Shine shoes like the pros: nobody knows how to do it better than Thomas Ganick. He has been a shoe shiner for 20 years, gives workshops and seminars - and reveals his tricks here

Do you first look people in the eyes or at their shoes?
Unconsciously, probably at the shoes. After all, I've been doing this job for almost 20 years now. 

Can you draw any conclusions from that?
This is primarily not about whether the shoes were expensive or cheap, but whether they are well cared for or not. A shoe for 1,000 euros whose heels are badly worn naturally looks less chic than a shoe for 100 euros that is in good shape. 

And well shined ...
For many people, shoe shining is a rather unpleasant activity, just like making the bed, taking out the rubbish or peeling potatoes. So if you don't feel like doing it, you can outsource it to me - Private households and companies from all over Germany send their shoes to me. But there are also people who love shining shoes. 

It's a bit like meditating, isn't it?
Yes, some people collect their eight or ten pairs once a month, get a glass of red wine, put black vinyl on the record player... then, shoe shining is actually like meditation; a time when they come to rest. And at the end there is a sense of achievement.

"shoe shining is actually like meditation; a time when they come to rest. And at the end there is a sense of achievement."

How much can the life of a shoe be prolonged by shining it?
Considerably! Firstly, through the care, which ensures that the leather remains supple and retains its lustre or patina. Secondly, by regularly replacing wearing parts such as heels or soles. Certain shoes made of high-quality leather can easily last 35 or 40 years, normal cowhide or calfskin shoes can last 15 years with good care. And then, of course, there are those shoes that you keep and have repaired because you associate special occasions with them: your first shoes after university, your wedding shoes or shoes that have been passed down from father to son. A shoe used to be a real luxury item.

What mistakes do people make when shining?
They shine too rarely, with too much polish. Shining only once a year, but applying a really thick coat, is useles. The leather does not take all the care, the shoe discolours, or the cream sticks in the seams.

So how often is advisable?
This is difficult to answer in general terms, as it always depends on the usage. Business shoes that are only worn in the office and maybe when you go out for lunch, are of course much less used than those of an architect, who sometimes roams around a wet building site. If the shoes are not excessively dirty, it should be sufficient to treat them with palm or hard wax every three to four weeks. If you apply one layer and polish them again, they are immediately tip-top again.

How do you properly shine your shoes?
The first step is rough cleaning: Dirt, sand, small stones, the dried mud from the puddle - all this is removed with a brush or carefully scraped off. But the basic rule is: anything you can get off your shoe dry will not cause any more trouble later on. However, if you tackle the dirt with a damp sponge right away, it will penetrate the leather. So that makes little sense. Stains that are still visible after rough cleaning are then treated again separately - with a special cleaner or, in the case of suede, with an eraser or by sanding. And then it's time to shine.

"Many people shine too rarely - and when they do, they do it too much”"

Using what?
Over 90 per cent, I work with hard waxes that I apply with my fingers. Then I wait a little until they harden, and then polish them out - first with a coarse brush, then with a finer one.

You are a professional. But what basic shoe care should non-professionals have at home?
Classic shoe polishes dry out quickly if you don't use them often. Hard waxes are a pure natural product. They last much longer, and with a little heat - that's why I work with my fingers - you can make them more supple again. As a basic set: a black, dark brown and colourless hard wax. They can also be mixed well with each other.

Why is colourless care not sufficient?
Firstly, because people often use too much of it - and a milky film can then form on the surface of dark shoes, which becomes increasingly difficult to polish out over time. On the other hand, because shoes can be worn down at the front or lose some colour through daily use - climbing stairs, driving or cycling. It therefore makes sense to shine with the appropriate colour.

Can marks or small scratches actually be repaired through shining?
Smaller ones, yes. At least you can conceal them well. However, if the surface of the leather is damaged, it should be smoothed and sealed again in a workshop using hot wax.

How do you make leather shoes particularly shiny?
The premier class is the so-called water polish. No brushes are used, just a finger, a cloth, a drop of water and the wax. Then polish alternately with a drop of water and a bit of wax - until you see your reflection in it. Grandad used to spit on his shoes when he was shining them... I cannot really do that with the customers who sit on my shoe shine chair - but the principle is basically the same: The surface is smoothed by creating a film. By the way, there are great videos online about water polishing.

What do you like best about shining shoes?
There is hardly a job in the world where you are praised and recognised so often every day. Precisely because most people don't like to do it themselves or don't do it often, they are amazed at how good the shoes look in the end.

Would you like to find out more about shoe care? Then discover our care guide.