How To: Shine Your Shoes Like a Pro

If you’re looking to get the most from your footwear, a little upkeep goes a long way. Regular maintenance will add years to the life of your shoes and boots, erasing the effects of water damage, cracking, and daily scuffs and scratches. To keep your kicks in fighting form, here’s a step-by-step guide to the perfect polish, whether you’re sitting down for a comprehensive shine, or running out the door.

The 10 Minute Regimen

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This time-honored routine can be used on any pair of smooth, leather shoes— just avoid textured materials like nubuck, suede, or your grandpa’s snakeskin. To start, set up your kit in a spacious workplace. Remove the laces, and you’re ready to begin.

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As with most items of quality, proper maintenance starts with a thorough clean. For leather shoes, saddle soap is the cleanser of choice: It combines mild soap with conditioning agents like lanolin and beeswax, to keep leather soft and supple.

scoop with rag

Using a rag or paper towel, scoop up a moderate dollop of saddle soap.

applying saddle soap

Once your rag is properly loaded, wipe the shoe’s surface with a soft, circular motion, massaging the soap into the leather to remove any dirt and debris.

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Next up is a liquid leather conditioner. Applied every few months, its potent formula enhances the durability of leather, and prevents it from cracking when dry.

apply conditioner to rag

Take up your trusty rag (use the opposite side if it’s getting grimy) and apply a quick dab of conditioner.

apply conditioner to shoe

Rub the liquid compound into the leather, moving briskly to ensure even distribution. Wait a few minutes for the conditioner to dry before proceeding.

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Now for the main event. Be sure to pick a polish that matches your footwear: Colors range from black and brown to specialized hues like walnut and cordovan. If you’re looking for a trusted brand, Kiwi has been making gentleman’s polish since 1906.

scoop polish with brush

An applicator brush features a small surface area, which is ideal for scooping up polish. Use gentle, circular strokes to load the brush (a rag or paper towel will also do the job).

brush circular

Apply an even coat of polish to the surface of the shoe, using a soft touch to prevent premature buffing. When finished, the shoe should be lightly caked with material. A good polish will work wonders on scratches and scuffs, so add a thick coat to areas that need the extra love.

brush lengthwise

Once application is complete, commence shining. Briskly swipe your shoeshine brush across every inch of the shoe, until the polish has been completely absorbed. Remember, “brisk” doesn’t necessarily mean “vigorous”: A modest amount of pressure should do the trick.

finished shoe (with polish)

Nailed it.

The 10-Second Refresher

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While a regular shine is essential for healthy, happy shoes, you don’t always have time to sit down and set up shop. If you need a quick fix before heading out the door, La Fresh® Travel Lite® Shoe Shine Wipes make a fine substitute.

wiping

Remove a single wipe, and slowly rub one side of the fabric across your shoe, paying special attention to scuffed or scratched areas (the toe is a common culprit). Once you’re satisfied, use the other side of the wipe to clean the second shoe.

finished shoe (with wipes)

If you don’t have a wipe, we’ve also found that the inside of a banana peel can work in a pinch to add a little shine to dull kicks.

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