What is a Shoe Shine Cloth?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A shoe shine cloth is an extremely soft cloth that is used at the end of the shoe shining process to buff the shoe to a high shine. Professional polishers sometimes prefer to use a shoe buffer, an electric machine with a soft head which rubs the shoe in the same way a cloth would. People who do not feel like spending a lot of money on a shoe buffer typically find that using a cloth like this can provide the desired gleaming finish without the expense.

A shoe shine cloth may be used to shine footwear.
A shoe shine cloth may be used to shine footwear.

When a shoe shine cloth is used, it buffs out the last bits of shoe polish and smooths the shoe, creating a glossy finish. Without using one, freshly polished shoes can look a bit dull, and they can collect dust and dirt as some polish still remains on the surface of the shoe. In addition to being used to buff shoes, these cloths can of course be used on other leather products, like saddles and belts.

A shoe shine cloth may be used after polishing shoes.
A shoe shine cloth may be used after polishing shoes.

Polishing shoes is important for the health of the shoe, not just the shiny look. Leather benefits from being regularly cleaned, moisturized, and buffed. Shoes that are polished on a regular basis will stay supple longer, and the leather tends to last without cracking or splitting. People can also apply a waterproofing product when they polish their shoes, to keep the feet dry in wet weather.

Typical shoe shine cloths are made from brushed cotton because it is extremely soft, and they must be kept clean to be effective. It is also possible to find one made from chamois, a special kind of goat skin. Chamois has long been prized as a buffing agent for a wide variety of substances including leather, metals, and wood. In a pinch, even an old t-shirt can be used.

Those who have a chamois shoe shine cloth that needs to be cleaned should shake it out to remove dirt, soak it in warm water, and then pour a few drops of detergent into the water and gently agitate the cloth to remove the dirt. The cloth can also be gently rubbed against itself to get grime out. The cloth should be rinsed well to remove all soap and dirt, squeezed and pressed to remove as much water as possible, and hung up to dry.

Chamois, a kind of goat skin, is prized as a buffing agent and makes a good shoe shine cloth.
Chamois, a kind of goat skin, is prized as a buffing agent and makes a good shoe shine cloth.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

StarJo

I've never bought any fancy shoe shine products. I just settled for whatever I could find for a low price.

I have some fairly cheap shoe polish, but I never bought a shoe shine cloth. I have plenty of old t-shirts that I can cut into rags, and this material is perfect for shining shoes. It is really soft and lint-free, so it doesn't leave any fuzz or any scratches behind.

Kristee

I watched a man use shoe shine polish and a cloth on my dad's nice shoes once. I was little then, and in the city, there were a couple of men who walked the streets and offered this service.

I remember thinking how dull and ugly his shoes looked after the polish was applied. Suddenly, the man started pulling a cloth quickly across them between both hands, and a lovely shine started to emerge. It was like watching the sun come out from behind a cloud!

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