How To Polish Leather Shoes & Boots

Taking care of your full grain leather Hubbards can be challenging, and polishing leather shoes and boots are critical to maintaining their look and style. We at Samuel Hubbard pulled together a perfect list of supplies and step-by-step instructions to keep your leather shoes and boots shining even with the dirt and grime that comes from everyday wear. Carefully following this process ensures your shoes and boots will continue to look great for years to come.

Note: If your leather shoes or boots are made of suede, nubuck or waxed leather, DO NOT use polish on them. See how to care for suede and nubuck shoes.

How Often To Clean/Polish

How often you should polish your leather shoes or boots depends on what conditions you wear them in and how often you wear them. Basic cleaning (wiping them down with a damp rag) can be done on a regular basis, as needed. Full polishing should be done when the shoes start to look dull and lose their shine. If you wear your shoes infrequently, that might be 1-2 times per year. If you wear them every day, you might polish them every 1-2 months. 

Supplies: You’ll Need

  • Shoe Polish: There are many brands of shoe polish but one we recommend is KIWI®. There are also many forms of polish, but a wax or cream polish will help with your leather Hubbards. 

    Cream polish gives a minimum shine but moisturizes the leather. 

    Wax polish adds shine and covers shoe blemishes.
  • Microfiber Cloth: This is essential for shining your shoes, but if you don't have one, an old t-shirt would get the job done just right.
  • Clean Rag: The rag is used for clearing polish residue off your leather shoes.
  • Shoe Brush: A shoe brush AKA horsehair brush has stiff bristles but is soft enough not to scratch your leather finish.
  • Welt Brush: A welt brush is a small brush that gets into the creases of the shoes cleaning those hard to reach sections. 

Shoe Polishing Instructions:

Step One: Clean Off Loose Dirt Or Residue

Wipe the shoes clean from all dirt, dust or residue. If residue does not come off try a damp cloth to wipe the shoes clean.  

***When using a damp cloth remember to let shoe dry completely before polishing. Make sure to remove the laces before polishing, so you don’t accidentally get shoe polish on them. The laces can be cleaned separately with mild soap and water.

Step Two: Apply Polish

Apply the KIWI®  polish onto the microfiber cloth, rag or t-shirt. Apply polish sparingly -, a little goes a long way. If your shoes or boots have rubber soles, be careful not to get any polish on them, which will make cleaning them more difficult.  Start by rubbing the polish in a circular motion until the entire shoe is covered. 

Step Three: Work The Polish Into The Leather

Using your horsehair brush, brush all polish around the shoe in a repetitive circular motion. This will help polish get deeper into the leather. Also, use the welt brush to get in the harder to reach spaces around seams, stitches, and eyelets. You want to make sure that the entire shoe is covered evenly to maintain a consistent color and finish. Don’t worry if the shoes look dull or hazy - that’s part of the polishing process and step 4 (buffing) will bring them back to their full shine.

Step Four: Buff The Leather

Once all residue is off the shoe, buff the leather using a soft cloth. Hold the cloth with both hands to creating a back-and-forth movement. Repeat the back-and-forth motions until the leather is smooth and glossy.

Step Five (Optional): Use Wax Polish

For an extra shine to your Hubbards consider using higher wax polish, such as KIWI® Parade Gloss Shoe Polish. If you cleaned the laces as well, make sure to wait until they’re dry before relacing your shoes or boots.

More Cleaning Tips

Also, make sure to check out our guide to cleaning suede and nubuck shoes. If your shoes have rubber soles (such as Vibram), see how to clean white rubber soles.