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There are a lot of opinions when it comes to the best way to shine a shoe. Everyone has their own unique twist from using spit to using a lighter to burn the top coat of polish (cool, although potentially dangerous). The process below is a simple one that I have used for many years and it has worked fine for me and many of my military peers.
Step 1: Find an old towel or newspaper to spread over the area you will be working on. Shoe polish has an uncanny ability to get smeared everywhere even when you’re being extremely careful…and it’s really hard to get out of carpet.
Step 2: Clean the dust and dirt off your boots with a horsehair shine brush or damp rag. If you must get your boots a little wet to clean them off, allow them time to dry before applying the polish.
Step 3: Cover the entire shoe with a generous amount of polish, using your shoe polish brush. The polish I’m using is black Kiwi Shoe Polish, but be sure to match the color of the polish to your shoe as closely as possible. Make sure you get down in the seams of the shoe and attempt to cover evenly with polish. Allow 15 minutes for the polish to dry.
Step 4: Brush the entire shoe vigorously using the horsehair shine brush. The point of this is to basically brush off all the excess polish, leaving only a small film on the outside of the shoe.
Step 5: Once you feel comfortable that the entire shoe has been covered and brushed it is time to focus on the toe and heel for extra shine. Dip a cotton ball or pad into some water and squeeze out any excess moisture so it is damp, not dripping. Then get a little polish on the damp cotton. Next apply the polish on the toe and heel of the shoe using small circular motions. Sit back, this is going to take a while.
Step 6: Repeat Step 5 until you are satisfied with the level of shine. Remember to use a new piece of cotton each time and to remove all excess polish before applying a new coating. Also, the initial shine is the hardest, it should get a bit easier each time you do it. These boots were fairly new and this was my first time giving them a good shine. From start to finish, it took me approximately 45 minutes to get them to the state shown below. Most of this was spent with the cotton pads shining the toe and heel. If I were to come back in a couple weeks it would take me half the time to do the same job.