Cleaning, shining, and polishing shoes on Shabbos:
A. Background of prohibitions:
The act of cleaning, shining, or polishing shoes on Shabbos may touch upon one of several prohibitions:
- The tanning prohibition by leather shoes: It is Biblically forbidden to tan new leather on Shabbos. Softening the new leather and oiling the new leather in order to soften it is part of the Biblical tanning prohibition, and one who does so is liable. If one oils the leather without intent to soften it but with intent to polish it, it is Rabbinically forbidden due to a decree that one may come to oil it in order to soften it and tan it. If one does not have intent either to soften or to polish the leather then it is nevertheless forbidden due to it appearing like softening, unless he does not oil the leather directly but rather first oils himself and then places the leather on him. Some Poskim rule that the above restrictions only applies to new leather, however old leather may have the above actions performed to it, such as oiling for polishing purposes or softening purposes. However, from Admur it is possible to learn that the softening prohibition applies in all cases, and the leniency awarded to old leather is only that one may oil his skin while wearing it, and not that one may intend to do so to soften it or polish it.
- The dyeing prohibition: It is Biblically forbidden to dye an item on Shabbos. The act of shining and polishing a shoe can possibly transgress this prohibition.
- The squeezing prohibition: It is Biblically forbidden to squeeze liquid out of a cloth on Shabbos. The act of polishing a shoe using shoe polish or shoe shine that contains a foam on top would transgresses prohibition.
- The smearing prohibition: It is Biblically forbidden to smear and flatten a pasty substance on Shabbos. The act of polishing a shoe using thick shoe polish paste would transgresses this prohibition.
B. The law:
Polishing a shoe on Shabbos? It is forbidden to polish shoes on Shabbos using shoe polish. This applies irrelevant of the type of shoe polish that one uses, whether it is a cream or liquid, and whether one uses a foam which is on top of the shoe polish, or is uses a cloth. Furthermore, it is forbidden to polish it even using oil or other non-colored material. This applies to both new and old shoes, as stated above.
Oiling a shoe on Shabbos & Spit shine: It is forbidden to oil a leather shoe on Shabbos for the sake of polishing and softening it. Practically, one is to be stringent in this matter even if the shoe is defined as old. Furthermore, one is to be stringent even regarding a non-leather shoe, to not oil it on Shabbos for the sake of polishing it.
Shining the shoe with a brush or cloth-no liquid: It is forbidden to shine the shoe even without using any liquid, but through rubbing on it a cloth or brush, or even through rubbing one’s hands over it.
Cleaning a shoe from dirt without intent to shine: It is permitted to clean a shoe on Shabbos if one does not have any intent to shine it. It is permitted to use even a cloth to lightly remove the dust. Some Poskim, however, write that the custom is to only allow doing so using one’s hands or through banging the shoe on the floor, and not through using a cloth.
What is the law if a gentile polished one’s shoes on Shabbos? It is forbidden to wear the shoes until after Shabbos Kdei Sheyaasu. However, this applies only if the shoe was not wearable without the polish. If however the shoe was wearable without the polish then it may be used.
It is forbidden to shine or polish a shoe on Shabbos even with a mere cloth or brush, and certainly through using shoe polish and shoe shine materials. It is however permitted to clean a dirty shoe using a cloth although some are stringent not to use a cloth even to clean the shoe from dirt.
 See Admur 327:4-5; Michaber 327:4; Shabbos 141b; Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:5
 Admur 327:4 “One may not smear his feet with oil when it is inside a new shoe or sandal because the leather softens through the oil residue and resembles [the prohibition of] tanning [leather].”; Admur 327:5 “One who tramples on leather until it becomes hard or one who softens it with his hands and stretches and flattens it the way it is done by professionals is liable for the tanning prohibition.”; Michaber 327:4; Shabbos 141b
 Admur ibid; Rama ibid; Rambam 23:10
The reason: New leather carries the tanning prohibition while old leather does not contain the tanning prohibition. [M”B 327:13] As new leather is commonly softened and hence carries the tanning prohibition while old leather is not commonly tanned. [Olas Tamid 327:6; Tehila Ledavid 327:3]
Other opinions: Some Poskim rule it is forbidden to oil even old shoes. [Raavad, in opinion of Kalkeles Shabbos and M”B 327:12] Practically, it is forbidden to oil even old leather shoes as there are people that are ignorant of Halacha and will come to do so even to new leather. [M”B ibid in name of Chayeh Adam]
What is the definition of new shoes? Some Poskim rule that so long as the shoe has been worn one time it is now considered old. [Tehila Ledavid 327:3 based on Bahag 20 Shabbos]
 Implication of Admur 327:5; M”B 327:12
 Admur 327:4; M”B 327:16; Shabbos ibid and Rashi ibid
 See M”B 327:15
 Admur ibid; Michaber ibid; Shabbos ibid
 Tehila Ledavid 327:3; Implication of M”B 327:12 and 13 in the lenient opinion
 So is implied from 327:5 in which Admur does not limit the prohibition to new leather.
