How to Shine Your Shoes [VIDEO]

by Brett on September 21, 2013 · 50 Comments

in Dress & Grooming, Manly Skills, Shoes, Visual Guides

A man with well-shined shoes shows he pays attention to the details. Here’s a video of how to do it (at least how I do it — share your methods in the comments!)

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John W. September 21, 2013 at 6:17 am

If I had to pick, that Smith and Wesson watch looks mighty fine. Might have to buy it if I don’t win it!

2 D. D. D. September 21, 2013 at 7:17 am

Re: Shoe Shine video

Left out: First remove laces so you can shine shoe tongue and eye-lits to match final sheen.

Otherwise, including tongue in cheek attitude, nicely done!

3 Ruben September 21, 2013 at 7:41 am

The very first thing on the agenda today was to shine my shoes, and wouldn’t y’know I had a link to this video in my e-mail inbox this morning. I always love these videos, but one thing I might add is: remove the shoelaces first.

4 David September 21, 2013 at 8:13 am

Thanks for the tips! In addition to this, in a pinch, I use Kiwi’s liquid wax with the foam tip applicator. I don’t feel like it provides protection from the elements as well as the wax nor does it produce the kind of shine the wax does, but it covers scuffs well and can be done in about 5 minutes. This is a good method for a quick touch up.

5 Arthur Hovey September 21, 2013 at 8:26 am

You have my thanks, Brett, for the video. You made my day!
Back when I was about 13 or 14 years old, I was a shoe-shine boy. I got my best business in a bar. The bar-tender was nice enough to let me in. In my shoe-shine kit I had also a pair of spoons. I would play the spoons for a few minutes. I’ll always remember the men in there, grinning at me and handing me some loose change.
I also, like the manly aroma of the polish.
Thanks again for the video.

6 mw September 21, 2013 at 8:37 am

my method? when traveling/flying – use the shoe shine kiosk in the airport! and you help the economy too.
growing up as a kid it was my job to shine my dad’s shoes…….not necessarily one of my fondest growing up memories but i did learn, much like your example….

7 mw September 21, 2013 at 8:39 am

yikes also meant to ‘suggest’ – DO NOT do the brush off the salt/dirt/grim in the house. Trust me, it is not appreciated by your loved ones………

8 Dann Anthony September 21, 2013 at 8:42 am

Respectfully – there are a dozen ways to achieve an even better shine. A two-phase polish, shoe cream first, then wax. Cleaning out the welts with an old toothbrush. Lighting the polish to melt it then blowing it out and applying it hot.

9 Nathan Z September 21, 2013 at 9:26 am

As a firefighter I daily have to shine my station boots and sometimes I even shine my leather turnout boots too, but since shine is flammable I only do it about 3 times per year.
On my station boots, I often like to put a nice shine on them that will last so I don’t have to re-apply polish to get a shine. So I use a lighter to light the polish which melts the wax in the polish and burns off the pigment hypothetically. By applying the melted wax to my boot I can keep a high gloss for about a month without re-applying polish. Application of the wax is done in the same fashion with a cloth or even an old tooth brush in small circles. brushing the excess polish off with a brush, and bringing it up to gloss with a damp cloth to allow heat to build and moisture is reducing friction on the wax so I’m not rubbing the polish off of the shoe. At the end I can easily use my reflection to trim my tombstone mustache (it’s still a little weak since I’m only 25, but it’s not half bad after 16 months of grooming). Now it’s time to hop on the rig and put the wet stuff on the hot stuff. Thanks for reading.

10 Reid September 21, 2013 at 9:34 am

Nice to see your a traveling man too.
Going to go polish (shine) my shoes right now.

11 Brian Y September 21, 2013 at 9:55 am

If you need more shine for dress shoes and such, dip a clean part of the sock in water and buff in circular motions with medium pressure. I only do this on the toe and AFTER doing all the steps mentioned above. Buff again with old nylons and you will be looking great. After about twenty times of doing this you should be able to see your teeth in the finish.

12 GardenStater September 21, 2013 at 10:07 am

Nice video, Brett.

@Arthur Hovey: Great story. I wish every bar had a shoeshine boy!

This is one thing I really miss about working in Manhattan. In certain neighborhoods, there’s a shoeshine place on almost every corner. The guys there do an astonishing job. Back in the 80s and 90s, a shine only cost about $2.00 plus tip, so I’d get a shine at least twice a week.

One tip, from the pros I used to frequent: Instead of using your breath, get a small spray bottle and just gently spray a few drops of water on the shoe before using the rag. Also, get edge dressing for the sides of your soles and heels.

