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There are many mistakes people make when shining their shoes. These mistakes sometimes have adverse effects on their shoes, which is no good, especially if the shoe is brand new and thus gets ruined. Once upon a time, I was considered an expert shoe shiner (for those that don’t know) and felt that I need to get back to offering some knowledge on shoe shining, the ‘Do’s and Don’ts.’ And as the “Don’ts” have more of a risk for hurting one’s shoes, I thought that I would start there. So, here are my top 5 for now. Probably more to come. Enjoy!

  1. Never Mirror Shine Your Brand New Shoes. After the tanning process and the shoe production process, your shoe’s leather has been subjected to a lot of chemicals and the natural pores (like our own human skin) that are in the hides that your shoes are cut from, have all but been masked by all of this treatment. So when you add a mirror shine onto this new ‘surface’ onto the leather aka ‘the finish’, the leather accepts this polish but in reality, rejects it at the same time as the leather hasn’t fully had time to rid itself of all of the chemicals. That being, the leather is actually ‘quite dry’ from the chemicals and thus your further addition of chemicals (aka polish) subsequently adds to the problem. So your mirror shine thus breaks easier and in drastic cases (as can happen more so with crust leather finishes) can actually remove some of the finish (i.e. color) of your new shoes. If this happens, it can leave an ugly mark and can be difficult to fix. Therefore, it is always best to wear your shoes once or twice before giving proper mirror shines to brand new shoes. The pores begin to shake off and open up after one or two wears.
  2. Never Ever Add More Than One Conditioner. Over conditioning/shining of your shoes is one of the worst things that you can do. But I believe that over conditioning has more adverse effects because conditioner is more moist and thus can more easily oversoak your leather which can lead to irreversible effects such as dark staining. You never need to add saddle soap and mink oil. It’s one or the other. Conditioners are often concentrated as well so ALWAYS use a little and work it in where needed. And lastly, allow drying time when using conditioners. The leather needs time to dry
    Military boots that I shined and used to do as a service for the Queen’s Royal Bodyguards. You can believe that the second they took a step, all of that shine just cracked right off on the vamp area.


  3. Never Mirror Shine The Vamp (or any other place of the leather that bends/creases). Logic would tell you that if you add a flat, artificial surface on top of one that moves, the flat one will break/have issues. A mirror shine is essentially an artificial flat surface that you create with polish by filling in the pores of the skin. So the second that you bend your foot, the mirror shine will immediately crack and leave an ugly after effect that is also not great for your leather. It’s okay to shine the vamp and leave it with a nice gleam but never mirror shine it

    Picture courtesy of The Wire Cutter
  4. If You Have to Mirror Shine a New Pair, Only Do 75% of the Cap. Many of you will ignore rule #1, I know this. So if you feel that you have to do it or want some shoeshine service to do it for you, at least try and follow this rule and it will help further. The issue is that contrary to what most internet people say, a cap will almost always crease and that is due to the stiffener between the upper and the lining and its placement. It has to inevitably end before the seam of the cap so if it does not stay perfectly flush with the seam and ends up sliding towards the point of the toe, it will then leave a weak spot between its end and the seam closure. This weak spot almost always creases so if there is a mirror shine, it will crack there too
  5. Never Polish Too Fast. Shoe polishing is not a contest with yourself. Only in competitions. The best shines are done slowly. With patience, care and repetition. Allow for drying times. Do several pairs at a time to force this drying time. Your results will last longer if done slowly and the shoes will last longer and you will be happier. Trust me.

For great results, and high-grade shoe care products for shoe shining find the nearest Saphir stockist at


10 thoughts on “5 Shoe Shine “Don’ts” to Know About”

  1. I used this on my daily worn “duty” boots. I touch them up a little each day, but only a few minutes. I have not had to strip them in almost a year. Great stuff!

      1. Hi. I’m confused about the proper order of product applications. I used waterproofing, then polished my boots a few weeks ago.
        Next time, I would like to apply a leather conditioner as well, but don’t know when is best to perform this step.
        Also, would it be best to wait a month or two before conditioning? I’m wondering if the waterproofing hinders the conditioner from doing its job, or if I should reapply waterproofing immediately afterward.
        Thanks for the advice!

        1. Justin FitzPatrick

          Hello Sally, I never use ‘waterproofing’ substances as those are all chemicals. I prefer the method of a good wax shine to protect. But conditioner is usually not needed into well after use as the leather is new and conditioner is meant for rejuvenation after use

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