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How To Polish and Shine Your Shoes

Updated on May 23, 2014
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Raye loved playing dress-up so much that she went on to study costume and makeup for her BA, then got an MFA in surface design.

Learning to Shine Shoes

Learning how to shine a leather pair of shoes was another one of those skills I picked up from my dad when I was in high school, along with how to tie a necktie. He used to announce he was going to shine shoes, and my mom, sister and I would give him whatever shoes needed some care. He would line them all up on the fireplace hearth in the family room, and shine the various pairs one-by-one. When my punk phase really kicked in, I got myself a pair of combat boots, and one time, asked my dad if he would teach me how to shine them myself.

In college, I was able to periodically give them a nice clean-up and wound up wearing them until they literally fell apart. And as a costume major, I occasionally had to polish shoes while making a costume for a character and it was nice knowing how to actually do that.

Shoe polishing and shining takes a bit of preparation so read over this hub, go get the tools and equipment you need and then come back and this hub can guide you through the shoe shine process.

The Tools of the Trade

Shoe Shine Demo

The 1-2-3 of Shoe Shining

Here's the basics of how to shine a pair of leather shoes:

1) Shoes should be clean and dry - This refers to getting off any surface dirt before you do any polishing. Brush off the shoes so that any caked-on dirt or sand is removed. For really dirty shoes, wiping them down with a damp cloth after brushing can help remove more dirt and dust. For super-dirty shoes, you might want to use saddle soap or another leather cleaner. Let the shoes dry-off completely after cleaning them.

2) Polishing the shoes - Shoe polish can be a liquid, a creme or a firmer cake. Make sure the color is appropriate for the color of the shoes you are polishing. Read the instructions for how to apply the polish to the shoes. Apply polish evenly to all surfaces of the shoe especially areas that are scuffed and have lost color or show scratches, and rub in well.

3) Buff and shine - After applying the shoe polish, the shoes are buffed and shined. This can be done with a clean dry cloth, or it can be done with a large, soft-bristled brush made for using on shoes

Military Boot Polishing

A Closetful of Shoes

Did you know that women own 60 pairs of shoes on average?
Did you know that women own 60 pairs of shoes on average? | Source

Care and Cleaning of Ladies' Shoes

Essentially, there isn't any difference in taking care of women's shoes versus men's shoes, but you will often hear men say, "oh, I don't know how to polish women's shoes." Here are a few trick and tips to help you out.

1) Color polish - Most often women's shoes require a shoe color polish match as they tend to not be the standard black or brown that men's shoes are. Get as close to the color of the shoe as you can without going darker. Using a darker polish can permanently change the shoe color. Use a clear polish if you can't make a good match.

2) Fabrics and materials - Women's shoes are more likely to combine materials and you will often find a mix of leathers or materials forming the shoe. This just requires that more care and delicacy be used in polishing the leather parts. Using a cotton swab can help you apply polish to small areas.

3) Suede and patent - You will encounter suede and patent leather more with women's shoes. Suede is an inner split of the hide that doesn't have any tanned surface. Patent leather has been treated to harden and make the outer surface of the hide glossy. Both need to be cared for differently than regularly-tanned leather.


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