Leather boots need to be conditioned regularly to keep them in their best condition and extend their life. If you wonder what's the best oil to use on your leather boots, we have researched and have suggestions for you.
Oil is used on leather boots to keep them soft and flexible. Usage and exposure to weather elements dry out leather leading to damage. Regular maintenance care with oil replaces the moisture that is lost and extends the life of your boots. The list below contains several oil types that you may consider using on your leather boots:
- Mink Oil
- Leather Oil
- Mineral Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Baby Oil
- Rock Oil
Please keep reading to find out more details about the leather oil suggestions for you. We'll also provide additional information about leather care that you might find helpful.
Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
Does Oil Type Matter?
The oil type used on leather can make a difference. Not all oils are the same. Some are natural, while others are compounds with damaging additives. Some provide water resistance. Several alter the color of the leather. Below is information about several options to determine which one is best for you.
1. Mink Oil
Mink oil is a longtime favorite for protecting and conditioning leather. Its roots date back to Native American practices as a skin conditioner. Later, in the 1950s, a surge in demand for mink fur left manufacturers with an overabundance of mink fat. That's when mink oil for use on leather became popular.
Mink oil restores moisture and protects leather. It also makes leather water-resistant. The thick oil coats the pores in the leather. Since oil naturally repels water, it prevents it from absorbing into the leather.
Mink oil is not without disadvantages. It does darken leather and has an odor that some find unpleasant.
Sof Sole is a top-seller of mink oil.
2. Leather Oil
Leather oil is a product that combines different oils and additives to create a formula with multiple benefits to treat leather. Generally, leather oil contains a combination of neatsfoot, mink oil, mineral oil, beeswax, or other fats, along with additives such as propolis, lanolin, Vitamin E, and pine pitch. While the additives boost the performance of the products, some can be damaging to the leather after a while.
Obenaufs Leather oil is a tried and true customer favorite for leather boots.
3. Neatsfoot Oil
Neatsfoot oil is a derivative of bones taken from the feet and legs of hoofed animals, primarily cattle. It's a good choice for leather hydration because it penetrates the hide and replenishes the natural oils. It also adds shine but can darken leather. When using neatsfoot, it's best to stick with natural oil rather than a compound.
For a top-rated neatsfoot oil, consider this one from Bickmore.
Beeswax is a natural product that honey bees produce for use in their hives. However, it has many benefits for humans, including protecting and healing the skin. Therefore, it is no surprise that it's one of the oldest treatments for conditioning and waterproofing leather.
If you're interested in trying Beeswax, consider this all-in-one product from Paul's Pail.
5. Mineral Oil
Mineral oil is a petroleum product and a component of many leather oils and conditioners. It's often disguised as a petroleum by-product or distillate. However, you can purchase the pure form and use it on leather for softening and water resistance. Limit usage because it can dry and rot the leather over time.
Mineral oil is best on dry, stiff, or rough leather rather than softer leather. The mineral oil soaks in and softens the rugged leather. However, it can oversaturate an already soft leather.
6. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is an extract from the coconut palm nut. It contains high levels of saturated fats and is hypoallergenic, making it suitable for conditioning leather under certain conditions. To learn more, check out our post, "Should You Use Coconut Oil On Leather?"
Coconut oil begins to turn from a liquid back to its most natural solid form at temperatures between 74-76 degrees Fahrenheit unless fractionated. Therefore, coconut oil on leather is only recommended in warm climates.
7. Baby Oil
Baby oil is mostly mineral oil with some additives, so occasional use on leather products is safe. It gives the leather a good shine but isn't the best conditioner. Its best service is on patent leather. While it might not be the number choice, it's a suitable alternative, especially if it's all you have on hand.
Baby oil soaks into the leather rather than creating a lasting barrier, so frequent reapplication is necessary. However, extensive use can cause damage to leather over time. When using baby oil, don't use too much, and make sure to wipe off any excess.
