Neutral Wax is the cause of many issues in the shoe-care realm of the shoe industry. Namely by regular people (i.e. no professional shiners). You see, most assume you need to use it on any color you don’t have an exact match for. That’s a myth. Get this idea out of your head. Now.
Neutral wax is an accent polish. It should never be used to create the entire shine on your shoes. Here is why:
1. Being that it has no pigment, in many cases, it actually acts as a stripping agent for leathers whose color is applied after the drum-dye process i.e. crust leathers, or other ‘washed’ leathers made for stripping/patina, museum calf etc. This is especially true when using it on a brand new pair of shoes. Used shoes, less so but still susceptible. Dyed-through box calf will not have the same issues for this point though. But will suffer the below, on point 2.
So many times have I see someone try and wax polish their brand new shoes with neutral wax and remove the finish and then blame the shoemaker. It wasn’t their fault. It was yours, for using something you should not have. I have even done so myself when polishing shoes professionally and learned the hard way, hence me writing this now in the hopes for you all to not make the same mistakes, I did and so many others do.
This is the same for conditioners too, to a certain degree. And I have touched on that in this post.
2. Neutral Wax leaves a horrific white residue that not only becomes sticky but stays within the creases of your leather and is hard to get out. Time again, I have seen people mirror shine the entire shoe with neutral wax only to wear their shoes, and all of this white residue start popping up all over the place, really leaving an unattractive look that is hard to fix. For me, this is the main reason to not use neutral wax, almost never. When this happens, you either have to use all of your strength to brush-strip the top layer off or actually strip with solvents. Both a challenge. Both annoying.
3. Touching more on point one is the fact that wax polish is not used for color rejuvenation. Its pigment level is small therefore you need not worry about using it for that. That’s what cream polishes are for. Therefore, if you have hard-to-match colors start to learn about complementary colors/palettes to use for the wax shine part of your shoe care process. For example, on green calf, I have used light tan wax. On grey calf, I have used navy wax. On any color I want to slightly deepen, I use black wax; like I did on the pair in the shoes featured above and below.
If not being excessive in quantity these waxes should not change the color of your leather. But always remember, all shoe care products are concentrate. A little goes a long way. And do not confuse Kiwi with normal wax. We are talking about high-end waxes in this post. Kiwi’s “wax” is a blend of wax and cream and will alter the color of your shoes. And finally, in 2021 we are more spoiled because you can now find high-end waxes in any color you want. Ten years ago, there was more excuses to use neutral but not anymore.
So what do you use neutral wax for? That is the question. And here is the answer:
You should only use neutral wax for finishing your mirror shines, once you have already set the base of the shine with colored cream and wax polishes that have penetrated the pores. The neutral wax is best utilized as a top-coat application that helps to bring up the mirror shine on top of the covered pores. Its neutral coloring will act as the mirror gloss while not affecting the pores and leather already treated below it. That is what is neutral wax is for: Top Coat Shines.
So, I hope that you learned something, and please do invest in colored waxes. If you just use neutral as you don’t want to spend money, don’t complain when your shoes get messed up by it.
Juan Manuel Ballesteros Allué
For heaven’s sake… I DID learn something today.. Thank you…
I ruined a pair of oxblood monkstraps from Acemarks with neutral polish and attributed it to the brand. So yes, I 100% agree. Never bought from them after the incident, granted, I am now going bespoke. Better to learn lessons with the cheaper pairs!
Thank you for sharing Mario! Enjoy your bespoke shoes 😉
What about neutral creme? Is that also bad like wax?
Neutral creme is okay, just use it sparingly. Never cake it on
I only use neutral cream on my leather belts. Sparingly! No cracking and no wrinkling.
Welp! Guilty! Now, bring on more coloured waxes.
