How To Polish Oxford Shoes {Video Inside}

Polishing shoes is important for more than just aesthetics. Sure, polish will bring out the best in your Oxfords. But polish also plays an important role in protecting your shoes and making sure they last a long time.

Below is a guide on how to polish Oxford shoes, plus tips on how to clean and condition them for extra care and protection. Note that this guide applies to Oxford leather shoes.

Why Is It Important to Polish Shoes?

how to polish oxford shoes

Many of us polish our shoes mostly to make them gleam and shine. But as you laboriously shine and buff your Oxfords, you are also nourishing and protecting the leather.

Think of shoe polish as anti-ageing cream or treatment for your shoes.

Without any maintenance or care, a pair of Oxford shoes will age quickly. Exposure to the moisture, heat and the elements will cause the leather to fade, crack and even rot.

Polish contains waxes and oils that treat and replenish the leather. Polishing Oxford shoes ensures that the leather never dries out (which prevents cracking and dry rot). It also keeps the leather from absorbing too much water, which would also damage the shoes.

A pair of Oxfords that’s been polished regularly can maintain its looks and quality for five years or more even with frequent use.

How Often Should You Polish Oxford Shoes?

As good as polishing shoes is, you can overdo it. Using too much polish can damage the leather and reduce the lifespan of your Oxfords.

How often you polish your shoes depends on how often you wear them. The more frequently you wear them, the faster the polish fades.

If you wear your Oxfords daily (not a good idea) or several times a week, you only need to polish them once a week. In between polishes, you can use a brush or soft cloth to wipe away any dirt or dust.

Dry brushing will also help maintain the shine on your shoes.

If you only wear your Oxfords once or twice a week, you can go 2-4 weeks between polishes.

How to Clean Oxford Shoes

Never polish shoes that are dirty. Applying polish on top of dirt and stains can damage the leather and cause parts of the shoes to rot.

Polishing dirty shoes also causes friction that can scuff and scratch the leather. Before you start polishing, the first step is to clean your Oxfords.

If they are not too dirty, a quick clean is adequate. Simply dust the shoes with a brush or microfiber cloth.

If the shoes are a bit dirtier or they have a few stains, wipe them with a damp microfiber cloth then leave them to dry.

If the shoes are very dirty, do a deep clean using saddle soap and a dauber brush.

Saddle soap is a special type of soap formulated specifically for cleaning leather. Do not use other detergents as they can damage the leather.

Dip the dauber brush (you can also use a soft toothbrush) in warm water then rub it on the saddle soap to create lather.

Rub the now lathered brush on the shoes in circular motions, making sure you cover everywhere. Make sure the shoes don’t get too wet.

Use a clean and dry microfiber cloth to wipe the soap off the shoes. Let the shoes air dry for 24 hours before polishing them.

Tip: Deep clean your Oxfords every 1-2 months even if they are not dirty. This removes the build-up of waxes and oils from the polish to prevent clogging. After deep cleaning, condition the shoes to replenish the oils and waxes.

If you are not sure how to use saddle soap, here is a video that will help. The bloke in the video is cleaning leather boots, but the same process applies to Oxfords. Remember to remove the shoe laces whether you are quick cleaning or deep cleaning.

How To Polish Oxford Shoes

The first thing is to make sure you have the right tools and products for the job. Here’s what you’ll need to polish your Oxford leather shoes.

  • The right kind of shoe polish for your shoes. Get shoe polish that matches your shoe colour. If you cannot find an exact match, go with a neutral shoe cream or polish. Alternatively, get polish that’s a shade lighter (never darker) than your shoes.
  • If you are not sure which brand to buy, Kiwi and Saphir are two highly rated shoe polish brands. Cherry Blossom also makes high quality shoe polish.
  • An old t-shirt or a piece of cloth to apply the polish.
  • A horsehair brush.
  • A soft cloth to super shine the shoes (optional).

Once you have everything, here’s how you go about polishing Oxford shoes. Remember the very first step is cleaning the shoes. We’ve covered that above.

1. Apply Polish

The easiest way to apply polish onto the shoes is by wrapping a cloth or old t-shirt around your index and middle fingers.

With your wrapped fingers, pick up a bit of polish from the can and dab it all around the shoes (make sure you’ve removed the shoelaces. It’ll help you get the polish everywhere).

For areas you cannot reach, use a toothbrush or q-tip to apply polish.

Spread the polish and work it into the shoes by rubbing the cloth on the leather in circular motions.

When applying polish, try to apply as thin a layer as possible. A little polish goes a long way. If you want more shine, you can apply an additional layer later after the first layer dries.

Keep in mind that too much polish is not good for leather. It can clog the material, preventing it from breathing and causing a moisture build-up.

2. Buffing

Now take a horsehair brush and use it to further work the polish into the leather. Don’t be afraid to be a bit aggressive with it.

The heat that you generate with vigorous brushing helps buff the shoes to a nice beautiful shine.

Make sure you cover the entire shoe to get an even shine. If you want to add a second layer of polish, let the first layer dry for several hours or overnight then apply more polish.

But typically, one layer is enough to protect your Oxfords and keep them looking good.

3. Spit Shining

Buffing will make your Oxfords shine. You can stop there if you are happy with how the shoes look. But if you want a mirror shine, also called a spit shine, there’s an extra step.

Wrap a clean cloth around your middle and index fingers. Dip your wrapped fingers in water then dab them on the polished shoes. You want a bit of moisture all around the shoe.

Next, use a soft lint-free cloth like a microfiber towel or chamois to buff the shoes. An easy way to do this is put the shoes on then rub the cloth across the shoes using both of your hands.

The Oxfords should achieve a high shine.

4. Proper Storage

If you are not wearing the shoes immediately, make sure you store them properly. Put them in a cool and dry area away from dust and direct sunlight.

Putting them in a breathable dust bag will prevent dust from settling on them.

I also highly recommend using shoe trees to keep the shoes from developing any permanent folds and creases.

How to Condition Oxford Shoes

The goal of conditioning Oxford shoes is to remove build up of old polish, oils and waxes, and replenish them with new oils and waxes.

Condition your shoes every 1-2 months depending on how often you wear them.

The first step is to deep clean the shoes using saddle soap. This strips away any dirt, stains and buildup on the shoes.

Let the shoes dry for 24 hours then apply conditioner. Most leather conditioners are colour-neutral and can be used on all smooth leather shoes.

Apply the conditioner the same way you apply polish. Dab a bit of it around the shoes then use a brush or soft cloth to work it in.

You can also use beeswax to condition your Oxfords, though you’ll need to melt it first.

Some people also use vaseline, but we don’t recommend it. Vaseline, on its own, doesn’t replenish the shoes with oils and waxes. While it offers some protection from drying out and too much moisture, it can easily clog the leather and reduce its lifespan.

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