How to Shine Brown Shoes

by Mimi Abney ; Updated September 28, 2017

Brown leather shoes--whether they are wingtips, loafers or oxfords--require maintenance beyond a simple swipe of shoe polish. Whether you are preconditioning a brand-new pair of designer laceups or reviving a long-lost pair of driving shoes, a few expert tips will help your shoes resist stains and survive water spots. A precise shoeshine regimen is essential to extend the life of your favorite pair of brown shoes.

Items you will need

  • Mild detergent
  • Clean cloth
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Horsehair brush
  • Shoe cream moisturizer
  • Cream shoe polish
  • Clear shoe polish
  • Old T-shirt, rag or cloth
  • Round shoe applicator
  • Old toothbrush
  • Soft-bristled shoe brush
Step 1

Wipe your shoes with a soft rag or bristled brush. Remove surface dirt and debris with a small cloth or old cotton T-shirt. The Art of Manliness website recommends using a horsehair brush or damp rag to remove the initial dirt on your brown shoes.

Step 2

Clean shoes with a mixture of warm water and soap. Mix 1 tablespoon of a mild detergent with 3 cups of water in a small basin. Dip a clean cloth into the mixture. Remove any shoe scuffs with a paste of baking soda and water. Wipe shoes gently. Let the shoes air-dry for five minutes.

Step 3

Moisturize the brown shoes with a creamy leather moisturizer. Select a shoe moisturizer that is one shade lighter than the leather of your brown shoes to prevent darkening. Dip the edge of a clean cloth into the shoe cream. Rub the polish using a circular motion until the entire surface of the shoe is covered. Let dry for five minutes.

Step 4

Apply a cream shoe polish. Using a round shoe polish applicator, rub the shoe polish into the leather. Vigorously apply polish to the shoe until the cream penetrates the leather. To keep the brown color from fading, use a clear paste polish or a color that is closest to the original brown shoe color. Allow shoes to dry for 15 minutes.

Step 5

Buff the shoes. Using a brush with soft bristles, brush the shoes with a back-and-forth motion to reveal a shine.

Step 6

Fill in scratches on the heel. Dip the edge of a cloth into the shoe polish to touch up the edges of the heel.


  • If your leather shoes get wet, wait 24 hours before applying shoe polish.


  • Avoid using wax products when shining shoes. Wax products may cause cracking of the shoe leather. Do not force a shoe polish applicator into tight seams and crevices in your brown shoes. Use an old toothbrush instead. Never use black polish to shine brown shoes. Use a clear shoe polish if brown polish is unavailable.

Photo Credits

  • Grayson Dere Photography/Demand Media

About the Author

Mimi Abney is a lifestyle writer specializing in online content for women. Her work has appeared in and "Keepsake Magazine," among other publications. With over 15 years of writing and editing experience for the web and print, Abney is also a contributor to online health, beauty and fashion publications. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Spelman College.