The best way to polish boots

I’m sure some of the ex-military people here have some ingenious methods. What is the best way you’ve found to polish boots? I’ve noticed that if I ask 3 people, I will get at least 5 different answers, and each one will swear up and down that their method is the best one. Right now my current favorite is to apply a heaping layer of Parade Gloss, then hit it with a heat gun to melt it evenly, let it cool and then buff it with a soaking wet cotton ball.

Your initial choice of boot will matter: new treatments for leather to make boots waterproof and oil resistant and other features that matter much more to construction workers than a glossy surface will make the leather impossible to shine. So look for traditional boots.

Some of the tips you’ll get from military guys make a virtue of neciessity: shaving cream isn’t itself the best way to strip the manufacturere’s wax off the boots, but it’s what’s available to guys in botocamp. Use mineral spirits now that you’re a soft civiliian who can just diddy-bop on down to the corner store wheneve you want to.

I will differ with orthodoxy on the use of heat: do not set fire to the can of polish: it will leach out the medium and leave you with stiff, chunky pigment. I don’t hold with hitting the polish on the boot with a lighter or hair dryer, either. You’ll generate enough heat already if you’re putting in the time it takes to work the polish into the pores of the leather.

You’re on the right track with the cotton balls in water. I’ll ammend that with only one word: ICE water.

I also counsel patience. It may take a few months of regualr polishing to get the best shine possible: where you can stand looking down at your toecaps, and hold three fingers out and easily count them in the reflection.

How about for ropers? The lady at Callahan’s said that saddle soap is not the best thing to use, contrary to my previous impression. My boots are getting kind of weatherstained now, so whut t’ do?

I meant setting fire to/applying heat to the polish once its on the boots, not when its in the can. I’ll give the ice water a try tonight.

Former competitive English horseback rider here. I remember being pleased right before an important competition when I was momentarily blinded by a flash of sun off my boots.

Saddle soap is good for cleaning, but doesn’t offer any shine (never polish dirty boots, FYI). I also favor Parade Gloss, but I don’t use heat. I apply with a soft cloth, allow to dry, buff with a horsehair buffing brush, sprinkle with water, buff with a soft flannel. And finally use one of those shine-sponge thingies (which just contain a small amount of oil to temporarily enhance dark, bright shine).

Prior to shining I thoroughly clean and condition the leather. I prefer Hydrophane products but there are plenty of acceptable ones out there. However, never use straight Neatsfoot oil as a conditioner as it rots stitching.

As to the weatherstained Ropers (those are matte finish boots, right?) you can’t clean or polish away weather staining. You can attempt to stain the rest of the boot with darkening oils to match the weatherstained area, but in my somewhat limited experience, a satisfactory result is hard to achieve.

I know I can’t hold a candle up to the experts in this thread, I have found one thing that helps to give a great shine to a shoe or boot.
After buffing with the horse hair brush, insert the brush into an old white athletic sock. Rebuff the shoe with the sock/brush combo. This really brings out the shine. Particularly if you are holding the shoe with one hand, and buffing with the other.
Hope this helps

Find the nearest kid who graduated boot camp. While I was never able to master the art of shining shoes, some of the guys in my company could turn shoe leather into flawless glass. IIRC, they did it by using a slightly damp cotton ball, and using very small circular motions.

[boot camp story]While I was in boot camp, it was not uncommon for the best ironer to iron everyone’s shirts. As a result, everyone would hang their dress shirts along the ironing board while the master went to work. This saved time, as the others would do other inspection prep work, like shining other peoples shoes or stripping and waxing decks. One evening, one of the shoe shine masters had the nifty idea of using melted wax for the ultimate shine. Using shoes, he propped up the hot iron on its back and placed a tin of polish on the ironing surface to melt the wax. This was, I should mention, while people had their shirts hanging along the ironing board, awaiting their turn. Lo and behold, someone had bumped the ironing board, spilling hot wax all over everyone’s shirts. They never did try that hot wax trick again.[/bcs]

What’s the best way to Polish boots?
Take a plane to Warsaw?

Wouldn’t that scratch the polished surface if the sock was dry?

Sure, use a sock. But stick the sock itself inside a nylon stocking and you’ll get an even more amazing finish. I kept a sock-and-stocking pad inside my polish bag for nine years, and considered this the best dry polish I could get.

Still, if you’ve got time and ice water, dime-sized circles are the way to go. Put on a nice thick coat of polish, let it dry out a little bit, and then go after it with wet cotton balls. Start with big quarter-sized circles, and just go all the way around one panel over and over in quarter-sized swirls until you start to see a shine. Then switch to dime-sized circles. Alternate a dry cotton ball between passes, or a dry buff as above, if you’re impatient or running short on time – it will take the dry polish away, leaving you less polish on the boot, but it will still look pretty good.

If you can spend a whole day working them (while you watch football or NASCAR or somesuch) then do several layers dry before starting a wet layer, and do several layers with quarter-sized circles before you ever switch to dime-sized. When you finally get to dime-sized circles, a thick layer of polish won’t be necessary; a dry rag rubbed lightly across the polish can and then dragged over the entire surface should leave a crayon-like smudged grey haze on all the shiny parts. Get out the ice and the cotton balls and go to work.

One last tip: a single ice cube in the lid of your polish can should melt just fast enough to provide you with drops of cold water without you needing to dip a polish-stained cotton ball inside a drinking glass.

I wish I had all day to shine them. But I have to shine them every day, and I’ve got about 30 minutes tops that I can devote to the task.

No, it doesn’t in my experience. Also if you have a sock that has terry on the inside, turn it inside out.
I like the nylon idea, I will have to try that.

Do dry shines every day for two weeks using regular Kiwi black. Once you have a good base of dry shines, a wet shine won’t take too long. Once you’ve done a few wet shines with Kiwi black, then start thinking about parade gloss. Did you just start an ROTC program or something? It’s that time of year… if so, best of luck!

Nope. I’m getting paid to do this. :smiley:

Finish with a lambs wool buffer pad on an electric drill.

A have to say, I find the amount of attention U.S. military types pay to their outward appearence to be… well, kind of gay.