Now I’ve got to shine my shoes!

13 imber September 21, 2013 at 10:41 am

Coming from an army family, one of the first things I got from my father was a knack for shining shoes. Now, I am going to miss the tongue-squarely-in-cheek bit of the video and do some lecturing: No need for that vigorous brushing – you are only going to scuff right through the layer of shine. If you need to use a brush, give it a nice, gentle rhythm. Better still, do a proper spit shine (no spit, just some warm water) and take your time. Brett mentioned taking up meditating as a routine for manhood – no better meditation for a western man than a good 30 minutes spent on working up those layers for a deep, full-bodied shine. If you are in Europe, pick up some Burgol waxes from Switzerland, there is nothing like it (Kiwi is great, but there is another level, trust me).
OK, now I’m going to go and get my shine box.

14 Dave September 21, 2013 at 11:09 am

Being in the navy you do an occasional shoe shine. I use the kiwi wax as well. What I like to do is take the lid of the wax container, fill it with some tap water. Take a white t shirt, same one every time for waxing my boots, wrap one layer tight across my index and middle finger and then wrap the rest of the shirt around my wrist so its nice and tight and will stay taut. Get a bit of wax and using small circles rub it into the shoe, the circular motion heats the wax and helps it get into the pores of the leather. Alternate wax and water until you get the level of shine that you desire, using more wax less water at first then at the end more water than wax. I make sure to dry out the Kiwi wax lid I had the water in at the end, they tend to rust.

15 Phinneus September 21, 2013 at 11:27 am

Good shoe show! I like to use a brush made for polish, and also keep an old tooth brush handy to get that important seam between the leather upper and the stitching to the soles. Better protection for the shoe and gives a finishing touch. Also have a different brush for the initial cleaning of dirt etc, and the polish job. Usually wait a few minutes for the polish to dry before brushing it off. One of my duties also as a kid to shine the old man’s shoes. Not my favorite servile job either! Nary a nod nor a nickle.

16 Dr.Dulcamara September 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm

To do a really deep glassy shine; After you’ve polished and buffed the shoe, do a final buff with an all *nylon* dress sock.

Put your hand inside the sock like you’re making a sock puppet.

Breathe on the leather a bit and then immediately follow with the sock. You don’t have to rub it very hard. Think of it as doing a light finishing buff.

The results are pretty epic. It’s a near mirror finish like patent leather.

17 Erik September 21, 2013 at 2:13 pm

When I was in ROTC, I had the shiniest shoes in my detachment. Instead of the vigorous rubbing with a brush, I just added a little water to the polish. After a few applications, you would eventually build up a beautiful mirror polish that didn’t scuff easily and was shiny enough you could comb your hair in it.

18 Franklin September 21, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Excellent Video, very informative.
For an even more in-depth tutorial take a look at

Keep these videos coming!

19 Dave W. September 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Instead of breathing on the brushed over polish to get a mirror shine, you can put some water in the lid of the polish tin. Then dip the sock with polish on it in the water before you apply it in small circles to the shoe.
Think of it as the brushed on polish being a base layer to smooth out scuffs, then the wet polish is a top coat. Nylons work well for a final polish as well.

20 Richard September 21, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Trust me on this — when you think you are finished, add ONE more step. Squirrel away in your shoe-shine box an old thrown-out nylon stocking from your wife or girlfriend. Give your shoe a FINAL quick buffing with the old nylon. You’ll be astonished at the mirror glaze it creates in seconds! NOW you’re done.

21 Stephen September 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Have to go with the Allegheny Dark Grey Woolrich blanket

22 Devin September 21, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Neat video. I didn’t know how to the brush to make the shoes shine, I’ll use that sometime. Anyhow I’m in civil air patrol at my local Air Force base, and i just use a cotton ball lightly dipped in water or I lick it, then i rub it in the polish, apply it to my shoes or boots in small circles until all the polish is used up then i keep rubbing it in until i see a good shine. I have a good base down so it only takes me about 15 minute to do two shoes. Thanks for the post.

23 Slackerjo September 21, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Take out the laces for sure, and don’t forget to use an old toothbrush to spruce up the edges of the sole.

24 Thomas September 22, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Hey Brett, what kind of boots are they? They look good.

25 Okierover September 23, 2013 at 8:17 am

“Sweet baby Teddy Roosevelt”.
Good work Bret and Kay.

26 Tony September 23, 2013 at 11:50 am

I guess it all depends on how often you shine your shoes as well. When I get home every day, my dress boots get a 3 minute brusing with semi soft brush to take out any scuffs. That will get me through to the weekend when a full polish happens. My boots are two years old and if you looked at them you wouldn’t know it.

