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How to Polish Leather Shoes

Updated on August 5, 2015

Polishing Shoes Video

Polishing shoes in three easy steps

It takes less than ten minutes to polish up a pair of shoes. I learned how to do it by a shoe shine professional on the streets of San Francisco.

A shoe shine kit to polish shoes should include the following

  • a shoe shine brush (made from horsehair)
  • a soft rag (a sock will work)
  • a shoe shine cloth
  • shoe cleaner
  • shoe conditioner
  • shoe polish

How to clean leather shoes, step one to a great polish

I had water spots and stains on my leather shoes and was hoping to get them out, plus the dirt needs to come off the shoe before polish is applied. With an old sock, and a little shoe cleaner for leather shoes I was able to do it. Just dab a little shoe cleaner on to the cloth and wipe the shoe a bit. Don't worry if it doesn't come out completely. When the shoe is buffed at the end of the polishing process, the stains will be gone. The video above details this at the very beginning.

After the shoe cleaner has been dabbed on the shoe, take a shoe brush and give the shoe a few quick strokes.

How to Condition Leather Shoes, Step two to a great polish

After the shoe cleaner has been applied and brushed, now using the same cloth apply shoe conditioner to the shoe. Shoe conditioner softens the leather and helps restore the shoe. Just wipe it on with a cloth. Make sure to get the top of the shoe well because that is where a lot of cracks form. After the conditioner has been applied, give the shoe a few more quick strokes with the shoe brush. See the video to see how the conditioner is applied.

How to Apply Shoe Polish, Step three to a great shoe polish

With a soft rag, dip it into the polish and apply it to the shoe in even amounts. Be careful to not overdue how much polish is used. If the shoe is in OK shape, it will require even less polish. Just wipe it on with a cloth.

After the polish has been applied to the shoe, take a shoe shine brush and buff the shoe with several quick strokes. This evens out the polish and the shoe should start looking good. It should take about 25 to 30 strokes per shoe with a shoe shine brush.

After the shoe has been brushed, take a shoe shine cloth and complete the polishing of the shoes. The shoe shine cloth should be used in quick strokes. The purpose of this step is to heat up the polish and leather to fuse them together. Doing a good job with the shoe shine rag will give your shoes that glossy polished look.

These steps to great looking polished shoes takes about ten minutes to complete. By polishing your shoes, the shoes will last longer and look much better.


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    • anemometers profile image


      7 years ago from Anemometer Installation Areas

      I liked the way the custom video was embed. Could you make an easy way for us to use Youtube alternatives because there is a now a huge group of people trying to use alternatives to Youtube and you are an example.

    • jimmythejock profile image

      James Paterson 

      7 years ago from Scotland

      Well presented hub paul, it is good to see shoes being polished the good old fashioned way, these days most people use shoe wipes which although work well they don't protect the leather or cover over any scratches in the leather like a good polish.

      Thanks for sharing this .....jimmy

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      7 years ago from London, UK

      That is one job which gets a bit missed out trying to keep up with all the other work. Your video is not there.

    • profile image

      Ari Lamstein 

      7 years ago

      Great use of the video capsule Paul.

    • gredmondson profile image


      7 years ago from San Francisco, California

      I like your guy, and have used him. I like how friendly he is. I recommended my guy to a writer friend of mine who writes the What I Do column for the Chronicle, and K.C. had some fame resulting from it. One of his children committed suicide, and that was in the article. We all have trials.

    • Paul Edmondson profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Edmondson 

      7 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      I paid $7 for the shoe shine in the video and gave a $3 tip. The Nordstrom shine is a bit nicer, but the convenience of the guy on Market is hard to beat.

    • gredmondson profile image


      7 years ago from San Francisco, California

      O.K. Paul, the best shoe shiner in downtown San Francisco is K. C. at Nordstrom. i know your guy, at the corner of Market and 2nd Streets. But, try K. C. And, he is cheaper, too. Tell him George sent you.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      We had regular shoe inspections at school and woe betide us if the insteps were not shined too. I don't own many polishable shoes these days but I love to see them clean and shiny. Old habits die hard.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Polished shoes are a must! It does not take much time, but worth the effort. Great hub and I especially love the video. :)

    • Meadow Kelly profile image

      Meadow Kelly 

      7 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This is a great hub, Paul. I suppose it is something most people do not think about today. I grew up with a military dad which made having scuffed or dirty shoes nearly a cardinal sin.

      Now, I live life in flip-flops. My dad is mortified.

    • JP993 profile image


      7 years ago from England

      Love the Video. I'm very particular with my shoe's and keeping them tip top. Shoe's are noticed. Jim Rohn tells a great story about the salesmanship of a shoe polisher.

    • BusinessTime profile image

      Sarah Kolb-Williams 

      7 years ago from Twin Cities

      I don't think I've ever owned a pair of anything polish-able -- I live in Chuck Taylors and snow boots, depending on the season -- but my polish kit is coming in handy anyway (for aging my picture frames)!

      Great lens! I'm sure I'll revisit it when/if I start buying shoes like real people. :)

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Well, I would argue that shoe shining is a bit of a lost art (the type of leather shoes that need it are becoming rarer and rarer). I learned quite a bit from the video, and the dramatic improvement in your shoe's shine was nicely demonstrated.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      7 years ago from Upstate New York

      Paul, what can I say? The world really needs a lesson in shoe-polishing? I thought it came naturally to most of us.

      However, you're the Master, so I shouldn't buzz around.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Very nice guide! Now I feel guilty for not polishing my boots... especially after all the abuse to which I subject them. I really looks like it's just a matter of having the right supplies on hand. I guess I need to stock up!


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