How To Polish & Shine Leather Boots: The Complete 7-Step Process
To maintain the durability and lustrous appearance of your boots, you need to shine them the correct way. Using the materials and steps that are outlined below, you can achieve a glossy shine that protects your boots and makes them sparkling new!
Here’s a quick guide on how to polish and shine your leather boots:
- Choose A Cream And Wax Polish
- Remove the Laces
- Insert a Shoe Tree
- Clean the Exterior
- Apply a Cream Polish
- Apply a Thin Layer of Wax Polish
- Shine Your Leather Boots
The following guide for shining leather boots is suitable for faux and real leather but is not appropriate for the texture of suede boots. If you have suede leather boots, we suggest that you only clean them using an appropriate cleaning solution.
1. Choose A Polish For Your Leather Boots
To achieve the best results, you’ll need to select a polish that matches the color of your leather boots. Colored polishes help to protect them against fading, while also reconditioning it at the same time. This can help to ultimately make your leather boots look newer by instilling a vibrant color with a glossy finish.
You can also use a neutral polish that offers a similar shine to your leather boots. A neutral polish should be used if you are not able to find a colored polish that is of the same hue as your leather boots.
There are two kinds of polishes you will need to choose from to get your leather boots to shine flawlessly. Below, you’ll see the difference between a cream polish and a wax polish.
Select a Cream Polish
A cream polish has moisturizing properties for the leather material of your boots. It provides the essential nutrients needed to keep your leather supple and make the shoe more comfortable. Although they offer less shine than wax polishes, some cream polishes can act as gentle cleaners and reconditioners for the leather.
There are many types of cream polishes to choose from and they’re all pretty decent. If you’re looking for one that works great on leather boots, then you can consider the Cadillac Select Premium Cream Shoe Polish. It’s got a rich nourishing formula and refines your leather at the same time.
We recommend using the correct color of cream polish since a mismatched color can discolor or streak your leather boots. We also advise against using cream polishes containing petroleum as it may affect the quality of the leather in the long term.
Select a Wax Polish
Wax polishes are usually harder than cream polishes but provide leather boots with a shinier overall appearance. It is applied to the boot to offer a higher level of protection against water spots or any chance of scuff marks.
Similar to cream polishes, there is no shortage of wax polishes for your leather boots in the market. The Angelus Perfect Stain Shoe Wax Polish is our preferred wax, as there are plenty of colors to match your leather boots with, and gives them a fantastic long-lasting shine!
We recommend choosing wax polish that contains beeswax or carnauba wax for better and more long-lasting results.
2. Remove The Laces of your leather Boots
After choosing the cream and wax polish for the process, you can put them to the side for now! Next, you’ll need to remove the laces of your leather boots for proper application of the products.
While it’s possible to give your leather boots a shine while the laces are still on, they will definitely get in the way and you may also miss some spots (especially around the eyelets and the tongue). Therefore, it’s just best to simply unlace them beforehand.
3. Insert A Shoe Tree into You Leather Boots
We also recommend inserting shoe trees into your leather boots, so that they maintain their shape as you polish them. Cedar wood shoe trees are our preferred option, but you can also insert newspapers as an alternative.
The reason why you’ll need to ensure that your leather boots maintain their shape when you give them a shine is that they’ll bend and make it much harder to apply the cream and wax polish in the following steps.
4. Clean The Exteriors of Your Leather Boots
Before polishing the leather, it is best to clean the surface of your boots using a leather cleaning solution or saddle soap to remove all dirt and embedded dust.
There are various brands of saddle soap that you’ll be able to use. We use and recommend Fiebing’s Saddle Soap, as it works great on leather boots (especially the white-colored saddle soap).
Apply the cleaning solution or saddle soap using a microfiber cloth and remove the surface impurities using a circular motion. Use a soft brush to remove dirt from hard-to-reach spots. Move on to the next step once your leather boots are completely clean and dry.
5. Apply a Cream Polish to Your Leather Boots
Choose a clean cotton cloth to apply the colored or neutral cream polish on your leather boots. Ensure to apply a generous amount of polish evenly across the surface for proper nourishment of the leather.
You can use a welt brush to apply polish on areas that are difficult to reach. Feel free to lift your leather boots with your other hand so that you have easy access to all areas of your boots.
If you have not polished your boots in a long while, you shouldn’t hesitate to apply a second coat if you desire. It is best to let your boots rest for 3 to 5 minutes to absorb all nutrients before moving on to the next step.
7. Apply a Thin Layer of Wax Polish on Your Leather Boots
To enhance the shine of your leather boots, you need to apply a coat of wax polish on them. This step also introduces a level of protection against water damage and staining through the higher concentration of the hard wax.
Apply a thin coat of colored wax polish (to match the color of the boots) or neutral wax polish on your leather boots using a clean cotton cloth. Make sure to use small circular motions to blend in the polish all over the surface.
Whilst we recommend using a generous amount of cream-based polish in the previous step, we recommend taking the “less is more” approach when it comes to wax polish. This is especially important in the amount of wax polish you apply across the vamp of the boots.
If you end up applying too much across an area that bends often from natural wear, you might notice cracking of the wax in the future, leaving an unwanted white residue on your shoe that you will then have to treat in the future.
Using too much wax polish across your boots will also generally stiffen your base leather to the point where it might be uncomfortable to wear. After having applied the wax, let your leather boots rest for about 3 to 5 minutes before moving on to the next step.
7. Shine Your Leather Boots
After your leather boots have had some time to absorb the polish, it is time to make them shine. This is where the magic happens! We recommend using a horsehair brush to buff your leather boots since it creates a good amount of friction to activate the wax polish to shine.
If you are expecting to reuse your brush across multiple boots, use a dark-colored horsehair brush for polishing your black boots and a lighter-colored one for your brown boots. Doing so will prevent any streaking and color transference from any previous residue on the brush.
Buff the polish with the horsehair brush using moderate to firm pressure across the entire surface of the boots. Allow your shiny boots to dry and rest for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.
Frequently Asked Questions
We understand that polishing your leather boots to make them shine may be a little tricky if you’re doing it for the first time. Rest assured that if you’ve followed the above steps correctly, you’re on the right track!
In this section, we’d like to address some of your most frequently asked questions on polishing your leather boots.
How Do I Shine My Leather Boots Without Polish?
While we recommend using high-quality cream and wax polishes for your leather boots, you’re also able to use homemade solutions to give them a shine. However, it may not be as effective.
For example, you can use any kind of wax – preferably beeswax – to buff your leather boots, giving them a relatively vibrant shine. A good leather conditioner will also do the trick after you buff them.
Take note that you should never use any type of oil to polish your leather boots, as this will most often darken them and also transfer oils to whatever it gets into contact with.
How Often Should I Shine My Leather Boots?
How often you should polish and shine your leather boots depends on how often you use them. If you use them frequently, for example for work or over extended periods of time, it’s best to shine them every 2 to 3 weeks.
Can I Shine Suede or Nubuck Leather Boots?
No, you should never polish or buff any leather products that are made of suede or nubuck, as they will lose their natural texture. This also applies to suede and nubuck leather boots. Instead, use a compatible cleaner or conditioner for them.
How Long Does It Take to Shine Leather Boots?
If you’re polishing your leather boots for the first time, it will probably take you anywhere between 20 – 30 minutes (including waiting time). If you’re a little more experienced, you can expect the entire process to only take about 10 – 15 minutes in total.
Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief & Writer At Leatherskill
I’m a leather enthusiast turned artisan. Apart from crafting leather products, I’m passionate about writing in-depth guides and reviews on all things leather!