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How To Spit Shine Your Shoes

Looks / Style Advice May 25 2018

Your grandfather probably taught you a different shoe shine technique, the old bugger was probably right too. There's a number of variations on what works best for producing a clean, polished finish on your leather but the general principles remain the same: A little polish on, dry, gently clean excess off, repeat.

Even the smoothest leathers look like the surface of the moon, up close (if you squint a little). When applying shoe polish, the more masterfully you fill these holes the greater the shine. In the photograph below, you can see the only reflective part of the unpolished shoe is the outer surface. The pores/holes reflect very little light. When shoe polish is applied, it smoothes or fills these holes to create an even surface which brings up that satisfying freshly-polished shine that we all know so well.

The higher the shine, the more patience you'll need but the effect is easy to maintain once you're there.

The Spit Shine

Spend some spare time getting the right foundation or simply remind a nearby youth that you feed and house them then sit back and relax while the hard work is completed for you.

You'll need:

  • Cotton balls or a microfibre polishing cloth
  • Shoe polish
  • A drop of warm water (Still, not sparkling this time. Preferably something expensive with a nice bottle, like Antipodes)
  • On & Off Polish Brushes

Steps to Spit Shine

1. Using an 'Off' brush, clean off all the grit and dust from your shoe before you start to avoid tiny scratches that ruin the finished polished shoe.

2. With the On Brush, apply a thin layer over the whole shoe and allow to dry for 15 minutes then use the Off brush to remove any loose excess polish.

3. Then, using warm water, wet your cloth or cotton balls and wring out as much water as you can. You're aiming for residual moisture only. A little warm liquid will help spread the polish evenly and hot water softens the polish to make it more fluid. Too much moisture is a bad thing, if lots of it is gathering on the surface of your shoe, it's too wet. If your cloth or cotton ball is dragging the polish around rather than spreading it, it's too dry. Find a middle ground where it only takes a minute or so to dry off excess water.

4. Wipe the cloth or cotton ball across the surface of the polish to gather a small even amount of shoe polish from the container. Take care to not gather small lumps.

5. Apply the polish in a tight circular motion, making sure to get across a moderate area rather than focusing on one corner. Add many thin layers progressively, delicately, evenly to your footwear rather than lots of polish all at once. Slow and steady wins the race.

6. Let each layer dry out in the shade for 30 minutes depending on the humidity and temperature at the time. This approach helps the polish stick to the very base and solidify, adding layers without drying the lower layer first makes it easier for the pores in the leather to squeeze out the soft wet polish and ruin the shine, requiring a do-over.

7. Focus particular attention towards the toe and heel where very little creasing occurs. Your shoe need not be a uniform brilliant shine, the parts that flex the most will be duller and the toe tip should stand out.

8. Done


We stopped this polish at 5 layers of polish for the shoe in our example, but you can get to 10, 20 or more for a glassy patent leather look.