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Off-the-shelf shoe care

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
I've about a dozen pairs of shoes that are in need of some time at the shoe spa. They're dress shoes of varying flavors... cole haans, maglis, ferragamos, a couple of pairs of tramezzas. Not the thousand dollar shoes some people here have but not terribly cheap either. Most are in ok condition, just dried out and dusty a bit. No torn leather or terrible wrinkles. Most have had cedar shoe trees in them during their months of disuse.

I've recently started my own business and am trying to save pennies, so I'd prefer not to take them to the local shoe shine places, knowing what they tend to charge around here per pair. I also would like to do this over the weekend so ordering boutique shoe care products online isn't an ideal option. What I'm looking for is advice on shoe creams, leather treatment, brush, etc., for clean/shine/buff that I could pick up at a local store on a weekend so that I could burn a chunk of tomorrow giving some TLC to these shoes.

I don't know much about shoe care but I do know a fair deal about car detailing and know that there are off-the-shelf products that work wonders and other ones (armor all!!!) that can be terrible. So I'm hoping for some similar advice for my shoes
post #2 of 30
It's kind of therapeutic to spend an afternoon shining shoes in front of the TV/listening to music.

You don't need too much special kit. Kiwi offer a decent, reasonably priced range of creams and polishes. You'll get different opinions on cream vs polish, probably the bottom line is that if you want a spit-shine, you'll need polish.

As for technique, clean off any gunk/dirt with a brush. A damp cloth helps if there's real encrusted grime. You might want a small pick or similar to get rid of any build up in the brogueing holes if you're really obsessive.

Apply a small amount of polish with a clean cloth and work in, repeat to cover the shoe. Then brush to a shine after leaving it in for a few minutes. If you want a spit shine on the toe, you'll need to apply small amounts of polish/water and work it in, in small circles. Takes a bit of time and effort to learn the right mix of the two to achieve the finish, but once you get the hang of it, it isn't difficult. If you don't want a spit shine, just ignore this bit.

That's the rough and ready layman's cleaning/polishing process. The real shoe guys will undoubtedly provide more detail and information and you can get really finicky with edge dressing, etc, etc, but really, I think for most people, the above is enough.

Oh, one thing I do like is polishing the sole (obviously not the parts that come into contact with the ground). Probably just me being fussy!
post #3 of 30
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the informative and reassuring reply!

I am glad to hear that standard Kiwi type stuff would work ok. I was going to wipe down the shoes with a damp cloth and *possibly* use a very mild detergent (maybe a bit of highly diluted woolite) in the process, then do two or three coats of polish. Edge dressing also would be nice since a lot of these shoes have pretty dirty edges that could be spruced up to big effect fairly quickly.
post #4 of 30
You'll find almost as many different schools of thought regarding shoe polishes as car polishes.

To clean and condition is easy. You can use Lexol protectant and cleaner on your shoes. You do need to be careful with the cleaner, as it can strip color if you rub overzealously. The conditioner can darken shoes that are mid-tan or lighter, but it's fine on black and medium to dark brown shoes. So for the first part of the equation you can use familiar detailing staples.

For the second part, polishing, there is a fair amount of personal taste involved. Just avoid products containing silicone (Kiwi Parade Gloss and the "quick shine" products) and you will be fine from a leather care perspective. Shoe cream has more pigment than wax-based polish, so cream is good for restoring color and covering defects. It is also a better conditioner than wax polish (which is a moot issue if you use Lexol). However, cream does a lousy job of protecting shoes, which is why I use wax polish as the top coat. I find regular Kiwi polish to do a fine job, but have switched to using Angelus polishes because I find them to get a better shine with less effort.

Pretty much all you need to fix up the shoes at a basic level is a bunch of clean rags, some Lexol conditioner, and wax polish that matches the color of your shoes. If you have trouble getting exact matches to any of your brown shoes, you can go one shade lighter to avoid darkening them (at some risk of excess wax causing visible buildup in the creases) or one shade darker to add some antiquing effect.
post #5 of 30
I second the Lexol suggestion. I'm a big believer in conditioning, particularly if the leather seems dry. I like to apply it generously -- sometimes two doses, if the leather seems particularly thirsty -- then let the leather dry overnight before moving on to cream/polish.
post #6 of 30
Use the damp cloth to remove all the dirt and grime. It is OK to leave the shoe a slight bit damp from the dirt removal. Then liberally use the Lexol cleaner/conditioner to moisturize the shoes and clean them some more. Notice that these conditioners recommend that you brush as the final conditioning step. The combination of the first wipe off with water and the cleaning with the Lexol should do a pretty good job of getting rid of the dead polish as well as the dirt. Brushing after the conditioner has somewhat softened the old polish will help with the cleanup. BTW, I would also recommend the Allen Edmonds conditioner as a very good product. Both of these - Lexol and AE - will stay "wet" long enough for the leather to absorb some of it.

Following the cleanup and conditioning, I use Meltonian cream to polish the shoes. The Meltonian is available in lots of different colors. The cream will also contribute a bit to conditioning the leather. It also seems to me to do a very good job of restoring or applying color. I don't really wait for it to dry - as in overnight. Apply cream to the left shoe, let rest while applying cream to the right shoe. The hit the left shoe with the brush, get the shine, go to the right shoe and brush. Since it has not really hardened, the brush will shift the polish around a bit and I believe it will result in less polish buildup on the shoe and in the brouging. Usually just the shoe brush will take it out of the holes at this stage.

