Is Neatsfoot Oil bad for Leather Boots?

We all know how daunting it is to take care of your precious leather boots. They tend to get dry and dirty very easily and even start to crack after a specific period of time.

Is Neatsfoot Oil bad for Leather BootsThat is why there are a variety of lubricants and oils which are manufactured to save your leather work boots from all these damages. One such oil is neatsfoot oil which is designed to serve the leather. But is it really good for the boots? 

Your leather work boots require conditioning, preservation and Neatsfoot oil is the perfect ingredient for doing that. It not only lubricates the leather but also gives it the shine it needs. The oil also softens the fibre and lubricates it. Although the oil cannot make your boots waterproof and darkens the color of the leather but still it has got preservative qualities that help to make leather last long.

But the story doesn’t end here. We have compiled all the advantages and disadvantages of this particular oil and the perfect way to use it on your leather boots. Not just this, stick with us till the end to know the difference between Neatsfoot oil and Mink oil and which one is actually better for your boots?

Pros of Neatsfoot oil

Here are the advantages of using neatsfoot oil on your work boots:

1. It’s an All Natural Oil

Unlike all other conditioners and oils which are used on leather work boots, the neatsfoot oil is all natural which makes it suitable for all leather products. It has got no artificial lubricants and hence does a precise job of softening and conditioning leather.

2. It makes leather water resistant

Neatsfoot oil is known for its waterproofing ability on leather. While most other leather conditioners and oil lack this feature, neatsfoot oil’s special quality allows it to repel moisture and water and at the same time protects leather against wet substances.

When you apply the oil on your boots, it creates a thick layer on the surface and blocks the pores of leather which prevents it from soaking water.

3. Helps in preserving your leather boots

If you want to maintain a fresh new look of your boots then neatsfoot oil is really an impressive way to do that. Made of 100% natural lubricants, the oil aids in maintaining a healthy appearance and quality of leather and makes your work boots able to withstand all the temperatures. Neatsfoot oil also increases the durability of your work boots.

4. It is a good leather softener

We have already discussed that neatsfoot helps in softening of leather and keeps it functional. When applied on the surface of leather, the oil penetrates deep into the fibres and especially those fibres which have become hard or dry. The oil also prevents development of cracks in your boots thus saves them from cracking.

5. If you want that vintage finish, neatsfoot is the answer

By giving the fresh touch and newness to your work boots, neatsfoot oil enriches the dark color of the leather. When applied on the surface, it tones down the hues of light colored leather and helps you achieve an enhanced colouring. The final color tone created after application of the oil makes your boots more oily and lustrous.

Cons of Neatsfoot oil

1. The oil oxidizes with Oxygen

While neatsfoot oil nourishes and replenishes your leather, in later stages, it reacts with oxygen and creates flakes on the leather surfaces. It happens because the oil clogs the leather pores and slowly ruins the surface of the boots. Check out the guide on how to restore old leather boots.

2. It will discolor the leather

Neatsfoot oil makes your boots 2 to 3 shades darker than its original color. I am sure nobody wants their boots to undergo such significant change. Moreover, the darkening is not even uniform which makes your boots look unseemly.

3. Neatsfoot oil can disrupt the stitching on leather goods

If your boots are stitched using synthetic or waxed threads then no problem but your cotton threads can’t sustain the Neatsfoot oil because of its acidic nature. Too much application of oil surely softens the leather but it also rots and weakens the stitches. 

4. Application of oil causes leather to attract dust easily

The natural lubricants of neatsfoot oil easily penetrates the leather and opens the pores which usually block dust and other debris. 

How to use Neatsfoot Oil on leather work boots?

If you want the oil to work well on your work boots then it is always advisable to use it in very small quantities. To apply the oil in best way, just follow these simple steps

Step 1: Clean the surface of the work boots using a good leather cleaner. (We recommend using leather honey) 

Step 2:  Put a small amount of Neatsfoot oil on a piece of clean microfiber cloth.

Step 3: Now take the oiled cloth and rub it in a swift and even manner as quickly as possible. In case you are applying it on a larger surface then make sure that you apply one section at a time. Continue oiling the surface until all the boot surface is covered. You can add a few more drops in case the cloth is dry.

Step 4: Take a more absorbent cloth and buff off any excess neatsfoot oil after application.

Step 5: Leave the boots to dry for at least a day. Your work boots with an amazing fresh shine are ready to use.

Mink Oil Vs Neatsfoot Oil, which is better?

