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Shoe care questions from a newbie (yes, I've done thorough research)


New Member
Feb 7, 2016
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I know it's a long post and I really appreciate if you make through it. Even more I appreciate any replies. I basically summarized everything I found from various sources and any advice, rebuttal or reassurance will be great to hear.

I have a pretty good quality shoe collection but I’m guilty of neglecting on the shoe care side. Finally decided to fix that. I googled and read quite a bit of stuff about shoe care but I wanted to run it by you gentleman to see if I’m getting everything right and get some of my questions resolved.

I’ve used some random creams with sponge applicators on some of my shoes. I’d like to start by getting rid of anything I could have put on the shoes and then give them a full set of what they really need.

So step 1 – clean the shoes with a brush and a damp cloth, let them dry.

Step 2 – I’m thinking of using Allen Edmonds Conditioner Cleaner (http://www.allenedmonds.com/shoes/s...oner-cleaner/SF570.html?dwvar_SF570_color=649) to strip all junk off the shoes. Is that a good choice? I understand Crema Alpina would be great but it’s hard to find. Do I need anything else to condition the shoes? How about leather oil? I saw some people mention it but not a lot.

Step 3 – apply shoe cream in circular motion. What’s the best way to apply? I read cotton balls or cotton rounds can be used or a cloth rag. I don’t think I trust cotton balls, I think they might leave threads of cotton, cotton rounds sounds good and easier to hold. Do I need to moisten whatever I use as an applicator before dipping in the cream?

What shoe cream do you recommend? I see people standing by various brands but seems like Saphir, Meltonian, Lincoln and Kiwi are most universally considered good brands. Saphir MDO is a bit too expensive so I’m thinking of going with Meltonian. Found it reasonably priced here http://shoeshinekit.com/melshocreamc1.html, my only concern is that it says “Boot and Shoe Cream Polish” – is it still cream? The word “polish” is throwing me away.

I might also grab a jar of AE shoe cream when I’m placing an order at AE for comparison.

My only concern with cream is that some people say using cream gives shoes a “dull” look. I have yet to see what exactly it means but from the context my understanding is that the cream’s pigment takes over any tones of the original color. If that’s the case, it’s probably not that important for black shoes but relevant for other colors. I’m thinking about only getting black and neutral cream – is this the way to go?

Step 4 – brush vigorously with a horsehair brush. How much time do I need to give the cream before brushing? About 15 minutes? Somebody mentioned polishing cream with a rag and only using the brush to polish the wax. Which way is right?
I assume any horsehair brush will do? I’m planning to get two (one for black, one for neutral) from AE (http://www.allenedmonds.com/gifts/gifts-by-price/gifts-under-50-2/horsehair-shine-brush/SF587.html). Is this a good choice? I also found a set at http://shoeshinekit.com/setof4brushes.html a bit cheaper but I think AE brushes look nicer (or they have a better photographer).

Step 5 – brush again with a piece of flannel. I got a set of auto-care flannel duster towels, they’re yellow but I use a similar set for my car seats and I’ve never seen them transfer color. If I’m ordering stuff from AE anyway, I might get a couple of AE polishing cloths (http://www.allenedmonds.com/shoes/shoe-care/cloths-bags/cotton-flannel-polishing-cloth/SF591.html)

Wax – for the most part I’m planning to stay away from wax as I understand it dries out the leather over time. I also don’t think I care much about super shining and probably will be fine with whatever shine I get from the cream. I might try some wax on my black shoes just to see the difference. If I do, do I need to use the flannel in between the cream and the wax or should I just do cream – brush – wax – brush – flannel? I’m guessing the same brush is good for both cream and wax of the same color? Also I read that wax should only be applied to the toe area – is that right? I think I’ll get a can of black Kiwi wax for experiments as it’s widely available and cheap.

Last, shoe trees. Does the brand matter much? I got 10 pairs on sale at Jos A Bank a few years ago and most of my shoes have them inserted constantly. Am I good on that? Do I need to remove them from time to time?
Last edited:


Senior Member
Sep 26, 2013
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To go in reverse, the closer the shoe tree is to the original shape of the last the shoe was created on then the better it will maintain the shoe. Most shoe companies only sell a generic tree rather than last specific and so arguably a generic from another brand is just as good. Just be careful when you first use them that you dont notice the last distort the shape of the shoe at all if its too wide or such.

As to cleaning, personally my routine is based fairly closely on http://www.afinepairofshoes.co.uk/pages/using-saphir and I prefer to apply the cream by brush rather than rag.

For the final shine/ reshining before putting them on (after having brushed off debris the last time I wore them) I prefer to use a "polishing glove" a mitten like thing with natural or synthetic fleece/ fur on the polishing surface. I got mine for "free" from a hotel I stayed in but most the big name makers have something similar


New Member
Feb 7, 2016
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Thank you, Astaroth! Great article!

I guess it's time to get the hands dirty and start working on the shoes :)

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