Whether it is your military boots or a pair of gorgeous leather boots that exude elegance and style, keeping those toe caps well-shined is imperative. That old-fashioned mirror shine on your elegant boots will show that you mean business. While those shoeshine boys can certainly polish your boots to a mirror shine, you won’t always be able to rely on them. Most often than not, you’ll have to clean your boots on your own, for which you need to learn the right way to do it.
You might think that polishing is easy – just pick a brush, apply some polish to it, and rub it on to a shoe. However, there’s a lot more that goes into polishing a shoe, especially if you want that magnificent mirror shine on your pair. So, we are going to show you how to polish boots and get that classic shine.
Things You Will Need
First, let’s talk about the products you will need to polish your boots.
1. Wax Shoe Polish
Wax shoe polish will create that smooth, reflective layer over the toe caps. This is why the type of polish you use will determine how quickly you’ll be able to create the shine and how long it will last.
We recommend you go with a wax show polish with a high wax-to-solvent ratio. The reason is that these waxes are relatively drier and harder compared to those with a low wax-to-solvent ratio so they easily mold into thick layers. The shine they create lasts longer too so you are getting the best of both worlds with this wax shoe polish.
Another important thing to consider when buying a wax shoe polish is its contents. Go with a polish that contains natural agents that dry leather. Moreover, if you wish to maintain the original color of your boots, apply a neutral wax because pigments in a colored polish might darken the shined area.
2. Polishing Cloth
You will need to shape the applied wax shoe polish into a reflective finish. For that, you will require a polishing cloth. Use one that’s made of cotton or other organic fiber material. Avoid using synthetic fibers as their chemical structure is hard and would scratch the organic material of your boots.
Also, make sure that the cloth is thin so that you can control pressure easily. If you have an old cotton shirt at home, you could just cut a few pieces of it to make polishing cloths. They are smooth and thin, so you should be able to use them to shine your shoes.
3. Dauber Brush
A dauber brush consists of a spatula-style wood handle with a head of dense and durable horsehair bristles. This brush will help you apply base coats of shoe polish and distribute it evenly on the surface of your boots. Dauber brush can also be used for applying cream polishes, conditioning creams, and other products on your shoes.
When shopping for a dauber brush, look for one that boasts natural horsehair bristles. If you have shoes of different colors, use a separate brush for each pair of shoes. Using the same brush on different shoes will ruin the color of your boots.
4. Buffing Brush
A buffing brush will help you clean dirt and dust and buff base coats without damaging the material of the boots or removing polish. Buffing brushes with natural bristles – like horsehair – are best because they don’t scratch leather and can generate the heat required to buff the wax shoe polish. The bristle density of the buffing brush you choose should be high so that it can effectively clean and buff your boots.
5. Strong Leather Cleaner
A strong leather cleaner or leather stripper dissolves all the top polish layers for easy removal. This enables you to build a clear base layer so that your shine doesn’t look dull. Get a leather stripper that doesn’t contain any ingredient that’s harmful to leather or synthetic material of your boots.
Make sure to choose a leather stripper that only removes the upper polish layers and not the dye finish. Before applying it on your entire shoe, test it on a small portion to ensure that it doesn’t affect the original finish of your boots.
6. Shoe Trees
Shoe trees are another important item you’ll need to polish your shoes. These will provide a solid platform to work the wax shoe polish into the material of your boots. You could put pieces of a newspaper inside your shoes but they won’t provide adequate support, so it’s better to use shoe trees.
Avoid using shoe trees that come with a ball at the end as they place too much pressure on a single spot and will quickly distort the heel area. Instead, use the ones which feature fully articulated heels. Make sure that the shoe trees you are buying have spring-loaded components that allow them to adjust to different shoe shapes. These provide firm support for applying wax shoe polish.
How to Polish Your Boots
Now that you know the things required to clean the boots, let us guide you on how to polish your boots for a classic mirror shine.
1. Prepare Your Boots
First, remove the shoelaces from your pair of boots so that they don’t get discolored from the polish and you can access the entire area of your shoe. Insert the shoe trees into the shoes so that you have a solid surface to apply the polish on. Go out into your backyard or an open area and lay down some newspapers on the floor. Place your shoes on top of the newspaper so that the polish doesn’t ruin the floor.
