Would you believe the world’s oldest surviving leather item is 5,500 years old? It’s a cowhide shoe that would be a women’s size seven today. (Men were smaller in that time and place, so it could have been a man.)
Even the laces are intact. It was found in a cave in Armenia stuffed with grass and buried under sheep’s dung. No clues on what happened to its mate, if it had one. (People had accidents while trying to start civilization, after all.)
Would you like your leather to last a long time but also look nice and not smell like sheep did their business on it? Then you need to keep your leather clean and conditioned. Leather tends to dry out and crack over time. A good conditioner keeps the leather supple and soft. You also need a protectant to seal the coat and keep the moistures and natural oils from escaping.
So, do you oil or condition? This is not hard science, but more of an art. You’ll want to do it every two or three weeks or as needed. Let’s answer a few questions about oils and conditioners, particularly the ever-popular mink oil.
What Does Mink Oil Do For Leather?
Leather is highly permeable and soaks up oil like a sponge. It needs to be an oil that preserves the leather. Mink oil is a product made out of the fatty layer underneath mink skins. It was fur trappers who first realized what mink oil could do for boots.
They quickly learned that mink oil made their boots flexible and water-resistant. The added luster and longevity didn’t hurt. Mink oil has a lot in common with the natural oils of organic leather and so can be used on any type of leather other than suede.
Is Mink Oil a Leather Conditioner?
It’s a claim, but a dubious one. Mink oil can work as a leather conditioner; however, it will be only for a brief amount of time. Applying mink oil to your boots will moisturize and replenish the leather. However, in time, it will eventually oxidize and cause your leather to harden.
Is Mink Oil Bad For Leather Boots?
The consensus is that mink oil is for “working” leather but not anything you really want to shine like dress shoes. It is a conditioner and a protector suitable for boots worn on boats or out in the field and woods.
It keeps the leather soft and moisturized while still being waterproof. However, it also darkens the leather to the point that it no longer can take on a glossy shine. Kit Carson would use mink oil. James Bond would not.
Will Mink Oil Soften Leather?
It can be used for such a project. Get your mink oil, a sponge, a soft cloth and a hair drier and this is how it’s done:
- First, make sure the boots are clean. You can start with brand new boots that are already clean but broken-in shoes will work if there are absolutely no dirt or dust particles in the way.
- Use your hairdryer to melt the mink oil to a runny consistency. Use a sponge to daub it onto your boots, making sure it gets into the seams and any tough areas. Cover the whole boot.
- Turn the hair drier on to further melt the oil and open the pores.
- Wait around twenty-four hours for the oil to fully soak in. A periodic flexing of the boots can help things along.
- Time for buffing. Wrap a soft cloth around your index finger and rub the leather in small circles until all the oil is absorbed.
- Polish if desired.
How Often Should I Mink Oil My Boots?
About once every two weeks should do it. Any more often will dull the leather. Any less and the leather could dry out and crack. For longevity, nothing beats mink oil.
How Long Should You Let Mink Oil Dry?
It should be at least twelve hours but twenty-four works very well. They should be allowed someplace cool and dry to dry off.
Does Mink Oil Permanently Darken Leather?
Some people use mink oil because they want their boots to be darker. Mink oil deeply penetrates the leather. It clogs the pores and forms a protective barrier that does not come off easily. As said before, mink oil is for the working man’s boot. It will make the shoes darker, if not permanently then for a very long time at least.
Will Mink Oil Waterproof Boots?
Mink oil is perfect for waterproofing boots. As said in the above paragraph, that protective barrier does not come off easily. This unusual property was likely seen as a godsend by the early fur trappers who needed to hike over streams and damp fields and sometimes even trek through the snow to get their work done.
How To Waterproof Boots With Mink Oil?
Mink oil is a super effective way to waterproof your boots. It not only waterproofs them but protects them from mud, salt, and other elements. Just massage the oil into the leather.
Use a hairdryer to soften the oil further so that it will seep into the stitching. You could also let them sit in the sun. Once the oil has soaked in as much as it has, wipe it down with a white cloth to see that you’ve removed the excess.
Does Mink Oil Rot Stitching?
Only if the stitching is poorly done or of a weak material such as cotton. Nylon works. Also, you must only use genuine mink oil, not the cheaply made stuff with the silicone.
Mink Oil Alternatives
First, let’s compare olive oil and coconut oil. Coconut is more solid so it will take more elbow grease to get it worked into the leather. Olive oil leaves the leather more supple but coconut oil leaves a residue.
Olive oil is definitely the winner here. Some people think that baby oil will do the job because it’s inorganic and won’t go rancid. However, this stuff is better when used on living skin. For leather, use organic oil.
