Do your leather boots border on geriatric? It’s because they don’t moisturize!
More specifically, it’s because you don’t oil them.
Oiling your leather boots is as essential as shining leather shoes before a formal event.
Leather is skin, whether it’s full-grain or suede. Unlike your synthetic sneakers that you can just leave in the closet, real leather needs care.
To help you out, here are the best oil for leather boots options:
Before we go into these in more detail, check out the guide below on oiling leather boots.
What Oil Can I Use On Leather Boots?
You can use several oils on leather boots, from vegetable to animal to synthetic.
Can You Put Olive Oil on Leather Boots?
Yes, you can put olive oil on leather boots. It works better as a substitute for shoe polish, though. It can nourish the leather once you work it in, but it leaves an incredible sheen that outshines the nourishment.
You won’t find any food-based oil products on our list, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use olive and coconut oil—yes, the ones you cook with!
Don’t use your basic vegetable cooking oil, but the other two natural oils work well.
However, they have their cons. Food-based oils are more likely to:
- Smell strange.
- Turn rancid.
And, if you want to use vegetable oils to darken leather boots, they won’t be very effective.
Neatsfoot and mink oil are the two most popular animal oils for leather boots. They work better than vegetable oils for conditioning and darkening, but they smell a little musky.
Many customers complain about the difficulties of finding pure animal oil for their leather boots. Luckily, we’ve included some on our list today, but others have chemicals mixed in, so watch out for those.
Manufacturers include chemicals to condition and protect the boots. They often make them more than water-repellant and resistant to salt, gravel, cracking and scuffing.
Be very careful buying animal oil, though, as if you want to go pure, your purchase may not be wholly natural. Look for an ingredient label or product description. And, be aware that these oils often lack ingredient labels.
Synthetic blends may include animal or vegetable oils, but they’ll primarily have chemicals made to nourish.
Just because it’s synthetic doesn’t mean it’ll be dangerous or ineffective, though. These blends are made to give your leather boots longevity and naturally restore the leather’s essential oils.
While they have strong odors, they’re more bleach-like than musty or rancid. The latter odors come from animal and vegetable oils, respectively.
How To Oil Leather Boots
Most oil you buy for leather boots will come with instructions. But, some manufacturers will assume you’re an expert.
Some oil you find will require special instruction or attention. But for most oils, particularly food-based and animal oils, the process is simple and the same.
Step One: Prepare Your Materials
You need the following to oil leather boots:
- Your choice of leather boot oil.
- Cleaning supplies—a cloth and horsehair brush work best.
- Knife, if it’s suede boots.
- Small cloth, like a polishing cloth.
- An old towel for mishaps.
Step Two: Clean Your Boots
Before you oil leather boots, they need to be clean. Wipe or brush away any obvious debris, then give them a once-over with the cloth.
Once that’s done, start buffing out scratches with the brush. Target any tough stains on suede with the brush, too. If they don’t scrub out, scrape them away with a knife.
Now that your leather boots are spotless, prepare to oil them.
Step Three: Patch Test
Many leather boot oil substances darken the leather. If you want to control the shade, or don’t want them darkened, do a test first.
- Choose somewhere inconspicuous on your leather boots to oil them. A small patch on the heel works best.
- Massage some oil in, and wait a few hours.
- Did you achieve your desired results? Great!
- If not, try another oil and repeat the test.
Step Four: Oil Up
Almost every oil will come with instructions. Follow them if you get them.
For others, go with our general instructions.
- Spray can: Application is easy. Spray on, and you’re done.
- Thicker, grease-like oils: Spread it out, and massage it in.
- Typical runny oils: Simply apply the oil, and massage it in.
You’d typically apply oil to leather boots with a polishing cloth:
- Dip the cloth in a small amount of oil.
- Work it into the leather in small, circular movements.
- Cover the surface of both shoes.
Step Five: Dry and Repeat
Sometimes your leather boots will need a second coat of oil. Just make sure the first coat is dry before you apply the second.
It could take anywhere from 10 minutes to 24 hours for the oil to dry on your leather boots. The longer you wait, the more likely the boots will be dry.
- Wipe off any excess oil when the leather boots are dry, and get to work on the second coat.
- Do what you did before but without the cleaning.
- Now, leave the boots to dry again before you wear them. The longer, the better.
