Berry Blog

How to Shine & Polish Your Shoes


Every wardrobe should have a great pair of shoes. Nothing can finish the look of a great work or even casual outfit like a pair of shined shoes, and nothing can bring down the look quite like shoes that are scuffed or faded. A nice pair of leather shoes can be pricey, though, so you want those you invest in to last. How can you keep your shoes looking great for years to come? By putting thought and effort into their care, which includes giving them a nice polish every now and then. Shining shoes not only helps them look great, but conditions the leather and extends its lifespan, helping your investment in a quality pair of dress shoes go further. 

We’ll cover how to shine shoes the right way, starting with what you’ll need. 

What Supplies Are Required to Shine & Polish Your Shoes?

First, the basics. Note upfront that you’ll need about 40 minutes to perform both a proper shoe shine and shoe polish (we’ll get into the differences below). You’ll also need a surface to work on that you don’t mind getting dirty, or you may want to put down an old towel to protect your work surface, as shoe shining is a messy project. 

More specific supplies you’ll need include:

  • Newspaper
  • A horsehair shoe brush
  • A dry cotton cloth
  • Leather conditioner/cleaner
  • Shoe cream and/or wax polish

How to Shine Shoes the Best Way

Knowing how to shine shoes the right way is key to getting a result that looks great and extends the life of your shoes. It’s easy to damage leather, so using the proper materials and following instructions are important. Note that there is a difference between shining shoes and polishing shoes. Shoe polishing is a more basic treatment that should be done every four to six weeks, depending on how often you wear your shoes, as part of regular shoe maintenance. A shoe shine requires further effort to achieve a high-shine you can see your reflection in. 

Let’s look at how to perform each. 

How to Polish Shoes

To polish your shoes, you first need to remove the laces and stuff your shoes with a bit of newspaper so you have a firm surface to work on. 

With your shoe prepped, brush off any dust, dirt, or debris. You don’t want to trap a layer of dirt under your polish.

Assuming your shoes are completely dry, you’ll then apply the shoe conditioner/cleaner of your choice using a non-abrasive cloth. Some people prefer to use their fingers instead, since the warmth of their hands heats the conditioner a bit and helps it better absorb. This is a matter of personal preference. Once you’ve worked the conditioner into the entirety of the leather, let the product dry for 10 minutes. 

brown mens dress shoes

Next, gently buff the leather with a clean brush.

This is a basic care routine for leather shoes that, when performed regularly, will keep them looking their best. Total, this treatment should take about 30 minutes.

How to Shine Shoes

If you want to take your shoe care a step further, after performing the steps above for a basic shoe polish, you can achieve a nice shoe shine by applying a generous amount of wax polish to the leather with a non-abrasive cloth. By using wax polish and a bit more effort, you can achieve what’s called a mirror shine, or a high-shine so glossy you can see yourself in it. 

You’ll first fill the pores of the leather with the wax and then use smaller amounts of wax and just a few drops of water with a cloth to build up the shine. Note that you’ll only be able to gain this level of shine on the toe and heel of the shoe since these are where the hard countering or structure of the shoe is. Once done, wipe down the shoe with a clean cloth.

What to Avoid When Shining or Polishing Your Shoes

The main mistake you could make is being too aggressive with your shoes. When brushing, don’t apply so much pressure that you wear down the leather and damage the surface. A gentle to medium pressure is all that’s needed to remove debris or perform any buffing. It’s also recommended to test conditioners and polishes on a small, inconspicuous part of the shoe to make sure there isn’t an adverse effect on the leather. The inner side of the shoe is a good spot for testing.

What to Do If Your Shoes Are Damaged or Need Repairs

If you’d rather have your shoe shine handled by professionals, or if your shoes are damaged and in need of repair, our team at Mulberrys specializes in a variety of garment care, including full shoe repair services

In addition to getting your shoes shined at any of our convenient locations in Minneapolis/St. Paul or San Francisco, Mulberrys also provides the following shoe repair and replacement options:

  • Leather heel repair/replacement
  • Full rubber sole replacement
  • Full leather sole replacement
  • Sole replacement on baby shoes
  • Sewing strap repair
  • Flap re-gluing
  • Adding leather
  • Heel reattachment
  • Stiletto heel repair

Mulberrys offers a 100% guarantee on all of our shoe shine and repair services, as well as 10% off your first treatment. We’re here to help keep your shoes looking and feeling great, so don’t hesitate to contact us today