How to Clean Leather Dress Shoes Without Polish (At Home)

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Disaster! Those lovely leather dress shoes you hoped to wear tomorrow night are not in good shape and you have no shoe polish. So how do you solve this? How did you do manage shoe care, and can you find a good alternative? The answer is yes and here we examine effective ways to achieve this.

Shoe Preparation

Never rush to polish. We need to start with clean shoes and it just needs a few simples steps. Start with the simplest step and remove the shoelaces. Once this is done, we can start to clean the shoes. There are several ways to do this, but there is one essential rule – if you use water, get rid of the excess water and let the shoes dry before polishing.

Soap and water

Soap and water are always something we have to hand, Using a sponge, a damp cloth or even an old T-shirt. Smear this with a small bit of dish soap and using a circular motion, clean in small circles.  Clean over the entire shoe, If you have access to a shoe tree, insert that in your shoe to ensure that the shoe is firm and you can get to even the small areas as the leather will not move as you clean.

White vinegar

Mix this in the ratio of 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water. This is great for areas with extreme winters as it helps dissolve winter salt stains that can build up in such places.

Nail Polish Remover

Use a lightly moistened cotton ball in the nail polish remover and wipe over the shoe. This is very useful for shoes that have been polished several times as it can strip the excess polish.

Horsehair Brush

It can’t become simpler. Brush firmly over the entire shoe, removing all the dirt. This can also be used as a buffing brush.

Shoe Renovation

If you have time this should be the next step. It helps rejuvenate the shoes. Granted you may not have the required items, but it is worthwhile to do this if possible. It has the effect of improving the lifetime of the footwear. Leather can dry and crack after cleaner. Remember that after all, it was once skin.

There are three products that can be used for this.  All of these not only rejuvenate the leather but also help protect it. These are:

Leather Conditioner – Use a cloth and rub the conditioner over the entire shoe. Allow it to dry.

Oil Renovator –This is applied in the same way as a leather conditioner and needs ten minutes or more to be absorbed by the leather.

Saddle Soap – Dampen a sponge or cloth and rub it over the soap until lather forms. Rub the lather over the shoe and let it dry.

Now The Polishing

With preparation done, we move on to what alternatives there are to the polish that is absent. There are surprisingly many. One rule applies for each of these alternatives – always buff afterward to ensure

Banana Peel

Banana Peel to polish shoes

Using the inside of a banana peel, rub it over the whole shoe. Wipe off the excess with a paper towel or a cotton cloth. The downside is that it can take a while to remove the peel.

Hair Gel

This only needs a small amount of gel and so many people have some to hand. Apply a light dab and rub well using a dry cloth. Make sure, if possible, not to use a gel that comes at a high price point.

Olive Oil and Lemon

Olive oil is a household staple in many homes. Use a mister and spray a little on the shoes. Let them sit for a while and then wipe down with a dry soft cloth.  Optionally, add a few drops of lemon juice and buff them for a high shine. There are two warnings here. Using excess oil can be difficult to wipe off and too much lemon can make the leather dry out.

Olive oil will be quickly absorbed by your patent leather shoes and keep you with shiny shoes for a while.

The Humble Potato

Yet another item that most households have, and the method is quick and remarkably effective. Simply peel the potato and rub it over the shoes. After that wipe it with a clean cloth. You need to wipe it quickly before the potato juice dries and work quickly before the potato turns brown.


Simply rub the juice of half a slice of orange directly on your shoes and leave them to dry before buffing them to a shine. Orange is common in things like dishwashing liquid because it cleans so well, and this is an added advantage to using it. It can however be quite wet so drying can take a while.

Body Lotion

Again, a common item that most of us have. A small amount on a ball of cotton wool can go a very long way when well buffed and can give a mirror shine to the shoes. Some lotions can be very greasy and should be avoided. It is a good idea to save money by avoiding high-end lotions.

Coconut Oil

Perhaps the most important thing is to check the odor of the oil as some can smell vile. If you have one that smells decent. Use a little on a cotton wool ball and rub it into the shoes. Let the oil sink and after it has, then use a clean cloth to buff them.


This is for white dress shoes. You can use an old toothbrush for this or a soft brush and rub it in and then buff it to make each shoe shine.


This has been used for centuries to polish shoes. It is easily available but can be expensive. The beeswax needs to be heated either in a microwave or by placing it in a bowl over hot water. Getting it softened to the right consistency can be a challenge. When it is sufficiently soft, rub it into the surface of the leather, and after that buff it to get a superb shine.

Making Your Own Shoe Polish

To make your own shoe polish you will need:


1 ounce of beeswax. This should be white beeswax as it does not add color

3 ounces of olive oil

Optionally 1 ½ teaspoons of brown or black oxide pigment powder if you want colored polish.

Simmer two inches of water in a double boiler and add the beeswax and olive oil. Stir until dissolved,

If needed grind the oxide to powder and stir it in. Place in a jar or tin and allow to harden for an hour.

This polish can be used sparingly as a little goes a long way.

Hibiscus Flower

The gorgeous hibiscus flower works very well for leaving shoes shiny and it couldn’t be simpler. Simply rub the flower over the shoe for a bit and then clean it with a clean cloth. As always, buff the shoes afterward for that perfect shine.

Hibiscus Flower for polishing shoes

Oregano Leaves

Oregano leaves contain essential oils that are useful for treating leather, Rub the shoes with the leaves and then buff them well to get a great shine. A big plus to oregano leaves is that they have both antifungal and antibacterial properties which makes them fantastic for looking after leather.

Lip Balm

This is a use for the old sticks of lip balm lying around the place. Dab the lip balm on the shoes and rub it with a soft cloth. Use a soft rag and rub until your shoes shine.

Petroleum Jelly

This has mixed results on leather shoes and is recommended with caution but can provide a brilliant shine. It may be an idea to try this on an older pair of shoes first and decide whether you are happy with the result before using it on a newer pair of leather shoes.

Use is typical. Using a small amount, rub it in and then buff.  Just be careful how much you use as using too much can leave shoes greasy.

Rubbing Alcohol

This is an expensive choice and works very well. Dab a small amount of your shoes and use a cotton wool ball to rub in small circles to bring out the shine. After that, buff with a clean rag until the shoes shine luminously.

Linseed Oil and Vinegar

Mix two parts oil and one part oil and combine them well. Rub some over each of the shoes and in a short while you will have a great shine. This solution is not without problems though as linseed oil can take a while to dry out and can result in mildew.


Many polishes contain unhealthy chemicals so using many of the suggestions listed here are environmentally friendly solutions as well. For this reason alone, these alternatives to shoe polish are worth investigating as a permanent solution to shoe care.

Last Updated on April 8, 2022 by admin_comfortabledressshoes