How To Polish Boots

Polishing your boots is essential to keeping your best pair of boots looking new and shiny for as long as possible. By making sure you have all the correct materials and following a guided polishing procedure, whilst also adding a finishing shine at the end, we promise you’ll have your boots looking good as new in no time.

We have written this guide to help you through the process and give those shoes the makeover they deserve. 

Cleaning Your Boots

To prep your boots for polishing, you need to make sure you have cleaned them thoroughly.  Before you begin to clean, the first step is to remove any laces or unnecessary features so you have access to the whole surface of the show. This is important for creating an even shine.

You can insert shoe trees to create a sturdier surface and these can even be replaced by stuffing old newspaper into the toe of your boot. If you have a taller neck on your boot, use some old towels to stuff in the neck to make it easier to handle when polishing.

You now need to use a horsehair brush to clean the debris off your shoes. Even if you don’t think your boots look dirty, they might be covered in dust and small debris which is hard to see with the human eye.

Polishing over this will push the dirt deeper into the boots. You need to instead brush the surface of the boot, pay close attention to dirt you can see, and make sure you have removed all the debris before continuing to the next step.

If your boots need an even deeper clean, you can use a cloth and saddle soap or baby shampoo and water. Do not damage your leather however by saturating your shoe. Use a welt brush and a small dab of water to reach small areas and openings in your shoe. Avoid soaking your boot and make sure you leave them to completely dry for around 15 minutes.


After you have cleaned your boots and they are ready for polishing, you need to prep the area. To do this, cover your work area with newspapers or a towel as polishing can become messy.

The last thing you want is a stained coffee table or a stained kitchen table, so make sure you are taking precautions. This means you also don’t want to use your best kitchen towels unless you want these to become stained too.

Apply The Polish

Now it’s time to apply your polish. We recommend a cream or a wax-based polish and this will provide good nourishment as well as coloring for your shoes. A wax-based polish has a much larger concentration of harder wax and this is what creates the shine.

Because of this concentration, it will also protect your boots from liquids, scuffs, or accidental scratches. 

Dip one corner of a lint-free clean rag into the polish and ensure this corner is saturated before applying it to the boot. This ensures you will have a smooth, even coat and will prevent the coat from being too thick. You then need to apply a small, circular motion on your boots, rubbing the polish into the boot.

Apply the polish to one small area such as the toe of your boot before moving to the next area. This ensures you do not miss any scrapes or scuffs. Continue in small, circular motions until you have covered the whole boot. Re-saturate your rag when needed. 

Make sure you are only applying a thin layer of polish, otherwise it will simply sit on the surface instead of soaking into the shoe. 

You also want to polish the welts of your shoes. This is a piece of leather used to attach the insole and the outsole of your boots and if you avoid polishing this, it will affect the sleekness of the finished boot. Dip a welt toothbrush into the polish and apply to the shoe in similarly small, circular motions. This brush will also help you polish the heel and other smaller areas.

Once you have polished the whole shoe, leave it to dry for 10 minutes. Heavier polishes require a longer drying time, to check your polish’s container. Next, you need to buff your boots using a side-to-side motion.

This will ensure you have not missed a spot and when a glossy shine appears, you know it is working. Go back and finish any areas that need touching up and remember, this should be a gentle process.

After you have finished, wipe your boot down with the clean part of your rag to remove extra wax or cream left on the boot’s surface. This will help your boots dry and prevent areas of buildup.

Finally, allow your boots to sit and dry for a further 10 minutes as wearing boots with polish that is still wet can significantly increase the risk of scuffs and cracks. This happens when the polish does not have enough time to form a protective coating.

Repeat the steps as needed if you need to remove tougher, deeper steps. Your finished boot should be shiny and have a waxy matte finish.

If you have oil-tanned leather, you can use and oil or a conditioner to polish it. To do this, dab a cloth into the oil and spread lightly on your boot. Oil-tanned leather would have already been treated with oil to make the shoe weather resistant.

If you are polishing suede or rough-out-based leather, avoid oil, polish, or conditioner and use a leather protector spray instead.

Buffing And Shining

To give your boots the ultimate shiny finished look, place 1-2 drops of warm water on a cotton cloth and mold the cloth around your index finger. Add a small amount of wax and use a small circular motion to apply. Keep a light touch so you avoid rubbing off any polish that has not dissolved yet and this will create a smooth coat over the hardened polish.

Allow this wax to dry for around 10-15 minutes and this will prevent thick layers of wax from building up. By not letting it dry long enough, you are also preventing the wax from building a protective layer.

Keep applying the wax until you have reached your desired level of shine. Keep following the steps above and remember, too much wax will create a hard surface instead of a shiny finish. Be patient and apply wax as needed.

Final Thoughts

We hope by reading this article you have learned a little more about how to clean, polish and buff, and shine your boots. Following these steps will allow for a beautiful shiny finish that looks like new, and form a protective layer over your boots to make them as weather-resistant as possible.

But remember, do not wear your boots until 24 hours have passed after polishing, and always allow them adequate time to dry for best results. Happy polishing!