Thanka for sharing Paul, we have all been there 😉
Appreciate the advice and can say it never occurred to me to try neutral shoe wax. When I first discovered the Shoe Snob Blog years ago, I watched the video tutorial Justin did on the proper process of cleaning and polishing a pair of shoes. I actually watched it a couple of times – just to make sure I understood the steps. I am happy to say that I achieved excellent results. I also learned that each of my pair of shoes allowed for different results. I’m sure this is mostly due to the difference in leather quality. My Alden wing tip Balmoral shoes turned out best – the toe shined up so well that I decided Justin might have been proud of my effort, being a novice. My Allen Edmonds whole cuts (with a modest design of holes on the top) shined up very well too, but not quite as well as the Alden shoes. My Brooks Brothers cap toe Derby dress shoes ended up a very distant third. All three pairs of shoes are black. The Brooks Brothers shoes were purchased at an outlet store, and the sales clerk was very honest – warning me that while the shoes were Goodyear welted, they were made in China (specifically for outlet stores), so the leather was not the same quality of Brooks Brothers shoes found in their regular stores. I’ve tried to shine the Brooks Brothers shoes a couple of times, but the results have never come close to what I achieved with my Alden or Allen Edmonds shoes. My only attempt at brown shoes – on a pair of Bally split toe (Norwegian toe) shoes turned out quite nice – and those shoes are, in my estimation, of average quality – below the Alden and Allen Edmonds (and certainly not fully welted).
Thanks for sharing Steve! And for all of your support over the years. I am very pleased to know that my post helped you in your quest to make the perfect shine.
I discovered that neutral was trouble on some brogues 40 years ago,now I use Saphir and a Selvyt a deep mirror shine in a quarter of the time and effort than Kiwi ‘Parade’ gloss.
Yes indeed Leslie! Thank you for sharing.
Interesting comments Justin.
Two quick questions:
1. Would you prefer to use neutral or pigmented wax polish on the welt, stitching and heel block?
2. How do you care for the welt and stitching area on a pair of suede shoes? It would be dangerous to try and apply some sort of polish in the narrow area. Would a water proofing spray like the Saphir Invulner be sufficient for welt care?
Here are the answers:
2. depends on the color of the welt and stitching. If it is all tonal then with each session. If it is natural then sparingly and cafefully. ANd yes, if the stitching is white, you must be careful
No need for water proofing spray. The welt does does not need that.
Great. Thanks Justin.
My pleasure Vin
Appreciate your sharing Justin, this is informative~
My pleasure Kyle and thank you for saying so
Thanks for the information concerning what type of Wax to not use. What do you recommend.
Always try and match the leather as close as you can. If you cannot learn either complementary colors or use one shade lighter to bring up undertones or one shade darker to deepen. As per brand I recommend The Shoe Snob Wax or Saphir
Thanks a lot Justin for the great sharing. Am new to welted shoe and shoe caring. Few quick questions if you don’t mind,
1) does it mean we need to have different tone of shoe wax for dark brown and light brown shoe?
2) can we use lighter tone wax on a darker tone shoe? Will it affect the color like neutral wax does?
3) how about burgundy shoe? Do you recommend light brown or black color wax as alternative?
Sorry for the long post. Thanks for the advise.
Hey Eric, my pleasure. As per your questions, see as follows
1. Yes, ideally. Or you can use mid brown for all.
2. Yes you can but it can also have the same effects as neutral if the wax is quite light, like tan wax. A mid brown usually will not do this to a dark brown leather though.
3. Ideally a burgundy needs a burgundy.byou can use black but it will deepend it. If having to use brown, use the lightest one possible. It will affect the color, not change it but affect it
Thanks a million, Justin. really appreciate your sharing and advice. It is time to invest in some color wax now. 🙂
My pleasure Eric! Enjoy 😉
Hi Justin. Sorry to come back to you after so long. 1 question, I used to find hair-line crack lines along the edges of my mirror shine toecap. Is it normal or I have been using too much wax? The lines were visible before I start wearing them after the shine.
getting a perfect mirror shine is not super easy and they can crack very easy, even while polishing. I wouldn’t be hard on yourself, it is normal
Thanks for the advice, very helpful.
Would you have the same recommendation for cordovan shoes?
My pleasure Fred. To be honest, I am not as expert on Cordovan as Calfskin. I believe the pores in Cordovan are less porous/deep so the issue might not be as severe. But I could be wrong. I always recommend attempting to use the closest wax color possible.
I’ve used Kiwi neutral wax on my burgundy oxford shoes. Without exact small amounts of wax & water, you may strip your previous wax layer that you’ve worked on before. Now I never try to mirror shine it. I just apply one layer of wax only & pretend to be happy.
Thanks for sharing Jazman!
Great, informative post, this!
