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Shoe completely absorbing cleaner, conditioner and polish


May 18, 2010
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I just cleaned, conditioned and polished a pair of shoes I've sparsely worn over the last 15 years and I'm concerned with the results. At every stage, the shoes seemed to over absorb everything I put on them and become darker with each product. Definitely not the look I was going for, and I'm hoping to understand where I went wrong and what I can do to correct it. I believe the shoes are calfskin, and this was my process:

1. Clean with Fiebing's Saddle Soap and a few drops of water to make a lather. As I'm lightly working in the lather into the leather with a brush, the leather is looking like it was completely drenched and just sucking all the liquid in. There isn't anything for me to wipe off at the end because the leather has absorbed it all. After this, I decided to only do one shoe and wait a day until the next step. After a day, the leather looks almost like it did prior to the cleaning so I move on to the next step.

2. Massage in Saphir Renovateur. I'm working in little dabs and massaging the stuff in with my hands. Again the leather is just soaking it all in and I'm not leaving any surface residue behind. The leather looks darker again after so I decided to let it sit for another day before moving on to the next step. Now the leather actually looks darker in spots, though not exactly a darker brown like the shoe but little splotches of almost black or gray. Really not happy here but am hopeful I can somehow resolve this with some polish.

3. Polish with Saphir Pommadier Cream and brush off with a horsehair brush. Just like the prior 2 steps the leather is absorbing all the polish and making it difficult to get a consistent coat. I get most of the shoe covered but it looks patchy and is much darker in spots. After brushing it looks no different and I'm regretting doing this at all.

I've attached a picture comparing the cleaned and polished shoe with the untouched one. If it's unclear, the left shoe is the one I worked on. Granted, the picture doesn't make it seem all that different but it is very visible to me in person. This is especially apparent around the seams where I couldn't get the polish in like the more flat and accessible parts.

Is there anything I can do to correct this and get them back to the original chestnut color that was almost a matte finish? Did I use the wrong products? Did I drop the ball by not touching them in years? I just ordered some Saphir Renomat if that helps. Thanks in advance for the feedback, I'm really bummed out.



Jan 12, 2019
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Why did you use the soap? Anyway, if you hadn’t touched the shoes in years, it would have been very dry, which is why it is absorbing everything...though none of the cream polish I use ever leaves a surface residue either. They will darken because you are rehydrating the leather. As to why it is patchy: only guess is that the leather has aged unevenly due to storage conditions and thus reacts differently to the product.

If you have other shoes like this, my recommendation, in this order:

1) Lexol conditioner

2) Saphir cream polish matching the color of the leather, or slightly darker if preferred

3) Saphir wax polish

Simple and effective.

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