Shaving in the Mirror of Boots
By Mike Deslandes - "cdntrucker"
Have you ever noticed the sunlight bounce off his boots in a dazzling
array of light? Perhaps you've been in a bar or some other social
environment and have seen the light dance across his boots as it might
on a calm summer's day shimmering across the top of a lake.
The following procedure will show you how to create that mirror glass
finish which inevitably draws your eyes to it.
Before we begin, here is a list of things you will need. In this case
we'll be dealing with black boots since it seems to be the largest
shade (its a shade not a color really) out there. The concepts held
within can be applied to other shades of polished boots as well.
List of supplies needed:
- 1 horse hair brush (usually 2.0 - 2.5 inch across, and 6 - 8 inches long)
- 1 regular brush (usually same size as horse hair, might be slightly bigger)
- 3 100% cotton cloths (Cotton is important. It must be soft, otherwise you
will scratch the finish of your polishing)
- 2L Warm-Hot Water (Separate it into 1 part and 3 parts)
- 1 squirt of dish soap (1 squirt is all ya need. You'll be mixing it with
the 3 parts water)
- 1 hairdryer (I do realize it sounds funny)
- 1 tin Kiwi Black Polish (I prefer Kiwi, but if you have different polish
that's your fav, no biggie)
- 1 tin Kiwi Black Parade Polish
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 1 container leather conditioner (I tend to use Lexol)
- 1 container saddle soap
- 1 tooth brush.
Let us begin!
The first thing you need to know is whether the boots are brand new or if
they've walked around the block. If they have walked around the block, the
boots will require some added steps.
Cleaning NEW boots:
They come with a finish on them. It is generally a good idea to leave this
finish ON. Let's begin with the cleaning process. Chances are the boots
have been in the box a bit if they're new or they've collected some dirt/dust
from sitting around. First thing is to pull this stuff off. There are a
couple of options.
You can either use mild dish soap or you can use saddle soap. Ensure that
you have plenty of water on hand to dilute the soap and also to rinse
afterwards. Some may opt to use a small brush. It works well at getting
into the crevaces of the boot. You don't want to use too much dish soap.
Just use a quick squirt and swish it around so you get some bubbles.
Start cleaning your boot with the brush. Make sure you get all the excess
bits of dirt off. Whatever you leave on the boot after they have dried
will end up underneath the coats of wax. You don't want that, so give them
a good once over. Do the soles, too, if you like. When I do boots I start
top to bottom and front to back.
Next we need to rinse off any soap. If you've used saddle soap make sure
that there isn't any excess left on the boot. We'll swap the soapy water
for clean water and rinse away all the excess.
Stripping USED boots:
Now we get to the part for boots that have been used....the stripping part.
NO there's isn't a big butch man jumping in front of you gettin' ready to
strip. Skip the following steps if your boots are new.
Using one of the cloths, begin rubbing the boots with the vinegar. I use
it straight. You will notice as you rub that the leather will become duller
and duller. The reason is that your pulling off the layers of wax that have
accumulated. You may not want to pull ALL layers off, maybe just the top two
or three. If your boots have scuffs in the wax. keep rubbing until the
scuffs are gone. (Hopefully the scuffs haven't penetrated down to the
Now we need to rinse off the boots. We don't want the vinegar staying on
the boot, as its an acid, which will eat away at the leather. Allow the
boots to completely dry.
Note #1. Some people opt for rubbing alcohol instead of vinegar. Its fine,
but remember to use a lot more conditioner, after allowing to dry. Alcohol,
as I'm sure we can all attest to, dehydrates (removes water), that's why we
get hang overs.
Note #2. If you live in a winter environment sometimes the salts from the
slush and slit will build, or if you have particularly sweaty feet, sometimes
the salts from the sweat can penetrate throught the leather, leaving white
crusty deposits on the boots, The vinegar/alcohol will help remove the salt.
Conditioning - for both NEW and USED boots:
Once the boots are dry and clean, we will apply our leather conditioner.
Use as much as you like, but a good sign is, the faster the leather dries,
the more conditioner is needed, Have you ever heard of OVER-moisturing your
leather? Its possible, but you'll notice that the conditioner will sit on
top of the leather without being absorbed if you get to that stage. Simply
wipe away the excess.
