Shoe Polishing – Step By Step Guide

posted in: Accessories, Boots, Men Shoes, Women Shoes | 0

Heya guys,

Today we’ve covered an in-depth, step-by-step guide for shoe polishing done right.

We’ve also went an extra mile and added some history and how shoe polish works,

we hope that you find this info refreshing and relevant!

So keep up looking sharp, and lets dive in 🙂


The In’s And Out’s of properly Polishing Leather Shoes

There was once a time when little boys would stand along the sidewalk and shine the shoes of military and business men as they stopped by.
Now, there are professional shoe shiners in several airports, malls and barbershops.
Men from all different backgrounds enjoy the leisure of getting their shoes buffed, or even buffing their shoes themselves.
Military soldiers polish their shoes often, facing punishment if they do not have perfectly shined shoes.
Distinguished gentlemen who wear elegant leather shoes get their shoes conditioned and polished regularly in order to maintain their like-new appearance and increase the durability of the shoes.
Regardless of the reason, knowing how to properly polish your leather shoes is a great skill to learn.
Whether you are preserving the shoes, or want to make a lasting impression, learning how to polish shoes to get the best shoe shine
can be a positive differentiation, and shows an impressive appearance.


Polishing Best Practices

For the best final result, it is best to prepare the shoe for the process.

Since polishes will stain other materials besides leather, it is best that you protect your clothes, furniture, rugs and floors when buffing your shoes at home.

In addition, clean the shoes well, making them a clean canvas to start the polishing.

This will ensure that the final result is flawless, and the shoes look professionally polished.

Using a dry rag and a horsehair brush, remove all of the dirt or dust from the entire shoe.

Pay particular attention to the sole and heel of the shoes. If the shoes are stained, it is best to clean the leather with a dyes for leather prior to polishing them.

Cleaners such as Ivory soap, saddle soap or Murphy’s Oil soap works well to remove embedded stains from leather without damaging the fibers.

In order to further protect the fiber of the leather, leather shoes are often treated with conditioners in-between polishes.

Conditioners remove the old layer of polish, then moisturizes and softens the leather before it is polished.

This keeps the leather soft and supple while preventing it from getting excessively dry and cracking.

It is common practice to match the color of the wax as close as possible to the color of the shoes.

In the case that the shoes are light in color but cannot be matched to a wax, neutral polish is recommended.

Liquid polishes are not recommended. While they provide a glossy finish, they cause the leather to become dry and brittle, which is the main cause of cracked leather.

One trick used in order to keep wax polish soft is to use hot water. The warmth of the water helps the polish to work into leather more evenly.

Also, use an oil-based chamois to buff the shoes after polishing.

This will deepen the gloss, while further clearing any excess polish that main stain your socks our trousers.


How To Polish Your Shoes The Optimal Way

Getting the best shoe shine does not require any special skill or technique, just attention to detail.

As long as you choose the proper type and color of polish, you can rejuvenate your shoes and make them look like new.

Make sure to follow the steps carefully, since leather shoes are hard to be repaired once they are damaged.


Step 1: Start by saturating the leather shoes with polish, making sure to cover the entire shoe. Do not be afraid to use a generous amount of polish, and in order to get the best result, apply it using a polish brush. Ensure that you have covered the shoe evenly, making sure to get polish down into the seams.

Step 2: Place the shoes in a well ventilated area and allow the shoes to sit for 20 minutes, or until the polish has become completely dry.

Step 3: Once dry to the touch, use the horsehair brush to forcefully scrub the excess polish from the shoe until only a small layer of film remains on the shoe.

Step 4: Once you are certain that all of the debris is removed, spend a little time focusing on the heel and toe region of the shoe. Slightly dampen a cotton ball with water and dab a small amount of polish on to the cotton ball. In a circular motion, apply the polish to the heel and toe area of the show. Use small strokes and continue stroking until you have achieved the level of gloss you want.

