Shoe Polishing: A Step-By-Step Guide

Shoe Polishing: A Step-By-Step Guide

You’ve had your eye on a pair of Cheaneys, you finally make your purchase and, elated, you wear them proudly, but what happens when after a few weeks they aren’t quite looking as fresh as they did? The truth of the matter is, your shoes need to be looked after and if you’re a little unsure on where to start, we have the answer.

Alex, our manager at Cheaney Lime Street, has kindly written a step by step guide that with cover the process in depth. Happy buffing!

1. Preparation

Polishing, if done regularly, shouldn’t take up too much of your time and won’t be at all arduous, as long as you do the basics right. Using wooden shoe trees and not wearing the same pair every day will do wonders for the shoes’ longevity and appearance. Before you polish your shoes, ensure that they aren’t wet, insert your shoe trees, remove the laces, and give the shoes a good once over with a horse hair brush. You want to make sure there’s no dirt or dust on the leather before you apply any products.

2. Kit & Polish

You’ll need some. If you’ve invested in good quality shoes, it’s paramount that you invest in good quality aftercare; otherwise, it’s like trying to run a Ferrari on cooking oil. Leather is a natural product and will respond well to the care that you give it, so get yourself a horsehair brush for buffing, a welt brush for getting into the awkward places, good shoe creme, and a quality beeswax polish – cheaper options switch out the natural products that your shoes will love with silicon and other artificial additives that will dry your shoes out, leading to premature ageing, cracking, and judgement from all of your peers.

Try and find matching colour cremes and polishes where possible – for a comprehensive guide on which products and colours to use on your Cheaney Shoes, visit our guide here.

3. Creme

Most leathers, unless otherwise specified in our guide, will benefit from both a neutral Renovateur creme as well as a coloured creme. Think of Renovateur as a moisturiser for your shoes – it does a brilliant job of hydrating the leather, cleaning it up, and preparing it for subsequent steps. Apply the Renovateur first in small amounts with a cloth, leave to dry for around 10 minutes, then buff off with a polishing brush before applying the coloured creme in the same way. Coloured cremes have a higher pigment which will restore colour to your shoes and further assist with hydration of the leather.

Before using any product for the first time on your shoes, we recommend testing a small amount first on the back of the shoe to be on the safe side.

3. Cleaning the welt

The welt is where the sole joins the upper of the shoe. Polishing in there will remove any dirt, make sure the entirety of the shoe is given the right treatment, and keep the threads used to attach the soles in good nick. Take your welt brush and apply a small amount of polish around the entire welt of the shoe, like you’re brushing your teeth.

Disclaimer: don’t use shoe polish to brush your teeth.

4. Applying polish over the rest of the shoe

Next, take a cotton cloth (old t-shirts work brilliantly) and use it to apply polish over the rest of the shoe in small circular movements. Don’t go nuts with the amount of polish you use: a little goes a long way, and if the shoes haven’t been particularly well looked after, it may take a few layers of polish to bring out a shine. Don’t be afraid to apply a little pressure here – this will push the wax into the pores of the leather and bring out a nice shine. Don’t forget to polish the sides of the soles and heels, as these do get dirty by being in contact with the ground.

5. Buffing

You can leave the polish on the shoe for anywhere between 20 minutes to overnight. The more time that the natural ingredients have to work into the leather and nourish it, the better. Next, take your horsehair polishing brush and in firm, long strokes, brush the shoes ensuring you get good coverage over the entire shoe. This does a couple of things: it removes any excess polish that the leather no longer needs, but the friction from brushing causes heat which will bring out a shine. If you’d like a higher shine, repeat steps 4 and 5. Not only will your shoes look the business, they’ll also be protected somewhat from the elements. Re-lace your shoes, put them on, and conquer the world.

All Cheaney stores offer a complimentary polishing service on our shoes and will be happy to answer any questions you may have about aftercare.

You can order Cheaney shoe polish on our website here (UK & Europe only)

Photographs of Alex, Manager of Joseph Cheaney & Sons Lime Street, taken by Peter Brooker from Human Research

Photographs of Euan, Sales Associate from Joseph Cheaney & Sons in our Covent Garden store