Steps to a Shine

There are many different ways to shine a pair of boots. The following steps are just one way, but not the only way, to polish boots.

  1. Wash your hands (and any other part that may come into contact with the boots). Skin contains natural oils and you cannot polish a boot that has oil on it.
  2. Clean the boots. For fairly clean boots a small amount of soap with water will do. If the boots are really dirty, you may need a scrub brush. Don’t forget to clean the tongue area and the welt really well as dirt tends to build up in these areas. Use a clean damp cloth to wipe the soap from the boot, followed by a dry cloth.
  3. If the boots are brand new, they will most likely need to be stripped before being polished. A lot of boots new come with a thin layer of silicone over them to protect them. If the boots have many layers of polish on them, they too may need to be stripped. This does not mean you have to take the boot down to bare leather.
  4. Dye the boots after stripping. This will give the boots an even start before you apply polish.
  5. Using your bare hands or a soft cotton cloth, apply a thin layer of polish to one boot and then the other
    • Other bootblacks like to use a 100 % horsehair boot brush on the waxed boot. This is an art because a heavy hand can leave brush strokes in the wax
    • Repeat step 5 until you have four thin coats of wax on the boot. (This is an estimate. Some boots may need less and some may need more. A lot depends on the condition of the boot at the start)
    • Some bootblacks like to add a layer of red or blue and even sometimes green as the final layer or they will put the colored layer just beneath the final layer of black
    • Some bootblacks like to wait until they have all the layers on the boot before using heat or brushes
  6. Time to Shine!
    • You need a damp clean cotton cloth. 100% cotton. Polyester will strip the polish off the boot. At this point, you do not want to do that
    • The cloth should be old. An old t-shirt is ideal
    • The cloth for shining should be a light color
    • Clean water. A spray bottle with a mist works well
    • Buff the boot until you have a consistent, uniform shine
    • Using a nylon material and a light mist of water, use the same motion to bring out more shine!

The Spit Shine

Spit shines work best on a smooth hard leather boot

  • This takes more time
  • This is when you put a small amount of polish on the damp cloth or cotton ball at your fingertips and begin lightly stroking the surface of the leather in little circles. You have to be patient, working one section of the boot at a time. At first, you will think a shine will never appear, but keep doing those little circles on the section you are working on. Eventually you will see a mirror shine begin to appear
  • The key to a spit shine is to keep the cloth damp and to use a small amount of polish. If you gob the polish on it will turn gritty on your cloth and ruin the shine. The spit shine takes a bit of practice but if you decide this is the way you want to go, you will develop techniques that work best for you
  • Remember, like above, to rotate your fingers to a clean area of the cloth from time to time
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