How to Spit Shine Your Military Boots

7 Steps to Achieving a High Gloss Boot Shine

military booth with brush and polish
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The quality of soldiers is often measured by how much time, effort and care they spend on the cleanliness of their shoes and boots. In fact, they need to be shined on a regular basis. For this reason, all soldiers should know how to "spit-shine" their military boots. The standards are high in the military for shoes and boots when not in the field. The leather should look like Corfam shoes, which are so shiny and reflective you should be able to see your face in your boots or shoes. 

While it may seem like a simple task to apply shoe polish to your combat boots, there are some simple steps, that if followed, will ensure a "spit shine."

Getting Started

In addition to your combat boots, you'll need the following:

  • Shoe Polish
  • Cloth
  • Water or Alcohol

How to Apply a High-Gloss Spit Shine

Allow about one hour to perform this process properly and follow these steps:

  1. Spread a medium-thick layer of paste polish over the portion of the boot to be spit shined.
  2. Allow it to dry for five to 10 minutes.
  3. Wrap a soft, clean cloth around your index finger so that it is smooth (no wrinkles). Alternately, you can use a cotton ball. Dip your finger or the cotton ball into a container of water. The cloth/cotton should be wet, but not dripping.
  4. Buff the dried polish (using a circular motion) with the wet cloth/cotton ball, until the wax starts to become shiny.
  5. Still using the damp rag on your finger, apply a fine layer of polish in a circular motion and keep on rubbing lightly until a hazy shine develops.
  6. Using the (now) damp cloth, or cotton ball, keep applying thin coats of wax, buffing them with a small circular motion.
  7. When the boot is highly glossed, use a clean dry soft cloth or a shining brush to give it a final buff.

Tips for the Best Results

Below are some key tips to achieve the best results when shining your boots:

  • The reason to use a wet cloth is to stop the fine coats of polish sticking to the cloth and to encourage the polish to stick to the leather.
  • You want to keep on building up thin layers of wax until you have a completely smooth surface that gives the glossy shine.
  • After the first heavy coat of polish, you must use small amounts of polish to build up the shine. If you use too much polish, it will dissolve the base you have already built up.
  • T-shirts work well for the cloth material, as do cloth diapers.
  • Some people prefer to use rubbing alcohol instead of water.

How Often Should Boots be Shined?

To avoid wear and tear on your combat boots, it's recommended to shine them at least every other day. If you can make it a nightly routine, that's favorable. If you are using these boots daily and getting them wet and dirty, you will find that daily gloss will help protect them. Having boots that shine like a mirror out in the field is not operationally sound, so make sure you have a field pair that does not reflect light and an inspection pair to be seen in public.

Outsourcing Your Boot Shining

Beware of the quick shine artists near military bases. Although many soldiers will go off-base and find a shoe/boot shine business to do the work for them, this can be a gamble if you do not do your research and ask how they do their shining. Many quick shine shops will use chemicals that crack as soon as you start walking. This will cause you to fail an inspection the next day and pretty much ruin your boots to the point that you have to start all over again with a new pair of boots.

However, there are many professional boot shiners near military bases that shine boots and shoes using the above methods and can save you time doing it yourself. This cost is typically $10–$20, depending upon your town and how close you are to the base, but it could save you an hour to do other things. Being a busy military member, sometimes outsourcing makes sense with boots, shoes, and uniforms.