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.
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.
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.