Your leather boots shouldn’t need more than two coats of oil. In many cases, even a single coat works, and a little goes a long way.
The only reason you may need to continuously layer oil on your leather boots is for darkening.
When Should You Oil Leather?
You should oil your leather boots before they have a chance to flake or crack. Oil them after a day in warm conditions, and create a leather-care schedule. Try to oil your leather boots every few months.
Once your leather boots are dry and flakey, it may be too late for oil, but we’ll cover this shortly.
To figure out what causes this wear-down, you have to treat leather like what it is: skin. Too much heat exposure dries out the skin, just like it does leather.
Avoid wearing your leather boots in the sun. If you can’t help it, oil them as soon as you get home.
On top of that, incorporate oil into your regular shoe care routine. Set aside a specific date to care for all your footwear—maybe once every three months.
Other times you should oil your leather include:
If It Lightens
If your leather lightens or fades, oil it. Your leather boots are losing their moisture, and it needs replacing.
Lightening could also mean they’ve become sun-bleached. You should seriously consider some oil in this case, before the leather dries out.
The Boots Stiffen
If your leather boots get stiff or start losing flexibility, they’re no longer as moist as they should be.
Oil them to restore the essential oils and make the leather supple. You should be able to flex your feet again in no time.
Deep cracks and peeling leather is almost impossible to fix. But, a single crack, or lots of very small cracks, aren’t the end of the world.
Oil your leather if small cracks appear, but if the cracks are in areas your foot bends, use a shoe tree. Keep the shoe on the tree for a few days as the oil soaks into the leather.
And, it’s smart practice to store your leather boots and shoes on a shoe tree anyway. After a long day of wear, they won’t hold a bent or cracked shape. They’ll return to the original shape until your next use.
Instead of Polish
If you need to polish your leather boots in a hurry, but there’s none available, oil them. The oil can give a nice sheen, and it’s fantastic for the leather, too.
You don’t need to massage the oil into the leather as you would during maintenance. A light coat of oil can resemble a spit-shine. Working it in is a bonus.
Can I Over-Oil Leather Boots?
Yes, you can over-oil your leather boots. It’s best-practice to oil them every month, perhaps every six weeks if you wear them less. You can oil your boots too much if you do it too frequently, or too much in one go.
Here are some circumstances where you might slather the oil on too thickly:
Breaking In Leather Boots
In our article on how to break in leather boots, we advise you to condition or oil them.
But, that’s the last resort.
If you oil your boots too much when breaking them in, they’ll become too soft. This leads to a sloppy fit—imagine trying to make your T-shirt into a shoe!
Plus, new leather boots aren’t likely to require a coat of oil. The leather will be supple and hydrated, freshly made, or at least fresh off the shelf.
When Darkening Leather Boots
Old, worn-out leather boots need rejuvenating. A few coats of oil sometimes aren’t enough.
You have to go deeper.
No… you have to go darker.
You can dye the leather, sure, but coating the leather boots in oil works, too.
It’s going to take a lot of work and many coats to darken your leather boots with oil. With all the layering, drying and wiping, the leather takes a bit of a beating, but it’s possible to over-saturate the leather during this process.
Doing this can ruin it entirely.
If you notice it’s taking longer for the oil to soak into your leather boots, stop immediately!
Wipe them down, let them dry, and call it an incomplete job. It’s either time to buy a new pair or try another oil in a few months.
When Rejuvenating Old Leather Boots
Many of us have that ancient pair of leather boots that they can’t throw away.
They’re so comfortable, yet you can’t bring yourself to disrespect them like that.
A little oil, you say? Yes, perhaps with a little oil, they’ll be good as new. And, in many cases, this will work.
However, the leather may be too far gone for salvation. Rather than oil bringing the boots back to life, it’s the oil that can finish them off.
Often, the oil won’t soak in, ruining the leather boots by turning rancid or permanently staining the leather.
There isn’t much you can do here—the leather boots are just too far gone.
Reviews of the Best Oil for Leather Boots in 2020
The “heavy-duty” claim in this Obensauf’s beeswax-based oil is far from a lie. It doesn’t just oil your boots back to health and sheen. It repels:
- Manure acid.
- Chemicals—like cleaning fluid.
And, it helps your shoes resist:
Having said this, Obenstauf’s ingredients aren’t listed anywhere, so we can’t prove these claims.
