Want to learn how to polish boots to a high gloss finish like a pro? You’re in luck because this quick post covers everything you need to know about the subject.
Although the steps outlined here might seem a bit lengthy, there’s nothing complicated about achieving an outstanding shine with basic shoe care.
Let’s get right to it.
Table of Contents
Shoe Shinning Supplies
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of how to polish boots, here’s a list of supplies you’ll need to get the job done.
- Shoe Polish: Choose between wax and cream polish. Both will deliver impressive results, depending on the type of shoe you want to polish and the finish you want.
- A Wax Polish or Cream Polish: This protects shoe leather, covers scuff, and adds a layer of classic shine. On the other hand, a shoe cream polish will nourish a leather shoe but offers less shine. Cream polish can also affect the color of your boots’ leather.
- Horsehair Brush: Select buffing brushes with horsehair as these will not scratch your boots.
- Leather Conditioner: For cleaning and nourishing leather boots.
- A Polishing Cloth or Applicator Brush: Any old cotton cloth will do for applying boot polish to your boot. But if you prefer an applicator brush, go for a shoe brush with horsehair
- Old towel or newspaper: This comes in handy for covering the working surface.
- Welt Brush: You can use this to get into the tight or small space between the boots’ upper and sole.
- A Cup of Water: This is used if you want to achieve the signature “spit-finish.”
How to Polish Boots Correctly
Step 1: Getting Ready
You want to start by collecting all the shoe shinning materials in one place.
Things can get a bit messy when you want to shine your boots the right way. The process is like painting – it is nearly impossible not to get the goods all over the place.
This is why it is a good idea to prevent the mess from potentially ruining your space.
I suggest using an old piece of cloth or towel to cover your working surface. A newspaper works great, too, but cloth is reusable.
With your supplies close at hand and your working surface ready, it’s time to give your boots a shine.
Step 2: Prepare Your Boots
If your boots have shoelaces, take them off. This will prevent the polish from getting on them and requiring a wash. This is particularly necessary if the shoelace and polish are of two different colors.
Next, insert a shoe tree or stretcher. This will provide you with a firmer surface to do your thing.
You can stuff crumbled paper in the toe of your shoe if you don’t have a shoe tree readily available.
Step 3: Brush Off Dust and Dirt
Before moving on to shining your shoes, it is important to remove loose dirt and dust from the surface.
Use a dry brush to thoroughly brush off any dirt from your boots.
Pay particular attention to the welt – the edge of the boot’s upper where it meets the sole. That’s one spot that usually hides schmutz and debris.
To get into the welt, hold the shoe firmly and apply light pressure while you brush the spot with a back-and-forth motion.
If necessary, use a small brush and water to remove grime from the welt. Allow the boots to dry completely before moving to the next step.
Step 4: Apply Leather Conditioner
Dab a small amount of good-quality leather conditioner or leather cleaner all over your boot. This will provide nourishment to the leather.
Many people skip this step, but you shouldn’t if you want to learn how to polish boots correctly. Not applying a conditioner before polishing can trap dirt under several layers of polish. Remember that dirt particles can scratch the leather during shinning.
Step 5: Apply Polish
Use a soft cloth or an applicator brush to apply your preferred shoe polish. A dab at a time is the way to go, so you won’t over-apply the polish.
Rub the polish on the boot’s upper in circular motions. As you do this, the wax will melt and spread better.
Continue to add more polish as needed until you cover the entire surface. You are not aiming for a perfectly smooth finish at this stage. A waxy matte look is okay at this point.
Remember to apply polish to the welt and heels, too!
When you are happy with your work so far, allow the polish to sit for about 10 minutes or thereabouts. If you rush to the next step without allowing the wax to dry for a while, you won’t get a proper shine.
Step 6: Buff
Now, we’ve come to the part where all your hard work will pay off!
Use a horsehair brush to buff the surface of your shoe using gentle pressure and quick side-to-side movements.
You’ll start to see a nice shine almost immediately. Continue buffing until you cover the entire shoe surface.
Wipe off any excess wax and buff again.
For many people, this shoe-polishing process ends here and that’s fine. If that’s you, simply re-lace your boots and you’re good to go.
But if you want to take things to the next level, you can follow the rest of the steps on how to polish boots for a spit-shine.
Achieving Spit Shine Finish
Spit-shine gives your polished boots a high gloss finish. If you’re not in a hurry to step into your boots, put in a little more work to get a spit-shine.
- Get a cup of water
- Place one or two droplets of water on the polished boot
- Use a soft polishing cloth to apply polish to the water droplet
- Move the clean cloth in small, rapid circles
- Repeat the process until you have covered the entire surface
- Allow your boots to dry before re-lacing and stepping out in class