Getting a professional shoe polish is a treat. We see the looks on client's faces when they pick a a pair they dropped off. From old and tired to glowing and beautiful. Whether its dress shoes, boots, sneakers, or loafers.
Learning how to take care of your own shoes is also rewarding. It's a hobby for those who care about quality leather shoes, sneakers, and other garments. It's how we got started with Brillaré.
Yet, where to do begin with leather care? Do I need to buy a shoe care kit, or can I get away with some shoe cleaner and wax polish? How do I know what to buy and how to use it? What goes into a well made cleaning kit?
Many people enter into the world of high quality shoes with a pair of shoes from Allen Edmond, Alden, or Meermin. Wonderful shoes that will beat 90% of what you see at the store. You want to protect your investment. And you should. If maintained, you'll be able to wear them for years to come.
In this guide we'll talk about how to build your own shoe shine kit to suit your needs. What shoe care products you need to take care of your footwear.
If you're in a rush, a shoe kit should usually have the following: (TL,DR:)
- Wax shoe polish / shoe paste. If you want shinier toes and heels. Optional.
- Protector. Great to protect your hard work and nice shoes. Optional.
- Accessories. Shoe horns, shoe trees, etc. Optional goodies.
Having a couple of brushes around is a must. We recommend you have one brush per colour of shoes. This prevents the colour from one shoe rubbing off onto another. One for black shoes and one for brown shoes. A different one for suede and nubuck. Horsehair brushes work well for suede. Even better is a brass brush or a crepe brush.
You want to choose a quality shoe brush. This is something you'll be using every time you work on your shoes. A high quality horsehair brush can last you many years. I still have the first one I ever bought over 10 years ago. (And I've amassed many more since).
Any of our brushes from Saphir fit the bill. You'll want to choose a size that feels comfortable for you. A large brushes gives you more brushing power. It can also be harder to hold for people with smaller hands, so keep that in mind.
Brush bristle colour doesn't matter. Lighter coloured brushes will show off more of the polish in the hair. Darker ones will shoe less colour. There isn't a performance difference. Take whichever you prefer.
You should be giving your shoes a quick brush whenever you are polishing them. And brushing between polishes refreshes your shoes
No shoe care kit is complete with several brushes. Choose the size and style of brush depending on the shoes you own and your preferences.
Having a polish cloth is great for everyday buffing as well as applying polishes. You want a smooth, soft cloth. Sometimes this is call a chamois. You can use a microfibre cloth for most cleaning. For polishing, the texture can get in the way.
We have an extremely soft and smooth cotton polish cloth from Saphir. These are great to have. We suggest having several around for different colours. They get worn in nicely with use as well and only become better with time.
If you're in a pinch, an old and well worn cotton t-shirt can also work. Make sure its very worn and very soft. Pick a shirt that is destined for the trash since it will get ruined when you use polishes on it.
Shoe Cleaner / Leather Cleaner
Shoes get dirty. Even if you're only going from the car to the office, they'll pick up dust and dirt as time goes on. You might step in something or spill your coffee.
This is where having a cleaning solution comes in. We have several choices for a shoe cleaner.
The Reno'Mat cleaner is strong and best suited for heavily soiled shoes. Or stripping all the excess polish that has built up on a shoe. We only recommend using this infrequently. You might want to hold off purchasing it until you need to use it. It is our strongest shoe cleaner.
For regular cleaning, our Saphir Cleanser is perfect. This is something you'll want to have on hand at all times. Applied easily with a soft cloth and a touch of elbow grease. This refreshes your shoe, tackling everyday grit and grime. Perfect for use every couple of weeks, or when needed.
If you have sneakers, suede, or nubuck shoes that need caring then our Foam Cleaner is the best. It has a gentle formula that cleans the shoes without drying them out. It can be used on the entire shoe.
It works very well for suede and more casual footwear. It's a wonderful general purpose shoe cleaner. It'll work for smooth leather as well.
Foam cleaner works wonder on white sneakers. I even use it to clean my espadrilles.
