The Shoe Snob Blog

August 10, 2016

Written by , Posted in News

Shoe Shining – Tips & Tricks

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The most glass like you will ever see….I promise that!

 

I have written a formal post about how to polish your shoes properly but just recently realized that I have never shared the secrets to overcoming all of the obstacles of getting to be able to consistently polish one’s shoes to said standard. That being, allow me list out some of the tips and tricks that I have learned over the years, from all of my trial and error. Here goes:

1. Shining new shoes will always be harder than shining used ones. This is because the pores have yet to fully open and ‘accept’ the polish. They are thus more closed than a shoe that has been worn several times and subsequently harder to get the polish to ‘set’ and be able to create that super shine. The older the shoe, the easier to polish.

2. Wax polish works in the same way (as above). New wax polish will be very moist and because of that will simply swish around the top of the leather and not ‘set’ into the pores to thus dry and create a ‘flat’ surface so that you can build the layers. The older the wax (and thus the more ‘sticky’) the more easily the wax will stick to the leather and set into the pores. One trick is to leave a new tin in the freezer overnight which should harden it up a bit and make it stick better.

3. New cloth rags are also the same way. The newer the rag, the harder it will be shine to the shoes. Rags with old polish on them will make it so the wax sticks easier to the leather. However, the older rags will also sometimes make it harder to finish your mirror shine as the old polish will essentially lightly scratch the mirror effect off the polish. And onto trick 4 of how to prevent this.

4. When finishing your mirror shine, if you think you are done, most likely you will notice light ‘scratches’ on the surface of the shine and wonder how to get rid of those to achieve that perfect mirror finish. Well, what you do is take a brand new cloth and dab a very light bit of polish on it and use a dab of water to place on the shoe and in back and forth motions, rub as quickly as you can (to quite light friction) and thus get rid of those scratches (see end of polishing video for visual guidance).

5. Never shine shoes without shoe trees in them. It’s like trying to trying to blow up an air mattress with your mouth as opposed to the electric pump i.e. time wasting.

Berluti shoes with a lovely shine!

Berluti shoes with a lovely shine!

6. Hair dryers will help to get rid of wrinkles and creases but it will never be permanent. But don’t burn the leather by holding it too close and always have a shoe tree in them when attempting this. Do not do this on tan shoes though unless you want to darken them….significantly.

7. Tan shoes are hardest to polish, 1. because it is extremely difficult to keep them the same shade of tan and 2. because it is very difficult to get any stains out of them. Once ruined, tan shoes are pretty much un-salvageable unless you dye them (preferably by giving them to a patina artist). This is simply the downfall of tan shoes.

8. Blue wax polish will give you a nicer and shinier shine than black polish.

9. Mirror shines should only really be on the toe caps, heel counters and sometimes the facing. Everywhere else should not have the glass like effect but rather a nice blending look. The reason being is that the rest of the shoe bends and thus the polish will crack and leave an unpleasant look. The heels and caps have stiffeners underneath them to keep them from bending (in theory).

10. I don’t wash my welt brushes as the more wax build up the better it will get into the pores of the leather when applying cream polish. But I then I use 4 different welt brushes: 1 for black, 1 for tan, 1 for mid brown, dark brown, burgundy and 1 for various other colors.

Crockett & Jones with perfectly balanced shine

Crockett & Jones with perfectly balanced shine, not too shiny but elegant

11. Nylon, women’s tights, pantyhoes etc will help clean your shoes, leave a small shine and get off any light scuffs that could be on the leather.

12. Once the surface of the leather has been compromised (such as a cut or leather comes off), it cannot be undone nor repaired. Accept that fact and do  your best to blend in the blemish with a good polish job.

13. A quick shine will never be a real mirror shine. It will be shiny, no doubt, but won’t last very long. A real mirror takes time, a lot of it. The pores have to be completely filled in order to make a flat surface. That flat surface is what essentially is the ‘glass’ effect. No quick shine can do that. Never trust anything that claims to do a mirror or glass shine in anything less than an hour.

14. There is fine balance between wax ‘n water applications. It cannot be explained but only learned by doing. Always start with a little and work your way up. Too much of anything is never good.

15. The more porous the leather, the longer and harder it will be/take to shine. The less porous, the easier.

16. Shoe shining should be therapeutic. If it is not, then you are not doing it right. Relax, don’t think too much and see that a little goes a long way.

To find products that will help you achieve the best shines, please see our webshop at

www.theshoesnob.com

J.FitzPatrick shoes shined by yours truly...back when I had my A game!

J.FitzPatrick shoes shined by yours truly…back when I had my A game!

 

  • T Slinger Footwear

    Justin I have been making bespoke shoes for 35 years
    This is a great post to me it is obvious but you have really hit the nail on the head for people polishing shoes
    I obviously have my own tricks but well done this is great T Slinger Footwear

  • Joseph Sparks

    A final touch, glass polish, a tiny spray and a polish with a microfiber cloth.

  • Sixteen tips for giving a well-organized and informative knowledge to the shoes lovers.

    Thank you Justin

  • Jeffrey S.

    Thank you for all the detailed information, but I’m left wondering if the multiple hours needed includes 20 minutes of drying time between each application session, or are you applying the wax constantly for those multiple hours, with no break except for the last application, as stated?
    Thank you,
    Jeffrey
    No.California

  • DBD

    I feel like I have mastered polishing shoes with colored shoe wax. However I am still having issues using Neutral waxes. Do you have any tips for applying neutral wax without getting white buildup in seems?

    • DBD

      To be more direct, can we get a stand alone article about neutral wax. Thanks!

    • TheShoeSnob

      no there is not trick, that is just the way it is. all polish leaves this residue only you don’t see it when it is the same shade as your leather

  • Steve

    Great information. Thank you. I have one question though, do you ever use an electric buffer or do you do everything by hand? It seems to me using an electric buffer would cut down significantly on the time required to shine shoes. Thanks again for all of your help.

    • TheShoeSnob

      i do everything by hand. Electric buffers can do this type of shine

  • Володимир Слободян

    6 tips^ you say about hair dryers. How long time ? what temperature we need ? more details about ?

    thanks
    This is Better blog about shoe & care

    • TheShoeSnob

      high temperature and short time….see if it helps and repeat if necessary

  • sam

    Great Information.

    Need a clarification “Blue wax polish will give you a nicer and shinier shine than black polish.”

    Are you recommending that we use blue polish on Black shoes ??

    • Juan Manuel

      My question as well.

      • TheShoeSnob

        see above

    • TheShoeSnob

      yes it will….for some reason the slightly lighter tone/pigment on blue polish (navy) will reflect better during daylight

  • Andrew Whitaker

    Currently doing a refurburbishment on a pair of Doc’ Martens. (Not exactly classy I know) using products bought from you. Strip back. Dye with attempt at patina.. Condition and polish. All hints happily accepted and taken on board.

  • TheShoeSnob
  • JZ

    Your tips have been extremely helpful, and I follow them to the letter. I found your shoe snob starter kit to be perfect. I was wondering though whether you have any tips regarding shining and taking care of cordovans? Do you really need to get a deer bone and all the related cordovan only cream and polish? I recently ordered a Carmina double monk that is green and I don’t think Saphir has a cordovan only cream/polish that is green, in that case would it be possible just to use a regular green polish or should I stick to a neutral cordovan polish (though don’t know how that would cover the scratches in the long run).