Whether your boots are looking a little rough for wear or they’ve been sitting in your closet collecting dust, it doesn’t take much to get them looking like new again. The right polish, some technique, and a little of your time is all takes to have leather soft and shiny again. Below, we’ll take a look at a few methods on how to polish boots so you can pick the one that works best for you.
Necessities to Polish Your Boots
There isn’t a lot that you need to get your boots looking brand new again. You’ll want a good quality leather polish that matches the color of your boots, a shoe brush or applicator, and other things that you’ll probably have around the house, like soft cotton or terry cloth towels that you can use to get a good shine on the boot. Keep in mind that boot polish does stain, so you won’t want to use anything that you care about staining.
With the staining, you may want to work at a protected work space. You can lay down newspaper for protection or work on another protected surface. Additionally, you may want to work in a well-ventilated area. Shoe polish can have a strong odor.
Start with a Clean Boot
For the polish to penetrate the leather and leave it looking and feeling more supple, you need to start by getting any dust or dirt off the boots. If your boots are looking a little worse for the wear, you’ll want to start by doing a thorough cleaning. You can check out our helpful article on how to clean boots here.
If your boot doesn’t need a deep cleaning, you’ll still want to dust it to remove any residue that might have built up on the boot. Use a dry brush and small, short strokes to remove any dust from the leather. Be sure that you get the area around the welt stitching, too!
For some people, it might be necessary to take a damp cloth and use it to wipe away stuck-on dirt. If this is a case, make sure that you give the boot plenty of time to dry after cleaning. Having water on the boot affects how evenly the polish is applied.
Prep the Boot for Polishing
Once you have a clean, dry boot in front of you, it’s time to move onto the next step. If your boot has laces, you’ll want to remove these for polishing. This will make it easier to get all the nooks and crannies for an all-over shine.
If you’d like, you can put a shoe tree in the boot next. The benefit of a shoe tree is that it makes the boot firmer, making it easier to get a shine.
Don’t have a shoe tree? Not a problem. Instead, wad up some newspaper or some old T-shirts you don’t care about and put them inside the boot. You can also fill up the neck of the boot. This is really helpful when you’re polishing because it helps create a more solid surface.
The Quick Polish Method
Now, we’re going to discuss the quick polish method. This method is good for when your boots need a little spruced up, but you don’t want that high-shine appearance you get from a more thorough technique. It’s also a good method if you’re looking for a super easy way to polish your boots.
Applying the Polish
You’ll want to start with boot polish that matches the color of your boots. Many shoe polishes come with an applicator, but you can also use a shoe brush or even a dry cloth. For this method, you’ll want a layer of polish all over the boot. While you don’t want to make it too thick, which will make it harder to rub in, you should be sure that you put on a substantial layer.
If you used a shoe brush, then you might also want to use a clean, dry cloth to get down into the nooks and crannies of the boot. This will help you target those areas that might be a little harder to reach with the included applicator.
Letting the Polish Sit
Then, all you’re going to do is let the boots sit a little while before you finish polishing them. Set them in a warm, dry place to give the polish a chance to soak in. You can do this for an hour or two, or you can even apply it the night before you want to polish them for a super easy finish. The goal is to give the polish plenty of time to penetrate the leather, so you don’t have to spend as much time buffing.
Buffing the Shoes
Finally, you’re going to buff that polish out. Start by wiping away a lot of the excess polish, especially if there’s still a lot left on top after letting the boot sit. Then, you’re going to buff the boot to get out any scratches and ensure the polish deeply penetrates the leather. This entire process should take about ten minutes, especially after you let the polish sit for a while.
You’ll want to use short, quick strokes as you buff the shoe. Ideally, you’ll want to use a shoe polish brush, a terry cloth rag, or another soft surface that will help you distribute any leftover polish and wipe away the excess. This method won’t result in the high shine that you’ll get from the method we discuss next, though.
How to Polish Boots with a Good Shine
This method takes a little longer than the previous one, but it results in a shine that makes your boots look great. Like with the previous method, you’ll want to start with boots that are clean and free of any dust. If you had to use a damp cloth to remove any dirt, then you’ll want to be sure they are dry completely. Additionally, remove any shoe laces that might get in the way while you are polishing the boots.
