How to Polish Shoes

OK, so you have just received your shoes from stores or you have persuaded an adult to pay for a brand new pair when you sudden realize that they are not shiny!!!!!. A sudden moment of blind panic and a cold sweat makes you realize that if you don’t do something you are in for some constructive criticism for a senior NCO.  However all is not lost, polishing a pair of shoes, or “bulling” as it is traditionally known, takes a little work and patience but is not difficult.  There are some sacrifices that have to be made. You cannot polish shoes while using a mobile phone, operating a games consul or typing into a computer.  So where do you start.

Firstly lets get rid of the rubbish.

Polishing shoes and boots is a traditional art form, there are no short cuts or cheats that work. A naff pair of boots is like a sports car with dirty wheels, it is just disappointing and not British. So when polishing black shoes use black shoe polish and NOTHING else, no other colors and no other products that seem OK or you have been advised to use by some ill informed person on camp.  Never use a candle or melt the polish or use a hot spoon on the polish, this is something that harks back to days when boots were made of cheap untanned  leather that still had hair sticking out of it. Those days are long gone.  Remember the Queens Color Squadron (QCS) know what they are talking about and they fine anyone who deviates from the proper standard.

Get your polishing kit.
DSC05695First off you need a set of shoe brushes, the best are made from horse bristle (no horses were injured during the making of the brush) you can buy these from shoe shops or supermarkets, but always go for pure bristle brushes as they work better and last a lifetime if you only use them for one color. Second is the polish, the recommended polish is Kiwi, either normal or parade gloss, they are basically the same, parade gloss has a higher wax content which means they both have their own advantages, parade gloss gives a quicker shine but it doesn’t last very long, normal kiwi takes longer to “bull” up but one done it is quite hard and lasts a lot longer. QCS use normal kiwi. Third a polishing cloth, either a jewelers cloth or if you are feeling flash a selvyt cloth. (£2.99 amazon). A lot of cadets use yellow dusters, these always leave fluff on the shoes, they also turn your fingers yellow and turns all your clothes yellow when you forget to take it out of you pocket an an unsuspecting parent puts it in the washing machine, so avoid if possible. Fourth a small toothbrush, an old one will do just not the one you use to clean your teeth!!!!  Lastly cotton wool and a small quantity of clean water.
Right off we go, prepare your working area and put down some paper to catch any dust. The middle of the lounge carpet in front of the telly is not the place.

DSC05710Firstly remove the laces and then using the stiff shoe brush with no polish to brush off any dirt and dust that may be lurking on the shoe.




DSC05707Next use the tooth brush to clean out the welt (the bit where the top of the shoe joint the sole).




DSC05716Next we start putting on the polish, wrap the cloth around you finger and apply a small amount of polish onto the cloth, remember patience is a virtue, now work the polish into the shoe using small circles. When you first start the polish seems to disappear, this because the leather is porous so it absorbs the polish, however after a while the polish stops disappearing and the  surface of the leather feels sticky, this means you are getting there.



DSC05713Now start building up the layers of polish by adding to the sticky areas with more polish. One you are happy with the whole shoe being covered and thoroughly matte, let the shoes dry off for a while to let the polish harden. You can get on with the other shoe.  New shoes will need to be broken in so don’t cry too much when the polish cracks off, its not you, it’s the shoe.



DSC05725On the toe caps you can build up the layers of polish as it doesn’t bend, once you’ve got a good base of polish on the toecap, run cold water over the toecap, this helps harden the polish and cool the shoe down so you can start on the wizardry part of the exercise.



DSC05704Next job is to work polish into the welt with the toothbrush and then buff it up with a cloth.





DSC05731Now the clever bit, master this and you IQ will improve, dab a tiny bit of water on the shoe and start working it in using the small circle method, all of a sudden, eureka small swirly shiny patterns start to appear. These are called “bulling rings” you can’t buy them down the NAFFI or anywhere else. Once you’ve got bulling rings alternate between a little water and a little polish and the shine will get better.


DSC05734Once you are happy with the amount of shine you can really shine them up with a small piece of wet cotton wool this will take out any small scratches and finalist the shine.




DSC05737Pop the laces back in the correct way, and then Ta Da a sparkly pair of shoes ready for parade. Time for tea and medals.