Calf Leather

Calf leather is the most popular shoemaking material for good reason. It is strong, yet supple and, with the use of wax polish, can be brought to a mirror-like shine. Whether you simply want to care properly for your shoes or you want to achieve an eye-catching mirror shine, this simple guide has all the information you need.

This is the simplest routine for taking care of full-grain calf leather. Saphir Renovateur cleans and conditions the leather, providing a blank canvas on which to apply the Wax Polish. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how often to clean and polish your shoes, so it is best to just keep an eye on the leather, if it looks like it needs some attention then it probably does! 


  1. Remove the shoelaces from your shoes and insert the shoe trees (it is much easier to polish your shoes this way).
  2. Using the stiff-bristled brush, brush each shoe vigorously, taking care to remove any dirt that may have accumulated. A welt brush may be useful in attending to hard-to-reach spots.
  3. Wrap the polishing cloth around your index and middle fingers (ensuring a taut surface) and apply a pea-sized dab of Renovateur.
  4. Work the renovateur into a section of the leather (this should take around 20 seconds but you will be able to tell when the cream has been absorbed).
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4, working your way around the shoe until both are well nourished.
  6. Leave the shoes for at least 20 minutes (ideally 24 hours) to allow the Renovateur to be absorbed.
  7. Gently buff off the excess with either the cloth or a horsehair brush.
  8. Using the same technique, apply a very small amount of wax polish to the cloth.
  9. Using a circular motion, apply the polish a small section at a time, working your way around the entire shoe. This should take about 5 minutes.
  10. Using either a slightly damp cloth, a spray bottle, or simply your finger apply a very small amount of water to the shoe (be careful to only apply one or two drops). Gently work this in.
  11. Buff the leather using either the polishing cloth or a horsehair brush. For a higher shine you can repeat this polish and water process, although we do not recommend applying more than three layers of polish to the entire shoe (see Mirror shine section).
 

Nourishing and colour renewal: Full-grain leather is just skin that has been tanned using natural vegetable pigments and oils. With time it can dry out, and if it gets too dry it can become fragile and crack. Therefore, it is important that you nourish the leather deeply from time to time. Saphir Creme 1925 is a product developed to serve this precise purpose. It is composed of many of the same waxes and oils as the Wax Polish, but it has more natural turpentine, which is a solvent that allows the waxes and oils to penetrate deeply into the leather. This deep nourishment keeps the leather soft, supple and strong. This is a routine you should perform many times a year, or whenever the leather is looking dry.


  1. Follow steps 1-7 of Basic Care section.
  2. Using a stiff-bristled dauber brush, work in a small amount of Saphir shoe cream to a small area of the shoe at a time. You can use a welt brush to work the cream into the welt and other hard-to-reach places.
  3. Once both shoes are covered, allow them to sit for 24 hours, this gives the pigment time to absorb into the leather; buffing it off sooner means that much of your shoe cream and hard work is wasted.
  4. Gently buff off excess shoe cream.
  5. Using the same technique, apply a very small amount of wax polish to the cloth.
  6. Using a circular motion, apply the polish a small section at a time, working your way around the entire shoe.
  7. Using either a slightly damp cloth, a spray bottle, or simply your finger apply a very small amount of water to the shoe (be careful to only apply one or two drops).
  8. Gently work this in.
  9. Buff the leather using either the polishing cloth or a horsehair brush. For a higher shine you can repeat this polish and water process, although we do not recommend applying more than three layers of polish to the entire shoe (see Mirror shine section).
 

Full refurbishment: If your shoes have acquired serious stains or have accumulated too many layers of old polish, it may be necessary to strip them back and start again. This is a procedure that we would not recommend doing more than once or perhaps twice a year. Remember: Reno'Mat is strong stuff, so easy does it!


  1. Remove the shoelaces from your shoes and insert the shoe trees.
  2. Using the stiff-bristled brush, brush each shoe firmly, taking care to remove any dirt that may have accumulated.
  3. Wrap the polishing cloth around your index and middle fingers (ensuring a taut surface) and apply a small amount of Reno’Mat. Working in small sections, work the Reno’Mat into the leather using a circular motion.
  4. Once both shoes are covered, allow them to sit for 15-30 minutes, then buff off the residue with the polishing cloth or a horsehair brush.
  5. Using the same technique apply a pea-sized dab of Renovateur to the leather, working in small sections with the same circular motion until both shoes are covered (You may need to apply more Renovateur than usual because all of the prior wax has been stripped from the leather).
  6. Leave the shoes for at least 24 hours to allow the Renovateur to be absorbed (this is particularly important after using a harsh product like Reno’Mat).
  7. After 24 hours, gently buff off the excess with either the cloth or a horsehair brush.
  8. Follow steps 2-8 of Intermediate Care section.
 

For those who seek a glowing mirror-like finish on their shoes. This technique can follow any of the Basic Care, Intermediate Care or Expert Care regimens. We recommend that you limit the mirror shine to the toe cap and heel (quarter) of the shoe as these are the most rigid sections of the upper. Adding multiple layers of polish to other areas of the shoe can result in the polish cracking when the shoes crease, which creates an unsightly effect.


  1. Your shoes should already have at least one layer of polish on them.
  2. Focussing on the toe-cap (and heel if you wish), apply a small amount of wax polish with your polishing cloth using the same technique described in the previous sections.
  3. Once the wax is worked in, apply a small amount (one or two drops at most) of water and work into the wax.
  4. Buff with the polishing cloth or horsehair brush.
  5. Repeat the process, adding layer after layer, not forgetting to buff in between layers. After 5 layers or so, the pores of the leather will begin to fill up with the wax polish and a deep shine will start to appear. After 10 layers or so you should be getting close to a completely smooth (mirror-like) surface.
  6. The key with attempting a mirror shine is not to give up (and don’t use too much wax polish at one time. You will create a dull spot in the surface and have to start from the beginning).
  7. Once you are happy with the mirror shine you have created, you can rub your shoe vigorously with a polishing mitt to achieve the ultimate mirror finish.