How to Condition Leather with Neatsfoot Oil (Guide and 5 Best Options)

Posted In : Boots Care
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Do you have a pair of leather boots and you envy them?

Do you want them to look always fresh and last a lifetime? (though nothing lasts a lifetime..sigh 🙁 )

Yes, I bet on a leather care product you can count on! its – Neatsfoot Oil.

Leather is a natural material that can last for many years (not a lifetime though!) with the right care. In this context, Neatsfoot oil should make around the top in the list of best leather care products, coz it is a high-quality cleaner and conditioner that can be used to polish, waterproof, and restore old or dry leather items.

Neatsfoot oil is also well known for its ability to preserve leather, clean it, and soften it.

In this blog post, we’ll let you know a lot about neatsfoot oil and guide you on how to properly use neatsfoot oil for the above-mentioned purposes.

How to use neatsfoot oil for leather

Contents

What Is Neatsfoot Oil?

Initially, it is an animal oil, which is produced from the shinbones and feet of cattle. It is also called a “tallow”.

You can buy neatsfoot oil in different grades, however, the highest grade is the one that has the least amount of sediment in it. So if you’re wondering how to clean leather with neatsfoot oil, be sure to use the highest grade.

Neatsfoot oil provides great nourishment for leather and keeps it soft, flexible, and waterproof.

However, you shouldn't use neatsfoot oil directly as it might darken the leather.   
what is neatsfoot oil

When Should You Use Neatsfoot Oil on Leather Boots?

You can use neatsfoot oil for your leather boots, shoes or other leather accessories based on the following situations when you want:

  • Waterproofing: You want to waterproof the surface of your leather boots.
  • Clean and Condition: Apply neatsfoot oil when you want to clean and condition old or dry leather
  • Restoring: You simply want to restore it and make it look new and shiny.
  • Make Soft and Supple: The leather material is no longer soft, supple and flexible for some reason.
  • Consider Thread Type: If the boots are sewn with cotton threads instead of nylon or polyester ones.
  • Extend Leather Life: Using neatsfoot oil on a regular basis will make your boots last longer.

Types of Neatsfoot Oil for Leather Conditioning

We often make confusion between neatsfoot oil and neatsfoot oil compound, which are not actually the same thing.

There are two types, or I should say grades, of neatsfoot oil for leather: 

  1. Pure Neatsfoot Oil – As its name suggests, this type is pure neatsfoot oil. It is derived from the hooves and shin bones of cows. It is the highest grade of neatsfoot oil as it contains no sediment or impurities. It is most effective for cleaning and conditioning old leather. However, it also has a very strong smell and might darken the leather.
  2. Neatsfoot Oil Compound – Neatsfoot oil compound is neatsfoot oil mixed with synthetic oil, usually petroleum-based, that helps extend the oil. It is typically less expensive because it is not pure oil. This type of neatsfoot oil has a lesser amount of pure neatsfoot oil and a larger quantity of other products such as beeswax, rosin, and turpentine.

What are the Ingredient of Neatsfoot Oil?

The main ingredients of neatsfoot oil are:

  • Linoleic Acid
  • Squalene
  • Tocopherols
  • Polyphenols

Apart from this, neatsfoot oil may also contain:

  • Paraffin Wax or Microcrystalline Wax
  • Dipentene (Lighter fluid)

All of these ingredients make for a great leather care product. Neatsfoot oil may nowadays contain a variety of substances, including lanoline, vegetable oil, glycerine, and animal by-products.

Pro-tip: Instead of trying to clean the leather boots with neatsfoot oil, you should clean the leather first, either with a commercial leather cleaner or saddle soap and water, then apply neatsfoot oil to protect and condition it.

How to Condition Leather Boots and Shoes with Neatsfoot Oil?

how to use neatsfoot oil for leather boots

Before we proceed, we’d recommend that you read our posts on How to Clean and Condition Leather Boots and Shoes and Get Rid of Smelly Feet. This is because the post will give you information on the equipment needed, the materials involved, and the steps to follow for safe cleaning.

