The Best Way to Shine Military Boots

by Lisa Parris ; Updated September 28, 2017

In days of old it was known as a 'spit shine'--the high-gloss polishing process that was applied to military boots, creating a reflective surface on the footwear. The original procedure involved wetting a buffing cloth before applying it to the boot polish, using whatever moisture source happened to be handy, hence the name. These days most people use water to achieve the same results. You can still achieve that shiny finish with old-fashioned elbow grease, no spit required.

Preparation

Gather the following items: newspaper, high-quality shoe polish in the appropriate color, old toothbrush, warm water, lint-free soft cloth and a large stiff-bristled brush. Spread the newspapers across your work area. Place the boots on the paper and brush away any visible dust or debris. Dip the toothbrush in the water and then rub it against the shoe polish, evenly coating the bristles with polish. Spread the polish over the surface of the boot, completely covering all leather portions and the sole edges. The finished boots will look much smarter if all visible portions are included in the shining process. Allow the boots to dry for 10 minutes.

Polish

Wrap a clean, soft cloth, such as an old T-shirt or a baby diaper, around the tip of your index finger. Pull the fabric tight to create a wrinkle-free surface. Dip your cloth-covered finger into the water, but only enough to dampen the fabric. Place the wet material against the dried polish and rub the leather, moving your finger in a small, circular motion until a faint shine begins to come through. Let the boot stand for 5 minutes to let the leather dry slightly.

Shine

Re-wrap your finger in a new portion of the cloth and dip it lightly into the water. Then gently rub it against the tinned shoe polish. Apply a light coat of polish to the boot, moving your finger in a small, circular motion. Rub the polish into the boot until the swirls vanish and a shine begins to appear. Follow this with another application of water. Allow the boot to dry after the water has been applied and then repeat, adding thin layers of polish, followed by light applications of water, until the desired level of shine has been achieved. New boots will require between 8 and 10 thin layers of polish before a bright shine can be achieved.

Buff

To add the finishing touch, buff the entire boot with a large, stiff-bristled brush or an old nylon stocking. To buff with the nylon, insert your hand into the stocking and pull it tightly around your wrist, then rub your hand across the surface of the boot in large circles to bring out that extra bit of shine. To use the brush, simply sweep the bristles briskly over the surface of the boot.

About the Author

Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.