Step 5: Using a new cotton ball each time, repeat the process of removing excess polish and dabbing polish onto the shoes in order to remove the old coating and freshen up the shine repeatedly over time.


Why Should You Polish Your Shoes

It is easy to understand why people in the military keep their shoes shined.

As they represent their country’s military, they are required to maintain a clean and presentable appearance, or face reprimands.

While there are no serious consequences for not having perfectly glossy shoes outside of the military, everyday people from all walks of live appreciate the value of a good shoe shine.

First and foremost, shoes look clean and almost brand new when they are freshly shined and glossed.

This not only makes people look good, it also makes them feel good.

Secondly, the process of conditioning and buffing the leather preserves the quality and improves the durability of the shoes.

Since the shoes last longer, shoe owners save money by not having to replace them as frequently.

Lastly, people who buy leather shoes know they are expensive.

Polishing your leather shoes not only preserves the shoes themselves, but it protects their investment.


Chemical Components of polish

In years prior to the twentieth century, shoe polish was referred to as dubbin, a mixture of wax, tallow, ash and oil.

It effectively softened and waterproofed leather shoes. The problem was that it did not make the shoes shine, at all.
As the demand for leather shoes and boots with a more natural overlay increased, so did the demand for an increased glossy appearance.
As a result, alternative concoctions were created in order to polish shoes that individuals made at home.

These polishes were usually created using beeswax or lanolin as the base of the formula.

In 1832, James S. Mason, a resident of Philadelphia, started the mercantile production of his very own Mason polish.

The base of his formula consisted of lampblack and tallow and included other ingredients commonly used during that time period.
His formula worked so well that he was able to construct a small warehouse, hire 200 hundred employees, and begin mass production, ultimately reaching the milestone of ten million units produced each year.

This continued until 1919, when Mason’s business came to a halt. Mason’s business was permanently closed down and the building was demolished.

In 1904, temporary Scottish immigrants William Ramsay and Hamilton McKellan created Kiwi, a new formulation of polish

that replenished the suppleness and water resistance to the leather that is treated.
The ingredients of the new formulation included naphtha, turpentine, lanolin, gum arabic, Carnauba wax, ethylene glycol, and a colorant, such as carbon or a dye.
The well known Kiwi polish brand emerged from that formulation, becoming the most prominent polish manufacturer among the military and general public.



How Polishing Works

Some people mistakenly assume that polish is colored wax that paints the surface of shoes.

While that is somewhat true, the truth is shoe wax is a blend of waxes, melted at varying melting points

in order to create a balance between comfortable application, shine and longevity.

When applied with an applicator brush or rag, polish is rubbed on the shoes with a back and forth motion.

The friction of the rubbing motion generates enough heat to melt the polish and transfer the polish from the bush or rag, onto the shoes.

The wax changes its’ consistency, transforming into a liquid substance that flows into the creases and scuffs on the shoes.

Upon initial application, the polish gives the shoes a matte or dull appearance that is uneven and rough looking

A flannel cloth is used to buff the shoes. By creating additional friction, the wax melts yet again, allowing the wax to smooth out one final time.

As a result, the shoes become glossy enough to reflect light, almost like a mirror.



Types of Polish

Before polishing your shoes, carefully choose the most appropriate type of polish. While the liquid form of shoe wax is available, it is not recommended.

Cream and wax are the two different types of polish that delivers the best result and preserves the leather.

The choice of texture is decided by the type of leather your shoes are made of.

First and foremost, cream polish works well for soft and supple leathers such as corrected grain or split leather.

Both types of leather are manipulated and treated with an artificial surface during the manufacturing process, which reduces the strength and durability of the leather.

Cream polish is the best polish for black leather shoes, boots and elegant shoes, as the texture of the cream is gentle on the fabric.

Wax polishes are to harsh on these types of leather shoes, and can actually damage the shoes if used incorrectly.

Cream polishes contain mineral oil, which moisturizes the leather and helps it maintain its’ flexibility.

