Tutorial: Boot Polishing

Oh man guys. Ask and you shall receive. I included a pic of my polishing party yesterday as a fun sidenote, but got a whole bunch of interest in the whole process. Here I’ll present you with two different ways we polish our boots- one is a shorter process that we do regularly, and the other is a much more intense process that’s usually done before shows or special occasions. Or because we’re dorks and polish our boots a lot (legit we’ve made Facebook events called “Boot Polishing Party”).

These are both pulled almost word-for-word from the instructions Assistant Trainer sent me, so all credit goes to her!

Weekly Polish


Tin of wax-based black polish
Polish applicator
Boot brush (usually horse hair)
Soft buff cloth
Latex/vinyl gloves

Note: you can usually find all these things in a kit at really any store- I use Kiwi brand

Other note: wearing the boots makes polishing them easier, and cuts down on chances of getting polish all over yourself/clothes/etc.


  1. Make sure boots are clean and dusted off- don’t use too much soap or conditioner. Just scrape off the worst mud and then use a little glycerin soap (like old school orange bar saddle soap) and very little water to get the rest off. (*Note: once your boots have been polished a bunch and have a solid layer of polish on them, all you’ll have to do to clean them off is wipe them down*)
  2. Wearing gloves (to keep fingers polish-free), use applicator to layer on a good amount of polish onto boots everywhere EXCEPT the inside of the arch, heel, and calf (so you don’t get black polish on your saddle or pony)
  3. Let polish dry. The dried polish will give your boots a matte finish, which will make it easier to see if you missed any spots.
  4. Taking the boot brush, use quick strokes and start buffing across the polish. Use a light pressure- if you’re leaving drag marks from the bristles, you’re pressing too hard. This should start putting a light shine across the leather. Break a sweat, buff a lot!
  5. Finish the shine by using the buff cloth. Drape cloth across boot, grab on either side, apply firm pressure downward, and pull side to side briskly. Make sure to slide the cloth up and down while you’re going back and forth. Keep breaking a sweat!
  6. TA DA! Quick polish and shine. Now just make sure you don’t cross your boots over your knees if you cross your legs, or you’ll leave black smudges on your breeches.

Mirror Polish


Tin of wax-based black polish
Latex/vinyl gloves
100% cotton tshirt (cut some large chunks and a couple strips out of it)
Polish applicator brush
Small bowl of water
Lighter (or two)
Nylon stocking
A dumb movie you don’t have to pay attention to
Drink of choice

Optional: something to protect your floor. Also optional: expression of total disgust.


  1. Clean and dust boots (see above)
  2. Wearing gloves, wrap your first finger in a chunk of the tshirt, and use the shirt to start applying liberal amounts of polish to the toecap in small, circular motions with even pressure. Use the applicator brush to help get the polish into the crease where the boot meets sole. I usually just do the toecap first, then the rest of the boot after.
  3. After a layer of polish is on the toecap, dip the polish cloth into the bowl of water, then put a drop of water on top of polish on toecap and rub in over whole toecap using even pressure. (the water and circular rubbing help the polish to soak into the leather more.)
  4. Take lighter, and use the flame to heat the polish on the toecap. (if you’re terrified, breathe, it’ll be okay. Move flame across the polish quickly, and I promise you won’t set anything on fire.)
  5. Boots not aflame? Super! Breathe!
  6. Repeat Steps 2-5, at least 4 times minimum.
  7. Final layer will be of polish, let polish dry for a few minutes.
  8. Rehydrate yourself and stretch.
  9. Take strip of tshirt and buff across toecap.
  10. Ohhh shiny.
  11. Take nylon stocking and buff across toecap again. (the secret is the nylon really smooths everything to the finest degree)
  12. Admire your reflection in the toecap.
  13. Repeat Steps 2-5 on the rest of the boot (EXCEPT the inside of the arch, heel, and calf), 2 times at least. **this is the point where the double lighters come in handy, because the lighter top will get hot heating half of the calf, so switch to the second lighter to heat the other half so you don’t burn the crap out of your thumb. Or you can use one of those lighters with a long neck to reduce finger singing.**
  14. Finally, repeat Steps 7-11.
  15. HUZZAH! Your boot now almost looks like patent-leather!
  16. Now repeat everything on the other boot!! YAY!
Ooh shiny!

24 thoughts on “Tutorial: Boot Polishing

  1. Allison Stitzinger 06/14/2016 / 8:32 am

    This is SUPER INTENSE. But I kind of want to try it?? I do a similar routine to your ‘quick polish’ except I don’t have a buffer brush, so I just use my husband’s old manky tshirts that I cut up for rags.


    • hellomylivia 06/14/2016 / 10:59 am

      It’s weirdly therapeutic, I highly recommend 🙂 I had a brush come in my polish kit, but I also have a bunch of ratty old t-shirts that I call on for rags when needed!


  2. Stacie Seidman 06/14/2016 / 8:37 am

    I’ve never tried the lighter technique… But I will say you should give a cream polish a try. My favorite is meltonian. Stuff is amaze-balls and gets patent leather shiny with no fire needed.


    • hellomylivia 06/14/2016 / 11:00 am

      but…but…the lighter is so DRAMATIC! (seriously though I will have to check that out)


  3. CallyJumps 06/14/2016 / 12:26 pm

    Interesting, and impressively shiny! I kind of do a combination of yours; I use a piece of old nylon over the buffing brush to get all that shine in one step without needing a separate buffing cloth. And I use creme polish, so I’m not sure the flame thing would work, but I may have to try it.

    I’d always been told never to use saddle soap on good boots, I use castille soap to clean them if they need it.


    • hellomylivia 06/14/2016 / 1:23 pm

      I’ve honestly never used soap on my boots- I’ve never had mud caked on so badly that a damp cloth couldn’t get it off without too much fuss. I like the nylon-brush combo, that sounds like a time saver!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Courtney 06/14/2016 / 1:07 pm

    omg you are magical. Thank you for sharing your secret


  5. Olivia @ DIY Horse Ownership 06/14/2016 / 1:44 pm

    Well, thanks for the entire post to answer my question. While I find this all fascinating, I’m probably going to never do this because it looks like way too much work. Honestly, just removing my boots from the trailer has been too much for me lately and they’re still in there, uncovered, sharing space with camping gear.


    • hellomylivia 06/14/2016 / 2:28 pm

      I was inspired! And yes, it is definitely time consuming. I find it oddly soothing, but it’s a solid chunk out of my evening when I go through the whole process.


  6. Heather 06/14/2016 / 2:11 pm

    Wow! Definitely saving this. My polishing routine is not nearly as impressive. Mostly because there’s so much dirt ground into my boots that the idea of polishing this nicely is a little daunting.


    • hellomylivia 06/14/2016 / 2:29 pm

      I’m just glad AT got to me when my boots were still newish- we got enough layers of polish on there that dirt has no chance of getting anywhere near the leather haha


  7. Holly 06/14/2016 / 7:56 pm

    omg this is amazing and intense and just reminds me i need to actually clean my boots despite it having been um, six months? since i’ve been on a horse. SOB.


    • hellomylivia 06/15/2016 / 9:56 am

      Dear lord woman, come visit me and you can ride the brontosaurus! This is an unacceptable state of affairs.


  8. peonyckw 06/15/2016 / 12:53 pm

    Wow! So shiny! I’ll have to keep this tutorial in mind when I show this year. 😀


    • hellomylivia 06/20/2016 / 3:54 pm

      A cheesy movie, some wine, and the time just passes by in a flash 😉


  9. Liz 06/25/2016 / 2:37 pm

    Totally saving this for later reference!

    Liked by 1 person

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