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Shell Cordovan Care Guide

Brushing ACME Hatch Shell Cordovan after Conditioning

Shell Cordovan Basic Care Routine

There are many ways to care for it and this is mine

By @deshellvedge

When caring for this naturally beautiful material, I strive to compliment the natural luster by adding minimal products to make it shine.

I break this into 3 Categories

  • The minimalist - This is the person who wants to apply zero product, and let the patina happen "naturally".
  • The basics - This is the person who wants to condition and polish their shell cordovan, but not make it a full mirror shine.
  • The man in the mirror - Well, this one speaks for itself, this is the person who wants to make their shell cordovan have a mirror shine.

I'd say my personal care is focused on the basics model, but I will occasionally add the mirror shine if I want to change it up.

Here are the main steps I follow to do this care routine:

Key Points & Supplies

  1. How often?
    1. As needed, it all depends on how often the shoes are worn, what conditions the wear is in and how hard wearing the owner is.
  2. How long does it take?
    1. If done in 1 sitting, about 30 minutes, although it may take others an hour. I personally like to do it over days, 1-2 steps a day depending on time.
  3. What are the products I personally use for a normal care routine?
    1. Pure Polish Products
      1. Neutral Cream
      2. Water Resistant Cream
      3. Paste/Wax (optional)
    2. Brushes
      1. Horse Hair
      2. Pig Bristle

The Process:

Preparing

  1. Brush the uppers briskly with a pig bristle brush
    Brushing the upper with a pig bristle brush to prepare for cleaning
  2. Repeat with a horse hair brush until all dust and surface dirt is removed
    Brushing with a horse hair brush before applying the neutral cream as a cleaner

Gentle Cleaning

  1. Apply the neutral cream in circular motions using a clean cotton cloth with light to medium pressure
    Using a cotton cloth to apply Pure Polish Products Neutral Cream to clean and condition the upper
  2. This acts as a mild cleaner removing any additional dirt brushing doesn't get, but also provides a minimal conditioning from the oils in the neutral cream polish
  3. Let stand for a minimum of 5-10 minutes
  4. Brush with the pig bristle brush
    Brushing with a pig bristle brush to buff the Pure Polish Products Neutral Cream off the upper
  5. Brush with the horse hair brush to even out the oils agitated by the stiffer pig bristle
    Using a horse hair brush to buff and even out the remaining oils from the conditioning step

Conditioning

Brown Water Resistant Cream Polish
  1. Apply the Water Resistant Cream in circular motions with your finger
    Applying Water Resistant Cream to the toe of the shoe
  2. Pure Polish Products are all non-toxic, so no concern using your finger
  3. I use Water Resistant Cream because the formula is higher ratio of conditioning oils with a lower solvent base than the standard cream.
  4. This also contains a minimal amount of soft waxes which will help with protection (Water Resistance) and a soft shine.
  5. Let sit for 3-5 minutes
  6. Use your finger in a straight motion to buff the residual cream in one direction
    Using your finger to buff or "cross hatch" the dry cream evenly across the shoe
  7. Immediately repeat but buff it in the opposite direction creating a "cross hatch"
  8. This will help to ensure the product is applied and settles evenly across the shell cordovan upper
  9. Let sit for 5-10 minutes

Here is a quick comparison of what a shoe looks like before and after using your finger to buff the dried cream.

Comparing before and after of the cross hatch technique

Brushing

  1. Start brushing with the horse hair brush on both shoes
  2. Return to the first shoe and brush both with the pig bristle
    Using a pig bristle brush for the final brushing
  3. Finish brushing with the horse hair to even out the oils agitated by the stiffer pig bristle
    Using a horse hair brush for the final buffing of the oils and upper

Finishing

First, you can repeat the Conditioning and Brushing steps another time if you feel the upper is dry enough that it needs more. Keep in mind, shell cordovan does not absorb product as quickly or as much as its calfskin counterpart. Shell cordovan has much denser pores and needs time to take in the oils.

  1. If you desire a higher luster or shine, continue brushing with the horse hair brush lightly misting the brush with water
  2. Note I used my water dispenser, but any method of applying the water is fine as long as it is used sparingly
    Using a horse hair brush with a drop of water to increase the luster
  3. When brushing, it'll first become dull, but continue brushing and the heat and water (solvent) evaporation will create a higher luster
    Continue brushing until you get the desired shine
  4. Repeat these steps until you get the desired appearance
End result of the basic care routine

Remember, this is a basic care routine to provide optimal care for the shell to keep it for life, but it also creates a higher shine than not applying any product. Everyone has a different preference and I'd say there are definitely wrong ways to care for shell cordovan, but no wrong choice as to which appearance you prefer.

Showing off the depth of the conditioned shell cordovan

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