Welcome to this weeks blog post, where we’ll be discussing the four steps to a deep clean of your favorite shoes and boots. We wanted to do a blog about this as spring is finally starting to feel like its here. What better way to celebrate, than breathing some life back into those trusted shoes after a hard wearing winter.
Winter is certainly not great for leather shoes, with the constant grizzle, salt and mud on the roads. Thats why its important as a modern man to spend some time taking care of your footwear. Leather shoes when not taken care of become dull less waterproof, and become a component instead of a feature item of your outfit. You’re a modern man, so you shouldn't be seen will dull shoes, because do you have a dull personality? Of course not, so your shoes shouldn't either.
Firstly its important to identify what color leather your shoes are, in order to choose the correct shoe polish to buy. Black is an easy color to cater for. However when we reach the dark browns and the light tans, the choice is much more varied. A simple suggestion, when in doubt choose a shade slightly lighter than your shoe color, as this will not darken the leather.
We are going to be doing this tutorial with a pair of medium tan shoes, and have thus opted for a can of medium tan leather polish.
Step One - The Deep Clean
Using a strong bristled brush rub around the shoe starting with the leather first. Make sure to penetrate any brogueing for any residual dirt. Once you have done this, go around the stitching, and then move on to the soles of the shoe. We clean the soles as well because if you are going to do something, do it right. Its also important to remove the shoe laces to.
Next we need to ‘strip’ back the layers of dirt and polish left on the shoe from previous polishes. This step is so often missed by the modern man and is essential to bringing the shoe to their best shine. Why? When layers of polish are applied to a shoe, and then worn, this layer of polish moves with the leather as you walk. Any crease made within the shoe, regularly found on the mid foot between the laces and the tip of your shoe the layer of polish creases to match. so when you simply polish over this, the creasing will become more pronounced.
To carry out this deep clean you can use either a dedicated leather cleaner as we have, or if you are desperate, you can use some nail polish remover.
Put a small amount of only a few drops, onto a soft cloth or a cotton pad as we have used. Do not rub this too hard into the leather as this can damage the leather and reduce its life. Instead lightly rub in a circular direction changing the cotton pads as dirt is removed (or moving cloth to clean spots).
If like in our case you have some deep engrained oil and dirt, its best to use some nail polish remover as well , as this will penetrate deeper and allow more of this dirt to be removed. Let the shoes sit for ten minutes to dry before moving on to the next phase.
Step Two - The Leather Prep
Again this step is also often a missed step by the modern man. step two is all about protecting and nurturing the leather, prior to applying the polish. Look at the photos at how dry and lifeless the leather looks - shocking right.
We are going to use tried and tested Mink oil for this. Mink oil is extracted from the fat of the mink - delicious right. Well your shoes will at least think so. Mink oil is used at this stage as it conditions the leather ready to better take the polish. It also has the added benefits of preserving the leather, and enabling better waterproofing and weather-guarding against mildew, salt, and mold.
The application of mink oil should be done sparingly and evenly across the leather. Use sparingly especially on medium and light tans as too much can cause the leather to darken slightly.
When you compare the two with and without the mink oil, the difference is astounding. It is a vital step. Monk oil isn't uncommon and neither should it be too expensive either. We paid £6 for ours on Amazon. Just think a tin will last you at least several years.
let the mink oil penetrate for approximately 5-10 minutes, and then rub off any excess gently with a clean cloth. If your shoes are as dry and lifeless as these ones, you can go and put a second coat on, just allow the both coats to dry before moving on.
Step Three - Polish Layer Building
This step is where the magic starts to happen. With your chosen polish, take a small amount and apply lightly to the heel of the shoe (just to check how the leather reacts), and whether it darkens the shoe. Please do this, as we wouldn't want you to right-off your shoes. Once you are happy with the polish, you can start to build light even layers across the shoe. Do take care, not to over apply or ‘cake’ the polish on.
You want to apply layers of polish with a clean applicator brush. Allow each layer to rest prior to the next one for about 5-10 minutes. Build up a minimum of three layers on each shoe, as this will add true depth to the final shine.
Leave the shoes for a minimum of 20 minutes after completing the final layer. We want the layers to firm up before we start the final spit-n-polish-like step. Don't worry spit is not required.
Step Four - Spit-N-Polish
This step we are going to replicate the old ways of spit and polish. Which is tough. As a minimum you want to do three further layers. However the more effort and layers you put on, the better the polished effect with be. Instead of a brush, this time we will be using a soft cloth and a small amount of water.
Firstly wrap the cloth around your fingers and then with your wedding ring finger, dip it into a small pot of water. Apply two drops on the area of the shoe and then apply further polish. On application make sure you polish in a circular motion. Make sure you only apply a minimal amount of water each time, as you do not want to soak the shoe. If you do over-soak the leather, just dab any excess off and leave it to dry for 15 minutes.
With each layer of spit-n-shine, you will find the surface texture gets smoother and smoother, as well as a dull shine starting to grow.
After the third layer, let the shoes sit overnight before getting a new soft cloth and firmly polishing each shoe all over. This pressure will heat the layers of polish causing them to come together and then set to a very high shine.
So there you have it, a not-so-quick four step guide to bringing your shoes back to life after the hardships of winter. Aim to do a deep clean like this at least twice a year, with regular top up polishes in-between. By ensuring your shoes are properly polished you protect the leather as well as your feet when sudden rain storms attack - you’re welcome.
What do you think to our guide, would you like us to do more guides in the future? Please share the guide with your fellow rough shoed friends, and we’d also love to hear from you in the comments below.