Black dress shoes and shoe shine supplies.

How to Polish Military Dress Shoes

Every service member should know how to give their dress shoes the perfect mirror shine. Uniform inspection depends on the details, and you don’t want to be dinged for shoes that are scuffed or dull. Your uniform should reflect your attentiveness, diligence, and training.

With some clean rags, shoe polish, and time, you can achieve the ideal luster. We’ve got the tips and supplies to help you shine your shoes to perfection.

Step One: Set up your shoe polishing station.

First, keep in mind that a spit-shine can get messy and shoe polish is extremely difficult to remove from household surfaces. We recommend putting down an old towel or bedsheet to protect your work surface.

Then, gather your supplies. These should include:

  • Shoe brush
  • Cotton balls or squares
  • Cup of water
  • Shoe polish
  • Clean, soft cloth (such as an old t-shirt)

Note: You must use the correct shoe polish color to get the right shine. Your shoe color should determine whether you use black shoe polish or brown shoe polish.

Step Two: Remove dust and dirt with a shoe brush.

Use a shoe brush or other horsehair brush to remove any particles that will get in the way of your shoeshine. Brush the upper and sole with quick, repetitive motions, taking care around the welts where dust can collect.

Step Three: Apply shoe polish.

For this step you need a few cotton balls or squares. Lightly dip the cotton ball in water (it should be damp, not dripping) and rub it into the shoe polish in a circular motion, until it has a good cake on the bottom. Then rub the cotton ball onto the surface of your shoe in small circles.

Repeat this step until you’ve completely covered the uppers of both shoes. Apply thin coats of polish—unless it’s your first time, in which case you’ll want to apply a thick layer first to use as a base coat. Go over the boot section by section. Then let the polish dry.

Step Four: Buff your shoes with a soft cloth.

Use a soft cloth to finish polishing your shoes. You can purchase a tight-weave chamois cloth, but an old cotton t-shirt also works well. Cover a couple fingers with the cloth and buff the surface of your shoes using the same gentle circular motion as before.

Throughout the shoeshine process, remember to be thorough and take your time. It’s not a bad idea to play a TV show in the background or listen to your favorite podcast as you buff your shoes. Under the right circumstances, shoe polishing can even be a meditative task.

Some Recommended Supplies

Kiwi Parade Gloss Polish

When preparing for uniform inspection, Kiwi Parade Gloss is your best friend. It’s one of the most trusted shoe polish brands for a reason. With more carnauba wax than regular paste polishes, parade gloss provides an ultra glossy shine that is water repellant after application.

Shop Kiwi Parade Gloss Polish

Lincoln Black Stain Wax Shoe Polish

Another high-quality carnauba wax polish, Lincoln Black Stain Wax is a trusty tool to get your black shoes in shape. Use this easy snap open can to keep your shoes looking good for a long time.

Shop Lincoln 3 Oz Can Black Stain Wax Shoe Polish

Kiwi Military Shoes Care Kit

This shoe polish kit has everything you need for a thorough shine, stored in a handy zipper bag. It includes two tins of black Kiwi shoe polish, applicator brush, horsehair shoe brush, and a shine cloth. Great for travel!

Shop Kiwi Military Shoes Care Kit

For more shoe cleaning recommendations, see our list of everything you need to clean your boots.

Shop US Patriot

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