How to Polish Shoes

You don't have to know how to get them Army-regulation shiny, but you should have some basic training.


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You Will Need

  • Newspaper
  • A shoe brush
  • Clean rags
  • Shoe polish that matches your shoes
  • And a lighter or matches
  • A mild cleanser, like saddle soap
  • And a shoebox


  1. Step 1

    Put down newspaper

    Put down some newspaper where you are going to work.

  2. Step 2

    Brush away dirt

    Take out the laces and use the shoe brush to remove any dirt from the exterior of your shoes.

  3. Step 3

    Wipe shoes down

    Wipe down your shoes with a damp clean cloth to make sure they're clean.

  4. If your shoes are especially dirty, you can use a mild cleanser such as saddle soap.

  5. Step 4

    Open the polish

    Open a canister of shoe polish.

  6. Use a wax polish for a stronger shine—the wax will protect the shoes and help prevent water damage if you wear them in the rain.

  7. Step 5

    Ready the rag

    Wrap a clean rag around your index and middle fingers, making sure that the rag is tight against the pads of your fingertips.

  8. Step 6

    Apply polish

    Dip your rag-covered fingertips into the shoe polish and apply them to your shoe with a circular motion, about one to two inches in diameter.

  9. Apply the first layer liberally, with lots of shoe polish on your rag.

  10. Step 7


    Spit on your shoe where you've just applied polish.

  11. If the concept of spit-polished shoes revolts you, sprinkle water on instead.

  12. Step 8


    Rub the polish into your shoe with your rag-coated fingers, moving them in a circular motion. Apply the polish evenly, and be sure to get into all the creases.

  13. Step 9

    Watch the swirls

    As you rub the polish, you will notice "swirls" appearing in the polished areas. When these swirls disappear, its time to move on to a new area.

  14. Step 10

    Apply, wet, and rub the polish on all the other leather areas, until the whole shoe has had a layer of polish applied.

  15. Step 11

    Add more layers

    Add more layers of polish to your shoe, each time using less polish, until your shoes are mirror shiny.

  16. If your shoes become dull again as fast as you polish, you're likely adding too much water. This is easily corrected by adding more polish to absorb the water.

  17. Step 12

    Brush lightly

    Brush the shoe very lightly with the shoe brush to bring out the best shine.

  18. Step 13

    Let them dry

    Re-lace the shoes and let them dry in a cool room or a shoebox, if available.

  19. In 2002, the U.S. Marine Corps adopted new boots for its members that don't require polishing.