How to Shine Shoes
Limpya Bota is how we call the chore of shining shoes in our dialect. It is a tedious job, and you get your hands dirty while doing it. If you are not lucky, you may even have to endure the nasty smell of any or all the following: the customer’s shoes, his socks, or his feet.
I am an expert at shining shoes. After all, I spent four years of my life doing this for a living, albeit only during weekends, school breaks and on holidays.
The first step is to remove accumulated dirt and grime from the shoes. More often, you do this with a brush. But for dirtier jobs, you first use a toothbrush and water to remove the accumulated mud, soil or whatever dirt is stuck in the leather, the soles or any other part of the shoe. You use your cotton rug to wipe the shoe dry. But if it is still wet, you set it out under the sun to dry.
The second step is to apply “dyobos” on the shoes. Dyobos is a mixture of a shoe dye and water. It brings back the color of the shoes. You have to apply the right color of the dye to the shoes. And with only two colors available in the market – black and red, one has to get the proper combination of black and red to get to the correct shade of brown needed for a particular shoe.
When the shoe is already dry, you brush it again, after which you start applying the show polish. We either use our fingers or the soft cotton cloth to put on the polish. You apply polish to the shoe in a small circular movement. The key is not to put too much polish on the shoe–but to build the polish and shine up in thin layers. You also have to make sure that polish reaches the inside of the creases on the shoe if they have any.
Next let the polish “go off” on the shoe (preferably in the sun, or somewhere warm for 2 to 3 minutes. This will help the leather absorb the polish and help thin layer of polish melt across the shoe. Then we polish the shoe dry with the same bristle brush, or another one if you prefer.
The customer has two choices on the type of shoe shine finish he wants: pagakpak or charol.
Pagakpak is the most popular type of shine. One applies the shoe polish as many times as you want (once or twice depending on how much the customer pays) brushing if off and then, finishing the run by rubbing a cotton cloth on the shoes. But there is an art to doing this. You fold the cotton cloth into a rectangle of approximately 24 inches by 4 inches. After that you place it on top of the shoes and move your hands from side to side. As you do this you make sure that you produce a certain sound that goes like this: tsak–tsalak-tsak–tsalak-tsak. Once you are through, you tap your shoeshine box with your brush as a signal to the customer that job is done.
Charol is what we call the shine that results in a mirror like finish for the shoes. We wrap the cotton cloth on our forefinger and middle finger. Then, we add a bit of dyobos to the cotton cloth, put polish and spread it to the shoes. We repeat the process until we have coated all the leather parts with the shoe polish. Then we begin the process of gently massaging the shoe with the damp cloth fixed in our two fingers, doing it in a circular manner. We do this evenly and repeat the process until we shall get a mirror like shine of the shoes. Be sure to be gentle and patient, otherwise, you will never get the polish that deserves to be called a charol.