Saphir has a large range of shoe care products. Brushes, to shoe horns, to sprays to creams. None are as coveted and famous as their Renovateur cream polish.
We are huge fans of this amazing product. Many people the world over are. In this article we’ll discuss it a bit more in depth. What it is, when to use it, and how.
What is Saphir Renovateur?
Saphir Renovateur is a specially formulated smooth leather cream polish. It is natural in colour. Technically they label it as a cleaner and conditioner. While many use it on their leather shoes there are many other applications for leather care. We’ll discuss more in depth below, but it cleans, hydrates, and shines all in one.
It is part of Saphir’s Medaille d’Or 1925 premium line of shoe care products. (Medaille d’Or is “Gold Medal” en Francais. The 1925 refers to the year that Saphir was awarded said gold medal for excellence in Paris, France.) Also known as Renovator or Reno, it's their most popular product given its versatility and performance on leather.
It uses a water based formula. This means that it is free of silicone or resin. Why is this important? Silicone and Resin can be bad for leather. They are stable compounds that can last many years without degrading. This means that when you use silicone based products, all of that silicone or resin builds up on the surface of your shoes.
This can clog the pores and/or create a barrier on the surface of whatever you use it on. This greatly decreases the breath-ability of the leather. It also means that any shoe care products that you use on your shoe ends up sitting on top of that barrier instead of sinking in. It’s almost like an invisible layer of dirt on your shoes. It can have some of the same negative effects of having built up old polish or dirt on your shoes.
Saphir Renovateur has components for cleaning leather. It acts as a gentle cleaner for your leather goods. It can help remove dirt, old polish, grit, etc. We would describe the level of cleaning as light or mild. It works wonderfully for a regular maintenance routine; If your leather goods could use a touch up. The exact formula of this Saphir product is closely guarded, and for good reason.
It’s not a robust cleaner like saddle soap or Saphir Renomat. Both of those are much more heavy duty and should be reserved for serious cleaning. We advise against those types of cleaner for regular maintenance as they can dry out leather. They should be saved for when youhave a stain or need deep cleaning. A few times a year or less.
Reno is also a leather conditioner. It contains mink oil which is the hydrating component. When it comes to leather care, hydration is an important element. (You can read our in-depth article on conditioning leather here). The oil inside brings moisture back into the leather. This helps keep it soft, pliable, and functional. Dry leather cracks and looks poor.
Lastly, it will shine your shoes. Saphir’s Renovateur contains beeswax. This is a major component found in wax polish, also know as paste wax. Reno has it in a much lower concentration. This allows for some shine while keeping the soft consistency of a cream polish.
Too much beeswax (and/or Carnuaba wax) causes a formula to harden. This allows for the mirror shine you see on the toes and heels of shoes, but means you cannot use it all over the shoe. (If you want more info on cream vs wax polish, see our article about it here).
The beeswax buffs to a healthy glow when brushed with a horse hair brush.
How is it different than other cream polish, like Saphir Pommadier?
Renovateur is different because it does everything. It is the only product that will clean, hydrate, and shine all in one. Saphir Pomamdier, along with most of cream polishes, don’t actually do any cleaning. They work well when used in conjunction since Reno only comes in neutral colour.
Pommadier is also available in 13 colours that Renovateur isn't. This allows you to add pigment back into your shoes. This can fill in scuffs and nicks and marks you might have in your leather. Pommadier is also Shea Butter based, not Mink oil, so they get their hydrating elements from different sources. Yet again why they work so well in tandem.
Lastly, you'll find that Renovateur is a bit thinner in consistency than the Pommadier and has a different smell to it.
When do I use it?
While Saphir’s Renovateur is labelled as shoe cream, it can be used on almost all leather goods. Since it is a cream polish, it cannot be used on suede. Suede shoes, boots, etc, don’t work well with cream polish as it gets caught in all of the little hairs (known as the nap).
Leather boots, jackets, bags, chairs, belts, accessories. Almost any smooth leather will work well with Renovateur. You can use it on calfskin, cowhide, box calf, cordovan. You can use it on black shoes, brown shoes, blue shoes, or any other colour. You get the idea.
Given how versatile it is as a cream polish you can use it as part of your regular leather care routine. We usually recommend you clean your shoes before using it if they are heavily soiled. If they have some light dirt from normal wear that’s not a problem. We recommend you use it before you apply any pigmented cream polishes or wax polish. So, this should be at the beginning of your polishing routine. And note that anything we say about a shoe would also apply to a boot.
When shouldn’t I use it?
Understandably, many people think Reno is the answer 100% of the time. While close, there are some times you should avoid it. As we said above, no use on suede at all.