2. Clean Your Boots
Dust and old polish can become trapped in the new polish you apply. This creates a dull, cloudy layer and you aren’t able to get a decent shine. So, before applying shoe wax polishing, clean your boots using a buffing brush to get rid of dust. Next strip off existing layers of shoe polish on your boots with the help of a strong leather cleaner.
3. Apply Base Coat
Base coat will fill in the pores of the leather grain and create a foundation for your upper mirror layers. Use a dauber brush to pick up a small amount of wax shoe polish and spread it in circles over the entire shoe, making sure that it covers the surface thickly and evenly. Allow the polish to dry for at least 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, check to make sure that no polish comes off when your rub lightly with your fingers. Once dry, use a buffing brush to brush in quick, light strokes. This will create heat and smoothen the layer of wax shoe polish to create a slight shine. You could stop there if you just want to clean your boots, but if you’re after mirror shine, keep going.
4. Build More Foundation Coats
You should only try to mirror shine the toe caps of your boots. The reason is that this shine is achieved by building a thick layer of hard shoe wax polish. If you apply them over the creases, it’ll crack so there is no point of applying it there.
Repeat step 3 to build more foundation coats over the toe cap area of your boots. Keep doing this until you notice that the leather grain has become noticeably fade compared to other areas of your shoe. This will take about 8-10 coats if you are using a regular shoe wax polish.
5. Water Shine the Toe Caps
In this step, you will be polishing the thick wax layer into a smooth surface to get that mirror shine. Wrap a part of clean cotton cloth around your index finger tightly and secure it. Add a few drops of water onto the wrapped area of the cloth and then add a small amount of wax on it. In this step, you must use as little wax as possible. Reason being, fresh wax contains solvent and using too much will make the polish take more time to dry and the solvent will dissolve, removing the base coats that you built earlier.
Apply the wax in quick, light circles onto the toe caps. Use a very light touch to ensure that you don’t dissolve existing layers of polish, while still allowing the wax on the wrapped cloth to deposit over the hardened wax layers. These light circular motions of your fingertip will work the small, thin layer of shoe wax you have applied into a single smooth layer.
As you are applying a thin layer of wax, you will notice an increase in friction between the surface and your finger until it becomes too hard to continue circling with a very light touch. You might also notice that the area has turned matte. This isn’t something to worry about because it happens when the solvent in the polish has dried and the shoe wax is hardening. At this stage, continue shaping the shoe wax polish into a smooth layer.
Add 1-2 drops of water onto the wax and continue circling with your light touch. Add more water when friction becomes too much for your light tough so that you can easily spread the wax. Do this until the cloudiness disappears to reveal a shine. This shine will be glossier than that you got from buffing the foundation coats. Allow the layer to sit for 15 minutes. Add more layers of wax shoe polish after that until you achieve the desired level of shine.
Even when you have achieved your desired level of shine, you might notice some streaks of water clouding the toe caps. After the wax has completely dried, wrap a clean part of the cloth around your index finger. Put a drop of rubbing alcohol on the cloth and run it over the polished area in light circles as you did before. This will dissolve the top wax layer and you will get that classic mirror shine. Congratulations – now you can go out and impress people with your shining footwear. If anyone asks you how you got your boots shinning so bright, just tell them what we have shown you.
Polishing boots can be hard and getting that mirror shine is even more difficult, so you wouldn’t want to do it again and again. This is why you should try your best to maintain the mirror shine on your boots. Stay out of the sun when you go out as heat makes the shoe wax softer and easily scratched. Also, try to steer clear of dirt and water as they’ll ruin your polished boots. Mirror shine will eventually degrade and you will have to rebuild it from scratch. But that won’t be a major issue since you now know how to polish boots to create a mirror shine.
We hope you understand everything you need to do to polish your boots and get that mirror shine. If you aren’t attending a major event and just want to clean your boots for a casual outing with friends, just follow the first three steps. If you crave mirror shine, follow all the steps we have discussed in our guide.
In case you have any questions about the products you need or the things you’ll require to polish your boots, feel free to reach out to us. We’ll be happy to guide you.