Supplies Required

Here is a list of supplies that you’ll need to condition leather with neatsfoot oil:

  • Rubber Gloves
  • Toothbrush/horsehair brush
  • Neatsfoot Oil (Liquid, Pure, or Neatsfoot Compound)
  • Clean Water
  • A Clean Sponge or Microfiber Cloth
  • Dry cloth/ Newspaper
  • Dryer (optional)

The Process

  1. First of all, take an old toothbrush or horsehair brush and work it over the leather in circular motions. The purpose of this is to remove dirt particles so they don’t remain stuck on the surface. You can also use a toothbrush to reach nooks and crannies.
  2. Clean the boots or shoes thoroughly as described in our boot cleaning, leather care, and saddle soap guides.
  3. After the cleaning process is done, dip a clean sponge in neatsfoot oil and work it over the entire leather item with a circular motion. After this, use a dry cloth or newspaper to wipe away excess oil from the surface.
  4. If there are any oil stains, you can let them dry completely. Then brush off the dried oil stain with a dry cloth or newspaper.
  5. Finally, use a clean sponge dipped in neatsfoot oil to work over the leather one last time. As before, wipe all excess oil with a dry cloth or newspaper.
  6. If you want to dry them off quickly, you can use a dryer at very low heat to dry the boots completely.
  7. Repeat the process in a week if you are not satisfied.
A very precise and descriptive video about the neatsfoot oil applying process is below:

Courtesy : Katy Hill Farmer

Pro-tip: Be careful when you are using the dryer, as excessive heat may discolor the leather and may make it brittle. Also, do not unnecessarily repeat the process as over oiling will make the leather prone to cracks and brittleness.

How Often Should You Condition Leather with Neatsfoot Oil?

You should not condition the shoes or boots too frequently, as it may darken and damage the leather. You can follow one of these schedules:

  1. Condition them once every 4-6 months if they do not get exposed to excessive sunlight and water.
  2. If you live in a region with more humidity and moisture than average, you should condition them once every two weeks.
Pro-tip: To prolong leather life and maintain its strength, durability, softness, and pliability, do not wear shoes in severe weather conditions like heavy rainfalls and snowstorms for extended periods. This will prevent the leather from drying and hardening, and eventually becoming brittle.

Positives of Neatsfoot Oil

benefits of neatsfoot oil

Neatsfoot Oil for leather boots has a number of benefits and advantages:

  • Neatsfoot oil is a natural conditioner that makes leather parts of boots soft and supple.
  • It increases the water resistance of leather, making it perfect for use with boots or shoes.
  • Leaves a pleasant smell.
  • Easily available; Possible to find in local stores, supermarkets, and online retailers.
  • Can be used for many other purposes other than leather care.
  • Not harsh on the skin, unlike other cleaners.

Possible Negatives of Using Neatsfoot Oil

Though it has many benefits, neatsfoot oil may have a few downsides too:

  • May leave excess oil stains on floors or surfaces.
  • Can cause the darkening of light colored leather.
  • If used excessively, may damage the material.
  • It is Flammable.

5 Best Neatsfoot Oil and Neatsfoot Oil Compound We Recommend

best neatsfoot oil

We thoroughly researched and tested a few neatsfoot oil products and come up with a shortlist of products you can try:

1. Sheps 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil - Best for leather boots and shoes which need extra care and protection. It has a great smell and works on all colors of leather.

2. Fiebings 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil- Best for leather boots and shoes which need heavy duty cleaning and conditioning.

3. Angelus Prime Neatsfoot Oil- Best for dry leather boots and shoes which need restoring.

4. Bickmore 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil- Best for leather boots and shoes which need extra moisturizing to become soft and supple.

5. JobSite Prime Neatsfoot Oil- Best for leather boots and shoes which requires waterproofing in addition to cleaning and condoning.

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

1

Sheps 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil

Sheps Neatsfoot Oil belongs to the class of modern neatsfoot oil and is a natural conditioner that makes leather parts of boots soft, supple, and increases the water resistance of leather. It is excellent for reconditioning and preserving leather items. This oil can be used on any other objects except for food preparation surfaces too.

The Sheps 100% pure neatsfoot oil has been blended to have uniformity and penetration into the material as well as preserve, strengthen, waterproof it. Spray or wipe this product onto your boots before wearing them in wet conditions to keep them from drying out or stiffening up.

