How To Shine Boots

How to Shine Boots: A Simple Guide

How to Shine Boots

Anyone who wears boots regularly weather for tactical reasons or for style, understands the pride and confidence that comes when those bad boys are shined.

I mean, who doesn’t enjoy the feeling of looking clean and professional?

The best part about shining boots is once you do it a couple of times, you can pretty much do it in your sleep. That’s what I am here for, to help you get to that point.

The Fundamental Truth about Boot Shining

Let me whisper a fundamental truth: shining your boots is not just about aesthetics; It’s about honor. shinning boots have been a foundation for the military, law enforcement, and firefighters.

I have worked in a profession that requires shinned shoes for half a decade now. Though there are different types of leather, the boots I have polished have shined with basic polish material.

How to Shine Boots

How to Shine Boots. A photo Containing a boot and a shoe polish kit.

To Begin, make sure you have the following items

  • Leather or rubber boots (yes rubber boots can shine too, but the shine isn’t as prevalent).

  • Shoe polish, such as “Kiwi”. Make sure it’s the same color as your boot.

  • A horsehair brush. This will help brush the dirt off in the first steps.

  • Cotton balls. This will help when you apply water.

  • A heat source. Such as a hair dryer or a heat gun. You can use a lighter, but it is more difficult, so I would personally avoid that.

Step 1: Cleaning

A black boot with a horsehair brush wiping the dirt off.

Begin by removing any dirt, mud, or debris. Use a horsehair brush for a gentle, yet thorough clean. For stubborn areas, a damp cloth can be useful.

Remember, the key here is to take off all the dirt so that your boots will look clean by the time you start polishing them.

Step 2: Polish

Boot polish kit.

Grab the polish you have, and a cloth (I typically use a microfiber cloth). Apply a thin layer of polish to your boots in a circular motion. Make sure to cover all the areas on your boots that are able to be shined.

Once you have applied the polish on the boots using the circular motion, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step 3: Water

Cotton balls used for cleaning the boots.

Remember the cotton balls? Go grab them.

Put a cotton ball in cold water and squeeze it so that all the excess water comes out. You should be left with a cotton ball that is wet but not soaked.

Gently use the same circular motion with the cotton ball over the areas where you put polish. Don’t press too hard, just enough to get the water on the boot without taking off the polish.

Step 4: Heat

A heat gun used to melting the polish on the boots.

Grab your heat source, I use a heat gun, so I’m going to refer to the “heat source” as heat gun moving forward.

With your heat gun, hold it about 2 feet away from your boots. You don’t want the direct heat so close to your boots.

Begin applying the heat for about 45 seconds all over your boots where the polish is. A few seconds later you should notice your boots getting a foggy appearance. Don’t panic that’s normal.

Let the boots fog over for about a minute.

Step 5: Water (Part 2)

Grab another cold wet cotton ball and squeeze it just like you did in step 3.

Use the same circular motion gently wiping off all of the fog. You should notice the fog coming off as you wipe over it with the wet cotton ball.

This is the final step. Once you wipe the fog off, the appearance you have on your boot is how they will look with that first coating of shine.

If you want your boots to be shinier, repeat the above process starting at step 2.

Troubleshooting Common Challenges

With any task, it is possible to make a mistake when you are learning. It’s human error and nothing to panic about. Here are some common issues you may encounter and how to correct the issue.

Dealing with Streaking Polish

The Problem: You’ve applied polish to your boots, but instead of a uniform glow, you’re met with strange streaks on the surface.

The Solution: Streaking often results from uneven application of polish or excess polish. make sure your boots are clean and dry before you start. Apply polish in thin and even layers. If streaks appear, take a soft, clean cloth and buff the area gently to redistribute or remove the excess polish. In the future, consider using less polish or a lighter touch.

Excessive Dryness After Polishing

Dry black boots.

The Problem: You notice cracking or creasing on your boots, especially in areas where the boot bends.

The Solution: Cracking and creasing can be a sign of dry leather or the use of too much wax polish, which stiffens and restricts the leather. Regular conditioning and the use of a cream polish can maintain the leather’s flexibility. For existing creases, a leather conditioner can help soften the area. Avoid excessive polish in the flex zones of the boot.

Scratches and Scuffs

scuffed/ scratched black boots.

The Problem: Scratches and scuffs are visible even after a thorough polish.

The Solution: Light scratches can often be buffed out with a little more polish while following the above shining process. Deeper scuffs may require a leather dye or recoloring balm that matches the boot’s color. Gently apply the dye to the affected area and allow it to dry completely before polishing.


Shining your Boots can quickly become a chore that we don’t enjoy, it’s normal. However, one thing that will remain true about boots is, that there’s no sharper look.

Continue to make a routine of shining your boots, so that they will maintain a shiny appearance.

The steps above are the basics to shining your boots at home. I have repeated the above steps 3 times in a row and got a great shine out of it. I hope this guide will be all you need to get the job done.

Editorial Note: We may earn a commission when you visit links on my website. This does not affect Mike’s opinions or evaluations.


How often should I shine my boots?

The frequency of shining your boots largely depends on how often you wear them and the conditions they’re exposed to. As a rule of thumb, a formal shine is recommended every 2 to 4 weeks for boots worn regularly. However, if you’re in an environment with lots of dirt, a quick shine every few days can keep the leather protected and looking its best.

Can I use the same polish on different-colored boots?

The simple answer is no. For best results, match the polish to the color of the leather as closely as possible. This will also help buff the scratches your boots may have.

What’s the difference between a polish and a conditioner?

Polish and conditioner serve two different purposes for boot care. A conditioner is similar to a moisturizer for your skin; it penetrates the leather to replenish essential oils, and keeping it from drying out and cracking. A polish, on the other hand, primarily serves to give the leather a shine and can add a layer of protection. Polishes may provide some conditioning but are not a substitute for a good leather conditioner.

How long should I wait between applying layers of polish?

Ideally, you should wait at least 15-20 minutes between layers to allow the polish to properly set and be absorbed into the leather. This ensures that each layer contributes to a deeper shine and doesn’t simply smear or remove the previous layer.

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