Shoe Care – How to look after your favourites

Something we get asked about regularly is shoe care, so here’s a quick guide to help you look after yours. All shoes are slightly different so take this as a rough guide!

Over time leathers can lose colour, either due to prolonged exposure to the sun, or more general wear and tear that makes the leather look tired. Polish works best when you want to put colour back into the leather, and also recapture that initial shine they once had, although sourcing the exact shade of polish to match your favourite shoes can sometimes prove difficult! If you cannot match the shade or simply want to nourish the leather without altering the colour then a neutral polish is a great idea. As they do not contain any colour pigment they can be used on leathers of any colour and will condition and feed them without altering the shade. They also work well on shoes that feature contrast stitching, which can be tricky otherwise.

For best results, make sure the shoes are clean and dry then apply polish with a foam applicator, sponge or cloth, let the leather absorb it for five minutes, then, if required finish them off with a brush and / or shoe cloth. As a general rule, only use polish on polished leather, and avoid application to suede or nubuck as this can alter their finish, also avoid application to patent as this will simply sit on the surface rather than be absorbed. Some materials, nubuck especially, can take polishes if they’ve already been treated. A waxed nubuck for example, will typically receive waxed polishes will no ill effects. If you are at all unsure about the application process, trial the polish in an inconspicuous area, then apply universally when ready.

Shoe creams work very similarly to polishes but typically contain a much lower percentage of wax. This means that they will still nourish and rejuvenate the leather, but will not grant that same level of sheen. Think of it more as a matte finish. Much like polish, creams are available in a wide variety of colours as well as neutral variants, and would be applied in the same manner.

Dubbin is less popular these days but we still get the occasional enquiry. The main difference with dubbin is that it adds a level of waterproofing to shoes that polishes and creams do not. Usually made up of wax, oil and tallow, dubbin provides a duller finish than polish and cream, and tends to be used primarily on footwear worn in testing conditions, where function is more important than form.

The other consideration is material. Most shoes are still made with leathers, usually either a polished leather, nubuck or suede. Polished leathers are most durable and will receive polish, cream and dubbin without much difficulty. Nubuck is more problematic as products can alter the look and feel of this particular material. Waxed nubuck will fare better but can still be altered a little upon application. Suede is even more temperamental and we would not recommend any cream, dubbin or polish.

Suede and nubuck will both benefit from a protector spray, sometimes called a waterproof spray. Even if the shoe in question has ventilation holes, or is completely open like a sandal, this spray will act as a guard against mud, wet marks and many other potential issues. There is a common misconception with these sprays, that they only need to be applied once. This is not true, as the spray is invisible it is hard to tell, but it gradually flakes off. It is advisable to reapply the spray every 2 or 3 months, depending on wear. When applying, follow the guidelines on the container, which usually ask you to apply the spray outside or in a ventilated area, from a distance of roughly 20-30cm, then leave to dry for 10-15 minutes. Keep this routine going and your favourite shoes will look fantastic for a lot longer!

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