Applying a Thin Layer of Polish
With this method, you aren’t letting the boot sit for a few hours or overnight before buffing it. You’ll want to avoid putting too much polish on because that just makes the process more messy. The leather is only going to absorb so much of it, no matter how much you try to rub it into the boot.
Use the applicator or a soft cloth to apply a thin layer of polish all over the boot. Use gentle, circular motions to apply the polish and be sure not to miss any spots. While you do want to use the polish in a way that isn’t excessive, it is important to build up a thin layer. Without a layer of polish on the boot, it’s impossible to get a high-quality shine.
Removing the Excess
Next, you’re going to take a shoe brush and remove any excess polish that you have on the boot. This time, use quick, short motions as you brush away from yourself. These short strokes will help ensure the polish is applied evenly all over the boot. It will also help it penetrate the leather a little deeper and build that layer that you want for an effective shine.
Buffing the Boot
To buff the boot, you are going to use brisk, back-and-forth motions and a soft cloth. This helps remove any excess polish that the cloth wasn’t able to absorb. Once you’ve given the entire boot a once over, you can concentrate on the areas where you might want more shine, like the top of the boot. This is also the area most likely to get scuffed up, so the extra attention might help buff out scratches, too.
Hold the soft cloth on either end and position it over the toe of the boot. Pull it back and forth between your hands as you buff the boot. Keep working at it until you get the shine that you want.
The buffing process is likely the most time-consuming when you want a really good shine on your boot. It can take 20-30 minutes, or even up to an hour to do a really good job buffing your shoes. Fortunately, a good polish is going to last a while unless you are particularly rough on your boots so the time that you put into it is well rewarded.
How to Get an Intense Shine on Polished Boots
For people who want their boots looking brand new, there are extra steps that you can take to polish your boots. For this process, you’ll need wax polish and cream polish. It’s also helpful to have a spray bottle filled with clean water for the process, as well as several rags and soft cloths.
Applying and Buffing the Cream Polish
You’re going to apply the cream polish first, using small, circular motions to be sure you get an even coating. Once you have an even coating all over the boot, you’re going to let it dry completely before buffing. When it’s time to buff, lightly mist a cloth and wipe it gently over the boot. Allow it to dry again completely before the next step.
Applying and Buffing the Wax Polish
For this step, you can use standard or glossy wax polish, depending on your personal preference. Spritz a soft cloth with the spray bottle so it’s slightly damp and then use the rag to apply a thin, even layer of the wax polish. This process takes a while because you’ll eventually want to end up with 3-5 coats. You’ll need to let each coat dry before applying the next one.
Once you’ve noticed a good build up and a matte shine on the toe cap, you’re ready for the final coat. Apply the last coat without any water on the rag. Then, use the buffing technique discussed above until you get an intense shine.
FAQs About How to Polish Boots
Does boot polish stain?
Yes, boot polish does stain. This is one of the reason that it’s able to soak down into boot leather and remove scratches. You should always work over a protective surface while polishing boots and be sure not to use any towels or cloths that you don’t want stained. You could also wear latex or disposable gloves to protect your hands from staining.
How much boot polish do I need for my shoes?
One of the great things about boot polish is that a little bit goes a long way, so you do not need a lot. In fact, most people find that one can of boot polish lasts for several years as long as it’s stored properly. Ideally, you should store boot polish in a cool, dry area where it isn’t going to get dried out. If it came with an applicator, it’s also important that you clean it each time that you use it. Rinse any cloths or brushes you use and allow them to dry. This keeps them from becoming stiff, which can make it harder to get an even coating of polish on your boot.
Do I need a special cloth to polish my boots?
No, you do not need a special cloth to polish your boots. They do make soft cloths that you can buy for polishing boots, often made of cotton, terry cloth, microfiber, or another soft, gentle material. You can buy these if you’d like. If not, however, an old T-shirt or a cotton rag will work well. The thing that is most important is using a cloth that is soft and semi-absorbent so it can wipe away extra polish.
How does boot polishing work?
Many people are surprised to learn that they can’t necessarily shine the leather on the boots. While it is possible to give worn down leather a shinier appearance, this actually works by building up a layer of the polish and creating a shine on the polish on top of the boot. This is the reason it’s so important to coat the leather of your boot well and thoroughly with the polish before you start buffing it to get a shine.
Samantha is a part-time writer and stay-at-home mom of two boys (and three pets). With all the outdoor activities the family participates in and two growing boys, shoes are something she’s very familiar with.