Shoe Shining – Tips & Tricks
I have written a formal post about how to polish your shoes properly but just recently realized that I have never shared the secrets to overcoming all of the obstacles of getting to be able to consistently polish one’s shoes to said standard. That being, allow me list out some of the tips and tricks that I have learned over the years, from all of my trial and error. Here goes:
1. Shining new shoes will always be harder than shining used ones. This is because the pores have yet to fully open and ‘accept’ the polish. They are thus more closed than a shoe that has been worn several times and subsequently harder to get the polish to ‘set’ and be able to create that super shine. The older the shoe, the easier to polish.
2. Wax polish works in the same way (as above). New wax polish will be very moist and because of that will simply swish around the top of the leather and not ‘set’ into the pores to thus dry and create a ‘flat’ surface so that you can build the layers. The older the wax (and thus the more ‘sticky’) the more easily the wax will stick to the leather and set into the pores. One trick is to leave a new tin in the freezer overnight which should harden it up a bit and make it stick better.
3. New cloth rags are also the same way. The newer the rag, the harder it will be shine to the shoes. Rags with old polish on them will make it so the wax sticks easier to the leather. However, the older rags will also sometimes make it harder to finish your mirror shine as the old polish will essentially lightly scratch the mirror effect off the polish. And onto trick 4 of how to prevent this.
4. When finishing your mirror shine, if you think you are done, most likely you will notice light ‘scratches’ on the surface of the shine and wonder how to get rid of those to achieve that perfect mirror finish. Well, what you do is take a brand new cloth and dab a very light bit of polish on it and use a dab of water to place on the shoe and in back and forth motions, rub as quickly as you can (to quite light friction) and thus get rid of those scratches (see end of polishing video for visual guidance).
5. Never shine shoes without shoe trees in them. It’s like trying to trying to blow up an air mattress with your mouth as opposed to the electric pump i.e. time wasting.
6. Hair dryers will help to get rid of wrinkles and creases but it will never be permanent. But don’t burn the leather by holding it too close and always have a shoe tree in them when attempting this. Do not do this on tan shoes though unless you want to darken them….significantly.
7. Tan shoes are hardest to polish, 1. because it is extremely difficult to keep them the same shade of tan and 2. because it is very difficult to get any stains out of them. Once ruined, tan shoes are pretty much un-salvageable unless you dye them (preferably by giving them to a patina artist). This is simply the downfall of tan shoes.
8. Blue wax polish will give you a nicer and shinier shine than black polish.
9. Mirror shines should only really be on the toe caps, heel counters and sometimes the facing. Everywhere else should not have the glass like effect but rather a nice blending look. The reason being is that the rest of the shoe bends and thus the polish will crack and leave an unpleasant look. The heels and caps have stiffeners underneath them to keep them from bending (in theory).
10. I don’t wash my welt brushes as the more wax build up the better it will get into the pores of the leather when applying cream polish. But I then I use 4 different welt brushes: 1 for black, 1 for tan, 1 for mid brown, dark brown, burgundy and 1 for various other colors.
11. Nylon, women’s tights, pantyhoes etc will help clean your shoes, leave a small shine and get off any light scuffs that could be on the leather.
12. Once the surface of the leather has been compromised (such as a cut or leather comes off), it cannot be undone nor repaired. Accept that fact and do your best to blend in the blemish with a good polish job.
13. A quick shine will never be a real mirror shine. It will be shiny, no doubt, but won’t last very long. A real mirror takes time, a lot of it. The pores have to be completely filled in order to make a flat surface. That flat surface is what essentially is the ‘glass’ effect. No quick shine can do that. Never trust anything that claims to do a mirror or glass shine in anything less than an hour.
14. There is fine balance between wax ‘n water applications. It cannot be explained but only learned by doing. Always start with a little and work your way up. Too much of anything is never good.
15. The more porous the leather, the longer and harder it will be/take to shine. The less porous, the easier.
16. Shoe shining should be therapeutic. If it is not, then you are not doing it right. Relax, don’t think too much and see that a little goes a long way.
To find products that will help you achieve the best shines, please see our webshop at