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Shoe Polishing Help!

jtd64

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Hello! I am a rookie that is attempting to improve my shoe polishing skills. Within the past year I have purchased my first and second pairs of nice dress shoes (AE Fifth Ave., AE Strand). Out of the box I brushed, conditioned, used shoe cream, brushed then was able to successfully put a mirror shine on the toes. I really enjoyed the process of working with the shoes so I purchased a few used pairs of AE's to either keep or "fix up" then possibly sell later on. I am really struggling when it comes to putting a mirror shine on the toes. I have ran into the same issue on multiple pairs and have started over the process and still have the same problems. I posted my issues over on Reddit GYW and have had some advice but nothing seems to be working. Figured I'd see if anyone has run into the same issues. I am willing to experiment with anything and I'm not afraid of making mistakes as I've been told it is pretty difficult to completely ruin a pair of leather shoes. I'm just trying to learn and am enjoying the process.

My current process on a used pair of shoes is as follows:

Brush
Lexol cleaner
Brush
Saphir renovateur
Brush
Shoe cream (I've used AE cream and Saphir cream and encountered the same issues) that I've experimented with letting dry several minutes to overnight
Brush
Wipe toe cap off with dry rag and I've also used a damp cloth
Toe cap is dry and feels smooth and glossy prior to attempting to finish toe
Toe cap shine that I've tried Saphir mirror gloss, pate de luxe, and Kiwi waxes

I'm using a clean 100% cotton t-shirt to apply the wax. Initially I start with a fairly small amount (I'm not just touching the rag to the wax as I would once I have several layers of wax applied to the shoe) of wax to the rag and as soon I start rubbing the wax I immediately feel like the polish underneath starts moving and smudging. I am using the lightest touch I possibly can and last night even used my bare finger and was gentle as possible in applying the wax. After applying a very light first layer I notice my rag has what seems to be A LOT of colored polish on it that is coming off of the shoe. I have watched all of the Youtube guys videos on polishing shoes and they indicate it is normal for a little bit of the color to transfer off onto the rag. This color transfer looks excessive to me. After the first layer or layers (I've experimented with multiple initial layers) I dampen my cloth with a drop of ice water and have also tried putting a drop directly on the shoe and start to very gently buff. I immediately feel friction on the top of toe almost like raw rough leather. This always seems to occur directly on the top of the toe and not the sides of the toe. I have continued the process all the way through even though the top of the toe seems ruined and have gotten the mirror finish to come through on the sides of the toe.

It's almost like my cream polish isn't adhering properly but I'm inexperienced and haven't a clue if that is the actual issue. I have applied the shoe cream let it dry overnight, brushed it in the morning, let it sit and brush it again that night. I then wipe with a dry rag and very little residue come off. A damp rag will cause more residue to come off but nothing major. Once that wax touches the toe though it just feels as though the polish underneath melts off.

I can post more photos and update with photos of suggested methods. I have a pair of burgundy shoes I did last night but didn't take pictures. The color transfer to the rag on that one was extremely noticeable. To the point that the burgundy color from the rag would transfer over to the wax in the container. One method I saw while browsing last night was once the first layer of wax is applied to brush instead of buff with a rag. I can certainly try this but again it seems that the smudging that is ruining the process occurs within seconds of the applying the wax. I think the wax is mixing with the polish on the first application thus rendering buffing it out useless?
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Phileas Fogg

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At first glance, you’re over treating. Out of the box there’s no reason to use cleaner.

just use a color matched or neutral cream if you must, rub it in and just wear the shoes and let the leather break in.
 

notdos

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And never use renovateur on a new pair of shoes. That’s the French word for Renovate, and you don’t renovate new things. Use it only as a last resort, and sparingly.
 

jtd64

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I'm only having trouble with used pairs and not new pairs. I think the factory finish and overall unblemished leather on the new pairs likely makes it easier to polish. I'm also using the product Saphir renovateur which is just a conditioner and not Saphir renomat which is the harsh cleaner. I'm new at this and getting my information online but the main Youtube guys Kirby Allison and Elegant Oxford both advocate for conditioning new shoes as they may have been on the shelf in or in a box for months or longer. I will say early on in this endeavor I had used renomat on some used pairs and thought that may be the issue but I've since had the same issue on pairs that were merely conditioned, polished then the attempt at a toe cap shine.
 

Peking_Gent

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I ran into the same issue when I first started polishing my shoes. There are two ways to solve the situation.

The easy option is to try to use a hairdryer to melt the wax and leave it to cool down on itself. This solves the problem most of the time.

Another option is to wait till tomorrow and try to use a little wax and water to buff it off.

The cause of this situation is usually too much water, next time try to wet the chamois a little less. When you use too much water, the water lifts the surface wax, and when you buff you remove the wax layer on top. To me personally, it most often happens during the initial foundation phase, as it requires a lot of wax and more water to do. So later on I decided to skip the foundation step altogether by using the thick wax plus hairdryer method. Then, when I begin polishing, I dab the chamois on my hand until it leaves no droplets and then I give it a touch of wax to start. Don't stress out, it's not as bad as it seems.
 

Goofy

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I ran into the same issue when I first started polishing my shoes. There are two ways to solve the situation.

The easy option is to try to use a hairdryer to melt the wax and leave it to cool down on itself. This solves the problem most of the time.

Another option is to wait till tomorrow and try to use a little wax and water to buff it off.