(We find Saphir Foam cleaner to be a more premium version of Jason Markk cleaner, which is what we used before).
Cleaning will help with a stain or mark. It removes dirt and readies your shoe for polish.
Brushing, cleaning, then brushing again will put you ahead of anyone at the office.
A Conditioner / Moisturizer
Leather dries out over time and with wear. In the same way your hands can get dry after a long day's work. Like your hands, your shoes need moisturizing.
There are tons of different ways to moisturize. Some are heavy and in depth, like using Mink Oil. Some are very light, like the Shea Butter inside our cream polish.
We recommend using a gentle dedicated leather moisturizer. A little bit, consistently applied, does wonders for your shoes. If you live in a dry climate this is especially true.
Leather Lotion is perfect for this. It contains some jojoba oil, a touch of mink oil, and several other ingredients. It penetrates the leather and prevents it from drying out and cracking. Moisturized leather is healthy leather.
To moisturize your suede shoes, you'll need the Saphir Renovating Suede Spray. This is my personal favourite product. It's an absolute must have for suede. It conditions and restores the nap (texture) all in one. You'll wonder how you lived without it.
This is a step that many miss in leather shoe care. It's an important one too.
Cream Shoe Polish
Cream polish is majestic for smooth leather shoes. It adds colour back into them, fills in scuff marks, and helps them shine.
Quality cream polish is the difference between shoes that look "alright" and awesome. Cream polish can also double as a bit of a conditioner. If you want a deep dive you can read our blog post on Saphir Pommadier.
We recommend two creams.
Second, Saphir Pommadier. This cream polish will make your shoes shine with a healthy glow. It also acts as a mild leather conditioner since it has a Shea Butter base.
Wax Polish (optional, but recommend)
It is an optional and excellent part of a smooth leather shoe care routine. It's also a purchase that lasts a very long time. 50ml of Pate De Luxe might be all you need to buy for years. Depending on how shiny you like your shoes.
Properly applied, it can produce a high shine. This is a beautiful finish for more formal shoes and settings. You might not want this on your heavy duty rugged Viberg boots. You almost for sure want it on your black cap toe oxfords.
In a pinch, a little bit of wax polish can also work on your sole edge to fill in nicks and add some colour back in. Dark brown and black being the most common of colours to choose from.
We offer the Saphir Pate De Luxe. This classic formula has been keeping shoes shiny for years. Tried and true.
We also have the Saphir Mirror Gloss. A bit thicker and heavier in wax content. It takes a touch more skill to get this one going and if done right it is the fastest way to a mirror shine.
Protecting Spray / Stain Repellent (optional but recommended)
Waterproofing spray or hydrophobic spray (water repelling), protects. It creates a barrier between your shoes and outside dirt.
This thin layer helps prevent your shoes from getting dirty in the first place. This is especially nice for suede.
We have the Saphir Invulner, which is a top seller. Its gentle, resin free, and water repelling. Perfect for dress shoes and leathers can need to breathe. Yes, you can use it on smooth leather. And yes, you can use it on bags, wallets, jackets, and more.
Both go on clear and don't change the colour of your shoe. If you step in a puddle, get caught in the rain, or walk outdoors, you'll be very glad you applied some.
We discussed all the things you'll need in your kit.
What is also important is your daily routine. For this, we mean using a shoe tree and a shoe horn. Shoe trees have many benefits that can't be overstated.
A shoe horn helps keep your heel counter in your shoe strong and stable. Once you damage it, there is usually no easy fix. Not to mention a shoe horn saves your fingers from getting squeezed in the heel of your shoe.
That's it. It might sound like a lot and it really isn't. If you follow the steps above you'll have a shoe care kit that can handle anything you throw at it.
You've got brushes for daily cleaning and maintenance. You've got conditioners and polishes. And if you got everything, you've even got things to protect your footwear from getting dirty so fast in the first place.
If you'd like to have the convenience of having this taken care of for you, we offer ready made shoe care kits. Now that's customer service! We offer different kits to suit your different needs. Bundled for your convenience.