 Admur 320:28 “There is only a Biblical prohibition [involved in dyeing] when dyeing with a permanent dye, however a dye which will not last at all, such as one who placed vermillion [a bright red pigment], or rouge on metal and copper and [thus] dyed it, is not liable because one is only coloring it temporarily and is thus not dyeing anything. Nevertheless, doing so is Rabbinically forbidden.”; M”A 320:25; Rambam 9:13; Machatzis Hashekel 320:24; M”B 320:59
 M”B 327:12; Shevet Halevi 7:43
 Admur 320:21 “Even cloths which have been soaked in liquids which do not whiten [i.e. have been soaked in colored liquids], are forbidden to be squeezed. The reason for this restriction is due to the prohibition of “detaching” which is an offshoot of [the] threshing [prohibition] just as squeezing fruits is prohibited because of “detaching.”” ; M”A 320:23; Riy; Mordechai; Ran
 Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:5 footnote 34
 Admur 314:21 “One who smears a poultice, which means that he smoothens and levels the grooves that are in it, as well as one who smears wax or tar and anything of the like which is a material that can be smeared down until it smoothens its surface, then this is an offshoot of [the] “smoothing of hide“ [prohibition], which is [a prohibition against] scraping the wool or the hair off the hide until its surface is smooth, which is a primary prohibited action being that this was done in the Tabernacle as explained in chapter 302 [Halacha 15]. Therefore, one may not seal a hole with wax or similar things even if one does not enter the wax into the hole but rather only places it onto the opening of the hole …..due to a decree that one may come to smear the wax to attach it to the walls of the vessel which surround the hole to the point that he smoothens its surface there and will then be liable for “smoothening”.”
 Zichro Toras Moshe [of Chayeh Adam] 39:2; Tiferes Yisrael Kalkeles Shabbos 30; M”B 327:16; Kaf Hachaim 327:30
 Regarding leather shoes: Admur 327:4; M”B 327:16; Shabbos ibid and Rashi ibid; Olas Shabbos 327:6; Elya Raba 327:6; Regarding all shoes: M”B 327:12; Kaf Hachaim 327:30
 The reason: This is forbidden due to the dyeing prohibition [M”B 327:12; Shevet Halevi 7:43] as well as due to the Rabbinical tanning prohibition if it is a leather shoe. [Admur 327:4; M”B 327:16; Shabbos ibid and Rashi ibid] being it is forbidden to polish the shoe due to that one may come to tan it. The act of polishing may also transgress the smearing prohibition or squeezing prohibition, as explained above.
 This is forbidden due to due to the tanning prohibition [M”B 327:16] and possibly even due to the dyeing prohibition, if by doing so it brings out the color of the shoe. [M”B 327:12; See Sheveut Halevi 7:43]
 Conclusion of Chayeh Adam and M”B 327:12
The reason: As a) Perhaps the Rama and Admur ibid did not intend to allow oiling old leather in order to soften it or polish it. B) There are Poskim who rule the prohibition applies equally to old leather. [brought in M”B ibid] C) There are people that are ignorant of Halacha and will come to do so even to new leather. [M”B ibid in name of Chayeh Adam]
 This is possibly forbidden due to the dyeing prohibition, if by doing so it brings out the color of the shoe. [M”B 327:12; See Shevet Halevi 7:43]
 Zichro Toras Moshe [of Chayeh Adam] 39:2; Bris Olam Miabeid 3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:5
 Aruch Hashulchan 327:4; Shut Rav Chaim Zonenfeld 38; Shevet Halevi 5:37; Ateres Moshe 1:108; Bris Olam Miabed 3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:5 and 302:3 footnote 43 in name of Poskim
 Shevet Halevi ibid; Ateres Moshe ibid; Bris Olam ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid
 M”B 327:16 in name of Tiferes Yisrael; Kaf Hachaim 327:30
 Teshuras Shaiy 2:152; Meorer Yesheinim 112; Piskeiy Teshuvos 327:5