Although it can seem like a small chore and can be a burden, it makes a huge difference in how an outfit looks if you know how to polish shoes. A well-shined pair of Oxfords or Derbies can transform drab, lifeless leather into shining beacons of success. Polishing shoes is not only for worn ones. Polishing shoes should be done when they are brand new. This will add a thin layer of protection to the leather and protect them from rain and dust. Polishing your shoes yourself can be a very therapeutic task, even though it is hard work.
How to polish shoes
Pick your shoes
You can now access the entire shoe’s surface by removing the boot or shoelaces. To make it easier to use the leather, insert a pair of shoe trees.
Make sure to clean shoes
It is best to start over with the original leather finish to get the best mirror shine. Old polish chips and dust can get trapped in wax polishes, creating a cloudy layer. To remove dust from the shoe and crevices:
- Use a horsehair brush.
- Continue this process with a damp cloth until you have removed all dust.
- Use a Saphir Reno’mat leather cleaner with a rag. This will remove any polish that may have been left on the shoe leather.
Saphir Reno’mat dissolves any old polish and can be easily wiped off. You’ll see the leather grain again.
Apply leather conditioner or cream polish
If you’re working with leather dress shoes or military boots, it is a good idea to use a leather conditioner such as Saphir Renovateur. This is where the conditioning oils can penetrate the leather the most. You should also use your pigment-rich cream polish if your leather shoes need to be recoloured. Click here to read how to customize shoes.
Apply a thick layer of base coat
Base coats quickly fill in the pores and pits of the leather grain and provide the foundation for your mirror layers. Use the horsehair dauber to promptly pick up some polish and apply it in small circles all over your shoe. Make sure you cover the entire shoe evenly and thickly. Let the wax dry completely for at most 30 minutes. Rub lightly with your finger to remove any polish. This layer can be brushed with a buffing brush made from horsehair. This will heat the wax layer and give it a light shine, also known as a “brush sparkle.” Most people stop at this point as the shoe will look new. But, you are going for the ultimate prize: A parade mirror shine!
Add more base coats
Mirror shining your boots and shoes’ hard toe caps should be limited to the area below the creases. Mirror shines made of thick layers of wax, which can crack if bent. To mirror shine the toe cap, repeat step 4. This will continue until the leather grain begins to fade in comparison to the rest. This is a sign that the leather pits have been significantly filled. It might be easier to reduce the application area by wrapping a rag tightly around your finger and then buffing it with a dry cloth. It takes approximately ten coats to apply regular wax polishes. However, it can be done in as few as three coats with a speciality wax polish such as Saphir Mirror Gloss.
Pick a wax
Secure the cotton cloth around your index finger by wrapping a new section tightly around it. You might find a rubber hand helpful. Apply 1-2 drops of water to your fingertip, and then apply a small amount of wax. Contrary to the building of base coats in step 1, it would help if you used as little wax as possible. Because the new wax contains solvent, excessive use will cause the wax to take longer to dry. This will allow the solvent to dissolve the foundation base coats we have worked so hard to create.
Apply the wax
Apply the wax onto the mirror-shined area. Use a very light touch for this step. You don’t want to rub off any wax polish layers that may have partially dissolved. Instead, allow the wax to melt onto the hardened layers. Think of tracing the leather’s surface with your fingertip. The pressure should not cause the fingertip to become brittle. This will transform the thin layer you have applied of wax into a smooth, light circular motion.
Buffing and working with the wax
You’ll notice friction between your finger, wax, and wax increase as you work it. It becomes difficult to keep circling the area with a light touch. Space will also become matte and cloudy. You haven’t lost all your hard work. This is when the solvent in the wax has dried, and the resin is hardening. This stage is critical because the resin must be shaped into a smooth layer. As lubrication, add a drop of water to the polish. Continue with your light circles and adding more water if friction becomes too severe. To give the polish a shine, continue to do this until it reaches a matte finish. This shine will be much more glossy than the one you get from buffing the base coats. Congratulations!
Let the wax dry
Allow the wax layer to rest for at least 10-15 minutes. Do not rush to apply the next layer. This will prevent additional wax layers from building. Patience is key to a mirror shine.
Read more: How to dry shoes
A trick for the aficionado
You may see water streaks on the mirror’s surface even if you have achieved the desired shine. Wrap a new piece of cotton polishing cloth around the index finger once the wax has dried completely. A tiny amount of rubbing alcohol can be placed on your fingertip. Run it in the same light circles over the mirror shine as before. This will dissolve the top layer of polish and remove streaks. Voila! You will be impressed by this clear, high-gloss metallic mirror shine!
