I love shoes, and I love to take good care of my shoes. I also have a lot of shoes to take care of, because I love shoes. This means that I do a lot of shoe polishing in my spare time.
My wife, however, is not nearly the shoe lover that I am, and she gets bothered by the chemical smell of the solvents in the shoe polish I use. I have tried all different brands to find a better smelling polish, and to see which brands polish best. I also want polish that will keep my shoe leather healthy and last a long time.
In my research I determined that Kiwi Parade polish was the worst and Saphir cream polish was the best. Kiwi Parade polish does create a good shine, but it contains silicone to help create that shine, and as I have mentioned in my other articles, silicone will shorten the life of leather.
Saphir cream polish probably smelled the best and worked the best partly due to using turpentine as the solvent, whereas other polishes typically used petroleum by-products. Still my wife did not care for the smell of turpentine.
When I’ve talked to the average person about shoe polish over the years, they are always surprised when I tell them that the main ingredient in shoe polish is solvent, and one of the most common solvents is Stoddard Solution. This is what dry cleaners use to get body oils out of clothing.
Shoe leather, on the other hand, needs oils to keep the leather from drying out. So it seems odd to have a solvent in shoe polish, but the solvent is there to keep the wax soft in the tin or jar. The majority of it evaporates during the shoe polishing process.
If you have ever opened an old can of polish and found hard, cracked, polish that is because some or most of the solvent has evaporated. The polish still has wax and oil, and can still be used.
During my research I was also looking for a paste polish that would allow me to produce the best mirror shine possible on the toe and heel counter of my shoes. I didn’t find any that I really liked.
Finally, I decided to make my own polish that was good for shoe leather, produced a great shine, and (most importantly to my wife) smelled nice.
First I discovered that coconut oil was used as a skin conditioner in a large number of skin care products, and further discovered that coconut oil has a lower rancidity rate than any other oil (animal or vegetable) by far. So I had my leather conditioner.
The solvent was my main concern for two reasons: I didn’t like the negative aspects of putting a toxic solvent on shoe leather, and I had to find something that didn’t smell like a chemical, but still be a solvent. Orange oil was the solution to my problems.
The only thing left to add was wax and color. The wax was easy. I could just use the same beeswax and carnauba wax typically used in shoe polish. Both were all natural, non-toxic, biodegradable and a great substance for providing shine to the leather.
I was also able to create a High Shine paste for producing the mirror shine on the toes and heel counters of my shoes. By using a high ratio of Carnauba wax I was able to produce a hard paste that created a great mirror shine with only a few coats.
On the other end of the spectrum, I was able to also make a very soft cream leather cleaner/conditioner that does a very good job of cleaning the shoe (and a few layers of wax) while adding a light conditioning to the shoe.
Since the ingredients I had selected to this point were all natural, non-toxic, and biodegradable, I decided to keep the polish that way. Now I just had to find a natural, non-toxic way to add color to the cream polish.
I couldn’t use vegetable based coloring because it tends to fade over time with exposure to sunlight, and most other dyes and pigments are chemical based; except for pigment made from earth and ocher.
Now I had everything I needed to create the shoe polish I wanted. I already knew the standard ratios of solvent, wax, oil, and pigment used in most shoe polish, but making a non-toxic version was a bit challenging.
Two things had to come together: The mixture had to have a texture and consistency similar to the typical toxic shoe polish on the market (in this case a cream polish), and it had to have the proper ratios of solvent, wax and oil so as not to add too much oil or too much wax to the leather when polishing the shoe.
It is actually easier to match the denser paste polish with non-toxic ingredients, than it is to match a cream polish, but since I use mostly cream polish when I polish my shoes I decided to start with that. The results were not exactly the same texture as cream polish that use toxic solvents, but it was similar.
I also did some research on the effects of orange oil as a solvent in regard to use on leather, and found examples of orange oil mixtures being used as leather cleaners for close to 100 years.
Once I created my polish, I liked it so much I decided to share it with the world. I created a company named GlenKaren Care Products (I included my wife’s name because she was the main motivator in getting me to stop using toxic polish… and a whole bunch of other reasons).
If you would like to learn more about the GlenKaren shoe polish please visit GlenKarenCare.com