About Shoe Polish

We love anything that shines, that looks good. In fact we are also concerned about the shoes that we wear. But have you ever given a thought on how the shoe polishes evolved and what is it that makes our otherwise dull shoe shine?

“Teddy bear Teddy bear turn around, teddy bear teddy bear touch the ground, teddy bear teddy bear polish your shoes, teddy bear teddy bear off to school”. This is a famous nursery rhyme that we all have learnt as kids. This rhyme stresses on the idea of polishing one’s shoes before going to school as polished shoes do look classy and good.

We love anything that shines, that looks good. In fact we are also concerned about the shoes that we wear. But have you ever given a thought on how the shoe polishes evolved and what is it that makes our otherwise dull shoe shine? Before getting onto the history, let us first know what shoe polish is!

What is shoe polish?
Shoe polish is a substance that is added externally to our shoes to make them look cleaner and help them shine better. It comes in the form of wax or cream. Shoe polish is made out of natural and synthetic products.

The history of shoe polish
The history of shoe polish takes us place to the year before 1900 when people polished their boots with a paste made out of ash, wax and tallow. Later around 1900, this product was improved by using different liquids and suspended solids like carbon dye, wax, gum Arabic, turpentine, naphtha and lanolin. These substances helped the shoe polish to stay in liquid form while the contents were inside the container but dry readily when it comes in contact with air.

In medieval period, people used a mixture of soda ash, wax, tallow and oil to soften and condition the leather and also make it waterproof. Around 1700s, shine was first added to the polish.

In 1800s, companies started coming up with polish products that helped in polishing other items like belts and so on.

In 1909, William Ramsay commercialized the first shoe shine polish and started selling it under the brand name of kiwi. During WWI and WWII there was lot of demand for shoe polish due to the excessive use of boots during the war period.

How are shoe polishes made?
Shoe polishes are made by melting the wax in an electric heater. The melted wax is held at a constant temperature and a mixture of various oils is heated separately. The heated mixture is then added to the wax along with distilled water and is heated. When the mixture reaches a temperature of 80 degree, turpentine oil is added. The mixture is then stirred and mixed continuously. Dyes are added if the polish is not a neutral colour. The mixed mass is then poured through a cooling chamber and is allowed to cool uniformly. The shoe polish is then packaged and sent to the market for sale.