How to Shine Your Shoes Step by Step

Shoe Polishing Tools

When your shoes aren't looking their best and you're wondering how to shine them properly, it's important to use the right procedure and materials. The following steps, which include advice from a professional shoe repairer who spoke with LoveToKnow, will help you get a great shine on your shoes.

1. Get Quality Cleaning Products and Materials

Before you can properly shine your shoes, you'll need some basic items:

  • Chamois cloth or dauber applicator brush
  • Spot remover
  • Horsehair brush
  • Cream polish
  • Wax polish
  • Small dish of water (for the mirrored shine process)
  • Shoe tree or wadded up paper to place inside shoe

What the Professionals Recommend

When it comes to getting the right materials, no one knows like the experts. Mike Hinkle of the highly rated Quality Shoe & Foot Care in Bakersfield, California, strongly recommends avoiding the cheap drug store shoe shining kits. "Go with the good stuff," says Hinkle. It may cost a little more money more to buy quality cleaning products, but the superior results make it worth it.

Hinkle shares which cleaning and polishing products he prefers:

  • Angelus 802 spot remover: This professional-grade spot remover (about $7) can be used on a variety of materials including vinyl and leather.
  • Saphir cream: This is an all-natural cream polish with rich pigments available in 13 shades (just over $20 each).
  • Lincoln wax: This is a carnauba wax that provides a glossy shine. It's available in 13 shades for under $7 each.

These products will bring reliable results.

Shoe polishing supplies

2. Prep the Shoe For Polishing

Hinkle explains that one of the most important steps in the shoe shining process is the initial cleaning and removal of dirt and old polish (and it's often a step that shoe owners overlook). This process can be done with Angelus 802 spot remover using the following steps that the Angelus product guide recommends:

  1. Place the shoe on a towel or newspaper.
  2. Remove shoelaces.
  3. Place a shoe tree or wadded paper inside it to give it form while polishing.
  4. Wipe all dirt off the shoe with your horsehair brush.
  5. With a new clean cloth, rub the Angelus 802 spot remover into the shoe briskly, but do not rub too hard. This will help remove old polish.
  6. Let the shoe air dry for several minutes.

Although this video is done in a professional shop, it demonstrates the way to apply the Angelus product.

3. Apply Conditioner (If Working With Leather)

If you have leather shoes, this is a great time to condition them to help them last longer and maintain their smoothness and color.

  1. Take a new clean cloth and apply the conditioner evenly over the shoe. Saphir Renovateur is a high quality conditioner product for this step.
  2. Let it soak in and dry for about 20 minutes.

4. Apply Polishes

The polishing step has two stages: the cream and the wax.


Cream polish nourishes and recolors the shoe material.

  1. Take the chamois cloth or dauber brush and apply the cream evenly across the shoe by thoroughly rubbing it into the material.
  2. Use a horsehair brush to buff the cream polish.
  3. Let the cream polish soak into the shoe for about 15 minutes.


Wax polish adds shine.

  1. Take a new clean cloth, wrap it around two fingers and apply a small amount of wax polish to the cloth.
  2. Use small circular motions to apply the wax polish evenly across the shoe.
  3. Use the brush to buff the shoe.
Applying polish

5. Apply Additional Wax Coats

When it comes to the tricks of the trade, Hinkle explains there is no substitute for good old-fashioned elbow grease. To get a better shine on your shoe, you must apply additional coats of wax.

6. How to Get a Mirrored Shine (Spit Shine)

If you want a mirrored shine, apply your final wax coats with the following steps:

  • Place a small dish of water nearby.
  • Place some wax polish onto your polishing cloth.
  • Dip your other fingers into the water and place a drop of water on the toe cap of the shoe.
  • Rub the wax polish into the area of the water in quick circles.
  • Repeat this process of placing a drop of water onto the shoe and applying wax polish. This can easily take 15 to 20 minutes because you're only polishing a small surface area at a time.

Only do this mirrored shine technique on the toe cap and the back of the shoe so you avoid parts of the shoe where the leather can bend and crack.

It Never Hurts to Use Professionals

These tips will help you achieve an impressive shoe shine. However, if you have a wide variety of shoe materials or unusual shoes that are challenge to shine, it's always a good idea to consult a shoe repair shop. Besides keeping your shoes in good shape, they can tackle any polishing challenge and achieve a professional shine that's hard to beat.

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How to Shine Your Shoes Step by Step