The cause of this situation is usually too much water, next time try to wet the chamois a little less. When you use too much water, the water lifts the surface wax, and when you buff you remove the wax layer on top. To me personally, it most often happens during the initial foundation phase, as it requires a lot of wax and more water to do. So later on I decided to skip the foundation step altogether by using the thick wax plus hairdryer method. Then, when I begin polishing, I dab the chamois on my hand until it leaves no droplets and then I give it a touch of wax to start. Don't stress out, it's not as bad as it seems.
I totally agree with this assessment. Blot off excess water on a paper towel every time you dampen the cloth. The shammy shouldn't feel wet. Continue adding thin layers of wax so you can buildup to a shine. Start with pate the luxe and finish with mirror gloss. Don't apply to much mirror gloss on your rag. Rather than scrape, dab the moist rag into the gloss. Gloss consists of hard wax, and if to dry or applied in to large quantities can be abrasive. Do not continue working the same spot for to long. Slowly and systematically work your way over the entire toe area as if you were plowing a field. This allows for the wax to harden and facilitates building up layer upon layer. Keep at it. You’ll get the hang of it eventually.
 
Last edited:

jtd64

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I ran into the same issue when I first started polishing my shoes. There are two ways to solve the situation.

The easy option is to try to use a hairdryer to melt the wax and leave it to cool down on itself. This solves the problem most of the time.

Another option is to wait till tomorrow and try to use a little wax and water to buff it off.

The cause of this situation is usually too much water, next time try to wet the chamois a little less. When you use too much water, the water lifts the surface wax, and when you buff you remove the wax layer on top. To me personally, it most often happens during the initial foundation phase, as it requires a lot of wax and more water to do. So later on I decided to skip the foundation step altogether by using the thick wax plus hairdryer method. Then, when I begin polishing, I dab the chamois on my hand until it leaves no droplets and then I give it a touch of wax to start. Don't stress out, it's not as bad as it seems.
I will give the hairdryer method a shot tonight and put some wax on the other shoe and let it sit overnight and see how they both go! Awesome info - I will report back thanks!
 

jtd64

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I totally agree with this assessment. Blot off excess water on a paper towel every time you dampen the cloth. The shammy shouldn't feel wet. Continue adding thin layers of wax so you can buildup to a shine. Start with pate the luxe and finish with mirror gloss. Don't apply to much mirror gloss on your rag. Rather than scrape, dab the moist rag in the gloss. Do not continue rubbing the same spot for to long. Slowly and systematically work your way over the entire toe area as if you were plowing a field. This allows for the wax to harden and facilitates building up layer upon layer. Keep at it. You’ll get the hang of it eventually.
I will give this a shot thank you for the response! I noticed on the new shoes I worked on once I got the first few layers on the rest worked out beautifully. I'll work a bit slower on these used ones and maybe I am using a bit too much water.
 

daizawaguy

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Very simply, new shoes have lots of stuff put on at the factory, and by using cleaners and Renovateur you have just stripped all of that off. take it easy, you will have to build up layers of the good stuff again. Id start with creams. Never use cleaners IMHO, except when you want to strip stuff off. It is going to take days and days and weeks to get a great patina - patience - cream and waxes only going now on...
 

Nobilis Animus

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Only thing I have to add to the good advice above: after years of polishing my own shoes, I have always found that using actual spit - yes, saliva - gives me a better shine every time.

I don't pretend to know why, but it works and that's enough for me.
 

JFWR

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Put some cream polish on, let dry for a few minutes, buff off with your cloth, then put on a thicker layer of wax, let dry, and buff gently without water. Wait till the next day and apply successive layers of wax.
 

JFWR

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I ran into the same issue when I first started polishing my shoes. There are two ways to solve the situation.

The easy option is to try to use a hairdryer to melt the wax and leave it to cool down on itself. This solves the problem most of the time.

Another option is to wait till tomorrow and try to use a little wax and water to buff it off.

The cause of this situation is usually too much water, next time try to wet the chamois a little less. When you use too much water, the water lifts the surface wax, and when you buff you remove the wax layer on top. To me personally, it most often happens during the initial foundation phase, as it requires a lot of wax and more water to do. So later on I decided to skip the foundation step altogether by using the thick wax plus hairdryer method. Then, when I begin polishing, I dab the chamois on my hand until it leaves no droplets and then I give it a touch of wax to start. Don't stress out, it's not as bad as it seems.
Yes, use a hair dryer. That technique works excellently, but you'll need a layer of wax first. It looks like there is no wax on this spot.

I suggest putting on a rather thick layer of wax (not goopy - but thick) and then use the hair dryer to really let the wax soak into the grain.
 

Peking_Gent

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Only thing I have to add to the good advice above: after years of polishing my own shoes, I have always found that using actual spit - yes, saliva - gives me a better shine every time.

I don't pretend to know why, but it works and that's enough for me.
It’s probably because saliva dissolves organic matter like wax better than water. Mixing alcohol with water has the same effect. I sometimes use 1:3 70% isopropanol to water solution for buffing. Since alcohol evaporates faster, it helps to minimize over-saturation as well.
 

jtd64

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Hi everyone - I really appreciate the advice given on this thread. Last night I tried some mentioned methods and I had some success! I worked on a used shoe that I had previously conditioned and polished with shoe cream. I then used my bare finger and very lightly applied a couple of relatively thin layers of pate de luxe on the toe. I then used the hair dryer on the toe for a bit and let the shoes sit for a few minutes. I got a spritzer bottle that I put some ice cold water in. I lightly spritzed the toe then used my rag that I just dabbed into the mirror gloss and repeated that process for about 15 minutes. I was amazed how initially the toe looked so "cloudy" from the wax but as I kept working it everything cleared up and I got the desired results! I posted some pictures. If anyone has some constructive criticism I'm all for it as I want to ensure I'm doing a good job as I may sell some pairs or volunteer to clean up some friend's shoes.
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