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Shoe Cream Vs. Polish: Which One To Use?

Shoe Cream Vs. Polish: Which One To Use?

A nice, clean, and well-maintained pair of shoes is a staple of every wardrobe. They can make or break an outfit you’ve been planning for days. Just like everything else, you need to take care of your shoes to ensure they stay in the best shape. So, shoe cream vs. polish, which one do you choose to protect your pair?

You should never judge people by their clothes, but the state of their shoes can tell you a lot about them. Because of that, it’s important to provide your leather shoes with a bit of extra care. The best way to do that is by using shoe cream or shoe polish.

A lot of people, however, can’t tell the difference between the two, and we can’t blame them. Often, they can seem like the same thing, but is that really the case?

Since you’re here, you’ve probably been wondering the same thing. In this article, we’ll explain the main differences between shoe cream and polish, while answering some additional questions regarding the two.

What are their main purposes, are there any downsides, and how often should you use them? Let’s find out!

A simple guide to shoe polish

Shoe Cream Vs. Polish: Which One To Use?

Before choosing your side in the shoe cream vs. polish battle, it’s important to understand both of them first. So, what exactly is shoe polish?

Polish is a waxy substance that makes your shoes look all shined up and glossy. It coats the leather with a thin layer of wax, which protects it from water, dirt, and salt stains.

Don’t worry, polish doesn’t penetrate the leather or damage your shoes. It comes in the paste and liquid forms. It also comes in a variety of different colors that you can choose from depending on your shoes.

The wax used in polishes can be either synthetic or natural, and it’s the main ingredient. On top of that, the solvent is used to dissolve the polish and spread it evenly over your shoes, while the pigment gives it a bit of color.

Since synthetic wax can damage your leather if you use it all the time, we recommend using one that contains natural wax, such as carnauba or beeswax. Often, polishes also contain some additives, including fragrances, mineral oil, drying agents, and dyes.

Why do shoes need polishing?

Just like we use makeup and skin care products to keep our skin toned and in good shape, leather needs polish to achieve the same thing. Using polish is like giving your shoes a cosmetic treatment. Whichever side you chose in a shoe cream vs. polish argument, your shoes will appreciate it.

This natural material can lose its outer layer of protection and dry out over time. It’s often the case that it fades or loses some of its color. Since it comes from animals, leather also has pores and blotches like our skin does, which makes it prone to damage.

On top of that, shoe polish helps with reducing the signs of wear and tear. Plus, a well-polished pair of shoes are like cherries on top of every outfit. How could we resist them?

How often should you polish your shoes?

There’s no particular time period when you should polish your shoes. It’s mostly up to you and the state your shoes are in. The best time to polish is when you want your pair to have the following:

  • A protective layer that will keep them from being damaged by water, salt, and dirt
  • Glossy finish
  • A high shine that will make them look like a brand-new pair of shoes.

The best time to polish your shoes is after applying a leather conditioner or a shoe cream. However, there is no definite answer to how often you should polish your shoes. It merely depends on how often you wear them and what type of shoes they are.

If you wear your pair every day, polishing them once a week would be ideal. If you’re not an everyday wearer, it would be enough to treat them every two to three weeks.

Suede shoes on the other hand, require different treatment. It would be best if you could give them a good polish at least twice a month. These are materials that require a lot more care if you’d like to keep them for as long as possible.

Cons of using shoe polish

When talking about shoe cream vs. polish, it’s important to be aware of some drawbacks they bring. Although polishing your shoes has many benefits, there are some cons you should know about, too.

Some cons of using shoe polish are:

  • Polish on your shoes can crack, and don’t even get me started on that white residue it can leave behind. To avoid this, you need to apply a minimum amount of wax to the spot where your shoe creases the most.
  • Although it’s a great way to keep your shoes looking good, polishing isn’t a permanent solution. They make your shoes look new and glossy, but that gloss will disappear fast.
  • Over time, the polish can accumulate on your shoes and harden, which is not the prettiest sight at all.
  • If you use your polish more than necessary, the shade of your beloved shoes can change.
  • Since polishes can dry out, it’s important to find some ways to prevent that from happening.
  • Wax polishes have no moisturizing elements that leather can absorb.

Explaining shoe cream

Shoe Cream Vs. Polish: Which One To Use?

When debating over shoe cream vs. polish, it’s important to know both sides equally. Finally, it’s time to learn a bit about shoe cream, too. What is it and what does it provide for your shoes?

The shoe cream is a type of polishing agent, only this form is rich in natural oils. What that means is that it will keep the leather more moisturized.

Most shoe creams also contain three main ingredients, including pigments or leather dye, a bit of wax, and some water or oil. Some additional ingredients include surfactants and emulsifiers, which help blend the cream and solvent, leading to better application.

Shoe creams replenish natural oils that have been lost by penetrating the leather. It helps to keep the leather elastic and prevents it from cracking.

If you’ve noticed some scratches on your favorite pair of leather shoes, the cream polish will help you hide it, while adding some color and shine, too. Sounds like magic, doesn’t it?!

Why do shoes need shoe cream?

As we’ve mentioned before, leather is a natural material, which is why it loses its natural color and oil over time. To avoid your leather being stiff, and prone to cracking, it’s important to color and hydrate it regularly.

This is like a moisture boost for your leather shoes. Applying cream and polish is giving the leather that extra hydration it needs. You’ll shoes will end up being in a much better state as it makes a huge difference.

