Originally Posted by dbhdnhdbh
That is very helpful, thanks.
Are there reasons to prefer certain waxes over others based on the type of leather? Shell vs calf? Calf vs exotics? Different textures or thicknesses of calf?
I have seen people here and elsewhere recommend greasy products for treating work boots. The idea, I gather, is that these impart more water resistance than the treatments usually used for dress shoes. But they caution against using them for dress shoes. Others say never to use such things on leather, regardless of the intended use.
I would expect low melting point waxes to be challenging to acheive or maintain a shine as the wax softens from the warmth of being worn. Other than that, are there differences that matter?
Right now I am on a natural kick, trying to stay with compounds that could have been used for centuries, and therefore likely to avoid materials toxic to me when I apply them. For boots, that has meant beeswax and lanolin for uppers. For dress shoes the lanolin seems to stay tacky, so I use it as a sort of conditioner, but not a top treatment. For the surface appearance of dress shoes I am playing with a combination of beeswax and carnauba. Melting them, mixing with some sort of vegetable-derived oil, and applying is fun, but more experimental than a final solution.
So, same wax for calf, exotic, and shell, or different waxes for each one?
Whatever the answer, why?
I followed a similar path when I created my GlenKaren shoe polish. The first priority was to find the best ingredients for shoe leather, the second priority was all-natural ingredients, and the third priority was to produce a product with a pleasant smell (so my wife would let polish my shoes in the house).
You question touches on oils as well as waxes, so I will try to touch on both. You also ask about leather types which is a broader topic, but directly relevant to care products.
First there are different types of cow leather, as has been discussed in this thread, but for the sake of care there are really only a few differences to consider, but these differences are based on a number of factors; these factors include methods of how the leather was stuffed in the tanning process (fatliquoried, hot stuffed, wet stuffed).
There is also the direction of the leather (grain out versus flesh out), and the finish on the leather such as full aniline, semi-aniline, and corrected grain, as well as the amount and ratio of oils and waxes stuffed into the leather.
There are also the differences in the material type to consider. Calf is typically going to be thinner and tighter grained than other leather. Shell cordovan is really not grained leather like cow, but rather a subdermal sheath from the butt of a horse, and is treated like hot stuffed flesh out leather.
Exotic skins do not have a grain so to speak, but rather plates or scales and doesn’t really have much of a corium (where the majority of conditioning oils reside in leather), and as such does not benefit much from conditioning.
And finally, there is the general difference in leather thickness used for various applications, as in thicker leather for work boots and thinner leather for dress/business shoes.
With those considerations in mind (the why), I believe the following is applicable for leather care:
In general I would suggest a quality (containing no petroleum distillates) cream shoe polish for most leathers, even exotics.
In specific I would not recommend shoe care products high in wax (as in paste/wax polish) on oiled leathers like Chromexcel /Pull up. Products like SnoSeal which are mostly beeswax (and vey thick) are good for helping weatherproof thicker boot leather, but would tend to smother thinner shoe leather.
I would not recommend shoe care products high in oils (dubbin, Obenauf's, etc…) on calf skin, thinner leather, exotic leathers, cordovan shell, or corrected grain. The thicker leather of work boots can accommodate the higher levels of oil, which also helps in moisture protection.
I would not recommend shoe care products high is solvents (cleaner/conditioners) on corrected grain leather, shell cordovan, or exotic leathers.
There are also products designed specifically for exotic leather care.
When I mention corrected grain I am referring to bookbinder type leather where there is a substantial acrylic finish.
As far as differences in wax: Beeswax is softer so it spreads easier and creates a good glow shine when brushed. Carnauba wax is a little harder so it does not spread as easily, but creates a good spit shine. I simply avoid paraffin wax.
The wax in shoe polish tends to remain mostly on the surface of the leather so the type of wax in not directly relevant to the type of leather (this is not true in the tanning process when the leather is stuffed).
On a side note: Neatsfoot oil can contain mineral oil, even when it is stated to be 100% Neatsfoot oil.