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Making Shoe Polish at Home

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

I saw a B&S post by some SFer selling some homemade shoe polish. That sparked an interest in looking into experimenting with making some polish myself. I had been thinking of it for a while before that, but never got around to actually getting my hands dirty. Got myself some organic beeswax, some organic carnauba wax, and some turpentine, and got set on my project. Did some research for some recipes online. Surprising how difficult it is to get a hold of some simple recipes for old shoe polish! There were some old chemistry books etc. on Google Books that were of help. Did not have a weighting machine, so did some calculations and approximations, to get the right proportions of ingredients. It was an experiment after all - all that I had to lose was some wax and a half cup of turpentine. 


Surprisingly, the results were great. Didn't want to experiment with my good shoes, so started with some beaten up Zegna fatte-a-manos and was immediately surprised at how quickly they took a shine. Next up were some vintage J&M wingtips that I'd scored on Ebay a while back. They too took a shine quickly. Next up, a pair of Nettleton boots that I really like. Solidly made and beautiful. Pictures of those are attached. And this was about a 15 minute shining effort at most. No multiple coats, letting it sit for hours, then buffing, etc. The homemade wax polish, and a few drops of water was all it took. 


My myriad Saphir polishes that I have spent decent money on - maybe it sounds unbelievable to most, and I am certainly very surprised myself - have not given me a much better shine. They are pigmented however, and the wax that I made is neutral. I have to research on the best pigments to use, and how much. But aside from the pigment, I don't see much difference. I'm sure Saphir is better, of course, with all the research and trial-and-error that must have gone into the making of a well-loved product. However, I cannot help but say that if it is this easy to make good shoe polish, more people should be doing it. I'd love to hear if some closet DIYers have done this. We can learn from each others experiences. A brave new world - where there is no more wondering about whether or not this or that polish has silicone in it! :P


Excuse the quality of the pictures. I used my phone, for lack of a digital camera at present.









post #2 of 8
Your polish cleans and shines nicely, but do you have anything in there to nourish the leather?

Also, back in the days when shoe polish was homemade, people generally experimented with their own recipes, which is probably why you aren't finding many standardized ones. It was a messy pain to make the polish and involved a good bit of guesswork, which is why ready made tins were adopted so quickly.
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Well, I would use leather conditioner (renovateur, AE cleaner/conditioner, etc.) for conditioning and shoe creams for replenishing color. I don't know if wax polish is for leather nourishment. It gives the shoes a shine and gives a nice, mostly waterproof coating, but apart from that, I don't believe it nourishes the leather in anyway.


So, in so far as I'm correct in this - it's only the quality of the shine that matters for shoe polish. In fact, from the Hanger Project site: "Saphir's Pate de Luxe Wax is composed primarily of three types high-quality waxes: animal waxes such as beeswax, vegetable waxes such as carnauba, and mineral waxes. Specially formulated to pass the "icing," or a high-gloss shine, Saphir's formula is based on a pine turpentine, carnauba wax (extracted from leaves of Brazilian palm trees), and six other waxes chosen for their special nourishing, protective, softening, and shining properties. Combined with both a higher concentration and higher quality pigments, you will obtain an incomparable shine with Saphir's Medialle D'Or wax polish! "


Saphir Wax polish uses more types of waxes than I did. But I believe it's still primarily wax and solvent. 


I know the Saphir shoe creme has a shea butter base. In fact I experimented with that as well - getting myself some pure shea butter and beeswax, melting them together and emulsifying, etc.. Interestingly, unlike some other conditioners that I've experimented with before, this homemade conditioner didn't darken the shoes at all, just gave it a nice satin-like glow and sheen. However making a shoe cream without pigment seems not very useful. And at present I don't have any pigment. So that's a work in progress. 


post #4 of 8

Very nice results!  I would love to hear more from you and any other experienced members on your recipes, resources for research, tips and tricks, etc.  Love the DIY ambition!

post #5 of 8

Here's a resource I stumbled on:

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

PM'ed you some info. Let me know how it goes! I had a lot of fun ... Cheers!

post #7 of 8

Thank you for the work. Perhaps I missed it somewhere, but I would be interested in knowing the measurements you used. Also, did any of the resources you found list what they used for pigment?  Thanks!

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

It was quite a while ago when I tried this, so I don't believe I have the exact recipe anymore. Moving from the east to the west coast I lost the recipe, although I had jotted it down somewhere for future reference.


I remember I used a rather high percentage of carnauba wax (I believe it was either 33% or 25%) to beeswax - i.e. 1 part carnauba to 2 (or 3) parts beeswax. You may use a lower percentage. It was easier than I thought it would be to make polish that gave a great shine. 


I can send you some links to a few recipes online that I used as a guide if that helps. I remember researching dyes at the time, but they weren't available locally, and I didn't follow through on the project long enough to order them online and re-do my experiment.


The little can of neutral polish that I made seems like it will last me another year. You need very little of the polish and it shines beautifully. I wonder if I can replicate it myself. 


Below are a few recipes that I looked at (there were a lot more, but you get the idea):


Beeswax Polish recipe here:


Beeswax Polish recipe here:

All that I used was turpentine, beeswax, and carnauba wax - in that order by weight. Turpentine was from the Utrecht art supply store. Make sure you get the real thing and not the fake turpentine substitute. Organic beeswax beads from ebay. Carnauba wax also from ebay.

Let me know how you get along if you delve into this. Cheers!
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