Together with my friends at Distinctly Different, also known for The ShoeCare-Shop, we have produced a series of shoe care guides to give you the essentials on proper shoe care. This week we offer you article 4; a step-by-step guide on how to spit shine your leather shoes.
How to spit shine your shoes
For anyone who wants the ultimate shine on their shoes, there is spit shining. It will give the tip of your shoes the perfect high gloss. The secret of spit shining lies in the multiple thin layers of shoe wax, and the shining of these layers. Curious? These steps will guide you through the process and give you the ins and outs of a good spit shine.
A spit shine is mostly used for the toe box of shoes and in some cases also on the heel, since these part of the shoes don’t flex. Aplying a spit shine on other parts of the shoe makes no sense as the wax will crack when the leather flexes.
Before you start with a spitshine, it can be useful to clean your shoes and get rid of the old polish. It isn’t always needed – depending on the state of your shoes – but it can help to get a spitshine more easily. Old layers of shoe polish can contain dirt, sand and dust – which can stop you from achieving that spit shine you desire.
To clean your shoes you can wash your shoes with either Saphir Saddle Soap or Saphir Renomat. After you’ve washed your shoes, nourish and shine them the normal way – as explained in this article. Recommended is to use a coloured shoe cream to recolour your shoes – this helps to get a higher gloss.
Once you’ve gone through all the necessary steps to wash, nourish and shine your shoes, you can start working on the spit shine – also known as ‘glazing your shoes’. The basic principle is applying thin layers of shoe wax, and shining each of the layers in between. The layers even out the coarse structure of the leather. Note that some shoes are made of finer leather than others – so one pair might take longer to spit shine than another.
We recommend working with Saphir Medaille d’Or Pate de Luxe since it is famous for its great shining and nourishing qualities. If you prefer to use a different brand of shoe polish make sure you use a natural beeswax based shoe wax. If you don’t, you risk damaging the leather.
Before you start
- You can choose to let your shoe wax dry out a bit before you start. By leaving the lid off the wax for a day or so, the moisture in the wax will evaporate. That way you get a concentrated shoe wax that will shine more easily.
- Use a shoe wax with the same colour or slightly darker than the leather of your shoes.
- Use a cotton cloth so you don’t scratch the shoe wax when you apply a layer. If you scratch the layers, you can’t get a spit shine.
- Wrap the cloth around your index and middle finger, so you have a small and smooth surface to shine with. Watch this video for more details:
The first layers (1-3)
Apply a little shoe wax to the cloth and massage the wax into the leather of your shoes. Make sure you hold the cloth as shown in the video. The general rule is to use as little shoe wax as possible, but for the first three layers you want to use slightly more since you are trying to cover the structure of the leather with layers of shoe wax.
Once you’ve finished one layer on your shoe, start with the other shoe so the wax can dry into the leather a little bit. As soon as you’ve finished the second shoe, you can go back to the first and shine the wax. Do this with a horsehair shine brush until you are happy with the result. Finish the layer with a shine cloth, rubbing it firmly and quickly over the toe cap to create heat. The heat melts the wax evenly over your shoe, making it as smooth as can be. Do this in between all the first three layers.
After the third layer you can check if you’ve used enough shoe wax, simply by touching the leather with your fingers. If you can still feel the structure of the leather clearly, you might want to apply another layer. If you only feel it slightly or even better, not at all, you can continue with the finishing of your spit shine.
Building up your shine (layers 4 and up)
Apply the next layer of wax, but really try to use as little as possible from this layer on. Also add some water to the wax from now on. A little water will help to distribute the wax more evenly over the leather, which we will explain later.
Use just enough wax to cover the toe cap, but don’t apply a thick layer. The shoes already have a thick layer, because of the three thin layers you’ve applied earlier.
Once you’ve applied the layer, let it dry. If you didn’t let the wax dry in the tin for a day before you used it, it needs to dry a bit longer on the shoe.
Wait a few minutes and shine the wax using only the cotton cloth. Again, use only two fingers inside the cloth as explained earlier in the video. It enhances the heat, which causes the wax to shine more. Before you start, drip two small drops of water on the toe box of your shoe; the water will help to distribute the heat, creating an even layer of wax.
Apply as many of these layers as you wish, until you’ve reached the shine you were hoping for. Keep checking your progress in between the layers by touching the leather to feel if it is smooth already. On average it takes about seven to ten layers of wax to get a spit shine, depending on the type of shoe wax and technique you use.
No luck? No tools!
Finding it difficult to get the level of spit shine you want? Use no tools at all. By applying and shining shoe wax with your bare hands you create the most heat, thus getting the quickest shine. Downside: your hands will obviously be covered in shoe wax, but since it’s a natural wax, there are worse things.
Simply apply the wax with your fingertips and let the wax dry for 5 minutes. Shine your shoes by quickly rubbing the heel of your hand over the waxed toe box. This creates so much heat that the wax melts and creates a smooth shiny layer.
To wax and shine the rest of your shoe, use a Saphir Medaille d’Or shine glove. The glove allows you to cover a bigger area of the shoe than you would using only two fingers in the shine cloth.
Stay tuned for next weeks article that will be the last part in this shoe care series.