Shoe Shine Products
Products used to make street and golf shoes, boots and athletic shoes look their best fall into three categories: cleaners/conditioners, polishes, proofers and sprays. This chapter will give a detailed look at available products, their names, forms they take, how to use them, and which ones to avoid.
Keep in mind that even the products that I recommend can be misused and become your worst enemy. I'll go into more detail on that before this chapter is out. In addition, I'll be adding some alternative uses for some products that I've discovered since the last edition of this book was written.
Saddle Soap-this product is used to clean shoes when they arrive in the shoe room. It serves to both clean and condition the shoes before polish is applied. It comes in several forms including a liquid, a paste, a bar of soap and in a 5 pound can-if you order from 'Fore' Supply.
Stewards have been known to use all these forms and even create some of their own. In order to make the bar of soap last longer it is often whittled into small chips and placed in a large plastic jar with warm water. If correctly done, a slimy, diluted mixture is achieved. The soap is then put in a smaller container that can be put on the workbench and applied to shoes using a brush with plastic or natural fibers.
-Recommended-Fiebing's Saddle Soap 7 oz. bar/Fiebing's White Saddle Soap 5 lb. tin. The bar is recommended but diluting it is not. Break it in two, place it in a margarine or Tupperware tub, fill the tub half full of water and work it into a lather with a brush (one used to clean dishes is suitable, or you can get a horsehair brush-see Chapter Eleven on Brushes). Diluting the bar is not suggested because shoes will not be fully conditioned, thereby shortening their life.
Fiebing's white saddle soap is close to a cream and requires no preparation. However, I would suggest that you get an ice cream scoop, put 3-4 scoops into a small margarine or Tupperware tub, fill it half full of water and work from there. Your workbench will be less crowded and you'll work more efficiently. Both forms of saddle soap have their advantages. The bar soap lasts longer but is somewhat yellow while the white soap doesn't last quite as long but results in cleaner looking shoes. However, the difference is hardly detectable and is one of personal choice. I have used the bars since I started in the business and still do.
Leather Balm-this product is used to clean, condition and polish shoes.
-Recommended-Meltonian Leather Balm/Zoe's Venetian Cream. Meltonian Balm comes in 4 oz. bottles and Zoe's comes by the quart. Zoe's quart size is definitely the less expensive way to go. The author has tried several brands and they all seem to work well. However, Zoe's works best on white shoes as it is lighter in color. Though it is a cleaner, it's strength is that it can be applied sparingly with a clean cloth and buffed to a brilliant shine; particularly on shoes with synthetic uppers and on those that are difficult to match to a shade of polish. It also works well on shoes that are of various colors but have white stitching, such as Sperry Topsiders. By using leather balm there is no risk of discoloring white threads. However, if the steward who did the shoes before you used polish, watch out! One swipe of the upper with a cloth that has leather balm on it will tell you that.
At The Country Club at DC Ranch, so many members wear Sperry Topsiders and other casual shoes with white threads that I keep 3-4 quarts of Zoe's on hand at all times. However, I put it in a 4 oz. bottle so that it is easier to work with. I just refill the bottle as needed.
Keep in mind that if you should have a can or bottle of polish that has dried up, you can rejuvenate it by adding leather balm and mixing the two together briskly. Instead of wasting old polish you can save it and it will work as good as a new can.
Deglazing Fluid-this is the strongest cleaner in the steward's arsenal. It is so named because it removes or "deglazes" the shine and/or die from leather or plastic shoes. In the case of leather shoes, this fluid is used to remove the dye from the leather as a first step in redying the shoes. Therefore, it must be used with care.
For example, it is especially effective in removing marks on the heel and toe areas of white golf shoes caused by black sole edges striking the uppers. It also is effective in cleaning heavily soiled areas of white golf shoes. I have found that in some cases it can also be used to remove stains from beige or light brown leathers, especially suede. Finally, it is effective in removing polish build up and marks that occur on the heel area of the right shoe that result from driving a car. Keep in mind that if you use this fluid to remove soil from a light brown shoe, it may lighten the treated area. To get the area to match the rest of the shoe, touch it up with polish (sometimes darker than the shoe itself) and buff with a hand brush.
Applying deglazing fluid is done best by using a clean white cloth. It is recommended that a fan be kept running nearby to disburse the fumes. And do not let the fluid touch your skin.
Deglazing Fluid can also be effective in removing stains from suede shoes and water spots from Sperry Topsiders or other brands of shoes similar to those. Do so with great care by testing the fluid on the heel area of the shoe and letting it dry out to see if any damage results. If the fluid should lighten a Sperry Topsider type shoe, just use a darker polish to return the leather to its original color.
Most shoe stewards who have been polishing shoes for a number of years will come across a pair that is obviously been shined hundreds of times and has a great deal of polish build up on it. In fact, the polish may be darker than the original color of the shoe. Deglazing fluid is excellent for stripping this type of shoe of the old polish and returning it to its original condition. A couple words of caution: 1) again, test the shoe in the heel area to make sure the fluid will not damage the shoe, and 2) strip polish off of leather shoes ONLY. It is hard to tell them from leather, but many shoes are made of plastic and deglazing fluid will ruin them, even if applied lightly. In fact, if deglazing fluid stays in contact with shoe uppers from certain brands of golf shoes composed of manmade materials, it will bubble as a result. More on that later.
-Recommended-Dyo Flex Deglazing Fluid/Fore Cleaning Fluid. Dyo comes in a one gallon can, the other in quarts. A pint can/should be used on the workbench for easy access. In fact, I have a pint can with a hole punched in the cap to make getting to it simple.
Reptile Cleaner-this product is great for use on such exotic skins as lizard and alligator. However, if you don't normally do shoes made of reptile and happen to get one in, they can be cleaned up just as well with saddle soap. I do use reptile cleaner, and generally follow that with polish and use a spray shine to finish it off.
Recommended-Propert's Reptile Cleaner and Conditioner/Shirlo's Reptile Cleaner. The first comes in a 7 oz. spray can, the latter in a 6 oz.
Suede Cleaner-before getting into the cleaners that are available, I'll define exactly what suede is. My reason for doing so is that nowadays there seems to be a lot of different kinds. And that leads to confusion as to how to clean/treat it. There are natural...