27 Peter September 23, 2013 at 12:17 pm

When I was in the army, we had to stand guard mount once a month or so. The best dressed and best prepared in answering the sergeants questions got to be Supernumerary, and did not have to walk guard. My boots were the best always and other soldiers asked numerous times if they could borrow my boots for the Mount.
So a good spit shine for the guard Mount is primary and when you go to a job interview or to visit an important customer. Shine them shoes ! Shine Them Shoes!

28 Matt September 23, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I’d love to know what kind of boots those are too.

I also used to shine my dad’s shoes growing up. I still have all of the original brushes and cloths.

29 Jonathan September 23, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I’m an Army veteran. There are many methods out there for putting a good shine on your shoes. My recommendation: cotton balls. If you use hot water and cotton balls to spit-shine your dress shoes, you will get an amazing finish. Other guys I know sometimes use rubbing alcohol mixed in the water (less than 50/50) which helps to break down the wax as you rub it into the leather. The alcohol method is effective, but use too much, and you’ll strip the wax off your shoes. I highly recommend hot water. As hot as your fingers can stand it. Alternate back and forth between dabbing the cotton ball in the polish and back in the hot water. THIS WILL MAKE YOUR WATER CONTAINER DIRTY. So don’t use your wife’s glassware. Just don’t.

30 Zack September 23, 2013 at 4:35 pm

My show shining process is a bit more in depth – and is in part a hold over from my Air Force days but produces a mirror-like shine even on a decade plus year old pair of Dr. Marten steel toes.

You’ll need:
heat source (Heatguns are best, but I’ve used everything from hot water, a blow dryer, or even just a plane bic lighter in a pinch)
Wax (Lincoln Stain Wax, but Kiwi in a pinch)
Paper Towel
Cotton Balls
Bowl of Clean Warm Water
2 x Shine Brushes
Polish Applicator Brush or Soft Cloth (Old T-Shirt)
Soft Cloth (Something fluffy, like inside of old sweat shirt, flannel)
Spray Bottle

1. Brush dirt off with a shine brush ONLY used for this
2. Wipe with Damp paper towel
3. With polish applicator brush or old t-shirt rub polish onto shoes/boots
4. With Clean Only Shine Brush brush off excess polish
5. Go over all of shoe with a heat gun, repeat steps 3 & 4
6. Soak a few cotton balls in a bowl of hot water
7. slight melt some of your polish in the can
8. ring out a cotton ball and get some of the softened wax on it
9. apply to shoe/boot in small circles in a small area.
10. heat freshly polished area of shoe/boot
11. repeated 7-10 until entire shoe is coated and heated.
12. mist entire shoe/boot with hot water from spray bottle (filtered water is less likely to spot)
13. Buff with flannel/sweatshirt material

Most times you can just touch up with a quick mist and buff after the first application – maybe stripping it down and reapplying every few months. It is worth it for the parade ready shine and zen-like ritual of polishing like this, ranks right up there with spending a few hours disassembling and cleaning every gun in the safe, rebuilding a set of carbs, or brewing a batch of beer.

31 Brett & Kate McKay September 23, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Thomas and Matt- My boots are Wolverine 1000 Mile:

Don’t be scared off by the price. These babies are built to last. I’ll probably be passing these down to my grandson.

32 Herb September 24, 2013 at 10:40 am

Great video overall. The comments are where the real goodies are – memories of my CAP drill team days. Thanks for the good reminders and new ideas. Have to try the nylons.

33 Pastor Joshua September 25, 2013 at 10:27 am

I light the polish on fire and allow the polish to melt a bit before snuffing it out with the lid. I give it a minute to cool and proceeding to polish my boots.

34 Colton September 28, 2013 at 11:21 pm

What shade are those wolverines? Brown? Rust?

35 tony September 30, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Might want to add a tin of saddle soap/glycerine soap & dauber brush and using that to clean with rather than just brushing off the dirt/grime/etc. If your shine brush has dirt goop on it, when you use it to buff that dirt goop is going right back onto the shoe.

36 Mark October 6, 2013 at 7:20 pm

that’s a great technique for touchups, but if you want that patent leather shine..

1) strip the old wax with rubbing alcohol
2) melt the wax (light the wax, let it burn for about 5 seconds, then drop the lid on top to put the flame out)
3) apply melted wax
4) brush/buff
5) use WATER.. a spray bottle, or just dip the waxy part of your rag in water.
6) buff again, but with a clean cloth (an old tube sock turned inside out works nicely)
7) hold a newspaper up to the shoe, if you can read in the reflection, you’re done.

learned this from the Navy ROTC guys in my dorm who had to have PERFECT uniforms on inspection day – and were not allowed to wear patent leather shoes.