Is neutral cream polish to be equally avoided, or does it have its uses?
Thank you Victor. Neutral cream has its use for quick spruce-ups. But it somewhat defeats the purposes as cream polishbis for color rejunation in which it has none.
Is a cream polish also used to nourish the leather? It’s not just for color.
Yes, it is. But conditioner is better for that.
Also, Saphir neutral cream polish has 6 different waxes, which surely must help with water resistance.
Honestly Patrick –thank you.
I have my 1st pair of very high quality organ shoes–they are not used for walking but have lots of flex in the toe/heel/side-to-side. They need to slide easily against one another. The leather is quality but very thin. When I got them, the 1st thing I wanted to do was to nourish the leather without changing the color. Being a newby, I applied MB neutral cream, thinking that would do the trick. Wrong. After 1st use of shoes, they had white flakes and streaks all over them. I buffed them out and tried again, same thing. Obviously, the cream is coming off. Hope I have not ruined my new shoes with this cream. I just ordered some Saphir black cream polish. I do not need a high gloss ( want to keep the matte look), nor do I need waterproofing or a color change (light black, nearly gray). I want them to look natural and for the leather to be taken care of. Suggestions?
I would suggest using a black cream polish for upkeep. Apply sparingly, when needed. Best of luck and not to worry, I doubt you ruined them
I have a pair of brown Brooks Addictions. As they are a non shiny leather, I have no idea what I should use to clean them. They have aquired a couple of small light stains. Is there a suitable product out there somewhere?
If you are referring to the running shoe, I would highly doubt that this is genuine leather. I would probably find a cleaner at the sneaker shop, one that they would recommend can clean that material
I have a pair of black leather mock toe boots with white stitching. There is no way I could use a colored polish without staining the stitching. What should I do??
Yes, in this case, you will be the exception. But I would not use wax polish. Do you plan to mirror shine them? I would just use neutral cream polish
Hello and thank you. Color isn’t as much of a concern as much as getting a good base cost that I can build on to get a high gloss shine. But I’ve been applying later after layer of kiwi black to my new extra tall men’s leather boots with little success. No matter how hard I buff they just don’t seem to want to shine? Any suggestions? Also, you mentioned Kiwi as not a good option.. what brand of wax polish do you think is best for polishing these difficult suckers? Thank you very much indeed! Chris
hello Chris. a horsehair brush is not really ever going to give you a high shine to be honest. You need to spit shine it with a cloth. This article might help: https://theshoesnobblog.com/polish-your-shoes-properly-1/
what brand do you recommend for shining? I used to buy only yours but I see you no longer sell these products on your site. Also you did sell a Neutral shine.
The Shoe Snob products are still sold at http://www.theshoesnob.com . Same products, just a new owner. Saphir is the alternative that I recommend
I made the mistake of using neutral polish on brand new shoes as a way of preparing them for break-in (moisture the leather, etc).
Unfortunately the shoes are crust leather and the pigment started diluting in some areas. The original color is almost dark brown (a darker havane).
Do you have some advice on how to remediate without stripping the entire shoe?
Hey Adrian, sorry to hear it. Cream polish should help. If it doesnt, the next step would be dye but that is a little more complex
I’ll insist with the cream polish, hope will get better over time. Thanks.
I am sure it will
Hi, Justin. What about white leather shoes? Like the white leather sneakers that are common all around. Do they need to be waxed using neutral wax? Or are they supposed to be just moisturized (twice a year?) and polished with neutral cream only?
Also, while we’re at it, do leather sneakers of any color require the same care as dress shoes?
Hey Ryan, sneaker leather is different than dress shoe leather, for the most part. White leather ones are especially different as to make white is usually an acryllic like treatment. You don’t actually clean them the same, at least from my experience. I use soap, a rag and warm water. You can condition them but I wouldn’t polish them. They don’t react the same.
Hi- I used neutral wax on a pair of white doc martins… looked fine, but there are little specs allover that wont rub off. they look to be little bits that were in the brush that I buffed with and now they are in the leather pretty good. Any suggestions to get those remvoed?
I would try to clean with a soft rag and white bar soap in luke warm water
Please advise me on the exact type of polish to use on the UK brown military boots.Kiwi dark tan doesn’t seem to work.
Saphir Dark Brown Wax