Being part of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces it is safe to say I have, cleaned, bulled/polished and dried my fair share of shoes, boots and trainers.
Cleaning shoes and making them look pristine is something that I pride myself in. Taking care of yourself and showing what sort of person you really are can nine times out of ten always be seen through the choice of shoes you put on before you leave the house. Not necessarily the type, style or in fashion designer brand but the cleanliness and well looked after stand out best.
My tips for bulling/polishing shoes would be:
- Use plenty of water
- Small or tiny amounts of polish
- Cotton wool and or a yellow duster/Chamois leather (‘Shammy leather’)
Firstly forget lots of polish and rushing – this is a process that takes time and effort but people will be asking you how you did it, forget these quick apply shine rub-on polishes that you can purchase over the counter for £3. If you really want to stand out from the crowd and do a good job of it then take your time – it is not a rushing process and can sometimes take from 1 day to 7 and sometimes longer in order to get the desired effect on your shoe of choice.
Secondly make sure you have access to a cup/tub of cold or room temperature water, never hot water as this will do more harm than good for the pursuit of perfection and that mirrored effect. I would ideally use a cold running water tap, however I understand getting polish all over the sink basin may not go down well. Although if you do have access then follow the next steps careful for either of the above:
Grab two bits your cotton wool, soak them both in water and the other ever so gently dip into your polish, then proceed with one to wipe the surface of the leather that you are about to polish into that mirrored state. Obviously without getting the inside of the shoe wet (if this does happen then I have a tip for getting them dry later on). When the leathers surface is wet ideally place the shoe under a slow running tap as to reduce splashing, start to again gently rub the polish on lightly whilst keeping the part polishing either constantly covered in water by the running tap or by the cup/tub of water next to you – reapply (the water) it as often as possible with the cotton wool and also tiny amounts of polish.
At first you will probably see little or no change to what you are doing, don’t give up! Persevere, it’ll all be worth the finished article. You may notice the leather slightly dull at first, but just keep on going, and eventually the small circles that you are performing on the shoe will start to buff up and you’ll see the results, I would say depending on the quality and surface nature (e.g. flat or bumpy) you may not get the results as quickly, obviously the flatter the surface of the leather the norm is to get that shine quicker, but it is not a rush job as previously mentioned and if you’re still reading then you are clearly still wondering what the next steps are to finish off the look.
Progressing the stage to where you have the entire shoe with small shiny circles around it, and hopefully multiple levels of polish on the leather it is now time to start to blend them in, with slightly larger circles and repeat the process and after that with bigger circles. When you are finally happy with the look then proceed to grab a new piece of cotton wool and just simply soak it. Again either hold the part of the leather that you are polishing under the cold tap or be ready with your cup/tub of water and start to perform the circular motion with the cotton wool with NO polish on it. Do this for 10 minutes and I promise you that you will not be disappointed.
Also something to add would be that normal Kiwi Polish is the most effective, not any others that I have used, even the parade polish, use the original for best results.
On and off brushes
A simple way to get best results with the on and off brushes, firstly make sure you designate one as the on and off brush, typically this could get confusing so name your brushes and mark them with their names of ‘ON’ and ‘OFF’. Apply a small amount of polish to the on brush and then start to brush away, until the entire shoe or boot is covered. Then simply leave it for 12 hours, come back to it and use the off brush to get the shoe or boot nice and shiny. This can be repeated multiple times and will get better each time.
Common mistakes is to buff the shoes or boots off too soon after application of polish, give it time to dry and settle in for the best results.
Polishing allows for the leather to be looked after and also allows for the shoe to become more supple and can deter spills, or the protecting them from the British weather getting into the leather and deteriorating them.
Shoes becoming wet – no worries
Having to dry my shoes, boots or trainers in the Royal Marines amongst everything else going on seemed the norm for most days, with tight time constraints and little time, finding new ways of drying them was essential. Simple and you won’t believe how well it actually works. Make sure you hold onto those Monday morning papers, don’t leave them on the train for others to read if you know you’re going to most likely go home with wet feet and shoes later that day.
All you’ll need is:
- 1 or 2 Newspapers (e.g. The Sun or Daily Mail)
You don’t need anything else honest. Stuff the shoes with the stuff and place them somewhere dry and room temperature, as you don’t ideally want to put them in the airing cupboard or other similar rooms. Otherwise that could lead to damaged shoes and cracked leather or material and we don’t want that!
Check on them after an hour and then remove some newspaper and replace it with more dry newspaper. The newspaper will have soaked up a lot of the moisture and water within the shoe and the results will be surprising. So just make a conscious effort to check them every one-two hours for the first four hours or so and by the morning they will be dry. A great little tip for quick drying of all shoes.
Cleaning the leather or rubber on your shoes
We all have those hard to clean trainer or shoes, especially with the small nodules on the leather or rubber, a great way to clean the dirt or marks off of them would be to use the following:
- Baby wipes
Both brilliant however I would probably be prone to use the baby wipes first as they have a fantastic ability of removing dirt or stains quickly without leaving much moisture or any smears. Ideal for all shoes or trainers apart from on suede shoes.
The sponge I would simply use cold or warm water and rub gently over the dirty or effected area/s.
Both ways of removing dirt are very cheap and easy, therefore why would you make it hard or long winded for yourself. Please what ever you do stay away from the washing machine! It may work well once or twice but the idea is preserve your shoes or trainers, putting them in a spin cycle for long periods at over 30 degrees won’t be good for them. Eventually resulting in deterioration and throwing away of your favourite pair of shoes.
However on the other hand, any laces you wish to clean then you could use the washing machine and or tumble dryer. Although I would soak them in the sink with lots of washing up powder in there. Give them a good rinse after a few hours and maybe a light scrub with a sponge and proceed to rinse them in cold clean water.
What to stay away from
I would always stay away from the following:
- Quick apply Polish
- Cheap Polish
- Buffing up the polish too soon – give it time
- Drying your shoes in an airing cupboard – unless for short periods of time
- Rubbing to hard whether cleaning or polishing
- Making unnecessary mess
- Hot water
- Throwing away your newspapers
- Washing machines and Tumble dryers
- Rushing or becoming complacent
For more tips on keeping your shoes pristine, visit The Style Hub at Farfetch