I have a pair of combat boots that I use regularly. I need to get them shined to a mirror finish, so that they look like patent leather.

I've tried several methods, most of which did no good. I would rather not buy anything big and expensive here, so I'd like to make these things shine using household supplies (including shoe polish).

And I need to shine the whole boot, not just the toe and heel.

These boots have no fancy finish on them, they're just plain old leather boots. Here's the Academy product.

I've tried multiple brands of shine, including liquid polish. The best thing I've found so far has been Kiwi, and here's what I'm doing:

I'll take a rag and wrap it around my finger, then cover the tip in polish. Next I'll rub that all over the boot (wax on wax off) adding a drop of water here and there. Next I'll take a clean rag and repeat the rubbing process, without additional polish. I've been able to get a little bit of a shine, but nowhere near enough. I also tried using a buffing attachment on my Dremel, but that failed miserably (just removed all polish and shine).

They are real leather, according to the product page.

  • What kind of leather finish does your boots have? Oct 30, 2015 at 16:02
  • And you may want to mention what you tried because, if you're not getting that shine, I can't tell if your not doing it right or why the "obvious" techniques are not working for you. Oct 30, 2015 at 16:13
  • Are they even leather? If they are, sounds like a job for Leather Luster...
    – Bamboo
    Oct 30, 2015 at 16:49
  • I've heard that Leather Luster will crack and peel. I'd rather not have that happen.
    – Daniel
    Oct 31, 2015 at 2:05
  • Reading your last comment, I advise you to polish your boots with polish, but also to "feed" the leather inside with seal blubber. We used to do this every two days in the evening, and the next morning most of the blubber was absorbed by the leather. Wear two layers of socks if you don't want your feet to float in the blubber. Once they are "softened" enough, do this once a month. Within a month, our combat boots were slippers :) Nov 6, 2015 at 7:59

4 Answers 4


As a former cadet pilot in the French Air Force, my class and I used to set fire to the polish in its box, then quickly put the lid back on it to put out the fire. We then used a regular rag to polish the boots, then the special trick was to use stockings, "borrowed" from the only girl in the class, stretching them with two hands, then polishing the boots with them, without adding any more polish.

As English is not my native language, I have trouble explaining it, so feel free to ask for further explanation.

  • What could I substitute for stockings?
    – Daniel
    Nov 4, 2015 at 14:21
  • I'd say "silk", but I'm note sure if it'd work, and I assume that nobody wants to ruin silk clothes. I have a few underpants in light and soft fabric that I use to sleep in the summertime, I guess that could work, but I don't know what fabric they are made from. Nov 4, 2015 at 14:24
  • Perhaps it is "modal" according to this : Men's Underwear Fabric Types Nov 4, 2015 at 14:27
  • Would an old undershirt (the type you would wear with blues) work?
    – Daniel
    Nov 4, 2015 at 15:03
  • 1
    I used just standard Kiwi (not parade gloss) and I was able to get them almost as shiny as my patent leather shoes. It looks like I wasn't applying enough elbow grease. Thanks!
    – Daniel
    Nov 11, 2015 at 18:36
  • Kiwi polish

  • Three polishing brushes

  • A spoon

  • A candle or hexamine block

  • Three soft cotton duster cloths

Brush boot first to get any detritus off it Wipe with cloth

Get second brush dip in lieu and brush a layer of polisher over the boots, continue until a good layer of polish all over the boots make sure to get into all the books and cranny a of the boots.

Get second cloth and buff hard,, repeat a couple of times.

Light candle or hexy and heat up spoon, soot doesn't matter if they are black boots its actually a better thing.

Making sure not to burn yourself run in circular motion with the back of the spoon heating the polish and leather and really work the polish in.

Once you've completed that use a soft badger bristle brush to start bringing up the shine finally buff with clean duster cloth or use a chamois.

Inspect and repeat if not satisfied.

It's the working in of the Polish with a hot spoon that does it.

In my troop only lazy f#ers heated the polish first before Dress Parade

  • Hmm. Sounds legit. How long does the polish stay shiny?
    – Daniel
    Jan 5, 2016 at 4:47
  • Until first contact with the enemy your drill sgt, or a yomp through a peat bog. I can't say because you should be brushing and buffing daily with a Sunday morning parade shine. And if you've ever put a shine on amino or artillery boots en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammunition_boot. Take a look at the leading pub because that's how your boots should be with no.1 dress
    – Ourjamie
    Jan 5, 2016 at 21:11
  • The heated spoon is where the magic is.
    – Citizen
    Jan 6, 2016 at 3:20
  • 1
    Remember leather reacts to heat an cold, so rather than melting the polish so you can easily get it on the cloth, this method warms up the leather to let it absorb the oils and wax in the polish. An as such allows you to build up layer upon layer of polish, which is the bit you are actually buffing to bring up the shine. Polishing boots is either a labour of love or a chore. For me its a labour of love, taking the time to get the shine is a bit of a zen thing. Then you can sit back and admire all your hard work and feel a real sense of achievement. If its a chore then it will never be good.
    – Ourjamie
    Jan 6, 2016 at 9:24

Your on the right track.When I went to military school in the 70"s we had a trick.Set the can of kiwi wax on fire (burns readily).Put melted wax on shoes and keep polishing while it hardens up.Of course use caution since your working with fire and hot wax.That will fill in the pores Now you have a base and you need to resume with finger in wrapped cloth like you were doing.Good Luck.


The boots need to be thoroughly cleaned before polishing to ensure that dirt and debris don't get trapped in the polish, which can otherwise make the boots look dull. Avoid overpolishing your military boots as using too much polish, whether it's Kiwi or any other brand, can result in a gummy after-feel and a dull shine.

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