How to Clean Shoe Polish Cloth and Brush

person holding shoe polish brush

Shoe polish is a great way to keep your shoes looking shiny and well-maintained. 

However, after frequent use, the cloth and brush used for applying polish can become dirty and clogged with excess polish. Cleaning these essential tools is important to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of effectively cleaning your shoe polish cloth and brush, so they can continue to keep your shoes looking their best.

Let’s begin.

Importance of cleaning shoe polish cloth and brush

Cleaning your shoe polish cloth and brush serves several purposes. Firstly, it removes any residual polish that could transfer onto your shoes during the next application, potentially causing discoloration or uneven shine. 

Secondly, it helps remove dirt and debris that may have accumulated on the tools, ensuring a clean and polished finish. 

Lastly, regular cleaning prolongs the lifespan of the cloth and brush, saving you money in the long run.

Preparing for cleaning

Before you start cleaning your shoe polish cloth and brush, gather the necessary supplies. You will need a mild detergent or soap, warm water, a clean towel or sponge, and a gentle cleaning solution suitable for brushes. Ensure that the cleaning solution is safe to use on the type of bristles your brush has.

Cleaning the shoe polish cloth

Removing excess polish

Begin by removing any excess polish from the cloth. Gently scrape off the dried or caked-on polish using a dull knife or your fingernails. Be careful not to tear or damage the fabric while doing this.

Hand washing the cloth

Fill a basin or sink with warm water and add a small amount of mild detergent or soap. Submerge the cloth in the soapy water and agitate it gently to loosen any dirt and polish residue. Pay special attention to areas with heavy buildup. Let the cloth soak for a few minutes, then rinse it thoroughly with clean water.

Machine washing the cloth (if applicable)

If the care instructions allow, you can also clean the cloth in a washing machine. Place the cloth in a mesh laundry bag during the wash cycle. Use a gentle or delicate setting and cold water. Avoid using bleach or fabric softeners, as they can damage the cloth. Once the cycle is complete, remove the cloth and let it air dry.

Drying the cloth

After washing, squeeze out excess water from the cloth gently. Lay it flat on a clean towel and roll the towel, pressing lightly to absorb more moisture. Hang the cloth or lay it flat to air dry completely before storing it.

Cleaning the shoe polish brush

Removing excess polish

Start by removing any excess polish from the brush. Use a cloth or tissue to wipe away the dried or hardened polish from the bristles. You can also use an old comb or your fingers to gently comb through the bristles, dislodging any trapped polish.

Using a cleaning solution

Prepare a cleaning solution suitable for the type of bristles your brush has. If you have a natural bristle brush, mix a small amount of mild detergent or soap with warm water. 

For synthetic bristles, you can use a brush cleaner specifically designed for synthetic materials. Dip the bristles of the brush into the cleaning solution and swirl them around gently.

Rinsing and drying the brush

After cleaning the bristles, rinse the brush under warm running water. Use your fingers to comb through the bristles, ensuring all soap residue is removed. 

Shake off any excess water and gently squeeze the bristles with a clean towel to remove more moisture. Avoid twisting or pulling on the bristles, as this can cause them to become misshapen. 

Finally, reshape the bristles and let the brush air dry completely before using it again.

Storing the clean cloth and brush

Once your shoe polish cloth and brush are completely dry, it’s important to store them properly. 

Store the cloth in a clean and dry place, away from direct sunlight or excessive heat. You can fold it neatly or roll it up to prevent any dust or debris from settling on it. 

As for the brush, it’s best to store it with the bristles facing upward in a clean and well-ventilated area. This helps maintain the shape and integrity of the bristles.

Tips for maintaining the cloth and brush

To keep your shoe polish cloth and brush in optimal condition, consider the following tips:

  • Establish a regular cleaning routine: Set a schedule for cleaning your cloth and brush, depending on how often you use them. Regular cleaning will prevent excessive buildup and ensure effective performance.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals: When cleaning the cloth and brush, stick to mild detergent, soap, or cleaning solutions specifically formulated for these purposes. Harsh chemicals can damage the tools and affect their performance.


Cleaning your shoe polish cloth and brush is an essential part of maintaining your shoes and ensuring a polished and professional appearance. 

Regular cleaning and proper storage will prolong the lifespan of your cloth and brush, saving you money and ensuring your shoes always look their best.

By following the steps outlined in this article, you can effectively remove excess polish, dirt, and debris from your tools, allowing them to perform optimally. 

Could your old shoe rack use some TLC? Read How to Clean Your Shoe Rack.  


1. How often should I clean my shoe polish cloth and brush? 

It’s recommended to clean your cloth and brush after every few uses, depending on the frequency of shoe polishing. Regular cleaning prevents the buildup of polish residue and maintains its effectiveness.

2. Can I use bleach to clean the shoe polish cloth? 

No, bleach should be avoided as it can damage the fabric of the cloth. Stick to mild detergent or soap for cleaning.

3. Can I use the same cleaning solution for both natural bristle and synthetic bristle brushes? 

No, it’s best to use a cleaning solution suitable for the type of bristles your brush has. Natural bristle brushes require a different cleaning solution than synthetic ones.

4. Can I machine wash a shoe polish cloth? 

Machine washing is possible for some shoe polish cloths, but it’s important to check the care instructions. If allowed, use a gentle or delicate cycle with cold water and avoid using bleach or fabric softeners.

5. Can I use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process? 

It’s best to avoid using a hairdryer to dry your shoe polish cloth and brush. The heat from a hairdryer can cause damage to the fabric of the cloth and the bristles of the brush. It’s safer to let them air dry naturally, ensuring they are completely dry before storing them.

5. Can I use the same brush for different colored polishes? 

It’s not recommended to use the same brush for different colored polishes. Residual polish can transfer onto the brush and mix with other colors, resulting in undesirable color combinations. It’s best to have separate brushes for each color or thoroughly clean the brush before switching to a different polish.

6. What should I do if my shoe polish cloth or brush becomes stained? If your cloth or brush becomes stained, you can try spot cleaning with a mild detergent or soap. Gently work the cleaning solution into the stained area, then rinse and air dry as usual. However, it’s important to note that some stains may be difficult to remove completely.

7. How can I prevent my shoe polish brush from getting clogged with polish? 

To prevent your brush from getting clogged, make sure to wipe off any excess polish from your shoes before applying the brush. This will help minimize the amount of polish transferred to the brush and reduce the likelihood of clogging.

8. Can I clean my shoe polish cloth and brush in the dishwasher? 

No, it’s not recommended to clean your shoe polish cloth and brush in the dishwasher. The dishwasher’s high temperatures and strong detergents can damage the fabric and bristles, affecting their performance.

9. Are there any alternatives to using a cloth and brush for shoe polishing? 

Yes, there are alternative tools available for shoe polishing, such as foam applicators or pre-soaked wipes. These options provide convenience and can be suitable for quick touch-ups. However, the cloth and brush method is generally considered more effective for achieving a professional shine and conditioning the leather.

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu from Pexels