Whether it is your SAF boots, or a fine pair of hand-crafted, full grain leather oxfords, this routine will be sure to get you a mirror shine! A pair of well-shined toe caps is dressy and sophisticated, and is a mark of a meticulous individual.
The mechanics of a mirror-shine is simple: we fill the uneven surface of the leather grain with layers of wax until it becomes smooth and reflective.
Mirror Shine Routine
Insert Shoe Trees
A firm and stable surface is crucial to achieving a mirror shine. If you allow the leather to flex when applying polish, it will cause polish to be applied unevenly and may even crack the polish layer. If you haven’t already, insert a pair of well-fitting shoe trees into your shoe.
For this guide, we will be using a pair of SAF boots which are built to be protectively stiff. Hence there is no need for boot trees.
1. Clean the shoe / boot
Remove the laces so that you can access all the crevices of the boot / shoe.
Using a horsehair brush, quickly brush off surface dust and grime.
Follow up with a damp cloth and make sure to access the crevices of your shoe. You do not want dust and dirt trapped in your polish.
Strip old polish off
If the layer of polish over your shoe gets too thick, they are prone to cracking when the leather flexes. These cracks cause unevenness and make it hard to achieve a smooth layer when you polish over them. It is best to strip off all the polish to get the best possible shine. Do this by applying rubbing alcohol to a rough cotton rag and rubbing vigorously.
Rubbing alcohol dissolves the old polish so that it can be removed. Repeat until most of the polish is gone and you can see the leather grain again.
2. Apply a thick base coat
The base coat is the foundation of your mirror shine and serves to fill up the pores of the leather grain quickly. You’ll want to use liberal amounts of wax polish – do not be shy about piling it on! Spread the wax evenly all over the toe cap, then let dry for an hour. You can tie the cotton rag to your finger with a rubber band to make thing easier.
An polish dauber brush could also be used to speed up forming this base layer – creating the mirror surface will be for later.
Use the buffing brush to buff the base coat afterwards.
3. Water shine / “Spit-shine”
Although some people use their own spit for this step, we prefer not to as we do not know whether the compounds in the foods we consume will affect leather health. Tap water will give the same effect.
- Wrap a fresh part of the cotton cloth tightly around your fingers and dip the tip into the water dish
- Get a minute amount of wax on the wet tip
- Apply this wax in small, quick circles onto a small area of your toe cap. Initially, it will seem to form a duller layer over the area – do not worry as this is part of the process. Keep repeating the small circles and the dull layer will fade to reveal a glossier, shiner layer.
- Repeat (1) – (3) until the whole toe cap is covered.
- Repeat (1)-(4) for about 5-10 more thin coats. By then, the toe cap should be already be nearing a mirror shine, save for very, very unnoticeable “tracks” of your circular motions.
- The secret trick here is to use rubbing alcohol on a fresh part of the rag. Rub this in quick, small circles to smoothen the final layer of wax into a true mirror-shine!
Note that the quicker your motion, the more heat you generate and the faster the wax melts into a smooth layer.