Clean, well-polished shoes add a finished touch to any outfit. Keeping shoes and boots polished also prevents the leather from cracking or deteriorating, thus extending the life of the footwear. Shoe polishes can be made at home from a few common ingredients.
Making an Effective Polish
According to the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia, commercial shoe polishes often contain toxic ingredients like turpentine as well as skin irritants and carcinogenic dyes. These polishes should be used in well-ventilated areas away from open flames and must not be ingested or inhaled. Homemade shoe polishes are a safe, gentle and economical alternative.
Before polishing shoes, remove all clinging dirt or grime with a stiff brush or a towel. The simplest and least expensive way to polish shoes consists of rubbing them with the interior of a banana peel. For another fast and effective way to give shoes a quick shine, smear petroleum jelly onto the leather. To make a basic homemade shoe polish, combine the juice of one lemon with 1 cup of olive oil, then use a rag to rub the mixture into the shoe leather. Repeat this process once a month or whenever shoes begin to look dull.
For a formula that can waterproof shoes as well as polish them, remove the wick from a tea candle and melt the candle in a double boiler along with 1 tbsp. of lanolin and 1 tbsp. of mineral oil. Stir the mixture, then rub it into the shoes with a rag. Let the shoes stand for a minute or two to give the mixture time to be absorbed into the leather, then buff the shoes to a high shine with a clean rag.
As an alternative to this method, cover 1 oz. of beeswax with 1/2 cup of safflower oil or olive oil, then melt it together in a microwave oven on low power or in a double boiler. Use caution when handling melted wax to avoid burns. Beeswax is highly flammable, so never expose this mixture to the direct heat of a burner or an open flame. When the mixture reaches a liquid consistency, rub it into your shoes with a soft cloth. Use a hair dryer to keep the wax warm while it soaks into the leather. Rub the shoes until they shine.