It soaks into the materiel while still allowing the leather to breathe.

While cream polishes may be effective at restoring the shoe’s natural color, it is not very effective at covering scuff marks.

Meltonian’s Boot and Shine Cream Polish, Kiwi’s polish Paste, Kiwi’s Select Premium Clear Paste are cream polishes that work well for revitalizing the color of your leather shoes.


On the other hand, wax polish is best suited for stiff and highly durable leather, such as full-grain and top-grain leather.

These types of leather come in a more natural and untreated condition, allowing the natural flexibility and fiber strength to remain intact.

Wax polish is the best polish for military boots and army shoes, as they are typically made of the finest full-grain leathers and need a polish that can work effectively on scuffs.

Wax polish contains turpentine or beeswax which seals the leather when applied.

This makes wax polish a very effective option for covering scuff marks and delivering the highly desired glossy result.

Wax polishes not only increases the durability of the leather shoes, but they also make the shoes more resistant to stains.

While they are known to dry the leather out over time, wax polishes preserve the new-like appearance of the shoes so that they look better for longer.

Some great examples of shoe wax are Angelus shoe wax polish and Lincoln shoe wax polish.



Accessories For Leather Shoe Care

Besides the rags and polish, there are other accessories that are available to help you preserve your leather shoes and optimize the effectiveness of each shoe shine.

There are dyes for leather as well as conditioners that help maintain the appearance of leather shoes.

There are also waterproofing protectors and stain repellent products available that can lengthen the longevity of your shoes.

The Best Shoe Dyes

Some leathers start to fade, especially in areas that are scuffed more frequently, like in the toe and heel area.

Shoe dyes can be used to restore the color of the leather while evenly blending the shoes back into their original condition.

Kiwi makes a widely popular black dye, while Tarrango’s Quick Color Dye and Meltonian’s Shoe Color Spray are other reliable products.

For treating professional grade leather, Fiebling’s Leather Dye and Kelly’s Professional Grade Leather Dye are two reliable options that have become popular.

For those who need a variety of less traditional colors to choose from, Angelus’s Acrylic Leather Paint Starter Kit is perfect, as it comes with 12 different colors of shoe dyes that match the most commonly sold colors of leather shoes.


Leather Conditioner

Leather shoes need to be conditioned prior to being polished to prevent stiffness and protect the leather from the harshness of the polishing process.

Leather Honey Leather Conditioner is one of the most popular conditioners on the market, as it has been around since 1968.

It works on almost all types of leathers, which means it works great on purses and jackets as well.


The Best Leather Protectors

Although wax polishes provide a sealant layer of protection, it does not make the leather shoes waterproof.

Waterproofing leather protectors such as Atsko Sno-Seal Original Beeswax Waterproofing Leather Protector work very effectively at protecting leather from rain and flood water stains.


Suede protector

The Best Suede Protector

Some leather shoes have patches of suede on them, and should be treated with extra special care.

Leather cleaners should never be used on suede, as it will damage the fabric.

Suede protectors like Kiwi Suede Protector and Scotchgard Suede and Nubuck Leather Protector are specially formulated to offer the optimum protection.

Since suede is more easily stained by water as opposed to traditional leather, these types of protectors should be used prior to the shoes being worn for first time in order to preserve their appearance.


Boot Protector

Military and work boots need an extra measure of protection, as they are designed for the harshest of wear and tear conditions.

Aside from leather conditioning and using wax polishes, boot protectors such as Kiwi Camp Dry Boot Protector and Atsko Sno-Seal Original Beeswax Waterproofing Leather Protector


Rain and Stain Repellent

In order to repel stains while providing waterproofing protection, use rain and stain repellent in order to increase how long your fine leather shoes last.

Repellents such as Kiwi’s Protect All Rain and Stain Repellent work great of providing all over coverage that lasts a long time and keeps the inside of the boots completely dry.

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