Boot Oil 101: Best Oil for Leather Boots

Boot oil is a go-to leather preserver for everything from work boots to dress boots. But what exactly is boot oil? And who makes the best oil for leather boots? We have put together a helpful guide for those of you who want the 101 on this popular boot and shoe waterproofer and preserver. 

Boot Care: Boot Oil 101

What is Boot Oil?

Boot oil is a type of leather conditioning oil that is safe to use on shoes and boots. Boots that are dry, sun-faded and experience lots of wear will benefit the most from an oil treatment as boot oil restores moisture to the leather and protects it from further damage. Another benefit of boot oil is that it can defend the leather against mildew and moisture that can rot the leather over time. 

 Oiling your boots restores moisture and color to leather

Oiling your boots restores moisture and color to leather

A good boot oil penetrates your boot’s leather and creates a barrier that repels water, salt and other harsh elements that can harm leather while still allowing your leather to breathe.

Boot oil is great for winter or work boots that experience a lot of abuse in harsh environments yet gentle enough to use on dress boots by still allowing them to be buffed to a shin or polished.

Best Oil For Leather Boots

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Hubert’s Shoe Oil

Hubert’s makes some of the best oil for leather boots thanks to it’s special formula that helps waterproof, soften and preserve leather. Hubert’s Shoe Oil is a thick brown liquid that will darken leather when applied. It has a smokey wood smell that isn’t too overpowering but worth mentioning in case you are sensitive to odors.

One of the reasons we recommend Hubert’s Shoe Oil is because it’s safe to use on fine leather boots that need to be shined or polished. In fact, Hubert’s Shoe Oil formula was originally intended to help waterproof and condition leather sole dress shoes. 

Best for:

  • Dress boots
  • Casual boots
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Obenauf’s Leather Oil

Obenauf’s makes some of the best oil for work boots thanks to it’s conditioning properties that allow it to restore and preserve leather that is routinely exposed to the sun, salt and moisture. It also can be used on casual and dress boots that need to be shined or polished. The formula includes beeswax, a natural leather conditioner that also helps with water resistance while still allowing the leather to breathe. 

Best for:

  • Work boots
  • Casual boots
  • Dress boots
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Red Wing Heritage All Natural Boot Oil

Red Wing offers their own boot oil made with pine pitch and mink oil. The mink oil helps with waterproofing leather and pine-pitch is a natural leather preserver that keeps leather hydrated and healthy. We recommend Red Wing Boot Oil for oil-tanned leather boots and hardwearing work boots that need extra protection from harsh environments. 

Best for:

  • Oil-tanned leather boots
  • Work boots

How to Oil leather boots

Each leather boot oil will come with it’s own set of instructions but here are the basics on how to oil your leather boots effectively:

  1. Clean your boots before oiling them. It’s important to remove any dirt or grime from the leather as this can cause discoloration, streaking or prevent the oil from penetrating into the leather.
  2. Test the oil in a small inconspicuous area before oiling your boots for the first time. Oil can darken leather boots so its’s important to make sure you are ok with the final results before oiling the entire boot.
  3. Use an applicator (if included) or a clean cloth to work the oil evenly on the leather uppers.
  4. Less is more. Apply only a thin coat at first. Work the oil evenly across the entire surface of the leather. Do not saturate the leather in oil.
  5. Wait an hour for the oil to fully absorb into the leather before a second application (if needed).
  6. After oil has been absorbed buff out with a clean cloth or horsehair brush to remove any excess oil. 
 Dry and brittle leather is a sign that you need to oil you boots.

Dry and brittle leather is a sign that you need to oil you boots.

How often should you oil your boots?

For hardwearing leather boots that are worn daily such as winter and work boots you should oil your leather no more than once a week. For casual and dress boots that are worn on occasion, oiling your boots every 1-3 months will be more than enough. The key to knowing when to oil a pair of boots is to pay attention to the leather. A few signs that it’s time to oil your leather boots include: 

  • Leather has lightened and appears dull
  • Leather is easily scuffed and has artificial flaking and scratches
  • Your boots have come into prolonged contact with water, salt and other harsh elements that can dry out and damage the leather 

Can you over oil leather boots?

A little oil can go a long way and it’s important to keep this in mind when oiling a pair of boots. Over-oiling your leather boots can be as disastrous as not oiling or conditioning them at all. The oil can cause unsightly staining or streaking and can actually damage the leather over time. Too much oil can cause your leather boots to lose their natural breathability and can deteriorate the leather causing splitting and leather separation.

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Boot Oil vs Mink Oil

Although boot oil and mink oil share many similarities they are also different in purpose. Mink oil is a heavy substance that should only be used on hardwearing leathers such as those in work and winter boots. Mink oil waterproofs and conditions leather but also removes the ability for the leather to be buffed to a shine. Once on, mink oil can be impossible to wipe off and it can essentially ruin dress boots.

Boot oil on the other hand is a thinner substance and allows a boot to be shined and polished afterwards. Although not as heavy duty as mink oil, it can still help waterproof and preserve leather. We like boot oil as an all around leather waterproofer and conditioner because it’s safe to use on all kinds of smooth leather and is a great option to hydrate, preserve and protect leather uppers. If you would like to learn more about different kinds of leather boot conditioners then make sure to check out our leather conditioner guide