How to make a shoe polishing kit at home
A range of high-quality shoe polishing products will make your shoes look sharp and shiny for as long as you can. It’ll also save you time and money.
The horsehair brush can be used to shine your shoes. It has coarse bristles that allow you to reach the most difficult places. This brush can be used once to buff and clean, then twice for cleaning the cleaner.
For cleaning and conditioning, cotton cloth is necessary. You can wear an old T-shirt that you don’t wear anymore, and cut it into strips or several squares.
A leather conditioner and cleaner can make your shoes last longer. The cleanser does exactly what it says, while the conditioner prevents your shoes’ leather from cracking or becoming brittle.
Polish your shoes
Shoes need to be maintained in perfect condition. Make sure you match your polish with your shoes’ colour. This is easy for black shoes. However, it’s worth taking your brown shoes to the shop to ask for a match. We recommend wax-based polishes as they add shine and enhance the shoe’s colour. Cream adds no shine.
How to Shine Shoes
- Before cleaning shoe remove shoe laces. Allow the boots to dry naturally if they are damp. You can dry the shoes with a wet cloth if they are very dirty.
- Apply thin layer in entire surface with a rag. Dry it. This helps to nourish the leather and keeps it soft. Match the color of the shoe cream to the leather or use a neutral cream. This won’t give the leather a very intense color-enhancing shine, but it will do the job.
- After drying, rub the shoes lightly with a brush or a soft cloth. The shoes will have a subtle sheen.
- Clean the welts of your shoe. These are the places where the uppers attach to the sole. On better shoes, there may be visible stitching (known for Goodyear welting). These are dust traps that should be brushed frequently. You can fix any scuffs on the soles with either shoe cream or a marker pen.
- Use a cloth or brush a to apply wax polish, paying special attention to the welts. It will not only give your shoes a shine but also protect them from the elements. You can either use the same color as your shoes or a neutral shade.
- After the wax polish has dried, use a brush or a cloth to remove any remaining wax. To achieve a shiny finish, you should vigorously rub the wax polish with a brush or cloth. You can now put the laces back in, knowing that you have done the job right.
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Best shoe shining products
It is essential to have a good wax polish. While Kiwi is a great brand to choose from, Saphir is a premium choice. This polish is long-lasting and can be used even after drying. You can make a unique patina by applying different colours to non-black shoes, such as a pair of tan wingtips. Also, a few coats of black polish to lighter shoes will give it depth and character. Use caution when applying certain high gloss polishes or applications. They can contain silicon which could dry out the shoe and cause premature cracking.
Use a quality shoe cream to revive your shoes if they are worn out. It will add colour to the leather and restore its former glory. Creams are similar to conditioners (no, the men’s hair product), but they add moisture to shoes. However, unlike conditioners, creams also leave behind a protective layer. Choose the right colour for your shoes.
After polishing, a good-quality shoe brush can be used as a buffing tool. Horsehair brushes are more expensive than cheaper alternatives, and they don’t provide a better result. Shoes made of suede or nubuck like chukka boots need to be kept in good condition with a dedicated brush. You can give your fine fibres a new lease on life by holding them in a steaming kettle and brushing.
The jewellery trade also uses some of the finest shoe polishing cloths. Selvy’s polishing cloths are a standard issue in British Army. These shoes can be used to give a military shine by ‘bulling’ them. They are also great for restoring shine between polishes if they are folded into a pad. It will help you did not to use yellow household dusters for polishing shoes. Instead, use an old white cotton shirt or a versatile microfiber polishing fabric in a pinch.
Shoe trees are a must-have investment for anyone who wants his shoes to last. These are made of moisture-absorbing cedar, help preserve the leather’s shape, prevent creasing, and keep your shoes looking new. They are useful for polishing, as they can open any cracks in your shoe when they are inserted. Those will available in a variety of sizes and widths, as well as a generic version. They should be placed in your shoes as soon as possible. Give them at least one day to dry before you wear them again.
A crisply pressed suit with polished leather shoes looks better than anything else. But what happens if they start to lose their shine? Although you might be tempted by a professional to polish them, it is a valuable skill to learn how to polish your shoes yourself, especially if you are ever late for an event. It will very easy for you once you know the basics. Now you can polish your shoes easily by using your hand.