Given Renovateur's cleaning component, you have to be careful when using it on unfinished or “crust” leathers. Some leather makers will buy leather completely undyed from the factory. This allows them to buy more premium leather cuts at a lower price (instead of having to buy one stack of blacks, one stack of browns, etc).
This undyed leather is then polished / dyed / finished at their own factory. Usually by hand. This allows some companies to keep costs down by having less inventory, as well as be more selective on how they finish. Some makers want unique finishes that tanneries can’t offer. For example, Corthay offers amazing colours and finishes that no tannery could match.
So, the cleaning nature of Reno can damage crust leathers if left to sit for too long. It could remove the finish that those skilled experts worked so hard to achieve. Unless you’re a professional it’ll be difficult to get it back.
Lastly, if you are just trying to deeply hydrate your leather or are working with delicate leather (like goat skin, deerskin, alligator, etc) there are better products.
Saphir’s Leather Lotion is even more hydrating without any of the worry about cleaning off hand done polish (You could also use Bick4 or Lexol, both dedicated conditioners). Saphir’s Nappa Cream is better suited for delicate leathers and if you have exotics like reptile, Saphir’s Medaille d'Or Reptile is better suited.
So to summarize, don’t use Renovateur when it’s a a delicate leather, a crust finish, or when it’s suede.
How to use it?
You use Saphir Renovateur the same way that you would use any cream polish. So we’ll outline that here. Note that you can use this product on almost any leather, as outlined above. For our example we will be using a pair of shoes.
What you’ll need:
Soft cloth (could use a polishing cloth, or an old soft rag / t-shirt)
Applicator / Dauber brush (optional. We recommend a soft cloth)
Step 1: Insert Shoe Trees
Inserting Saphir cedar shoe trees into some Alden 975 long wing bluchers in #8 shell cordovan. Getting them ready for some Reno. Yes, reno even works on cordovan!
Always start any shoe care session by inserting shoe trees (they should be in your shoes already anyways). This will allow the show to keep its shape while you work. This will make it easier for you to do your job and prevent the shoe from creasing and collapsing under the pressure of brushing.
Step 2: Clean the surface of your leather
Wipe your shoes with a damp cloth. This will remove any of the excess dirt or dust you have on them. You can use any soft rag or microfibre cloth. No need to use any special solution, tap water is fine. The extra cautious can use filtered water. Allow your shoes to dry before proceeding to the next step (30-90 seconds should be enough).
Step 3: Apply Saphir Renovateur
A little bit all over before we work it around. You can see how a soft cloth makes this easy since you can easily control how much product you're using. You don't need much as a little goes a long way.
Using your soft cloth, apply a thin and even layer of Reno to your shoes. We recommend wrapping the soft cloth around a few of your fingers and working with that. Take a small amount (a dime sized amount, or about 1-2ml of cream) on your cloth. Work the cream evenly into the leather of the entire upper of the shoe.
Small concentric circles will do the job, however you can use any method you want. The key is to get an even layer and work it into the leather. Apply light to medium pressure. One coat is usually enough.
If you feel you’ve used too little we recommend proceeding to brushing and if you still feel that way, move back to step 3 and start again. You don’t need much to achieve a great result.
Step 4: Wait for cream to absorb
Your shoes will look a little bit dull after you apply the Renovateur and before you brush. That's normal.
You need to give the cream a minute to absorb into the leather. The side of the container says 3 minutes. We find that if you start by applying cream to one shoe, then apply the cream to the other shoe, that is usually a long enough wait.
You can then move to brushing the first shoe, followed by the second. So work on your shoes left, right, left, right.
Step 5: Brush vigorously with polishing brush
Using a horse hair brush, brush your shoes vigorously. Back and forth with moderate to fast pace and medium pressure. This helps distribute your polish and works it into the leather.
The friction created by the brushing will also create some warm. This helps everything soak in. It also helps bring out the shine. After this step your shoes should have an even and healthy glow and should already be looking much better than when you started!
Step 6: Admire, or continue polishing
For many people you can stop at this step. Your shoes already look great. If you want to fill in scuffs and take your shine to the next level then you would continue with other shoe polish.
This is where you’d want to add another cream polish such as Saphir’s Pommadier (for colour). Or a paste wax, like Pate De Luxe, to achieve a mirror finish. Both are optional. If you were planning on using a hydrating cream, we would recommend adding it between steps 2 and 3. Hydrate before you apply the Reno.
Your shoes are now looking great. They’ve been cleaned, hydrated, and are beaming with a healthy glow. Ready to keep you looking your best for as long as possible.
After one round of Reno you can see why it is so beloved. It requires such a small amount of effort to achieve amazing results.