Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best shoe polish kits

It’s delightful to put your best foot forward in a shiny new pair of leather shoes. Once they’re no longer brand new, though, it can be disappointing to look down and see those shoes looking dull and scuffed. To revitalize your shoes, invest in a shoe polish kit to give them the maintenance and care they deserve.

Shoe polish kits typically consist of polish, a shoehorn, brushes, scratch-free cloths, and sponges. Each product and accessory is specially designed to treat your shoes with the utmost care. Once you get down the basics of polishing and shining, you’ll realize how simple and cost-effective it is to maintain a shoeshine routine. It’s even easy to keep it up on a vacation or business trip, as there are plenty of travel shoe polish kits.

If you want your leather shoes to live their best life with a shoe polish kit, read our definitive buying guide. We’ll help you know what to look for when choosing a shoe polish kit for your shoe wardrobe.

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A professional shoe shine can cost anywhere from $10 to $30, and that’s not including the tip. You can save yourself a considerable amount of money by investing in a kit rather than paying someone to shine your shoes.

Key considerations

What’s in a shoe polish kit?

Most shoe polish kits generally contain the same items, so you won’t have to purchase additional items to perform a basic shine and care routine. In fact, it’s so cost-effective to purchase a shoe polish kit that it’s sometimes easier and cheaper to buy a whole new kit than it is to replace polish or accessories individually.

  • Polish: Shoe polish is packaged in short, round tins. All kits contain black polish, and some include brown and natural colors as well. The more you spend on a kit, the more types of polish you’re likely to get.
  • Shine cloths: Kits come with a few shine cloths, which are made of soft, lint-free material. Some kits include a fine chamois cloth as well. As they’re intended to be used frequently, shine cloths are usually machine washable.
  • Shoehorn: Shoehorns are usually made of hard plastic, though premium kits may have stainless steel or brass shoehorns. Not only do they make it more convenient to slide into your shoes, shoehorns protect your shoes from unnecessary crushing and stretching when you put them on and take them off.
  • Dauber: A dauber is used to apply cream or polish to shoes. Daubers are typically shaped with an ergonomic grip to effortlessly spread the product. Inexpensive shoe polish kits have sponge daubers with plastic grips, whereas premium kits feature horsehair bristles and carved wood grips.
  • Horsehair brush: This brush is the largest one in a kit, and it is used for removing excess dirt. It is also used to spread polish across the broad areas of the shoe. The brush handle is typically made of wood (even in cheaper kits) and, as the name suggests, it has horsehair bristles sewn into it.
  • Accessory case: Shoe polish kits are usually packaged in cases that hold all the accessories. Sometimes, the kit comes in the form of a zippered travel case that resembles a toiletry bag. Other times, shoe polish kits come in heavyweight cardboard or wooden boxes.

What’s in shoe polish?

Shoe polish is typically a cream or paste made from a blend of synthetic materials that include oil and wax. Oil keeps the leather moisturized and reduces flaking and shedding of its layers to preserve the leather longer. Waxes such as paraffin, carnauba, or beeswax help produce a glossy shine. Generally speaking, cream formulations have higher oil content and lower wax content when compared to pastes.


Deluxe kits

Deluxe shoe polish kits contain premium accessories and products. They generally cost more, especially those from reputable brands in the shoe care space. Valet kits contain a valet shoebox, which is just like the ones shoeshine professionals use. The box is also practical, as it houses the other accessories. Certain kits come with adjustable shoe forms that are placed inside your shoes to retain their shape and integrity while you work on them. Shoe forms are usually made of wood or plastic. Shoe forms are geared toward men’s shoes.

Leather care kits

Dedicated leather care kits contain the basics plus additional leather care products, including conditioner, oil, and saddle soap. As leather is a porous, breathable material, these products are specially formulated to moisturize it to prevent drying and cracking. These products don’t need to be applied every time you polish, but a thorough leather treatment is recommended every six to eight weeks.

Expert Tip

Shoe polish kit prices

Shoe polish kits cost from $10 to $50. At the low end of the scale, you can snag a shoe polish kit with the basics for $10 to $15. Inexpensive kits often only supply one polish color, which is black. If you move toward mid-range shoe polish kits, priced between $15 and $25, you’ll find polish in two or three colors as well as better-quality brushes. For genuine shoe aficionados, spending closer to $50 will get you all the best tools and polishes you need to maintain your shoe collection.

"Always check the shoe polish canister to confirm the color you’re using. Some kits come with black and brown but don’t contrast the two in packaging very well. "


  • Take your time polishing. A shoe polish session shouldn’t be rushed. Dedicate an adequate amount of time to properly treating and maintaining your shoes.
  • Keep the kit somewhere accessible. Since you’ll be using your shoe polish kit regularly, it should be kept somewhere accessible, like a closet or bedside drawer.
  • Store leather shoes properly. A large part of keeping up a shoe polishing routine is storing your leather shoes appropriately. Keep them in their original shoe boxes or in special shoe cabinets so they don’t get crushed in a closet, which could result in scuffs or wrinkles.
  • Opt for a professional shoe shine to see how it’s done. Watch a pro shine your shoes to pick up expert tips that you can use in your own routine.

Other products we considered

We liked the throwback style of the Stone & Clark 12-Piece Shoe Polish and Care Kit. Its accessories are housed in a nostalgic pleather cylinder case, which fits easily under the bed or inside a wardrobe. It’s also ideal for business travel, as it can tuck into a small carry-on. There are three separate microfiber buffing cloths, one for each of the included polish colors (brown, black, and neutral). It’s a good deal when you consider the value of the case, the amount of product, and the budget-friendly price.

To take your shoe-care show on the road, pick up the FootFitter Executive Travel Shoe Shine Kit. It comes with two easy-grip mini contoured brushes, each with high-quality horsehair bristles. There are two mini tubs of black and brown polish, which is plenty for the duration of a business trip or vacation. The stainless steel shoehorn is of impressive quality and makes for a safe and simple slide into your shoes. The kit stows up nicely in a durable travel bag.

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Spread out an old T-shirt to polish your shoes on. The shirt will help prevent the polish from staining carpets, clothing, and table linens. Store the T-shirt with the rest of your shoe polish kit so you can use it each time.


Q. Will shoe polish stain my clothing?
Yes, and you should tackle a stain as soon as you see it. First, remove excess polish from your soiled garment, either with an abrasive towel or a butter knife. Next, you’ll need to pre-treat the stain before washing and drying your garment as usual. Sometimes it takes a couple of washes, but even stubborn polish stains can usually be lifted from garments.

Q. What’s the purpose of getting a shoe polish kit with a valet?
It’s entirely based on preference since you can polish without one, but the valet makes it easier to work around the shoe. You can rest your foot on it for easy cleaning at a higher angle while wearing the shoes, or you can set it up on a table with your shoe on it. Valets double as boxes as well, so you’ll have plenty of space to store the rest of your shoe polish kit. Best of all, valets are normally classy wooden boxes with a touch of elegance, so you can leave it out in a room without it being an eyesore.

Q. How often should I polish my shoes?
If you wear your shoes at least half the week, you should aim to polish weekly. If you wear your shoes infrequently, you can get away with polishing them less often. Realistically, though, if they’re a special occasion or a formal pair of shoes, you’ll probably want to polish them before each wearing. Conditioning maintenance is also important, which can be done with every third polish if you wear the shoes regularly. Formal shoes worn less often should be conditioned regularly even if they’re not worn, as it prevents the leather from drying and cracking.

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