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Shoe Care 101: Polishing shoes

Shoe Care 101: Polishing shoes

You will always look your best wearing top-quality artisanal footwear. But you want to make certain that your shoes always look their best, too. An expertly crafted pair of shoes will continue to look gorgeous, day-in and day-out, year after year. All it takes is a little polishing, and all that takes is a few simple steps and helpful techniques. (Note: don’t polish suede leather, which only needs to be cleaned and brushed)

Start with the Right Tools

Wipe dust and dirt from the shoes with a clean microfiber cloth. Use a cream-style polish, and apply it with a dauber−which is a small, soft-bristle brush that usually has a circular head and a wooden handle. In the absence of a dauber, you can just use a microfiber cloth. Use a larger, rectangular, soft bristle brush for buffing. Brushes with synthetic bristles tend to be slightly abrasive, so instead use those that are made with natural bristles like horsehair. Removes the laces, evenly apply the polish with the dauber in a thin layer, and set the shoe aside for a few minutes to dry. For extra protection or to hide scuffs, repeat the same process until you’ve added an additional layer or two.

Achieving a Shine

Using the larger buffing brush, light contact, and side-to-side motion, polish to the shoes to a low sheen. For a higher gloss and brighter, more reflective shine, follow up with a chamois cloth. Hold the cloth in both hands and rub back and forth in a fast, light, side-to-side motion. An electric shoe buffer is also a great gadget for shining shoes. Most of these machines will last for years, and they can buff and shine shoes in a matter of seconds.  They typically have two buffing wheels. One is black, for darker colored shoes, and the other is red, for lighter color leather. Buffers covered in lamb’s wool are ideal because they are soft but durable. There are hand-held electric buffers, too, and they are convenient for travel. But for a superior shine use the floor models.

Avoid Stains

After using a dauber, wipe off the excess polish with a paper towel. Shoe polish will leave a permanent stain, and can also be hard to wash off of your hands. Spread an old but clean towel or painter’s cloth on the floor, table, or work bench. So you don’t stain your hands, wear disposable latex gloves that you can just peel off and toss in the trash once you’re done. You don’t want to wear your good clothes, either. Clothes that you might wear to paint a room or work on your vehicle are the right choice, and you can also wear a work apron.

Storing Your Gear

You can reuse your brushes and cloths, but only on the same color leather. You should ideally have a separate set of brushes and cloths for each different color of shoes or boots you own. Otherwise you run the risk of staining a shoe with the wrong color. Don’t store polish in an outdoor garage or other space where it might be subject to freezing temperatures.

Polishing your shoes is actually an old-school, hands-on skill that can be very satisfying. You’ll probably find that instead of it feeling like chore, it becomes a ritual that you look forward to doing from time to time.
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