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The specialist international beekeeping organisation


Polish can sell surprisingly well especially if a suitable black pigment can be found locally for producing black shoe polish.  In polish recipes beeswax is dissolved in turpentine.  This is known as wood spirit in Cameroon and may have other local names in other places). Other solvents will not work so care must be taken to get the correct product. Here are some polish recipes.

Wood, furniture or floor polish

1 measure beeswax ; 1 ½ measures of genuine turpentine.

(equivalent to 50g beeswax 125 ml solvent)

  1. Melt beeswax in double boiler
  2. When melted pour quickly into a container. You may need a helper here to ensure stirring is continuous as the ingredients can separate and be spoiled.  
  3. Quickly stir the turpentine into the wax. Keep stirring fast and do not stop stirring until the mixture thickens.
  4. Pour into suitable containers and label attractively.

For a softer polish add more turpentine; for harder polish use less. Harder, more resistant polish can be made by adding 1 part carnauba wax for every three parts beeswax.

Brown and black shoe polish

The basic polish is made as described above. For brown shoes use as it is or add a little burnt umber /brown powdered paint or, if available, dye from the henna plant. For black shoes add a small amount of lamp black (often known as Zeebrite or Zebo). Add the dyes quickly stir well and put into the sales container immediately before the mixture cools and it starts to solidify.

Suitable pigments for shoe polish are not easily available anywhere. It is likely that producers will have to seek local alternatives. The writer has tried charcoal dust and this works well in the short term but dries the polish badly in the long term. Pitch has also been reported as being tried but the writer has no experience of this. There is not likely to be any substitute for indigenous knowledge that is most likely to produce suitable dyes from local sources such as the henna plant.


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