Yet, given the oil’s popularity and the durability of beeswax, it’s not hard to believe.
Like regular oils, Obensauf’s heavy-duty oil replenishes and refreshes old, dry leather. It then helps it to stay moist, preventing cracking and patching under heat.
It won’t only benefit boots, but any leather object, from boots to baseballs. Just make sure you do a test patch on these first because this stuff can darken boots and stain the stitching white.
- Prevents tons of issues.
- Works even in wet conditions.
- A little goes a long way.
- Users found that it stains stitching white.
- Contrastingly, it darkens boots—which not everyone wants.
As far as shoe oils go, Huberd’s is among the most well-known. With an almost century-old company behind it, it’s not hard to see why.
The compound oil softens and replenishes old, worn leather and makes it look like new. When leather is soft, it not only looks better but feels better too.
If the leather becomes misshapen and hardened that way over the years, you’ll be able to re-shape it more easily. Not all oils manage to soften leather effectively, only re-hydrate it—so hooray for Huberd’s.
On top of that, Huberd’s shoe oil waterproofs the leather to prolong its life and protect it from future damage.
But, note that it can stain leather quite dark, so be careful! Also, be careful you don’t saturate the leather and damage it—the oil doesn’t have any instructions, so check our guide above.
- Waterproofs leather.
- Crafted by a highly experienced company.
- Restores horseriding gear and sports equipment as well as boots.
- Doesn’t come with instructions.
- Some users found it to be too dark.
Animal oils are excellent for oiling and conditioning leather, and this Sof Sole mink oil is up there with the best.
It’s an ideal solution for waterproofing your leather as well as making it supple and shiny. Not only that, but it will resist sweat stains and prevent damage from salt.
Unlike many mink oils, it gives you this protection in minutes, drying quickly. And again, unlike many milk oils, it doesn’t smell musky. Customers report that it “smells neat.”
Also, the manufacturer indicates that it darkens some leathers, recommending you do a test patch before use.
On top of this, ensure you wipe the leather down since the oil leaves granules behind.
- Neutral smell.
- Protects against perspiration.
- May leave hard granules after several coats.
- Can darken leather even if not intended.
Before you dive into considering Kiwi conditioning oil, note that it doesn’t work on suede, nubuck or light leathers. But, if you have darker leather boots to oil, this is a high-quality compound oil.
KIWI doesn’t promise miracles to make your leather everything-proof. But, its oil will nourish your leather boots, make them waterproof and make old, rough leather smooth again.
You can also use it on your other garments, like coats and bags, but be careful if you do. This KIWI oil stains if you don’t immediately wipe off the excess after a solitary, thin coat. Although it’s among the best for leather shoes cleaning, it can dirty them up if applied incorrectly.
- A little goes a long way.
- Works well on leather garments other than leather boots.
- Adds an excellent shine, even on older leather boots.
- Incompatible with suede or nubuck.
- Can stain if the excess is left on too long.
Here we have another animal oil excellent for boot cleaning: neatsfoot. But, buyer beware: this particular blend of neatsfoot oil will darken almost any leather.
If you have old leather boots in need of new life, this is an excellent oil for it. A few coats of Bickmore neatsfoot oil and your best old leather boots will be unrecognizable. Even so, watch out for the strong odor, which some customers dislike.
On the bright side, they’ll also be soft, nourished and water-repellant. In addition, you can also use it on your other leather garments.
Be sure to patch test each new piece of leather you use it on. Yes, it will darken most leathers, but not all.
- Works fantastically on horse gear.
- Gives old leather boots a new look.
- Best oil for darkening if you prefer oil over colored polish.
- Darkens most leathers.
- Terrible smell, like rancid vegetable oil.
If you prefer your neatsfoot oil non-darkening, this is a slightly safer option than the Bickmore oil.
There’s no guarantee it won’t darken leather, so patch test in inconspicuous places. However, it’s less likely to stain than the Bickmore.
And, when it stains, customers report it only darkens the leather a fraction, but it may lighten some unspecified types of leather, too.
The lesser tendency to stain may be because this is a compound oil for cleaning boots and rejuvenating leather. Often, compounds are best because they balance out a pure oil’s natural tendency to stain or smell.