The cream polish will generate a very high shine. And, if you follow the above for several sessions, the shine will get a bit better as the pores get a bit filled with the polish. I prefer a good shine that is somewhat more a glow rather than the mirror type of shine that can be done with the wax. further, it is much easier to maintain. There is probably little difference in the protection of the leather from either wax or cream, other than the moisturizing that the cream may give. The sealing properties are not going to be much different.

If you clean with water and polish with the cream after every three or four wearings (which will probably be necessary to maintain apperances) and then use the conditioner every third or fourth polishing session, the shoes will last a very long time. And look very good the entire time.
post #7 of 30
Great advice, from all. My favorite polish, is Lincoln's. I like Meltonian, too, but you've got to be very careful not to apply too much, or you'll get bumps on the surface of your leather goods. Coach sells a great leather conditioner / cleaner, that I use, too.
post #8 of 30
I guess I'm just too thrifty to use too much of the cream. I only pick up a small amount on the application cloth I use. Then spread it as far as I can. A few times, but rarely, I have given the shoes tow coats of the polish if the shine does not seem quite good enough. Anyway, I've never been troubled by the clumps as I make sure to use anything like a lump to get full use from the polish. BTW, that is the reason I've never used the small polish application dauber/brush. It always seemed to me that it is a real mess waiting to happen.
post #9 of 30
Oh, I'm thrifty too, Charley. But Meltonian is different from any other shoe preparation, I've tried. You're right. Very little, is necessary. I never use daubers, either . . . just a small scrap of cloth. btw: Meltonian can dry out, too. I keep it inside my basement, where it's always cool. Seems to help.
post #10 of 30
Quick question:

-- Conditioner can be put on (heavily) and left overnight before buffing off, but shoe cream should be taken care pretty quickly (within 20 minutes)? Also, with conditioner, I have a pair of boots with pretty tough leather. If gob on some conditioner (I have the Crema Alpina) in a thick layer and leave it overnight, will that soften it?

post #11 of 30
Thread Starter 
Thanks again for the advice. I have plenty of Lexox (cleaner and conditioner both) and have run quite a few pairs through them now. Working on the polish & brushing now. It seems that a wax polish should probably make more sense than cream since I'm using Lexos conditioner.
post #12 of 30
Originally Posted by arced
Quick question:

-- Conditioner can be put on (heavily) and left overnight before buffing off, but shoe cream should be taken care pretty quickly (within 20 minutes)? Also, with conditioner, I have a pair of boots with pretty tough leather. If gob on some conditioner (I have the Crema Alpina) in a thick layer and leave it overnight, will that soften it?


My suggestion is that you wipe/brush the conditioner within about 20 minutes or so. The stuff seems to get sticky when left to dry too long on the surface, just IMO though.

I've not used the cream Alpina so it is hard to really address that question. I don't believe that extremely heavy applications of conditioner will provide much in additional benefit. Just use a moderately "sloppy" application. Whatever is on the surface of the "very heavy" application would somehow have to get through the contact point between the leather and the conditioner. I expect that you would be much better off with two or three lighter applications - ultimately using the same volume.

If the boots are somewhat sport boots - not meant to have a high shine as a dress shoe - I would recommend Neats Foot Oil. However, it will be very hard (maybe impossible) to get the shoes to a high shine after using that product. Slightly wet the shoes with a damp cloth and liberally put it on. You can let that one sit overnight as the oil does not seem to get sticky. The stuff seems to hold up better under wet conditions than regular conditioner does. It will help softern the shoes. I have had some success in getting some shine with the Neats Foot Oil by using a cream polish. Apply the oil to the damp shoes, let that sit for several minutes and wipe off. Then before the shoe has dried, apply the cream polish so that it somewhat mixes with the slight bit of oil remaining. My observation is that the drying cream will also help to dry up the very top bit of the oil that can otherwise prevent the shine from developing.
post #13 of 30
I'd appreciate it if someone would comment on polishing shoes that have an antique finish. I have some Lidforts that I've been hesitant to polish as I don't want to lose the finish.
post #14 of 30
Originally Posted by Holdfast
It's kind of therapeutic to spend an afternoon shining shoes in front of the TV/listening to music.

second that!
post #15 of 30
Sorry to resurrect this thread. I tried conditioning and polishing for the first time. Boy this seems like hard work.

I spend over 1 hour on a pair of shoes.

I cleaned the pair of shoes with a damp cloth. Put on some Lexol lighltly and let it dry for about 10 monutes and then started the polishing. One thin coat and let it haze. On to the next shoe. Then back the first shoe. A little buffing and a new thin coat of kiwi polish. Same on the next shoe. Then back to the first shoe. I sprayed a littel water on to a fresh rag and started buffing and then the same with the other shoe. I kept buffing and more buffing, buffing, buffing, buffing . . . . . okay you get the point.

I can seem to get the shoes to a high shine. It still seems that there still is haze over the shoes. It doesn't even seem to have gotten to a glow.

Are my expectations too high for the first time? Am I doing something wrong?

My local cobbler told me that getting the shoes to a high shine will be very difficult after Lexol. Anyone else have the same experience? What is the solution?

Shoe shine mavens, please help . . . .
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