Mink Oil Vs. Beeswax
Like mink oil, beeswax is durable and waterproof. However, while beeswax will prevent the leather from getting any harder, it will not soften the leather. Natural beeswax has a sweet, subtle honey-like scent Mink oil, when fresh, has a musky smell. Rancid mink oil smells rotten. You need to weigh the pros and cons.
Do You Need To Condition Leather?
If you want it to look good you do. With most types of leather, it will be necessary to clean and condition them every six months. Start with a good cleaning to draw out the dirt and add oils You need those out or else they will clog up your leather and keep it from breathing properly. Remember that conditioning leather is just as important and must always follow up a more thorough cleaning.
What Does a Leather Conditioner Do?
Leather looks tough, but it’s very fragile. Because leather is no longer living skin it needs to be given nourishment to keep from drying out. A good quality conditioner is made with the purpose to be absorbed readily and to restore flexibility to the fibers.
When leather starts to lose its natural oils and moisture, flexibility becomes lost. This will cause the fibrous interweave to start to crack and it will in time break down. Leather conditioners stop this break down from happening.
What Ingredients Are In Leather Conditioner?
Because it is not a consumable good, leather conditioners are not required to list the ingredients in their products. Beware of products that do this as they are probably cutting it with cheaper oils or even water. You can put together your leather conditioner with only a few ingredients.
Beeswax will protect the leather. Coconut or shea butter will condition the leather. Almond or grapeseed oil will soften and moisturize the leather. (Use grapeseed if you have a tree nut allergy.) Castor oil will make the leather shine.
To make your own leather conditioner, you will need those ingredients plus a medium saucepan, a measuring cup, measuring spoons, a wooden spoon and either tin or heat resistant plastic containers to store the mixture in. Tell everyone what’s cooking so they don’t mistake it for soup and follow these instructions.
- Measure out two tablespoons of the butter, two tablespoons of the beeswax, and a quarter cup of both the oils.
- Melt the butter and beeswax in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. You should stir constantly to avoid any burning or boiling.
- While stirring add the almond or grapeseed oil.
- Once this oil is completely blended, add castor oil. Stir until castor oil is well mixed, and continue to heat for four to five minutes. You must not allow it to boil.
- Pour the mixture into the containers. Fill to about one-eighth of an inch from the top.
Should You Condition New Leather Boots?
Brand new boots have a healthy dose of conditioning and waterproofing in the leather already, so you don’t have to do too much right away. And an extra dose of waterproofing can’t hurt, though.
Does Leather Conditioner Darken Leather?
A quality conditioner will only temporarily darken the leather. If it is raw leather, however, the color can be darkened rather easily. The color should lighten once more as the conditioner dries; however, it may not completely return to its original shade once any chemicals are applied to it. Be wary of the leather care treatments that you may find in many stores because most are simply not made to treat raw leather.
How To Apply Leather Conditioner To Boots?
Start with clean boots. After you select the preferred product, apply a thin layer to the front part of your boot. This can darken the leather, so it is a good idea to pick out a spot to test your product first. Start with the toe.
Utilizing circular motions, apply the product evenly and work your way up to the heel. More than one coat may be necessary for very dried out leather. Let it dry completely, wipe off the excess and buff to a shine.
Can You Use Too Much Leather Conditioner?
Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Leather can only consume so much conditioner before it starts to regurgitate. Think of it as eating too much in one go. You’ll make yourself very sick! As conditioner absorbs through minuscule pores, it can build up quickly.
When too much conditioner is going through at once, or if the leather is fully saturated with conditioner, the oils can become highly concentrated. Before long, they can completely block up the pores.
What Household Items Can You Use To Condition Leather Boots?
Hair conditioner can work, particularly if it is a moisturizing formula. Olive oil is also helpful. Some people recommend cutting olive oil with vinegar. If you do, add several drops of essential oil so you don’t smell like you’ve been wading through salad dressing.
Is Lanolin a Good Leather Conditioner?
Lanolin has been used to soften the leather and help keep it pliant for centuries. It’s derived from sheep wool, and it has a sticky and waxy nature. In fact, it’s a primary component in many available leather conditioners on the market.
Is Beeswax a Good Leather Conditioner?
Beeswax is a major component of homemade leather conditioner, so yes, it is a very good ingredient in conditioner. It is lubricating and adds to waterproofing but it will not soften the leather. It must be mixed with other things for this to happen.
What Can I Use Instead Of Leather Conditioner?
You can mix vinegar with linseed oil or olive oil. Add the essential oils to cut back on the smell.
Whatever you use to condition your boots with, it should be done every three to six months to keep them looking good. Mink oil softens the leather and keeps them waterproof but can dull the glossy shine a bit. Any kind of oil can lubricate boots. Do some spot testing and see which works best for your purposes.