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Shoe Care Guide

How to Condition Leather Shoes

Kirby Allison, the founder of The Hanger Project, teaches you how to condition leather shoes in a few simple steps. Properly conditioning leather shoes is an important part of any shoe shine routine. It helps restore the natural oils in the leather, keeping it soft, flexible, and free of cracking. With a variety of products available in the market, each with a different purpose, it may be hard to choose the right one for your pair of shoes. This video will go over a few of these options and their unique uses so you can make an informed decision when buying your own.

Products used in this video:


Hi, I'm Kirby Allison, and here at The Hanger Project we love to help the well-dressed take care of their wardrobes. In today's video, I'm going to be talking about how condition leather shoes using the Saphir Medaille d'Or products. If you have any questions or comments during this video please ask them in the comments section below. I always get back to those comments personally.

Now, Saphir Medaille d'Or has 3 different conditioners and each is uniquely different for a specific application. A really good leather conditioner is an important staple of any shoe shine routine because leather, being a natural product, is going to dry out over time. A good leather conditioner is going to restore the natural oils in your leather dress shoe so that the leather remains soft, supple, flexible, and so that you don't have to worry about any cracking that could occur as leather dries out. Now there's different conditioners for different purposes and for different types of leather. And so that's where having three different types of conditioners with the Saphir Medaille d'Or comes into play.

Without question. The most popular leather conditioner we sell here at The Hanger Project is the Saphir Renovateur Medaille d'Or. This is widely considered by shoe aficionados to be one of the best leather conditioners in the world. And it's what we call here at The Hanger Project, liquid gold. The reason the Saphir Renovateur is such a popular product is because one, it is an incredibly effective conditioner. But secondly it is just a very versatile product because it's a water based formulation it can be used on calfskin, cordovan, on crocodile, on Alligator, on ostrich, it can be used on almost any type of smooth leather. The water based formulation ensures that it's going to be a gentle conditioner and that it's not going to affect any type of finishes that might be unstable. The source for mink oil that Saphir uses in all of its mink oil formulation is obtained by a humane organization that is regulated by the European authorities and it's being done in the most humane way possible.

The next one I want to talk about and certainly one of the newest conditioners from Saphir is the 100 percent mink oil. This uses a highly refined mink oil and is really meant just for a deep irregular conditioning. This product is incredibly nourishing and rich and it's something that you'd use once or twice a year really to rejuvenate leather that is dry. Now what's unique about this mink oil formulation is that it uses a highly refined mink oil so it's not going to leave a very greasy residue behind on the leather that could prevent the shoe from absorbing any type of polish afterwards and that's a common problem you find with less expensive mink oils.

Now the Saphir mink oil is something that I would traditionally use just on calfskin and then finally we have the Saphir Nappa Leather Balm. The Nappa Leather Balm as a solvent free water-based conditioner that uses cosmetic quality vegetable oils, such as jojoba oil and wheat proteins that is really meant for those finely delicate Leathers like box calf, veal, goat, or even the types of leather that are more commonly used in women's handbags. What's nice about the Nappa Leather Balm is one, you don't have to worry about it changing the color of the leather at all and it doesn't contain any waxes so it's not going to change the texture of the leather whereas with using the mink oil you're going to see a little bit of a shine leftover. And using the Saphir Renovateur, you're going to have a shine because of the waxes. The Nappa Leather Balm really leaves a nice soft natural leather finish after you use it.

Next I'm going to apply these three Saphir products to Grenson Hand Grades so that you can actually see how they affect the leather. These Grenson Hand Grades are really a shoe that I'll never get rid of because it was one of my first nice pairs of shoes I invested in in college, and you can see even after what is almost 15 years they still look fantastic because I've taken such good care of them. So this is the pair that I wanted to use today because of all of my shoes, it probably has the leather that needs conditioning the most. So first time to apply the Saphir Renovateur.

Now, the Saphir Renovateur is a product that you could polish with regularly. Now the Saphir Renovateur doesn't contain any pigments in it. If you have any types of scuffing or discoloration or you are going to want to use an actual pigmented polish so that you can recolor. But if all you're looking is for a quick shine and a little bit of conditioning the Saphir Renovateur is a fantastic product. You can really see it beginning to work here because the leather is darkening. Now what that's telling you is that the nutrients in the Saphir Renovateur is actually being absorbed by the leather and causing the leather to darken. The darkening is only temporary. In the same way that if you were to wet a piece of paper, it darkens and then once the paper dries it returns to its normal color. Leather really responds the same way. It will always darken if your conditioning it. But then as soon as the leather dries and you buff the polish it should return back to its normal color. I'm only going to apply the Saphir Renovateur to the first half of the shoe because I'd like to use the Nappa Leather Balm on the back half to just contrast the way that those two conditioners work.

So I'm going to set this aside and I will let that polish dry and then I'm going to use the Saphir Mink Oil with the right shoe. Now what's special about the Mink Oil Medaille d'Or, again, is it's using that highly refined mink oil and has been formulated in such a way that it minimizes the greasy kind of oily residue that any mink oil is going to leave behind on the shoe. As you can see from my chamois it's really a thick product it's very rich. This is actually more closely compared to like the Saphir Dubbin which is again you know a product that you would use less regularly just to provide that really deep rich nourishment. So I'm going to apply this onto the shoe. And again, it goes on very thick and you can see the oily texture. You know, the shoe leather is shining itself. If you were using this as part of a deep conditioning routine that then I would actually recommend leaving the mink oil on the shoe even overnight just to give the leather as much time as possible to absorb the oils into the leather. It will leave us slightly greasy residue on the leather behind which could make polishing the shoe using, let's say the Saphir Pommadier Cream Polish a little difficult.

