Shoe Polish vs. Cream: The Key Differences

Nourishing your shoe helps prolong its lifespan and keeps it in a pristine condition.

But then, when should use shoe polish and when should you go with cream? How can you even differentiate between them?   

This guide dissects the differences between shoe creams and polishes. We’ve also reviewed some common polish and cream combos that you’ll often see in use in the streets.

Shoe Polish vs. Cream

Shoe polish: An Overview

A polish contains wax that produces a shiny veneer on footwear. It prevents leather from drying up and developing cracks. On application, a shoe polish moisturizes the fabric making it soft and supple. A shoe polish must match the color hue of the shoe you want to treat.

How to Apply Shoe Polish

  • Selecting the color of the shoe polish

Shoe polishes come in varying color hues. Select a color shade that matches your shoes color for best results. Remember, shoe polish produces a shiny veneer and, as such, it is easy to tell if there is a mix up in the colors.

  • Clean the dirt off

Use a damp cloth to clean off any dirt on your boots. Removing the grime using a damp cloth rather washing the shoe means the shoe will dry immediately after cleaning.

  • Applying the polish

Use a soft rug to apply the shoe polish on the fabric. Rub the shoe polish into the fabric in gentle, circular motion. You should do this in an open space. If you are indoors, put newspapers to protect the floor. Leave the shoe to dry before applying a second layer.

  • Remove the excess

Using a horsehair brush, stroke the surface of the shoe to remove the excess paint and give the shoe an observable shine.

Use a soft cloth to stroke the surface. This makes the shoe evenly shiny while ensuring there is no excess polish to stain your hands when wearing the shoe.


Shoe Cream: Key Components

Shoe cream has dye as a key ingredient. The dye moisturizes the fabric making it pliable. But unlike shoe polish, shoe cream penetrates much deeper into the fabric and doesn’t clog the pores.

But unlike with shoe polish, shoe cream doesn’t produce an observable shine on your shoes. In essence, a shoe cream should be used to moisturize the shoe fabric and preserve its pristine condition.

How to Use Shoe Cream

  • Source for matching shoe cream

Shoe creams come in different color hues. You should only use a shoe cream that matches the color of your shoes. Brown, black, and white are the most common colors and thus easily available.

You can test the suitability of a given shoe cream color on your shoes by applying the cream on a small spot. You can always clean off the cream if doesn’t match the shoes color hue.

  • Clean the shoes

First, remove the shoe laces and clan them separately. This helps in keeping them stain free. Proceed to clean the shoes’ fabric using soapy water and a towel. If there are traces of previous shoe cream, use leather cleaner to remove it. Let the shoe dry before proceeding to the next step.

  • Applying the shoe cream

Dab a dry, clean towel on the shoe cream and rub it on the shoe surface in circular motion.  For an even appearance, it’d help to cream the whole shoe in one go.

Let the shoe sit for some 10 minutes as this allows the leather to absorb the cream. Apply a second layer of layer of shoe cream to ascertain that even scuffed spots have been sufficiently treated.  Allow the cream to dry for half an hour.

  • Buff the surface

After the shoe cream has dried off, use a shoe brush to force the shoe cream further into the shoe. Buffing the shoe also helps produce a relative shine on your shoe thus making presentable.

Top 4 Shoe Polish and Shoe Cream Brands


Kiwi is a global shoe care brand that originated from Australia. Kiwi shoe polish incorporates waterproof carnauba wax responsible for the attractive shine, paraffin which acts as emollient, and a dispersant known as oleic acid.  


The Saphir shoe care polish is designed for cordovan leather. It’s made from combining seven variants of wax and natural leather nutrients. It’s ideal for use on leather shoes.


The Meltonian shoe creams are designed for nourishing grained or calfskin leather shoes. Offered in over 90 color shades, Meltonian cream polish suits a wide range of shoes from high end to cheap models.

Allen Edmonds

The Allen Edmonds is a premium shoe cream packaged in a tube for easy application. The cream is easy to buff and leaves an attractive shine on your leather shoe.

Parting Thoughts

Using the right shoe care product will help prolong your shoes lifespan while maintaining the shine all day long. Using shoe cream nourishes the inner layers of your shoe’s fabric while the making the leather supple. A shoe polish delivers an attractive shine to match your office style.

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