Here are some tips on how to shine shoes, but bear in mind this won’t work on your boat shoes, Timberland boots or other footwear (such as suede), whose surface is not designed for polishing. On those shoes, check out the manufacturer’s care instructions. But if you follow these steps, your dress shoes should look sharp and last for years.
Before shining your shoes, remove the laces, if so equipped, and wash the shoes with saddle soap (available at grocery stores, drugstores and most shoe stores). With a damp sponge or rag, work up a head of lather and work that lather into the leather.
Then, with a clean, dry towel or rag, wipe the soap off the shoes. Don’t rinse them. Just remove the lather from the leather. The leather should feel softer and more pliable than before the soap was applied. This is good.
Also, removing the soap with the towel will impart a soft sheen on the leather. The shoes will look fine, but don’t stop at this point. Next, apply the wax. Any commercial shoe wax will work. If the leather is brown, use brown polish. If black, use black polish. If purple, or any other color that isn’t black or brown, use a neutral polish.
Wrap a clean rag around your index finger, work some wax into the rag and apply the wax to the shoes using firm, circular strokes. Be sure to apply the wax to all external leather surfaces. The wax will obliterate the sheen from the saddle soap, but don’t be alarmed. Allow the shoes to sit for a few minutes after waxing. Then buff them.
A soft shoe brush is the most effective, but other people swear by shoe cloths. Whether you use a brush or cloth, swift, soft strokes work best for shining. After a few strokes, the shoes should gleam. Not only will they look good, but the wax will protect the leather from water and scuffing.