8. Rock Oil
Rock oil is an inclusive term sometimes used to describe any oil extracted from the earth's surface. Most commonly, it refers to crude oil or petroleum. Mineral oil could fit into this category.
Another typical product from this category used on leather is petroleum jelly or the brand name Vaseline. Leather might not be your first thought when thinking about uses for petroleum jelly, but now you should consider it.
Oils to Avoid
Some oils are not suitable for leather. While almost any oil will give you an instant shine, it might not be worth the long-term effects.
Olive oil is better left in the kitchen rather than used on leather. It's too oily and can easily stain and oversaturate leather, causing damage. Olive oil also has a strong smell that can leave an unpleasant scent on leather. Even worse, it can attract rodents who think your leather is a food source.
You should also avoid any body oils or lotions, especially if they contain perfume. These products can contain additives that dry the leather, causing additional damage rather than correcting it.
Does mink oil help break in boots?
Leather is rigid, which means that new boots made of genuine leather can be uncomfortable to wear when new. Therefore, you often hear people say they need to break them in - a process in which the leather fibers soften, stretch, or loosen and mold to your foot shape.
Most commonly, "breaking in" is done by wearing the boots for short intervals early in the day when your feet are their most natural size for a couple of weeks. However, you can accelerate the process by applying a softening product like mink oil.
Apply a generous amount of mink oil that's been heated and liquefied using a rag. Make sure to cover the leather fully. Then using a hairdryer, gently and evenly heat the oil-covered leather to expand the pores so the mink oil can soak in. Let sit overnight and repeat in one week, if needed.
What is a substitute for mink oil?
There's some controversy surrounding the use of mink oil. If you're looking for an alternative, there are worthy substitutes.
Neatsfoot oil is a by-product of the cattle industry and is one substitute for mink oil. It's still an animal-based product, but it utilizes a by-product rather than primarily farming an animal for its oil. Other alternative products use beeswax.
Finally, there are also plant-based products to treat leather. Smith's Leather Balm is a top-rated choice.
Is Vaseline good for leather boots?
Vaseline and other petroleum jelly products for use on leather is an ongoing debate. There are advantages and disadvantages to using this type of product on leather. Once you are aware of both, it is up to you to decide if it works for you.
- Easy to find
- Aids Water-resistance
- Softens leather
- Helps preserve leather
- Cleans leathers
- Repairs scuffs and scratches
- It helps restore color and shine
- May promote rot on leather
- Must be reapplied often
- Not the best conditioner
- May damage leather fibers
Keep in mind, some of these disadvantages are confirmed with many leather oil products. So, if Vaseline is all you have available, using it is better than not treating your leather.
How do you rehydrate leather?
Rehydrating leather means adding oil back into the hide to soften and restore it. Do this by cleaning and then using a leather oil or conditioning product.
Be careful that you aren't using a product that will dry out the leather more. Some products have additives that pull out the natural oils and then coat the leather rather than replenishing the natural oils. Renewed shine does not necessarily mean leather hydration. Natural oils like mink and neatsfoot are better at rehydrating and replenishing oils for long-term results.
How often should you oil your boots?
The frequency of usage, exposure to weather, and the harshness of the environment will determine how often you need to oil your boots. If you oil leather too often, the oil can saturate the leather leading to rot. However, if you don't oil them often enough, your leather will dry out and eventually start to crack and peel.
If you wear your boots to work every day, you will want to oil them every few months. For extreme conditions, every few weeks might be necessary. If you only wear your boots occasionally, then every six months to once a year should prevent any signs of drying.
Oiling your boots is a process that starts with cleaning them well before you apply any oil. If you don't remove the dirt and prep the leather, the oil cannot reach the leather and do its job.
If you want your leather boots to last, cleaning and conditioning them with some type of oil is necessary. There are many different types of oils available to use, and you should now have a better understanding of several options.
For information about other leather apparel you may own, consider reading, How Long Do Leather Pants Last?
You might also enjoy reading How Long Should A Leather Jacket Last?