How to Polish a Pair of Dress Shoes


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3420068491 d3cc3ef128 How to Polish a Pair of Dress Shoes

With a good pair of leather shoes starting at around $100 & going well north of that, it’s essential to protect ones investment by taking the time to properly maintain them. A high-quality pair of dress shoes should last a man decades, & a little bit of time & money spent in upkeep will save hundreds – if not thousands – in repair & replacement costs over the life of a shoe.

Polishing your shoes:

1. Wipe your shoes down with a damp cloth to remove superficial dirt and stains.

2. Wet the welt brush and scrub out the entire welt strip.

3. If the shoes need it, apply sole-edge dressing — carefully. If you get it on the uppers, it will stain them permanently. Let edge dressing dry before going any further.

4. Apply polish, using a circular rubbing motion. You don’t need to slather it on. You don’t need to be gentle. And the more you rub, the better. Let the polish dry. It should take about five minutes.

5. Buff the entire shoe with a polishing brush. For extra gleam, hold the shoe between your knees and buff the toe vigorously with a lint-free cloth.

Required Materials

You’ll need the right tools — just a few, but each with a crucial purpose.

Shoe polish: Kiwi wax-based polish is as good a brand as any other. (Cream polishes, applied with a brush, may be easier to use, but they won’t give you the same shine.) And you don’t need every color under the sun. Black, of course; a chestnut or darker brown; and something middling or neutral for light-colored shoes.

Welt brush: Looks like a toothbrush (and you can use one in its place). It’s designed to get the grit out of the welt, the seam where the shoe’s upper joins the sole. You’d be amazed how much dirt gets in there.

Polishing cloth:
In lint-free cotton or linen. Use the same one for putting on the polish that you use for buffing, regardless of the color you’re using. And hang on to it: The longer you use the same cloth, the more it becomes suffused with rich oils and dyes.

Polishing brush:
Used to get a high shine out of the shoe once you’ve got all that wax into the leather. Horsehair is recommended.

Sole dressing: The edge of the sole takes a scuffing from doorjambs and sidewalks. Restore the pristine look of your shoes with an edge dressing, applied with a small craft brush or a cotton swab.

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3 thoughts on “How to Polish a Pair of Dress Shoes

  1. Great post! I have a question: I bought a pair of brown wingtips with a darker brown burnished toe and heel. How would I go about polishing those, but keeping the burnished effect?

  2. Ideally we’d have to see them to say with 100% confidence, but perhaps a very light coat of wax (beeswax) massaged in. Alternatively, wipe them clean with a fresh cloth & then give them a polish with a straight soft brush.

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