So we have nice clean boots now. They're ready for polishing.
Polishing Part #1.
Remove your boot laces if you're polishing lace ups.
Take the second cloth (be careful not to use cloth with the vinegar on it)
and begin applying the normal grade polish. It doesn't really matter how it
goes on at this point; however circles are best. Cover the entire boot.
It might take you a few minutes to do this. Once you have covered the
boot, let it stand. We need to give the polish some bonding time to the
leather. Now do the second boot. Same principal applies.
Now let's go watch TV for a while. Give the boots about 40 to 60 minutes
You'll note that the polish has a dull look, and if you touch it, it
should be dry. Take the first brush, the coarser of the two, and begin
brushing. There's no method to the madness, just begin brushing. Make
sure you get in the cracks and tongues of the boot. As you brush your
arms to death the polish will begin coming off. Keep brushing, until the
boot shines as much as you can get it to shine. It doesn't matter which
way you brush, but don't brush too hard or you'll pull off ALL the wax you
just put on, and you don't want to do that. Now brush the other boot until
it shines as much as you can get it to shine.
Let the boots stand now for at least 2 - 4 hours. We need to give the
polish time to harden on top of the leather.
Polishing Part #2.
Part #2 is identical to Part #1; the same process exactly. I usually do the
procedure twice. What we're doing here is building layers. The more layers
we have...the better we are. It'll stop a lot of the scuffing that happens,
especially in the bars and outdoors from contacting with the leather.
Polishing Part #3
The last thing we do here before we move on is take the tooth brush and cover
it in polish. We run it around the base of the leather where it meets the
sole. Brush away the excess.
This day is almost like Day #1 except we switch brushes. Now we use the
horse hair brush. With this brush I will put three more layers of polish on
the boots. Use the same process as before. You might be thinking...well...
why a seperate day. Well hey...if your arms can do it all in 1 day..then be
my guest. Don't forget to let the polish harden in between coats or to
allow for some bonding time.
There is one big difference in this stage though. Remember that hair dryer?
Well for the last 2 coats of polish on this day we apply the polish in
circles, small circles about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. Then we use the
hair dryer to melt the wax smooth, because it is almost next to impossible to
apply polish evenly. We need to start getting the coats of wax as smooth as
So, to review, for the first coat you use the normal brush, for the second
coat you use the horse hair brush and for the third coat use the hair dryer
and horse hair brush.
Day #3 - last day.
Adding the mirror glass finish
We have what I call a semi-shine now, but still not the mirror glass finish
we want. Now we take the high grade polish (parade) and begin applying it
using cloth #3. Use it sparingly. Dab the polish, dab warm water, make
small, small circles on your boots. Grip the cloth between your index and
middle finger. Pull it tight and begin working in small areas. Add more
water if the shine goes dull. Add more polish if there are beads of water
on the leather. You're creating friction between the polish and polish
using water. Keep going. Your finger will probably get sore, but keep on
going...adding more polish, adding more water, rubbing, rubbing, in constant
little circles (kinda like the wipe on, wipe off from Karate Kid).
You have one last thing to do if you have lace ups before you put your laces
back in. Often with black laces, the outer threading breaks a bit and you
see the white interior. To fix this, take a relatively large clump of normal
polish in between layers of one of the dirty clothes, and run your laces
through the polish. Press the cloth with your fingers and slide the laces
through the middle. Now your laces are back to being black. If the white
hasn't started to poke through, then there's no need to do this.
After all this is done, put your laces back into the boots.
There you have it. You can now marvel at your own achievement of well
Now for a couple of interesting notes:
1. If your not going to wear your boots right away, take the last cloth you
used and spray it with a bit of water (mist), and set the cloth to cover the
boots. This will help keep the dust from accumulating on your boots. If you
forget, take that cloth and spray it with mist water and do a quick wipe.
That should do the trick.
2. There are the US version and UK/Canadian version of boot polishing.
The two versions are almost identical with the exception that in the US
they remove all layers of polish periodically and begin fresh, while in
the UK and Canada they build on previous layers, almost never removing
layers unless absolutely necessary.
Hey, if y'all have any more ideas on boot polishing, let me now so I
can incorporate them here.
Boot Information Page