Over the past year, I’ve received quite a few questions, the overwhelming majority of which relate to the “mirror shine.” So, in lieu of a full-blown polish routine, I’m addressing a few of the most common “mirror shine” questions, as I work on refinishing the toes on a pair of my Saint Crispin’s jodhpurs. Join me by posting before and after photos here of your own polish job today! Without further ado, let’s get to it…
Q. How do I prepare my shoes for a “mirror shine?”
A. Preparation, of course, depends on the condition of the shoes, where a brand-new pair likely doesn’t require much preparation at all, but a well-worn pair would likely require a thorough cleaning with the appropriate agent (e.g., Renovateur, Neutral Cream Polish, Reno’mat, etc.). Ideally, the surface would then be prepared with some initial coats of wax, which have been applied, dried, and then brushed, à la:
Q. Do I use a cloth, a t-shirt, a chamois, or what? And how much polish do I use?
A. I like using cotton pads or cotton balls because I am able to get a better feel for the amount of pressure I’m using when applying the wax polish to the shoe. However, you can use whatever you feel most comfortable with. As for the amount of wax polish per layer:
Q. Speaking of pressure, how much pressure do I use?
A. The amount of pressure you use when applying the wax polish will vary throughout the process, as the more wax you apply to the shoe, the less pressure you need to work in the wax polish. By way of example, for each layer I usually apply the wax polish gently at first, increase pressure while I’m working the wax polish from hazy to clear, and then back pressure off to finish each layer with a buff.
Q. What about using water? Or should I use alcohol? If either, how much?
A. I recommend using both water and rubbing alcohol (90%+), in a 3:1 or 4:1 water: alcohol mixture. Alternatively, you can just use water or, depending on the consistency of the wax polish you’re using, you may not need water or a water: alcohol mixture at all. If you do, then this is really all you need per layer of wax polish:
As you work the wax polish from hazy to clear your cloth/pad/chamois should move freely across the surface of the leather, i.e., you should feel like you are “pushing” the wax polish around easily. If the cloth/pad/chamois feels “sticky” or is dragging on the leather, you either used too much wax polish or you need to add a bit more water or water: alcohol mixture (or both).
Q. I’ve heard “heat and friction” are key…but my hands can’t move like an orbital waxer (yet)?
A. True, heat and friction play a significant role, but you don’t need to and shouldn’t rub wax polish into your shoes with wild abandon. You should be able to achieve a “mirror shine” with moderate effort. Again, if the wax polish layer you’re applying isn’t turning from hazy to clear, your cloth/pad/chamois will most likely feel “sticky” or drag on the leather…so…see above.
After a few layers of wax polish properly applied with moderate effort, your shoes should start to gloss up:
Q. How do I know when I’m finished?
A. As with many subjective matters, “you’ll know when you see it.”