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How to Polish Shoes

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


  • Step 1: Put down newspaper Put down some newspaper where you are going to work.
  • Step 2: Brush away dirt Take out the laces and use the shoe brush to remove any dirt from the exterior of your shoes.
  • Step 3: Wipe shoes down Wipe down your shoes with a damp clean cloth to make sure they're clean.
  • TIP: If your shoes are especially dirty, you can use a mild cleanser such as saddle soap.
  • Step 4: Open the polish Open a canister of shoe polish.
  • TIP: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • TIP: Apply the first layer liberally, with lots of shoe polish on your rag.
  • Step 7: Spit Spit on your shoe where you've just applied polish.
  • TIP: If the concept of spit-polished shoes revolts you, sprinkle water on instead.
  • Step 8: Rub 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Step 11: Add more layers Add more layers of polish to your shoe, each time using less polish, until your shoes are mirror shiny.
  • TIP: 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.
  • Step 12: Brush lightly Brush the shoe very lightly with the shoe brush to bring out the best shine.
  • Step 13: Let them dry Re-lace the shoes and let them dry in a cool room or a shoebox, if available.
  • FACT: In 2002, the U.S. Marine Corps adopted new boots for its members that don't require polishing.

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

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