As an added bonus, this product also leaves a pleasant smell behind so you don’t have to worry about smelling like a dirty boot!

Benefits:

  • Makes leather parts of boots soft, supple, and increases the water-resistance of leather.
  • Excellent for reconditioning and preserving leather items.
  • Keeps your shoes from drying out or stiffening up in wet conditions.
  • Leaves a pleasant smell behind so you don’t have to worry about smelling like a dirty boot!

2

Fiebings 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil

Fiebing’s 100% pure neatsfoot oil is a product that is ideal for leather articles subjected to rugged use and outdoor exposure. This includes boots, shoes, baseball gloves, leather jacket, horse saddles, and harnesses.

A natural preservative, the oil replaces the natural oils in leather products and extends their useful life.

This oil repels water and prevents leather goods from stiffening as a result of multiple wet-dry cycles, making it perfect for items that are subjected to rigorous usage and exposure to the elements. It also softens and plumps-up dried leather.

Fleming’s signature product is made in the USA.

Benefits:

  • 100% pure neatsfoot oil is a natural conditioner that makes leather parts of boots soft, supple, and increases the water resistance of leather.
  • Leaves a pleasant smell.
  • Makes dried-out leather soft and pliable.

3

Angelus Prime Neatsfoot Oil

Angelus Prime Neatsfoot Oil is an all-in-one cleaner and conditioner for your leather items. This product has been used by generations of tanners as a boot polish and natural preservative for items enduring rugged use and outdoor exposure.

This Neatsfoot oil adds suppleness and strength to leather, making it ideal for use on tack, handbags, belts, sports equipment, shoes, luggage, or even furniture.

Benefits:

  • Protects leather items against wear and tear.
  • Waterproofs to protect from water damage or stains.
  • Restores the suppleness of old, dry leather items.
  • Makes your favorite leather goods last longer!

4

Bickmore 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil

Bickmore 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil is an excellent cleaner and conditioner for your leather items. This neatsfoot oil helps to maintain the suppleness and strength of genuine leather and finished leather goods!

The product is a high-quality leather cleaner and conditioner used for polishing, waterproofing and restoring old or dry leather items.

Neatsfoot oil naturally repels water, protecting your leather from the elements and extending its life.

Use on all finished Leather products! Works great on shoes, boots, belts, wallets, baseball gloves, equestrian equipment, and more.

Bickmore is proud to produce all Bickmore Neatsfoot Oil in the United States of America.

Benefits:

  • Bickmore Neatsfoot Oil is 100% pure with no added petroleum distillates.
  • Moisturizes, softens, and conditions your favorite leather products.
  • Protects leather items against wear and tear.
  • Waterproofs to protect from water damage or stains.
  • Restores the suppleness of old, dry leather items.
  • Makes your favorite leather goods last longer!
Pro-tip: Be informed that thus product may or may not darken leather. So if you don't want take risk, avoid this product. Also avoid using on faux leather, suede, or nubuck.

5

JobSite Prime Neatsfoot Oil

We all know that leather is expensive, so you want it to last as long as possible. But with wear and tear, dirt, water exposure and age the leather starts to become less supple.

JobSite Prime Neatsfoot Oil penetrates deep into the fibers of your favorite leather items to make them soft again while also protecting against water damage or stains.

This product is ideal for boots, shoes, purses belts, luggage, gun cases, saddlery, baseball gloves, safety belts, gloves, car upholstery, furniture and more!

This neatsfoot oil will not darken light colored leathers so you can use this product on all of your favorite leather items.

Benefits:

  • 100% natural with no added petroleum distillates.
  • Helps keep your leather boots, shoes and other leather items looking new.
  • Natural lubricants which penetrates leather to lubricate and waterproofs the fibers allowing leather to breathe and making it soft, pliable and younger feeling.
  • Protects against major stains.
  • Neatsfoot oil oxidizes, forming a protective layer that repels water, keeping your leather items protected from the elements.
  • Protects from stiffness that naturally occurs through wet and dry cycles.
  • Protects, preserves & restores dried-out leathers.
  • Proudly made in the USA by Bickmore for over 100 years and is perfect for your leather needs!
Pro-tip: This oil may permanently darken light-colored leathers. Not for use on suede or nubuck leathers.

