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Shoe Cream vs Polish: A Quick Comparison

Fact checked by A. Thompson

shoe cream vs polish

Leather is a tricky material; along with its many excellent features come multiple products for care and maintenance. We have leather conditioners, polish oils, and spray cleaners, to name a few.

Today, we will discuss shoe cream vs polish, two necessary products to care for our leather footwear. While shoe cream can add pigment and moisture to leather, shoe polish provides a good shine and protective layer. Read on to know more about their uses.

What Is Shoe Cream?


As its name suggests, the product comes in a creamy form, containing some wax, water, and maybe oil.

  • Shoe creams can come in various colors to restore your pair’s old look or dye it a brand-new shade.

You can find them in all kinds of pigments, from black, brown to blue, and colors as vibrant as yellow and red. Depending on how bold, classic, or unique you want to look, there are different kinds of shoe creams available.

  • Shoe cream also helps moisturize and condition your leather shoes. As you find products formulated from natural ingredients with beneficial effects, you can even revive cracked leather with shoe creams.
  • Multiple shoe creams also provide good breathability for the leather material and offer a layer of protection against harmful weather and elements.

What Is Shoe Polish?


Shoe polish, on the other hand, is formulated with mostly wax and pigments for added shine.

  • Shoe polish can come in both liquid and cream The latter surely confuses many users as they mistake shoe polish for shoe cream.

However, you will not find as many pigments for recoloring in shoe polish products, since they are made mainly for adding shine and not changing the footwear color.

  • So, what does shoe polish do? The main purposes of this product are to provide protection, cover scuffs, scratches, and marks, and bring back a good shine.

When Should We Use Shoe Cream or Polish?


1. Shoe polish

Our leather shoes probably do not come with a smooth surface, since small pores and scuffs are common for even new products. Furthermore, prolonged use results in dry and chafing issues, and even signs of cracks.

In such cases, it is recommended to apply a layer of shoe polish to cover the imperfections and tiny marks of degradation on the shoe’s look.

Indeed, one of the uses for shoe polish is to revive the nice appearance of our leather boots when they are subjected to tear, wear, and scratches due to frequent usage. It hides the flaws and adds a shiny layer with similar colors to the original.

If you want to further protect your new shoes from external elements, it’s better to choose shoe polish with wax. Among options like shoe cream vs wax shoe polish vs standard shoe polish, products with wax add a more durable barrier against hazards.

2. Shoe cream

A shoe cream, on the other hand, is recommended when you want to enhance the original color to a brighter and more vibrant shade. Furthermore, many creams have potent dyes that can completely recolor your pair, giving it a new look.

There are brands that offer up to 10 colors for shoe creams, which are enough for you to get creative when breathing new life into your footwear.

Indeed, shoe creams can be used to moisturize leather boots and other footwear to prevent issues resulting from leather drying.

So between boot cream vs polish, if you do not like the polish shine, yet want to enhance your boot color while conditioning it in the process, pick the former.

How to Apply Shoe Polish?

If you choose shoe polish for your leather pair’s care, here’s a quick guide on how to smoothly apply the agent.

You can easily find a piece of soft cloth included in the product package. If you do not have one, find a clean microfiber piece instead.

Prepare the following items first:

  • Some pieces of old newspaper
  • A horsehair brush
  • A piece of soft cloth
  • Leather polish for shoes
  • A soft and clean toothbrush

Steps to follow:

  • Step 1: Spread the newspaper out to put your shoes on before application.
  • Step 2: Quickly clean the dirt and dust off your leather shoes with the horsehair brush; always start with cleaning shoes whenever you want to apply anything onto them.
  • Step 3: Use the cloth to apply the shoe polish onto your shoes. Be thorough as you move the cloth in a circular motion to cover every area of the pair with a thin polish layer.
  • Step 4: For tiny corners or thin cracks, use your prepared toothbrush to apply the polish.
  • Step 5: Leave the solution to dry for 15 minutes.
  • Step 6: You can repeat the same process several times to add 2-3 thin layers of polish.
  • Step 7: Use the horsehair brush to smoothen the surface and remove any excess polish.

How to Apply Shoe Cream?


It’s fairly easy to apply shoe cream to make your leather shoes and boots look good again with a nice color.

Here’s what you should have for the task:

  • Shoe cream of your choice
  • A horsehair brush
  • A brush or cloth for cream application (preferably the one included in the product package)
  • A piece of clean cloth

Steps to follow:

  • Step 1: Let’s start with the horsehair brush. As usual, use it to brush the dust and dirt off your pair.
  • Step 2: Use the brush/cloth in the shoe cream package to apply a thin layer of colored pigment onto your shoes. Let’s do it in circular motions and diligently cover all the tiniest corners.
  • Step 3: Leave it there for about 5-7 minutes so the cream can dry and settle in, then you can apply another layer or two.
  • Step 4: Now, use the horsehair brush to buff your pair again to smoothen the cream and reveal a smooth finish.


Choosing between shoe cream vs polish might not be the most challenging task in leather shoe maintenance. That said, it becomes trickier when you try to find one particular product, either polish or cream, that works for your footwear’s materials and your requirements.

If you need any help, you can go on Reddit to ask for advice or visit other posts on our site for the best products of each type.

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