Let me guess, the last time your brogues saw a brush was sometime just before a wedding, job interview or important meeting. Shoe maintenance can be a time consuming affair – but only if you let it. Compiling a care kit is not only simple, but probably a lot less expensive than you think!
Use the following guide to help get the sheen back into your shoes and increase your loafers’ lifespan by several years.
Step One: What you’ll need
At the very minimum you should invest in a tin of black wax-based polish. Don’t be tempted by creams or the new shine ‘gels’; only a wax product will give you that high-gloss finish.
If you’ve got the cash to splash, grab a tin of brown wax too; heck, if you have light coloured shoes, don’t be afraid of a tin of neutral polish as well.
Grab yourself a good quality brush. You want something that will buff up your shoes without scratching or creasing the leather. Traditionally, shoe brushes are made of animal hair, but if you have moral objections, a good quality synthetic will do the job just fine.
Go for a good quality lint-free variety every time – you don’t want fluffy shoes, do you!? Hang on to the polishing cloth as long as possible; the scruffier it looks the more saturated it’s become with polish, giving you a better final result.
Feel free to use the same cloth for polishing as buffing – don’t worry, a little extra polish won’t do any harm. Some people also like to use the same cloth for all their shoes, regardless of what wax colour they’re using.
Personally, I like to use a different cloth for each colour polish I use (black, brown, blue, etc); in a world where there are more chemical polymers than tree types I always err on the side of caution – the last thing I want is a layer of thick ox-blood permanently staining my deep grey hush puppies.
Top Tip: Don’t want to spend a fortune on good quality cloths? Hit your nearest auto department store! As well as having a great range of stock, you can often find multi-packs of polishing cloths at half the price you’d find at your local shoe store!
If you’ve got a pair of suede shoes you’re going to need a special brush to keep them in tip-top form. These often come with one side built of rubber prongs and the other gentle hair bristles; use the eraser half to remove spot stains (like grease and oil) and the other side to lightly brush in the direction of the grain, so as not to spoil the nap.
These small devices are used to get in around the seams and clean out the accumulated dirt. They look remarkably like a soft toothbrush, so it’s no surprise to learn that you can use a soft disposable children’s toothbrush in its place. Just make sure you’re not using a second hand toothbrush – toothpaste typically contains silicone-based distillates that’ll leave a filmy layer over your finest leather; you’ve been warned!
Step Two: How to polish
1. Start by cleaning off any loose debris. This includes flecks of mud, blades of grass and any other chunks of unwanted dirt. If the debris is so bad you need to use a moist or damp cloth, make sure you let the leather dry fully before continuing – wax and water simply don’t mix!
2. Use your seam brush. Get into every crease and fold you possibly can. Be meticulous but not too vigorous; don’t forget those areas where the stitching and the sole meet – you’d be amazed at the gunk that can build up around those areas.
3. Apply a small amount of polish to the shoe. Always remember that less is more when it comes to polish. Rub in a circular motion over the entire leather area of the shoe. Leave the polish to dry for ten to fifteen minutes.
4. Start buffing. Really go to town on it; don’t stop until you start to see that ‘new shoe shine’ restored. Don’t be afraid to use your polishing cloth to really ‘up’ the glowing sheen around the toe tips.
Step Three: Putting it all away.
There are all kinds of storage kits you can buy online and in shoe shops up and down the land. They can be a little pricy, especially during these hard economic times, so don’t be afraid to do it on the cheap.
Any sealed container will do; I’ve known people use a plastic ice-cream container in the past! Make sure you place your kit out of direct sunlight, preferably in a cool, dry place so the polish won’t dry out and start to crack.