Shoe Restoration Guide

Shoe Restoration Guide

Hello! We are going to show you how you can overhaul and restore your battered shoes using Saphir’s products. The test subject, an abused whole-cut oxford in ILCEA’s brown museum calf. Heavily worn without any conditioning or protection, this pair has suffered major scuffing and discolouration. In some areas, the top grain layer has been damaged. The leather looks dried up and has an extremely tough hand.

Our test subject for today, heavily abused oxford

Extensive discolouration and scuffs

This guide will be broken down into 4 main sections, namely:

  1. Preparation
  2. Cleaning
  3. Conditioning
  4. Finishing
Step 1: Preparation
Unlaced the oxford and insert a pair of shoe trees into them. This ensures your shoes are properly stretched out. You will find that it is much easier to clean this way. If you do not have a shoe tree, squash old newspaper together in bunches and stuff the shoe.
Use a horse hair brush, give it a good dusting to ensure all dirts are removed. Take extra care along the welt, vamp and inside of the tongue. Brush thoroughly.
Dust thoroughly with a horse hair brush to remove all dirt and dust

Step 2: Cleaning
Removing old polishes If your shoe has existing layers of polishes, please remember to remove them with a cleaner. You can use Saphir’s Renomat leather cleaner.
Extremely cloggy and dirty leather If your shoe extensive mould growths and very dirty, we suggest to use Saphir’s Saddle Soap (Etalon Noir) to thoroughly wash the leather. You will need to let your shoes dry overnight (minimum 6 hours).
Regular Cleaning / Restoration
If your shoe has no old polishes sitting on-top and is relatively clean, we suggest you to use either the Saphir’s Renovateur creme, Lotion or Creme Universelle. All 3 products are similar in function and usage - they lightly clean and condition the shoe, ensuring your leather become supple and nourished.
In our case, we decided to go with the Renovateur creme. After applying just a SINGLE coat of it with our bare hands, this is how it looks:
Left: original state / Right: after a single coat of Renovateur creme
Immediately, the results are apparent. The leather becomes softer and visibly regain back its colour. More snippets below:
Left: original battered state / right: after a single coat of Renovateur creme
Left: original battered state / right: after a single coat of Renovateur creme
Given the shoe’ condition, we will apply another 2 coats of Renovateur creme, before leaving it to rest for 30 minutes. This allows the leather to fully absorb the nutrients of the Renovateur creme.

After this, we give the shoe a thoroughly buffing with a chamois or cotton cloth. This ensures the creme is evenly distributed and penetrates into the upper. When buffing, we strongly recommend to use droplets of water, this will greatly help in polishing and achieving a shine.

Your shoe should look like this after several coats of Renovateur creme:
Mild, even shine appearing after buffing with ONLY Renovateur creme

Step 3: Conditioning
While the Renovateur excels at conditioning, it is not sufficient, as it lacks colour pigments and natural beeswax. This is primarily why we advocate the use of Creme polish. Their sole purpose is to:
  1. Further saturate and nourish the leather fibres
  2. Provide recolouring effect (which we will observe later)
  3. High concentration of beeswax will provide a mild layer of protection against stains and water
  4. Depending on how thoroughly it was polished, creme polishes can provide a mild - high level of shine
For this pair, we decided to go with a base coat of Pommadier 1925 creme in Medium Brown, followed by additional coats of Pommadier 1925 creme in Parisian Brown to enhanced the colour depth. Using multiple creme colours is particularly useful when the shoe has some hand dyeing techniques applied (aka patina).
After 2 coats in Medium Brown and 2 coats in Parisian Brown, the leather evidently becomes more supple and softer, it feels nourished and spruced up. This is possible by the highly penetrative formulation of the Pommadier 1925 creme.
After adding the first coat of Parisian Brown creme!
A stark contrast between the two, a timely reminder of the importance of creme polishes!
After application of the final coat of creme polish, we suggest to let the shoe sit for awhile (10 - 15 minutes) for best results, your individual mileage may vary. After this, we are ready to proceed on to finishing. Note: for those who are not keen on having a gloss shine, you can stop here.

Step 4: Finishing / aka wax polishing
Only done at the last stage, wax polishing is perhaps the most common aspect in ‘Shoe Care’. But of course, this concept is largely misleading.

Wax polishes on their own offer little nourishment relative to creme polish. If used inappropriately, it will prevent the leather from breathing. There is also the issue of wax polishes caking up, due to lack of knowledge and know-hows, but we will come to that later.

Wax polishes, or Saphir’s Pate de luxe, come in 2 types, the regular Pate de luxe which is widely renown, and the newly launched Mirror Gloss Wax.

Right out of the tin, the regular wax are comparatively softer and easier to use. The Mirror Gloss on the other hand, is hard and dry. Unless you already have good techniques and know-hows, we recommend using the Mirror Gloss only after using the creme polish and regular waxes.

With that, lets start polishing the shoes. We strongly recommend not to heavily wax the entire upper, especially on areas that flex a lot -- the vamp, facing and quarters. If you wish, go over with 1-2 coats, that will suffice.

It is only the toes and heel counter of the shoes that we can freely express our polishing artistry. Initial coats are applied without the aid of water, this is to build up the base layers.
After which, you mix droplets of water and continue to buff, to build up more layers of wax. The key is to balance pressure, water and wax ratio.
Wax polishing in progress, only on the toes and heel counters
At this stage, it is ultimately up to you to shine to your hearts delight. With practice, the right techniques and plenty of patience. You will eventually find this a piece of cake! Below, we can compare the visibly differences after going through Saphir’s 3-step care regime.
Breathing a new lease of life into them!
With a nifty shine on the toes, it really elevates the elegance of your shoes
After and before!
Almost good as new!

Final Notes
While this may sound relatively simple, the fundamental issue is to master balance and ‘feel’ of the leather. This is exactly the reason why some will easily whip up a shine in less than 30 minutes, while others struggle to put up something decent, even after an hour!

With regards to this particular pair, much more has to be done, especially on the sole edges and outsole. For that, we shall leave it to another day! We hope you have benefited from this article. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

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Hello administrator, Keep the good content coming!

Louella Lafferty

I tried putting shoe cream on once dried I polish with wax polish but the color of the cream comes off leaving the area lighter in color on the vamp making the area look patchy. Pls advise. Thks in advance.


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