When looking into different ways to condition your leather boots mink oil will often be mentioned. But what exactly is mink oil? And should you be using it on your leather boots? Let's dig deeper and find out.
What is Mink Oil?
Mink oil is a leather waterproofing agent that comes from the thick fatty layer minks have under their skins. Most mink oil is a byproduct of the fur industry where the fat is separated to use as mink oil. Mink oil has unique properties thanks to it’s chemical makeup and fatty acids that make it useful as a leather conditioner and waterproofer. Mink oil’s composition is very similar to the natural oils found in leather which allows it to seep into the leather and preserve it.
What is mink oil made of?
Although real mink oil does come from mink pelts, much of today’s mink oil for boots are not 100% mink oil. Instead what you will often find is different formulas of mink oil, lanolin (wool grease), petroleum and silicon. Some mink oil brands don’t use animal fats at all and instead offer “mink oil” that is made from a synthetic base of waxes. Each mink oil brand has different formulations but they all attempt to mimic the moisturizing and conditioning properties of real mink oil.
What does Mink Oil Do?
Mink oil is used on leather to do three things:
Since leather is a skin, mink oil is able to deeply penetrate the leather and seal it. As a waterproofing agent mink oil can seal pores and create a waterproof barrier. The penetrating properties of mink oil also makes it ideal as a moisturizer. Dry and cracking leather will see the most benefits from mink oil as it helps restore it’s original moisture and flexibility.
Using Mink Oil on Leather Boots: Yay or nay?
So now that we know the basics of mink oil let’s answer the million dollar question: Is mink oil good for leather boots? The answer is yes. And no. The truth is that mink oil is great for hardwearing leathers and pretty awful for finer leathers. Let’s delve deeper and explore when and when not to use mink oil on your boots.
When to use mink oil on boots:
The only appropriate time to use an agent like mink oil is when you have oil-tanned, vegetable tanned, smooth or other hardwearing leathers. Think winter boots and work boots that are likely to get beat up by the elements. These leathers tend to dry out, scuff up and will benefit from the waterproofing and moisturizing properties of mink oil.
Winter boots that come in contact with salt will benefit from an application of mink oil as it helps prevent salt stains on the leather and creates a barrier to prevent further damage. Work boots, cowboy boots and hiking boots that come in contact with direct sunlight and other outdoor elements will also benefit from the moisturizing properties of mink oil. Although leather is naturally water resistant, it can become less so over time as the leather ages. An application of mink oil is an easy way to regain those water resistant properties.
When NOT to use mink oil on boots:
If you are looking for ways to treat and moisturize a pair of expensive dress boots or shoes then mink oil isn’t your best option.
- Mink oil darkens leathers - The biggest reason for avoiding mink oil on finer leather boots is that it darkens leather. This won’t be a big deal for work boots but for finer leather dress boots it may be enough to consider other conditioning options.
- Mink oil will ruin the shine on dress boots - Mink oil’s deep penetrating properties can permanently ruin the shine on polished dress boots. Once applied there is little you can do to remove the mink oil or correct the change in the leather and bring back it’s shine.
- Mink oil residue can attract dust after it’s applied - The sticky nature of mink oil can spell disaster for dress boots and shoes as the residue can make your dress boots look quite dull. Again, not a big deal for rugged outdoor or casual boots but something to consider if you want to keep your nice boots looking spiffy.
- Avoid mink oil on suede and other nappy leathers - Mink oil will flatten and ruin the nap if applied to boot leathers such as suede, nubuck and roughout.
Best Mink Oil For Leather Boots
If you decide that mink oil is a good option for your leather boots then here are a few brands that we recommend.
Saphir Renovateur d'Or Mink Oil
Saphir Rénovateur makes a great mink oil conditioner for leather boots, shoes and smooth leather products. Their formula contains 100% refined mink oil in a non-greasy conditioner that leaves little residue. Made in France.
Red Wing Heritage Mink Oil
Those with Red Wing boots will be pleased to know that Red Wing offers their own mink oil formula to help protect hardwearing oil-tanned leathers. This formula contains mink oil, lanolin and silicone to aid in water resistance. Made in USA.
Picard Leather Dressing
Picard leather dressing is a good alternative to mink oil that does not contains any animal fat or tallow. Those who want the benefits of mink oil on their boots but don’t feel that great about using a fur byproduct will like what Picard has to offer. Just like mink oil, Picard leather dressing conditions and waterproofs leather and can be used on a variety of leather types.