What’s the Difference between Neatsfoot Oil and Other Leather Oils?

Neatsfoot oil is a type of natural oil that you use to condition your leather items. It contains 80% lanolin, which gives it its high viscosity. The other 20% is made up of natural oils, which is why neatsfoot oil is often cheaper than other leather oils.

The high-quality nature of neatsfoot oil means it’s ideal for cleaning and conditioning your leather items. Most people will choose a neatsfoot oil because it penetrates deep into the item to make them safe from water damage. It also adds a protective coating to the surface and softens the leather.

If you care for your boots right (with regular cleaning and conditioning), it’s going to last longer and remain in good condition. Don’t forget that neatsfoot oil only contains natural ingredients, so it won’t harm or discolor your leather goods!

Is Neatsfoot Oil Better than Natural Oils or Leather Oils?

Neatsfoot oil is a leather oil, but it contains a higher concentration of natural oils than saddle oil. It contains more lanolin and has a different viscosity. Most people looking for the best oils for their boots or shoes will choose a neatsfoot oil because it’s a great all-purpose product that everyone needs to care for their valuable leather goods.

There are other types of oils that you can used to condition your leather items. For example – olive oil, which has a lower viscosity and penetrates the leather more than neatsfoot oil does. Olive oil also tends to darken light colors.

Another thing people should be aware of when using an oil to care for their leather is that there are different grades of oil. For example, the cheap mineral oils that you find at your local drug store actually contain a lower grade (and quantity) of natural oils than what you would find in neatsfoot oil. This means that the cheaper brands aren’t really ideal for leather care.

Is Neatsfoot Oil Safe to Use on Saddles and Harnesses?

Absolutely! Neatsfoot oil is the most popular choice for anyone who needs to condition their leather tack and gear. It’s odorless, natural and won’t harm or discolor most surfaces.

Neatsfoot oil is a great choice because it penetrates deep into your leather goods to make them safe from water. It softens the leather so it’s more flexible and adds a protective coating to prevent further damage from moisture or grime.

A great tip when using neatsfoot oil on your leather tack is to give the item a quick wipe down with a clean, dry cloth after applying the oil. This will remove any excess product and allow the oil to really seep into those pores and fibers.


Frequently Asked Questions

Does Neatsfoot Oil Damage Leather?

This question usually pops up in people’s minds who have conditioned their shoes and boots with neatsfoot oil for the first time. The answer is no; neatsfoot oil does not damage your leather goods. In fact, the high-quality nature of neatsfoot oil means it’s ideal for cleaning and conditioning your leather items.
Neatsfoot oil has been used since the 1800s so you can trust that we really know what we’re doing when we say it won’t damage your shoes and boots in any way. The only way neatsfoot oil might damage your leather goods is if you use too much of it. This can lead to product build-up. The trick is just know how much to use and only apply that amount sparingly!

Does Neatsfoot Oil Grease Leather?

This question comes up in people’s minds because they have conditioned their leather items with lighter oils in the past and had problems with greasy surfaces. This isn’t because the other oils didn’t work, it’s usually due to the incorrect application of the product.
The only way neatsfoot oil might grease your leather goods is if you use too much of it. This can lead to product build-up, which isn’t ideal! If you only apply the smallest amount of neatsfoot oil, your item will stay looking great without any greasy marks or smudges.

Is Mink Oil Better than neatsfoot oil?

Mink oil is better for the leather than neatsfoot oil for some aspects. Mink oil is actually a blend of oils, which are natural that are blended with animal tallow. The tallow makes the mink oil give off a rich, buttery smell.
While neatsfoot oil mainly just contains lanolin to keep your leather nice and supple, mink oil has other ingredients including bees wax to condition your tack without getting it greasy or looking tacky. The higher grade an oils you choose for your boots will also affect the price, so if you’re on a budget don’t worry about it-neatsfoot can do wonders! For those who want to splurge on their tack though, mink oils are definitely the pricier option.

Do I Have to Condition My Leather Everyday?

