all of these, you get the best all-round care for your shoes.

As always, and if in doubt, always ask an expert or reach out to us, we are always happy to help!

Signing-off: Rana Cheikha for The Shoe Advisor 


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