37 Mark October 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm

..and don’t forget to get some edge black for the soles, also invest in a package of rubber gloves (the kind painters use, you can get a box of 25 pr at any hardware store)

38 ihatepunks October 7, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Where did you buy those old school shoes? What brand are they?


I polish my shoes with just polish, water, toilet paper and matches…………

39 captainmaddog October 27, 2013 at 11:16 pm

Load up a horse hair brush with polish and polish leather until it will take no more polish. Dampen cotton ball with water, rub into polish, apply to shoe until shine is achieved. Repeat. Buff with horse hair brush. Repeat buff with cotton sock. Mirror shine will be achieved. 10 years of Saturday morning inspections are the proof. Still shine my shoes this way today 1/2 century later.

40 Rocky B. October 28, 2013 at 11:12 pm

I remember shining my dad’s shoes as a kid. The black Kiwi wax under my fingernails, the popping sound of the buff rag, the smell of my little box I kept everything in. He worked for a detention center for the Border Patrol & it was imperative to keep his shoes shined. I hated it then but I miss my dads company so much that I would love to go back in time & shine them shoes. I kept his shoes shiny & did a good job to. If I didn’t, he would tell me too shine them again. I’ll never forget the time I caught him with a lighter. I was pissed, I called him a cheater. He just laughed and said he didnt use the lighter. I miss that time with my dad…shining his shoes, fishing, listening to him bs with his work buddies. When I shine my motorcycle boots, sometimes I see his reflection, if not, I shine them again.

41 Crusader22 October 30, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Hey Brett what brand of boots are those?

42 Skyler November 8, 2013 at 10:00 am

Certainly a good approach, but you’re never going to get a true military shine with that technique. A military shine includes a dab of water, a dab of shoe shine, and millions of dime sized circles.

43 Road King November 10, 2013 at 11:16 am

If I had cleaned my shoes of mud and grit in the house my father would have crowned me (before my mother did it). Also, a drop of water on the toe before buffing gives a much better shine than breathing on the toe.

44 Oscar Sheehan Bautista December 2, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I have to polish my shoes regularly in the navy, but for inspections I bring out the big guns since shoes were the only way to really stand out. Using the steam from an iron (instead of just breathing on them, the steam is hotter but it also imparts moisture) got me an outstanding on every personnel inspection I’ve ever had. Everyone was always jealous because it didn’t take that much time but it always produced impressive results. Another tip, 5 minutes before the inspection I would use a quick shine sponge on the work I did the night before and it would look like a mirror.

45 George December 9, 2013 at 10:58 am

I never use a thick fabric like a sock. For me, an old t-shirt works great. I also never use a shoe shine brush. I continue to apply an extremely thin layer of polish with a touch of the tongue over the shoe until it develops a haze . Wipe the haze off with the dry/clean part of the t-shirt and to get a nice mirror shine, you need to use some nylon panty hose. My time in the army has taught me the importance of the shine!!!

46 Mark Holzmann January 2, 2014 at 6:23 pm

You can wax and shine the uppers all day, but if you don’t dye and dress the sole they still look like crap. Lincoln shoe dye black and brown should be in every kit, along with disposable latex gloves.

47 M.:M.: Jorge Avila :. February 3, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Hello to all. Anyone notice the masonic ring? Glad to see breathren proudly display their rings.

Nicolas Bravo Lodge #62 in northern Mexico

48 Paul February 27, 2014 at 10:23 am

If you have leathersoles, don’t forget them, and the stitchings. Think: waterproof.

The sole doesn’t need to shine, but it needs to be waterproof.

49 W.:Justin April 2, 2014 at 10:34 am

Just noticed….Good to see some brothers out here.

Amityville #977, New York

50 Jessi April 19, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Seeing this, I had to smile… recalling SO much shoe polishing for uniform inspections.

I utilized similar methods… though, I used clean skivvy cloth instead of either a sock to apply or the brush to create the friction, and I added a gob of spit to the process.

Inelegant, but it helps things flow. Also putting the tin some place warm, like a sill that gets a LOT of sun, or in your car softens the wax, and it goes into the pores smoother. Then I used another skivvy cloth and a few drops of water with patient firm circular rubs to make that stuff shine. And before an inspection, I gave a quick brush of some baby oil I had on a small sponge in a plastic container.

I have to give a major bravo on this site. I find it exceedingly helpful, fun, and classically classy. Thank you!

And as a girl, I have to be the first to say… YES. We appreciate classy manliness.

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