What worth is an arsenal of shoes without a complimentary shoeshine kit? And of what worth is a shoeshine kit without the proper shoe brushes? Often, a quick brush and polish is all that's needed to take your footwear from dull and boring to smart and classy!
In this article, we explore the various brush types available, ranging from simple cleaning brushes to horsehair polishing and finishing brushes for suede and leather. We know your appearance matters, so we're also here to help you make your shoes, boots, and even your trainers gleam with our ranking of the best brushes to buy online from sites like Amazon, Tesco and John Lewis.
Shoe care involves three processes – cleaning, polishing and finishing – all of which require a different style of brush. We've prepared this buying guide to help you understand the differences and purpose of each type, and all the considerations you should be making while shopping.
It is important that the shoe brush you buy is suitable for the texture of your shoe material to avoid ruining them, so firstly, we're going to look at the different types and their footwear matches.
Pig bristle brushes, also known as boar hair or hog bristle brushes, are perfect for scrubbing off dirt and work well on tough-textured shoes due to their stiffness. They're best for sturdy leather shoes and boots like brogues, as they penetrate the perforations nicely to bring about a deep clean.
Pig hair brushes are great for pebble grain or hatch grain shoes too, as the bristles do a good job at cleaning otherwise hard-to-reach spaces between the grain patterns, eliminating excess wax that has built up in the grooves.
Finally, these brushes are also adept at working cream more effectively into embossed grain leather shoes. For more delicate material like mesh and cotton canvas fabric, however, we'd recommend getting softer hog bristles.
Horsehair shoe brushes are the most commonly used type because they're adaptable to both cleaning and polishing, and are suitable for a variety of shoe materials; both regular leather and suede.
They're made up of horse mane or tail hairs and are much softer than tougher pig hair bristles, making them perfect for removing dust and irritants. Use horsehair brushes to give your shoes a good buffing and shining treatment.
Brass wire shoe brushes are used to get rid of coarse dirt, and are especially useful for stubborn, deep-seated stains on suede and nubuck shoes. Because the bristles are quite tough, they're usually reserved for more heavy-duty cleaning, particularly with stains that have set strongly.
Brass can be quite tough on suede, however, and can cause the top layer to wear off gradually over time, so these brushes should be used with care. It's also important to note that this is not a brush to be used for daily cleaning, but rather kept for occasional use when the need to banish those tough stains arises.
Crepe rubber is made of a light latex material. The texture is soft and sticky, thus fitting for delicate shoe materials which would be ruined by harder brushes. Overall, they're best for removing light stains on delicate suede and nubuck.
This brush style is also used to re-fluff the fine fibres on shoes, thereby expelling trapped dust and dirt. Good for dislodging grime, soiling and debris, they can be used frequently for daily care.
A dauber, or applicator, is a smaller brush with a round handle. Unlike all the other flat brushes, its longer handle means that your hands are less likely to get messy while applying polish or wax.
The shape is designed to give your fingers a comfortable grip and is capable of accessing hard-to-reach edges around the shoe. Polish, wax or grease are applied evenly using a dauber in a circular motion in order to adequately penetrate the leather.
Goat hair brushes are ideal for adding the finishing touches to your shoe care routine. They're even softer than horsehair brushes and will not harm delicate shoe surfaces, instead allowing you to achieve a mirror-like finish on your leather shoes.
If you want a brush that delivers a high-gloss effect and a bright finish to your shoes without damage or scratches, this is the style to go for.
Synthetic brushes are rigid and tough, and a very useful tool for removing accumulated polish, dirt, mud and stones from soles of shoes. They're essentially cleaning brushes that do their job without damaging your footwear.
These characteristics make this variety great for garden or other work boots and hiking shoes. You should, therefore, avoid using a synthetic brush on smooth leather shoe material.
Quality can be a bit tricky to ascertain when buying online, but we do have a few pointers to guide you. Checking the reviews and images is a good way to find out some of these details if the information is not explicitly stated.