No you do not need to condition your leather everyday! That’s actually a bad idea because then all of that oil will be absorbed into your boots and it won’t be as effective anymore. You should only apply neatsfoot oil every few months or so, depending on how often you use your boots.

Does neatsfoot oil rot stitching?

Neatsfoot oil won’t rot stitching because it’s natural and not a petroleum-based product.
Neatsfoot oil is known for using lanolin to polish leather, but that doesn’t mean it’ll do the same to your stitching. Neatsfoot doesn’t have any strong chemicals in its chemical makeup to rot cotton or hemp fibers which are the most common ingredients in thread. That means neatsfoot oil should be good at moisturizing and conditioning old items without compromising structural integrity of stitching!

Can you put too much neatsfoot oil on leather?

It’s possible to put too much neatsfoot oil on leather depending on what you’re trying to achieve. The purpose of neatsfoot oil is to condition the leather, keeping it soft and supple. If you apply too much neatsfoot oil all over your boots, they’ll be very greasy looking.

Does neatsfoot oil dry out leather?

Nope, neatsfoot oil won’t dry out leather. That’s because the primary ingredient of neatsfoot is lanolin which actually moistens your leather so it stays soft and supple! This is why it’s often used for polishing cowboy boots-not just to give them that classic shine but also to keep them conditioned.

Does neatsfoot oil soften leather?

Yes, neatsfoot oil will soften your leather. That’s one of the best benefits to using it! When you condition leather with neatsfoot oil, the lanolin in the oil will help break down some of the toughest leather fibers. This makes it easier for you to work on and reshape these parts of your item.

Is neatsfoot oil toxic?

Neatsfoot oil is not toxic, but it may come in contact with your skin. If you’re using neatsfoot oil on a regular basis for polishing and conditioning leather items, you should be careful to avoid prolonged exposure and ensure you always wash your hands after applying it!

What does neatsfoot mean?

Neat’s foot is a red colored byproduct of the meat packing industry that has been traditionally used as a boot polish and leather conditioner. The term “neatsfoot” is derived from the obsolete word for beef-“neat.”

Does oiling leather make it darker?

Yes, oiling leather can make it look darker. If you’re worried about a boot looking too dark after tanning the leather with neatsfoot oil, don’t be! It’s good to have a little bit of color in your saddle and tack so that everything matches well. You can also mix neatsfoot with mink oil for more of a medium brown tone.

Does mineral oil darken leather?

Yes, mineral oil will make the leather darker. That’s because mineral oil is a petroleum byproduct that has been used as saddle soap to clean and condition tack for decades! If you’re trying to avoid using neatsfoot oil on your boots because of its red tint, then you should try getting a bottle of pure mink oil instead.

How long does neatsfoot oil take to dry on leather?

Neatsfoot oil can take up to a full day to dry on your leather item. If the boots are very oily when you apply it, then they may not even be ready to wear until after 24 hours. You should also check in on the boots every few hours throughout the day to make sure that neatsfoot hasn’t soaked into stitching or started to discolor the leather in any way.

Is neatsfoot an oil or an acid?

Neatsfoot oil is not an acid, although it may seem like one when you first apply it because of how sticky and thick it can be when you put it on your boots! Neatsfoot has a natural lanolin base which is what makes it such an effective moisturizer and cleaner for your leather. Some people like to mix neatsfoot oil with beeswax for more of a paste consistency, but you can also add in some mink oil if you prefer a lighter coating on the leather.

Can you put neatsfoot oil on wet leather?

No, you should never apply neatsfoot oil to wet leather surface. While it’s a fairly versatile conditioner, it will not work on your boots if they’re still damp from the rain or a quick rinse-down with a hose! Wait until the leather surface is fully dry before using neatsfoot oil and make sure you’ve cleaned off any dirt or grime that’s present.


Final Words

There are many types of neatsfoot oil on the market, so you’ll need to do some research before purchasing.

We also want to mention that while there are many benefits of using neatsfoot oil on leather boots or shoes, it’s not a cure-all solution and will require regular maintenance over time in order for them to function optimally.

What would you say about adding this type of product into your leather boot care routine?

Let us know what you think!

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Robert 'BootsGeek' Cone
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