I recommend allowing the leather a few days to fully absorb that into the leather before trying to polish with the more traditional polish. So you could leave this on overnight, buff it in the morning, and then allow the shoe one or two more days to sit, buff it again, and then continue with the rest of the shoeshine routine. OK. So I've applied the Saphir Mink Oil and I've applied the Saphir Renovateur and you can really see just between the two of these how they're totally different products. The Saphir Mink Oil is leaving a nice kind of greasy residue on the leather. Now, certainly less than what you would get from a traditional mink oil, but it still is a very potent and a very rich conditioner and you can see that with how it leaves that oily residue on the leather itself. The Saphir Renovateur is drying like a more traditional polish, it's drying matte, and those are the waxes drying and whenever I buff this off you'll see it go to a shine.

I'm gonna set the right shoe aside and then what I'm going to do is apply the Nappa Leather Balm. Now, the Nappa Leather Balm, again, is a vegetable based conditioner and is really meant for delicate leathers that you might be concerned with changing the color or changing the texture. It doesn't contain any waxes it's just an emulsion, a water based emulsion of those different oils. Now the Nappa Leather Balm is great for say like a ladies shoe like a Chanel pump or a Chanel flat because again it doesn't contain any waxes. It's not going to change any of the surface texture of the leather itself. Or if you're really concerned about darkening some leather then you could use the Nappa Leather Balm to just ensure that you're not going to darken the leather at all. If you were to compare the Nappa Leather Balm to the Saphir Renovateur you can see that it's not drying with that wax layer.

Ok so I'm not allow these shoes a few minutes to dry and then we'll buff them off using the horsehair brush to see what they look like. Now that these shoes have had about 10 to 15 minutes to dry, I'm going to buff off the polish using our Hanger Project 100 percent horsehair brush so that I can show you what these shoes look like after they've been buffed. I've buffed off each of the three different conditioners using our Hanger Project Horsehair Shoeshine Brush and you can see the Saphir Renovateur compared to the Saphir Mink Oil couldn't be any more different. With the left shoe, where I used the Saphir Renovateur, you really have what looks like a traditional shine. And again you conditioned using the Mink Oil based cleaner and conditioner but also the beeswax and soft waxes in the Saphir Renovateur have left a nice soft shine. You compare that to the right shoe where I used the Saphir Mink Oil, the 100 percent Mink Oil, you can still see the product on the leather. The leather is still dark. That means that it's still absorbing the nutrients from the mink oil and even if you run your fingers over this you can still feel the texture of the Mink Oil after even rigorous buffing.

So as I said earlier, what I would recommend with the Mink Oil again is this is for more kind of occasional deep nourishment and you would almost want to leave it on the shoe overnight, buff it off, and then allow the shoe one to two additional days and maybe even three to fully absorb all of the mink oil. You would come back on it buff it again, and at that point you would be able to add traditional polishes and resume polishing the shoe normally. Now comparing that to the Nappa Leather Balm you know you don't see really any waxes, it's more kind of the natural texture of the leather. It went on very nicely. It didn't darken the leather at all. It also didn't change the surface texture because it didn't have any waxes. The Nappa Leather Balm really is best thought of as almost like a pure conditioner. It's all you get from the Nappa Leather Balm is just conditioning if you need any waxes you could add an additional product like the Saphir Pommadier Cream Polish or Wax Polish, but it's still a really nice, really potent leather conditioner.
So as you can tell these three conditioners couldn't be any more different. I mean the Saphir Renovateur, it's like liquid gold, it's a staple. Honestly this is a product that anyone that has shoes that they're trying to take great care of should own. The other two products, the Mink Oil and the Nappa Balm are more specialty conditioners that each have their specific use and application, but certainly a much more limited scope than the Saphir Renovateur itself. So if anyone's looking for just a really good leather conditioner for your dress shoes the Saphir Renovateur is my number one recommendation. And it's certainly the reason why this is one of the most popular shoe care products we sell here at The Hanger Project. If you have a pair of shoes you're looking to bring back from death, then the Saphir Mink Oil is going to do that with its incredibly rich and potent nourishment. And then if you have a pair of shoes, a wallet, or a handbag for that matter that you want to condition without waxing or changing the surface texture, than without question the Saphir Nappa Leather Balm is a fantastic choice.

If you have any questions or comments about anything I discussed in this video please ask them in the comments section below. I get back to all those questions personally. If you like this video, give us the thumbs up, or better yet, subscribe to our channel and turn on notifications by hitting the small little bell so that you can learn whenever we release new videos. And of course please take a moment to visit where we have the largest and most comprehensive collection of luxury shoe care and garment care accessories in the world as well as other products for the well-dressed. While you're there, take a moment, sign up for our newsletter so that you can receive notifications whenever we launch new products, run promotions, as well as our weekly digest of videos that we post here on this YouTube channel. I'm Kirby Allison, thanks for joining us.