Does Shoe Polish Go Bad Or Expire?

Yes, shoe polish has a shelf life. Most shoe polishes endure for several years, however, if left unused in the original container for an extended period, the contents will generally dry out. Because the hardened pieces inhibit correct application, the polish may become less effective or ineffective. That’s the moment shoe polish go bad and expired.

Does shoe polish go bad or expire? Yes, but you can take some actions to avoid it

Shoe care products have a long history dating back to pre-modern times. It became affordable to the masses during the outbreak of the First World War due to the need for boots to be polished quickly. Improvements in its development led to three shoe polishes types: wax, liquid, and cream-emulsion.

These all differ in composition but retain essential ingredients like waxes, solvents, and dyes. Whether you own all three or just one type of shoe polish, do they go bad or expire?

Related: How to Fix Cracked Leather Shoes, How Often Should You Polish Your Shoes?

Does shoe polish go bad or expire?

Most shoe polishes do not have an expiry date, but at one point they will dry out and go bad. They retain their qualities for a very long time with proper storage; this is why you’ll only see the manufacturing date on the products. If you have a wax shoe polish, the solvents will evaporate if you leave the tin open.

Liquid or cream-emulsion-based shoe polishes can last for years without going bad so long as they’re kept at room temperature.

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example when shoe polish go bad or expire
example when shoe polish goes bad or expires

Can you use old shoe polish?

Yes, old shoe polish can be used. However, it is not suggested because the polish may have hardened over time and would not function as effectively as new shoe polish. It is vital to note that shoe polish is intended to nurture the leather, however older polish may have degraded due to exposure to the environment and may no longer provide the same level of nourishment.

Let’s learn a little it about shoe polish…

What are shoe polishes made of?

Wax shoe polishes were the earliest form of shoe polish that became available commercially. It wasn’t called shoe polish back then and was often referred to as blacking or dubbin. They’re mostly made up of carnauba, Montana, as well as other synthetic waxes.

Related: Best Wax Shoe Polish: how to revive your shoes?

Only 30% of the material is wax while the remaining 70% are solvent. Dyes make up the final ingredients of the polish to get their signature gloss.

Meanwhile, liquid shoe polishes are sold in plastic bottles and usually come with a small sponge applicator at the end. Shoe polish made of the liquid has low wax content to decrease its viscosity. Polyethylene wax is one of its major components.

Related: Best Liquid Shoe Polish: Does liquid polish work?

They’re the most commonly sold due to their easy application. However, many experts warn against using liquid-based polishes long term as it can cause the leather to dry and crack with repeated applications.

Cream-emulsion shoe polishes on the other hand are more gelatinous in their consistency. They contain water and oil plus a solvent making liquid content high, unlike their wax-based counterparts. Other products may be closely related to shoe polish but cannot be considered one.

Various sprays and aerosols are also marketed as shoe polish but are not recommended.

Related: What Glue for Shoes I should use?

Does shoe polish dry out and how to make it work again

What to do when shoe polish go bad?

Place your tin of Wax shoe polish in a pan with water, but don’t position directly above the burner. The heat to the product is indirect. Heat the water, but not to boiling – about 80C or 175F. The polish will start to melt, which signals your water is hot enough. Let it cool down, seal the tin and your shoe polish is back to normal.

What’s the difference between Wax and Liquid/Cream Polishes?

A wax polish does its wonders to the outer of your leather shoes by adding layers of wax on it. They do not seep into the leather so they can be buffed to a high shine. They’re old fashioned and classic, making your shoes always look like new.

A liquid/cream polish adds color to your shoes and keeps their original finish. They have small amounts of wax and are rich in pigments leaving more of a matte finish to your shoes.

How do you store your shoe polish properly?

Shoe care products are usually seldom purchased by the average consumer because they last a long time even for the most frequent users. Their sales have even declined over the years as more and more people ditch formal footwear instead of sneakers for everyday use. It is best to use proper storage techniques to get the best result out of your shoe polish every time.

If you have a wax shoe polish, storing them at room temperature and making sure the can is airtight should do the trick, it will avoid shoe polish go bad. If the wax has cracked or crumbled over time, massage the surface of the wax or apply a little heat to melt the wax back together.

Room temperature storage also works well for both liquid and cream-emulsion-based shoe polishes. Since they’re water-based products, solvents can evaporate if your bottle is not properly sealed.

Don’t forget to seal the bottle’s cap so you’ll always get the same gloss and shine in every use.

How long does shoe polish last and can you use old shoe polish?

How do you re-use old shoe polish?

You’ll often see a white-ish layer on top of your shoe polish if you’ve opened them but haven’t used it for a while. This normal result of “sweating” or wax bloom as the shoe polish experiences rapid heating and cooling. This “wax bloom” is fairly common amongst wax-based cosmetic products, art supplies, chocolates, fruits, and more. It’s a sign of shoe polish go bad.

To make your old shoe polish reusable, you must use heat. Fill up a pan or a tray with water then heat it up on a stove. Put your shoe polish in the tray and check until it melts.

Remember not to overheat it to avoid burning the shoe polish. If this does not apply to you, holding a lighter underneath it can be an alternative.

You can also place it near a heat source such as a floor vent or a radiator until the wax softens. After this is done, cool the wax down until it’s ready for use.

Does shoe polish damage leather?

High-quality shoe polish will not damage or dry out leather. They produce a high-gloss shine and protect leather against moisture and water. Cheap polish that uses low-quality solvents, aerosols, or silicon chemistry is known to harm the leather.

This is why it’s best to buy from reputable sources such as known brands when getting one for your shoes.

What are the benefits of using polish for my shoes?

One of the best benefits of using shoe polish for your shoes is that it lengthens your footwear’s life. It maintains, restores color, and improves the appearance of your shoes and gives it protection against water and moisture. Some polish products have other uses besides shining your leather footwear.

Related: How to take care of your shoes?

They can also be used for non-porous materials, such as vinyl.

Does shoe polish go bad? How to fix wax polish explained (video)

How to fix cracked wax polish by Shoegazing

Frequently Asked Questions (Faq)

How long does boot polish last?

Boot polish (or for shoes) last a very long time if stored properly. This can be many years. Keep the can of the polish closed after usage and store it in dry places with constant temperature.


There are a lot of reputable manufacturers to purchase your desired shoe polish from. It’s always best to grab from one of them since they’re quite affordable for their value. Shoe polishes last a long time and they do what they’re intended for. If you always want that great cool shoeshine, shoe polish should always be on your shoe rack.

Picture in this post by Lina Verovaya on Unsplash

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