Firstly, a good quality shoe brush should have densely-packed hairs or bristles. The more closely packed hairs allow better friction to really bring up the shine. So, avoid shoe brushes with bristles that are sparsely arranged as these may not get the job done as well.
Brushes also ought to have a wooden base or handle as opposed to plastic or resin. Although plastic and resin are lightweight and inexpensive, wood is more durable and will last longer. Look for a contoured handle for easy and comfortable grip with minimal slipping.
Finally, a brush with minimal shedding and firmly-attached hairs is always preferable. Do not worry if some hairs fall out on your first use – this is typical of natural hair as it is simply ridding itself of the weaker ends. You'll see less falling out as you continue to use it (assuming it's of good quality, that is!)
You really don't need to have every type of shoe brush there is! All that matters is that you have a distinct brush for each step of your shoe maintenance routine – one for cleaning, one for polishing, and one for finishing.
Ensuring you have one of each will prevent polish residue or dirt on brushes used in a previous care routine passing onto fresh surfaces and hampering your shoe shine efforts. For efficiency and often better value, look for sets or multi-headed brushes which offer the varieties you need.
Moreover, you could get a separate brush for each colour of shoe you have if you like, but if not, two brushes would suffice – one for light coloured shoes and the other for the darker shade of shoes.
With the above considerations in mind, you're sure to buy a great shoe brush that will keep your footwear spotless! To help you make a reliable choice while you're at it, we've drawn up a ranking of the best shoe brushes on the market.
|Suitable For||Boots, trainers|
|Suitable For||Suede and nubuck|
|Best For||Polishing, buffing|
|Bristle Material||Pig hair|
|Bristle Material||Brass wire|
|Bristle Material||Crepe rubber|
|Suitable For||Suede, nubuck, fabric, canvas|
|Bristle Material||Pig hair|
|Best For||Applying polish|
|Bristle Material||Goat hair|
|Best For||Shining, finish, dusting|
|Best For||Cleaning and buffing|
A Fine Pair of Shoes
Premium Horsehair Shoe Brush
Premium Goat Hair Polishing Brush
Shoe Polish Applicator
Beechwood Crepe Brush
Suede Shoe Brush
Pig Bristle Shoe Brush
Lux Premium Quality Shoe Brush
Natural Bristle Polishing Brush
Suede & Nubuck Combination Brush
Suede & Nubuck Multi Brush
A Useful Brush Duo for All Footwear
A Brilliant Brush for a Smart Finish
Small and Handy for Spotless Polishing
The Perfect Brush for Delicate Shoes
Solid and Genuine Brass Bristles for Cleaning Suede
An Excellent Pick for Quality Shine
Great for Buffing and Shining Your Shoes
For a Brilliant Shine and a Glossy Finish
An Affordable Combination Brush for Gentle Cleaning
A Multipurpose Brush to Clean and Revive
|Bristle Material||Horsehair||Goat hair||Pig hair||Crepe rubber||Brass wire||Pig hair||Horsehair||Natural||Rubber||Synthetic|
|Suitable For||Leather||Leather||Leather||Suede, nubuck, fabric, canvas||Suede||Leather||Leather||Leather||Suede and nubuck||Boots, trainers|
|Best For||Cleaning and buffing||Shining, finish, dusting||Applying polish||Cleaning||Cleaning||Cleaning||Buffing||Polishing, buffing||Cleaning||Cleaning|
Taking good care of your shoes and clothes means they not only look better, but they last longer too, which is especially beneficial if you've paid a premium for them! Here are some more recommendations for products to keep your wardrobe favourites in tip-top condition.
Shoe maintenance is one of those little things in life that says a lot about a person. So the next time you're stepping out, remember that a good shine will not only look good, but probably give you a confidence boost too! With our guide to hand you can be sure you're using the right brush to extend the life of your favourite footwear.
Author: David Gbe
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