I have always been frustrated about polishing shoes. Ever since I was a young boy, I would polish my shoes by using “Kiwi” and a shoe brush. I forgot if it was a horsehair or nylon brush, but just when I thought that I had done a good job I would see a classmate’s shoes done better. And in my ignorance, I would put more polish thinking more polish would result in a better shine. It came to a point that I was using liquid polish in high school.
When I was in ROTC during college things remained the same. There were no instructional videos back then so while our officers were talking about fire shining their boots all I could do was listen and ask how it was done, try it at home and fail miserably. I also tried spit shining but without knowing that I had to be patient to build up that polish and gave up eventually. I went back to applying a thick coat of wax using a rag then brushing it vigorously to get it to shine. There was shine… but no gloss.
Years later, YouTube has provided me the opportunity to learn again, but this time my concern is that most of the nice materials/brands are not available locally. Not only that, there is a mismatch between your entry-mid tier shoes and the classy high end creams and polishes. I decided to study the readily available materials here in the Philippines and apply them to our local leathers. Here is a short video on the steps in doing a general shoe maintenance for locally tanned leathers.
I will now discuss the materials that I used in this video.
- “dirty” brush – for the outsole, I used a regular stiff nylon brush that is used for laundry. This is to be able to scrub off the dirt that is stuck on the bottom of soles. For the upper, I used a nylon shoe brush which I got from the supermarket (Unimart) which is stiff enough to brush off the dirt but gentle enough on the leather.
- Wipeout – a basic general purpose dirt remover/degreaser. Works well with most leather. It is advised to try on a small spot that’s hidden to see if the leather will repel or absorb it. I would advise against using it on soft and porous leathers which are mostly found in bags and “soft shoes” (usually the brown/tan ones) from Aldo, Pedro, Ecco, Rockport, etc. Normally, leather cleaners such as saddle soap are used but should also be tested first. This can be skipped if the shoes aren’t used as much, I’d recommend cleaning every 3 to 4 months for pullside leathers, if the shoes are used on a regular basis.
- Shucare shoe cream – this is usually available in SM Department Store (or you may contact us if you cant find any) and acts like a moisturizer and rejuvenator for the leather. It has a bit of bees wax which will give your shoe a bit of a polish when you brush it.
- Local horse hair brush – the local brushes are a bit stiffer and loosely packed but is good enough for your basic buffing. Just remember to brush it against a clean rag every so often to rub off the wax that accumulates on it as you brush off the wax from your shoes.
- Cotton rag – I like to use a muslin (lampin) cloth for the creams and pranela for waxes. Of course you can use old tattered shirts/clothes also as long as there is a good amount of cotton in its composition.
- Shoe wax – you have an option of using local or imported waxes for this. Kiwi, of course, is an imported product and is the most well known. If you can, you can also buy their Parade Gloss variant for an easier time in getting that mirror finish. For local waxes, I would recommend using Shineboy. It is not as harmful to the leather as Kiwi in the long run.
- Imported horse hair brush – for the final polish, I use an imported horse hair brush since it is softer and gentler on the wax layer, minimizing hairline streaks to create a gentle shine and is great for creating that transition from the high gloss polis at the toe box to a standard polish in the body of the shoe.
This maintenance regiment should be done every few months. Normally, alternating between creams and waxes on a monthly basis should be good enough. I’ve had clients bring in their 2-3 year old pairs which have no signs of any maintenance whatsoever but are still good. Of course I go through the whole reconditioning process once I get those to extend the life of the leather uppers as well as giving it spiffy, maintained look.