People often throw their shoes away and get a new pair simply because their leather started changing, not knowing how easily fixable it really is. You just have to give them a little bit of care and they’ll last you a long time.

After all, it’s much cheaper to get some shoe cream than spend money on a brand-new pair of leather boots.

How often should I use shoe cream?

Just like with polish, when to use shoe cream depends on what you want from your shoes and the state they’re already in. Here are some situations when it’s best to do it:

  • When you want to accentuate the natural shine of the leather
  • When there are scratches and scuff marks that you’d like to cover up
  • When the leather starts looking dry
  • When your shoes lose the color vibrancy you’d like to enhance
  • If you want your dress shoes to have a matte finish
  • Before storing your leather shoes for a season
  • After using harsh chemicals or solvents on the leather.

In the shoe cream vs. polish case, you’ll see there aren’t a lot of differences, so it comes as no surprise that there is no definite answer to how often you should use either. For shoe cream, we recommend that you apply it at least twice a month.

However, if your leather shoes are often exposed to extreme weather conditions or you clean them with harsh chemicals, you should apply shoe cream more often. On the other hand, if you use leather conditioners regularly, you won’t need to apply shoe cream more than once a month.

Cons of using a shoe cream

Every product has some cons, and so does shoe cream. Here are some of them:

  • It doesn’t dry as fast as shoe polish does.
  • If you’re a perfectionist, you might be annoyed by the fact that it’s pretty hard to achieve an even shine when using cream.
  • After some time, your shoes might look dirty as shoe creams attract dust.
  • Be careful when using cream polishes on light-colored shoes as they can darken them.
  • Some special leathers don’t respond well to shoe cream, such as shell cordovan.

Shoe cream vs. polish – what should you choose?

Shoe Cream Vs. Polish: Which One To Use?

So, who wins the shoe cream vs. polish battle? Although it might seem that these two products serve almost the same purpose, there are some key differences between them. Here are the main ones:

  • Polish is mainly used to give shoes an additional shine, while cream can repair dents, scratches, and other imperfections.
  • Compared to wax polishes, shoe creams nourish and condition your leather shoes better.
  • Polish will leave your leather looking glossy, while cream leaves a matte finish.
  • While polish contains more hard waxes, shoe creams have more dyes in them.
  • Shoe creams penetrate leather, while wax polishes don’t.
  • Polish leaves a thin wax layer that serves as protection against dirt and moisture, while shoe creams refresh the natural oils in the leather.

Both products are used to improve the appearance of your leather shoes, so you don’t have to choose one over the other. Luckily, they can be used simultaneously so you can enjoy the benefits of both!

To get the best possible result, you can use a shoe cream to condition the leather and give it some color, and then make them shiny and waterproof with wax polish afterward. You’ll love the results!

How do you apply shoe cream and polish?

Although it makes a huge difference and makes your shoes look brand-new, neither polishing nor applying shoe cream is a difficult task. It’s an easy and effective way to prolong the lifespan of your leather shoes. Let’s see how you can do it.

How to polish shoes

Shoe polishing is rather quick and easy. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • If you want a mirror finish, you’ll need some water
  • A shoe tree or newspapers
  • A clean cloth or a shoe mitt
  • Horsehair or any other kind of shoe brush
  • You can use an old cotton cloth as a polishing one
  • A welt brush (but a toothbrush will do just fine)
  • Shoe polish that matches the color of your shoes, of course.

Polishing can be messy, which is why we recommend using newspapers to cover the area and prevent the polish from getting onto the floor. After that, remove the shoelaces and insert crumpled newspaper if you don’t have a shoe tree. This will help your shoe keep its shape.

With a shoe brush, remove any dirt from the surface of your shoes and make sure the entire shoe is completely clean. After that, it’s time to apply the polish. If it’s a liquid one, make sure you shake it well.

Put a small amount on a cloth and rub it into the leather in a circular motion. That way, the wax will melt down and distribute evenly.

Using a toothbrush, apply the wax onto hard-to-reach parts of the shoe. Using a shoe brush, buff the brush in side-to-side motions, which will give her shine. After 5 minutes, wipe the entire shoe with a clean cloth.

For a mirror shine, you’ll need some additional steps. First, sprinkle a few drops of water on your shoes. Then put a small amount of polish on a cloth and rub it into the watered area using quick but gentle and small circular motions.

How to apply shoe cream

Shoe Cream Vs. Polish: Which One To Use?

Applying shoe cream isn’t much different from polishing your shoes. The main difference is that you’ll use a smaller amount of product. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Newspaper or a shoe tree
  • Either an old cotton cloth or an applicator brush
  • Horsehair brush or any other kind of shoe brush
  • Shoe cream.

Again, just like was the case with polish, start by removing the shoelaces and filling the inside of your shoe to help it keep its shape. To help the cream polish penetrate the leather better, remove the dust and dirt from it.

Apply a small amount of cream to the brush or a cloth and rub it in circular motions. To avoid an uneven finish, apply a thin coat and cover the whole shoe. After that, your shoes sit for about 10 minutes.

Lastly, buff the leather using the shoe brush. This way, you’ll remove the excess cream and bring out the shine of your leather shoes.

If you’d like a high shine on your fine leather, try applying a shoe conditioner before applying the cream. Leave it for about 5 minutes, before moving on to the shoe cream.