This Angelus Brand’s oil doesn’t smell, where animal oils usually do. Also, like some animal oils, it’s not safe for use around small children who may accidentally ingest it—it’s toxic!
Even so, it’s not toxic to leather—it softens the leather and acts as a natural preservative and waterproofer.
- Won’t rot stitching and laces.
- No smell.
- Restores natural leather’s odor.
- Unsafe for use around children.
- May lighten some leathers.
This oil is best for those who like the application simplified. There’s no need to break out your polishing cloth since it just sprays on. It’s also good for any type of leather, plastic and vinyl.
It’s a simple product, great for waterproofing, but does a less-effective job at granting you conditioned and clean boots. It’s best for a quick solution, especially when traveling.
- Easy to apply.
- Great for waterproofing.
- Works on vinyl and plastic as well as leather.
- Flammable can.
- Waterproofs but doesn’t condition leather boots.
If the other mink oils haven’t caught your eye, this one might since it’s entirely pure, so you’ll get that natural, musky scent and long drying times.
Be aware, though—some customers feel they’ve received neatsfoot oil instead, but we can confirm this is definitely mink oil.
Regardless of which it is, this oil won’t dry. The leather will absorb what it can, and you wipe away the excess. By staying moist inside the leather, it keeps the leather boots soft, pliable and nourished.
The oil will also make the boots waterproof but may allow debris to latch onto the shoes more easily. This is easily remedied if you have a strong horsehair brush to wipe them down with every day. Cloths won’t do when there’s oil on your leather boots.
Also, be sure to store the oil and any cloths and brushes in a dust-free, child-free area. Young kids put everything in their mouths, and this oil is toxic.
- Stays moist to continually nourish leather boots.
- Preserves leather boots excellently.
- A pure oil solution for leather, with no questionable additives.
- Some customers believe they received neatsfoot oil instead.
- Not safe for use around animals or children.
The Lexol leather conditioner range has several iterations. This one is a compound oil that conditions and oils boots, while another will clean your leather boots.
Lexol recommends you use three different oils on your leather boots for cleaning, conditioning and maintenance.
The conditioning oil protects the leather against cracking and helps prolong its life. However, the manufacturer doesn’t make a statement on whether it waterproofs anything.
Even combining all three oils doesn’t guarantee waterproof leather boots, which is extremely unfortunate. Most can achieve waterproof boots with one coat!
You should use this oil with a waterproofing spray for best results. Just ensure you clean the boots before waterproofing—the conditioner leaves a sticky residue in its wake.
- Sold alone or available as part of a leather boot care kit.
- Preserves the leather.
- Works on furniture and car seats, as well as leather boots.
- May not waterproof leather.
- Leaves a sticky film residue.
If you’re looking to breathe life into old leather boots and add water resistance, this oil works well. It’s more of a lotion than an oil, but it’s neatsfoot, so is highly reliable for leather.
Although it’s nothing too special, customers found it to be effective, soaking in almost instantly. But, the downside is that there are some detectable chemicals in there, which almost smell stronger than the oil with a hint of kerosene.
But, if you think chemicals mixed with natural oil is best for you, then this oil is excellent.
- No animal musk scent.
- Dries in fast.
- Easily brings old leather back to life.
- Smells like kerosene.
- Not fully natural.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Best Oil for Leather?
The best oil for leather boots, by our research, is beeswax oil. It’s the most durable and repels the most substances. On top of this, beeswax oil with added chemicals doesn’t reduce the quality. Animal oils are the next best thing, with mink being one of the most desirable.
Is Motor Oil Good for Leather Boots?
Some people use motor oil on leather boots, but we wouldn’t recommend it. It’s unlikely to be waterproof, will cause an awful stench and make the leather highly flammable.
Should You Oil New Leather Boots?
It’s not the best idea to oil new leather boots unless they’re too stiff to break in. Try breaking them in first, and if they resist, a small amount of oil should soften them up. If you oil boots that are already supple, you may make them fit sloppily.
Best Oil for Leather Boots: The Takeaway
Whether you go 100 percent natural or prefer an oil with additives, there’s something out there. There’s even a spray for people strapped for time.
No matter which of the best oils for leather you use, you should get shiny, perky and well-nourished boots. You won’t get that with DIY oil from your pantry!
Do your friends have cracked, unsightly old boots? Send this article their way to set them down a well-oiled path.