Good-looking shoes are the foundation of any outfit. Learning how to polish shoes well is important because nothing looks as good as fresh-out-of-the-box shoes.
Except well-maintained ones, that is.
Even your year-old sneakers can look out-of-the-box fresh if you clean them properly. And the best part is, maintaining footwear is neither difficult nor time-consuming.
If you want to learn how to polish shoes, grab your smooth leather casual or dress shoes and follow along.
How to Polish Shoes With Oiled Leather
Step 1: Brush of dirt
Casual shoes and boots are the easiest to work with.
To care for such footwear, simply make sure itʼs dry. Then, brush off any dirt with a shoe brush.
Step 2: Apply leather oil
Next, apply oil to the leather. The oil makes it watertight, soft, and flexible.
Mink oil is common, but any type of oil-based leather preservative will do.
How to Polish Shoes With Waxed Leather
Leather dress shoes require a different approach. A wax-based shoe polish protects your shoes and gives them a high gloss.
Step 1: Brush of dirt
Start by dusting off your dry leather shoes with a shoe brush.
Step 2: Apply leather conditioner
Then apply leather conditioner and work it in. The conditioner will both clean and moisturise the leather, preventing it from cracking.
Applying leather conditioner is sometimes enough. However, if you want the leather to be watertight and glossy, you’ll need to apply shoe polish after the conditioner.
Step 3: Apply shoe polish
When the leather conditioner has dried, apply shoe polish with a cotton rag or similar. Use polish in the same colour as your shoes. Work small amounts of shoe polish into the leather, using a toothbrush to get into hard-to-reach places.
Step 4: Brush off excess shoe polish
Next, cover your work surface in newspaper or similar. Brush off excess polish with a horsehair brush. Use rapid movements, and flick your wrist instead of your elbow.
Step 5: buff shoes to a shine
Finally, use a pair of nylon stockings to buff your shoes to a nice shine.
How to Care for Suede Shoes
For suede and nubuck shoes, never use any oil or wax-based preservatives, as these will ruin the textured look and soft feel.
Step 1: Brush of dirt
To revive napped leather shoes, dry them and brush off any dirt with a shoe brush.
Step 2: Restore nap with suede brush
Then, restore the nap to its prior plushness by using a rubber suede brush.
Step 3 (optional): Use wire bristles to revive worn suede
If any areas are particularly worn, simply use the wire bristles on the brush to raise the leather fibres.
Step 4: Apply suede protector
Once you’re happy with the result, spray your shoes with an aerosol suede protector. Let them dry, and they’re ready to wear.
How to Clean Canvas Sneakers
Canvas sneakers are one of the easiest types of footwear to clean.
Method 1: Hand Cleaning Sneakers
The old-fashioned way is to use a solution of dishwashing liquid or liquid hand soap in water.
Step 1: Scrub your sneakers
Scrub your sneakers with a nail brush dipped in the soapy water. Then, wipe the sneakers off with a clean cotton rag or towel.
Step 2: Wash laces
Be sure to wash and bleach — or replace — white laces at the same time.
IMPORTANT: if you wash your laces in a washing machine, make sure to wash the laces in a wash-bag so that they donʼt ruin your washing machine during wash.
Method 2: Machine Cleaning Sneakers
The other method for cleaning sneakers is to machine-wash them in warm water.
A neat trick is to launder your canvas sneakers with a couple of bath towels.
The towels act as a million rags, gently scrubbing away at the sneakers. At the same time, the towels keep the shoes from banging around too much inside the drum of the machine.
Use regular detergent for coloured or dark sneakers, and detergent with bleach for white sneakers. Always skip the fabric softener.
Drying and Storing Footwear
Skip the fancy floor heating cables and shoe blow-dryers. The best way to dry any shoes after a day’s wear is to crumple plain newspaper and stuff it in each shoe.
The newspaper will effectively absorb moisture without overdrying the shoes or exposing them to excessive heat. If your shoes are really wet, you may need to change the newspaper when it becomes moist.
As for footwear storage, the best thing you can do is to use cedar shoe trees. These help the shoes or boots keep their shape; draw out moisture, such as sweat; and deodorise.
Once you know how to polish shoes, you can get the job done quickly without even thinking about it. I just want to mention a couple more things.
First, you should always remove any laces whenever you clean, treat, or polish your footwear. And as you do so, replace any old, scruffy laces with new ones. You can find laces where you bought your shoes.
Alternatively, you can buy shoelaces online on places like eBay for a fraction of the price. If you buy online, simply measure the length of your laces and order the same style – that is, either round or flat – in leather or cotton.
Also, as far as shoe-care frequency goes, try to recondition your leather shoes at least once every month or two. When it comes to dress shoes, it’s important to polish them regularly so that they donʼt crack and always look presentable at a momentʼs notice.