How to porperly care for your boots and shoes, as well a a cleaning and polishing tutorial.
The feeling of putting on a new pair of shoes is something we can all relate to. Its like eating a PB&J for the first time in years and rediscovering how much you love them.
For me it even makes me feel new. Like, oh, I am a new thing. I feel a sense of new life, new ground to cover, new adventures. Couple a new pair of shoes with a fresh haircut, and the world is mine.
SO what are some practical ways you can care for you boots and shoes so that they keep you feeling your best?
NUMERO UNO: We recommend that after a full day of use, you let your shoes have a rest. Always let them rest. They are your shoes. They keep your feet safe and comfortable. The least you can do is let them rest.
The best trick with your boots or shoes is to have 3 pairs. This allows for 1 day on and two days off, if you don't want 3 pairs, think about having two, say black and brown. This way at least one is having a rest. And while they are resting for 1-2 days you place them in shoe trees. I like the wooden kind but even the cheap plastic ones will do. So do yourself a favor and get a couple or more. What they do is help straighten the creases back out after a day of bending. Its also much easier to clean them while in the trees.
NUMERO DOS: Be mindful of the way you put on and take off your shoes. Always use your hands to put on and remove your shoes. Don't use your feet to remove them from your feet (you know what I'm talking about - AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) and don't try to slip them on buy wiggling your feet into them.
To put them on, loosen the laces, then, gripping the tongue at the front and the opening at the back, slip your feet in.
To take them off, untie them and grip the heel/counter and slip them off of your feet.
This adds a TON of life to your shoes because your will not be crushing the structural component that help to support your feet. Remember - shoes aren't gloves, as in they aren't just there to keep your feet warm, they aren't meant also to keep them safe and comfortable.
NUMERO TRES: Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can talk cleaning, cream/polish, and the tools that go with them.
At Standard Handmade we use high quality leather, which needs less care than lower grades. However, with dirt and weather, over time they will begin to dry out and fade if not properly cared for. Seriously though, care for your investment.
First: Clean them. If there's a lot of dirt or mud use a damp cloth to remove most of it. Then use a mild leather cleaning product. Our favorite product for this is Fiebing's Saddle Soap, and we use it on the boots and shoes you buy from us before they are shipped to you.
Apply the saddle soap by using a (new) damp cloth wrapped around a couple of your fingers, and in a circular motion apply the soap to the cloth. Once there's a lather on the cloth you can begin to apply the soap to your shoes using the same circular motion. IF you apply it liberally you'll have to use a damp cloth to remove excess soap, if you use it sparingly, it will just blend in - sometimes you have to use it liberally.
Second: Once they are satisfactorily clean, and dry, you can use a conditioner to add moisture back to the the leather, add it to the edge of the soles as well, not just the upper. We like Armstrong's all-natural leather conditioner, but any neutral oil will do. Olive oil works, or almond oil even. You can often even use skin lotion. The problem with them is they have the tendency to over-saturate the leather, which is just not appealing.
Apply the conditioner the same way as the saddle soap, but use a dry cloth this time, and you want something soft, like fine felt, or microfiber, or even just fine cotton/linen. wrap the cloth around a finger or two and apply using a circular motion being sure to cover the leather evenly. Then let the shoes rest and absorb the conditioner. For some people this is all they want, no shine, just a healthy clean.
Third: Now's time for the polish. There are literally hundreds to choose from. We've tried 20-30 over the years, and what we like the best is Saphir's Neutral Shoe Cream. Its the best all-around in our opinion.
Many people like to use a dauber to apply the polish, we don't care for them. Instead we use the same dry cloth as the one used for the conditioner. With a couple of fingers we apply it to the shoes with same circular motion as before, and we want even coverage, including the sole edges. Once covered, the next step requires some technique.
You need a fine horse hair brush, or a very fine and soft cloth. with light place one hand inside your shoe, and with the other, apply very light pressure with the brush, and use rapid back and forth motion to all parts of the shoes, including the sole edges. This rapid, light movement creates heat, the heat makes the polish do its thing. A luster will begin to appear in all the places you applied the polish.
A traditional means of polishing is to make the toe box, and the counter (heel) of the shoes more shiny than the rest. Do this by apply a second layer of polish to those places and use a vigorous back and forth most to create lots of heat and shine. It may take longer, but go for it. Its very satisfying.
I Should mention that, when cleaning or polishing, its best to take the laces out prior to beginning the process.
After the polish you are finished until next time, but the next time, as long as it hasn't been too long, and they haven't gotten too dirty - you can skip all of the steps other than polishing.
Sometimes, some of the color can come out of your shoes during the cleaning process. if that's the case use a polish with pigment in it, just be careful to match the color of your shoes - otherwise it will look strange. Pigmented polish works the same as neutral polish as far as how to get the desired luster.
So what if you boots are suede or rough out leather?
We use a much different process. Typically with suede or rough out we don't use any moisturizing products, though you can use water, and sometime a mild detergent like saddle soap. You have to be aware that they can permantently darken the suede or rough out color though. This isn't a bad thing necessarily, most leather will darken over time anyway. If your suede or rough is really dirty, just come to terms with the fact that they will look clean, but darker.
You need two things for your suede or rough out shoes, a course brush, like the consistency of a tooth brush, and an eraser. Don't use the pink pencil erasers though, you need a more neutral on. Get a good one from the art supply store, the crumbly white ones are great because they don't leave behind color residue. The knead-able erasers are good too. Also - you can buy a suede cleaning kit on Amazon or sometime at the grocery store that will have a brush and an eraser.
For really thick dirt and grime use the brush first, back and forth, Get it wet with water if you need to and just test one area, then let it dry. See what you think. If its not good enough, use some saddle soap in the same area with the same brush and let it dry. See what you think about it. At this point you might use the eraser to flush out any remaining dirt or discoloration.
If there's just a little dirt or discoloation to begin with, start with the eraser, it may be enough.
The best advice is to start small and experiment. I've cleaned literally hundreds of shoes and I often still have to start with a small area to see what its going to do.