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How to Polish and Care for Your Shoes – A Step-By-Step Guide

18 Jan 2024

From Brogues to Loafers: How to Polish & Care for Your Shoes

There are few better things in life than striding out in a sharp suit and well-polished leather shoes. But what should you do when your shoes lose their shine? And how do you recreate the lustre and sheen your new shoes once had with just a tub of polish and a cloth to hand?

We believe that learning how to polish shoes is an important life skill. Not only does it make them look almost as good as new, but it also extends their lifespan, so they continue giving years of reliable service.

Ultimately, your shoes say a lot about you and the image you want to project. Scruffy footwear creates the wrong impression, so caring for your shoes with regular polishing can be a real deal-breaker. From formal leather dress shoes to stylish Chelsea boots, if you’re looking for advice about how to polish shoes, this handy step-by-step guide will give you all the information you need to maintain your footwear. We list the cleaning products you need, explain which shoes can be polished and which ones can’t, and show how you create the perfectly polished look you desire.

How to Polish Leather Shoes: The Next Steps

Well looked-after leather shoes can last a lifetime when regularly polished with the right products and techniques. If you want your shoes to always look their best, it’s vital to invest in a range of shoe care products and polishes before you get to work. It will save you time and money in the long run, and you’ll never require an expensive shoe-care professional to rescue your shoes.

So, here’s what you’ll need for your shoe polishing journey:

Assemble Your Shoe Polishing Kit

If you want your shoes to look in pristine condition all year round, you’ll need the following essential items in your shoe polishing kit:

Shoe Polish

There are two types of shoe polish: cream or wax. The one you choose depends on the finish you want for your footwear. Cream polishes moisturise the leather as they’re absorbed, but they provide less shine and can also affect the colour of the leather. Alternatively, wax polish adds a strong layer of shine, covers over scuffs and scratches, and also protects the leather.

Your polish should also be a perfect match for the colour of your shoes. While this is easy to navigate for black leather shoes, you’ll need to exercise caution with browns and shoes in another colour. If in doubt, take your shoes to a shop and ask for an exact colour match.

Soft Cloth

You’ll need a soft cotton cloth to gently clean your leather shoes and also condition them. If you can’t find a suitable cloth, an old t-shirt cut into squares or strips will also do the trick.

Shoe Brush

Just like a cloth, a shoe brush is essential when polishing shoes. Most people go for a quality horsehair brush as its coarse bristles get into every nook and cranny so that every inch of leather is cleaned and buffed. Not only that, but it can also be used to apply the cleaner and work it deep into the leather.

Leather Cleaner and Conditioner

For complete shoe maintenance, use a leather cleaner and conditioner. Firstly, apply the cleaner to remove all dirt and grime, then work in the conditioner to prevent the leather from cracking or becoming brittle which will extend the life of your shoes.

How to Polish Leather Shoes: The Perfect Technique

Before you start polishing, get all your materials together and cover the area you’ll be working on with a newspaper or towel to protect the surface underneath. Once that’s done, follow these steps:

1. Remove the Laces

Prevent your laces becoming covered in polish by removing them at the outset and setting them aside. That way, your laces will be clean and dry the next time you put on your freshly polished shoes.

2. Clean and Buff

Take your horsehair brush and buff away the dirt until your shoes appear clean. Brush deep into the surface to remove the smallest pieces of grime and debris before you go any further. When this is done, dampen a soft cloth with water and wipe your shoes before moving onto the next stage.

3. Apply Leather Conditioner

To keep your leather shoes in tip-top shape you’ll need to prime them with a suitable conditioner before you start polishing. Simply use a cloth to spread a small amount of conditioner across your shoes before working into the leader. For best results, allow the conditioner to absorb into the leather for 10 minutes before going any further.

4. Polish Your Shoes

It’s time to get polishing, so with a clean cloth or rag, carefully rub the polish into the leather using a circular motion until the entire surface is covered. Apply a second coat if required, then wait approximately 15 minutes while the polish dries.

5. Buff a Second Time

By now, your leather conditioner and polish should be fully absorbed, so it’s time to buff again. Take your brush and scrub until any excess polish is completely removed and you begin to see the shine appear as your shoes begin to look radiant again.

6. One Final Polish

For an unbeatable mirrored finish, another polish is required. Using a damp, soft cloth, rub a little more polish into your shoes until covered in another layer. Hey presto, your leather shoes look like new again.

7. Dry and Re-Lace

Your shoes should be completely dry before you re-lace them. If not, allow another 10 or 20 minutes of drying time before you lace them up, ensuring an even length of lace on both sides of each shoe.

Can You Polish Suede or Nubuck Shoes?

No, suede shoes should never be treated with leather shoe polish as the material is too soft and you’ll end up permanently staining the finish. To clean suede shoes you should either remove any dirt with a damp, lint-free cloth or use a specialist suede brush to brush it away in straight motions. For tougher stains, use a foam cleaner specifically designed for use on suede.

Similarly, you should also avoid polishing nubuck leather shoes as the material is rough and will also become stained. To clean dust and dirt from nubuck you should lightly brush the surface with a dry nubuck sponge and remove stubborn stains with a foam cleaner, first testing on an inconspicuous area.

Still Wondering How to Polish Shoes, or Just Looking for a New Pair?

At House of Cavani, we stock a huge rain of shoes in a variety of styles, materials, colours, and sizes. From formal black patent lace-up shoes to classic brogues to smart leather loafers, we’ve got shoes, boots, and trainers to match every taste. Explore our footwear range today.

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