The Golden Rules
Always use products of the highest quality. The leather of a shoe is delicate; there is no need for polishes which cover up the creases, but for creams which nourish the leather and slow the process of ageing. The best products are English or German and are of a creamy consistency because cream more easily penetrates the leather. Polishes made of a solid paste are intended for bringing the leather to a shine.
Always use a coloured polish which matches as closely as possible to that of the shoe so as not to alter its colour. Avoid neutral polish which tends to have a greying effect on the upper. Use shoebrushes made from natural materials with long, soft bristles. These will polish more effectively. Use cream polishes extremely sparingly. The polished finish is obtained by allowing the cream to penetrate the pores of the leather without blocking them; an excess of grease will only prevent the leather breathing. A well-polished shoe should appear glossy and sheer. Avoid liquid coatings and scuff-coat polishes; they may speed up the process but at the cost of irreversibly ruining the shoe, covering it with a waterproof coating which will dry out the leather and which is removed with difficulty.
The Shoecare Kit
In order to best take care of your shoes a cleaning kit worthy of its name should consist of:
- a small shoebrush or cloth for even distribution of the polish
- a larger shoebrush
- a cloth for polishing, or even better a polishing glove made from synthetic wool to give the final touch
- a jar of cream polish
- a tin of solid paste polish
Each of the above should be supplied for each colour of shoe. This is not an unnecessary extravagance; it is the only way to preserve the colour of the original and to avoid superimposing a different colour over the top. In addition the following are required:
- a pencil eraser
- a small brush or handkerchief
- a small bottle of solution, indispensable for removing rainspots
- a small jar of product to colour to the soles
- a small bottle of degreasing solution
When to Clean Them
Your shoes should be cleaned after each wear, or at the very least before the following day. After every 10-12 polishes it is necessary to degrease them. To achieve this a number of excellent trichlorethylene-based solutions are available.
Gently rub a cloth soaked in one of these solutions over the shoe until the gloss has been removed, leave them overnight and then polish them as though they were new, sole included. Don’t forget that shoes should only be cleaned when they are completely dry.
If shoes are damp when removed allow them to dry on the wooden last, or fill them with newspaper (the paper holds the shape of the shoes whilst they dry and absorbs some of the moisture). Allow them to dry at room temperature; avoid leaving them near a source of heat, or worse still, on top of a radiator – they will tend to harden and chap. If water droplets are present on the upper wipe them with a specialist solution using a sponge, and leave them to dry on the last. The following day you will be able to polish them.
How to Clean Them
This is an operation which requires patience and dedication, but the greater the care with which it is done, the more satisfying and illustrious the results will be.
- Using a medium-hard shoebrush remove any dirt, above, below and in the seams.
- If any stains remain, remove them with a damp sponge and a little neutral soap. With a smaller natural shoebrush rub a little polish into the difficult areas (seams, borders, etc.). Remove any excess.
- Dip a cloth which has been very slightly dampened with alcohol into the polish (a quick dab and lift) and rub it over the whole shoe, using circular motions but without pressing.
- With a soft brush begin to brush the leather, first in one direction and then the other.
- When the polish is well distributed, using the palm of the hand “caress” the shoe until it appears sheer as glass.
- Repeat brushing with a soft brush.
Rub the polishing glove or soft cloth over the shoe to remove any watermarks.
Polish using a hartshorn. Typically cordovan grease will reinstate them to their original shine.
Patent Leather Shoes
Specialist cleaning gels are available.
Clean using a small, soft brush.
Storing Shoes in the Wardrobe
Remember that they should always be kept in shoebags made from wool or cotton, never plastic.
Ideally this should be made from lightweight, porous wood with doors made from Viennese straw which allows the shoes to breathe. Since both humid and dry environments can be harmful the shoerack should be situated in a humid place, far from any direct sources of heat.
Together with the daily care routine this item is indispensable for the successful preservation of the shoe. It is available in wood or plastic and provided with a solid metal stem or coiled spring system.
Made from prestigious materials (the most highly valued and aesthetically pleasing is horn), metal or plastic, no shoerack is complete without it. Use it every time you put your shoes on.
Avoid forcing and crushing the counter with the heel, folding it down on itself with aesthetically displeasing consequences.
Travelling with Shoes
It’s best not to mix shoes and clothes in the same travelling case. There are many beautiful bags on the market, made from washable materials, that once used can be refolded and stored, taking up very little space. They open like a notebook and on each page compartments unfold in which one or two shoes can be arranged, each with a shoetree duly inserted.