Features Neatsfoot Oil Mink Oil
Derived from Derived from cows hooves Derived from mink pelts
Available In Comes in liquid form Comes in both paste and oil
Usage Used to soften and condition leather Preserves leather and makes it durable
Waterproofing  Does not waterproofs leather Ideal for waterproofing leather

Both the oils have got their advantages as well as disadvantages. Neatsfoot oil preserves and softens the leather but at the same time darkens the shade of your work boots.

On the other hand, mink oil doesn’t change the color of the leather and waterproofs it but is not as great as the neatsfoot oil when it comes to conditioning.

Does Neatsfoot Oil rot stitching?

Yes, neatsfoot oil, when used in large amounts for a longer duration, tends to disrupt the stitching of leather. If your boots are stitched using synthetic or waxed threads then no problem but your cotton threads can’t sustain the Neatsfoot oil.

This is because of the acidic nature of the oil which easily permeates the leather and softens it. When the stitches come in contact with the neatsfoot oil (if applied in larger quantities) they begin to rot and become weak.

That is why it is advisable to use neatsfoot oil in a very limited quantity and for a very short period of time. That’s how you save the stitches of the leather boots from becoming vulnerable.

What are the alternatives of Neatsfoot Oil?

Since, I have already told you the disadvantages of using neatsfoot oil on your leather boots, you might want to know the alternatives which can be used. Basically there are three alternatives of the oil and they are:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Best overall Neatsfoot oil alternative
  • Jojoba Oil: Never goes rancid
  • Mink Oil: Better alternative for waterproofing leather

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

If you are looking for a neatsfoot replacement that will never darken your leather , is natural and safe to use then go for extra virgin olive oil. It is a very good conditioner and has the following advantages and disadvantages.

OLIVE OIL Restores Shine of your Leather Boots


      • Gives instant nourishment to leather by penetrating into it.
      • Cheap and less expensive
      • Gives good leather protection.
      • When compared to neatsfoot oil, this alternative runs more evenly and smoothly on leather.
      • Unlike its counter option, olive oil never darkens leather and even if it does, the darkness disappears in an hour or so.
      • It extends the life of leather.


      • It easily attracts rodents like rats which chew on leather
      • Doesn’t last very long on leather

Jojoba Oil

We all have used jojoba oil in skincare and hair products but do you know that you can use this oil for leather care as well? It is non staining and is easy to use on leather surfaces.


      • Natural with no added chemicals.
      • Safe to use on leather
      • It is a good leather protectant
      • Never goes rancid unlike neatsfoot oil.
      • Doesn’t leave a greasy residue on leather.


      • Darkens the leather but lesser in comparison to neatsfoot oil.
      • It is hard to apply and leaves an uneven application.

Mink Oil

We all are well aware about the goodness of mink oil and how great it is as an alternative to neatsfoot oil. It is less costly and has an added advantage of superior waterproofing qualities.


      • It increases water resistance.
      • Protects leather from salts and dirt from the environment
      • Helps in moisturizing your leather.
      • It is a good substitute for restoring and replenishing leather.
      • Mink oil darkens the leather to create a deep rich color.


      • Conditions the leather for a shorter period of time.
      • Eventually oxidizes and hardens the leather.
      • It sometimes removes the natural shine of leather.

Recommended Neatsfoot Oil

Let’s have a look at some of the recommended neatsfoot oil which make your leather work boots last longer.

1. Bickmore 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil

      • The product is 100%  pure without added petroleum distillates.
      • It moisturizes,conditions and softens leather.
      • It naturally repels water and protects your leather from the harsh elements and thus extends its life.
      • It can be used on all finished leather products. Not just work boots, the oil works great on any type of leather shoes.
      • It is manufactured to darken most leathers 

2. Fiebing’s Neatsfoot Oil

      • It naturally replaces evaporated oils and thus helps softening the leather.
      • Fiebing’s oil is designed to preserve leather and is especially designed for leather of those work boots which are frequently exposed to outdoor elements.
      • Manufactured using 100% natural ingredients.
      • Manufactured in USA

3. Huberd’s Leather Dressing Neatsfoot Oil, 8 oz

      • The oil is formulated with natural oil compounds of neatsfoot oil and beeswax.
      • It helps in softening, restoring and preserving saddles, straps and other smooth leather items.
      • Huberd’s oil prevents drying out of leather in all climates.
      • Mildly waterproofs the leather.
      • The good thing about this oil is that it doesn’t seal like a waterproofer which allows the leather to remain breathable.

Final Thoughts

I hope I have given you enough evidence which proves that neatsfoot oil is actually good for your leather  work boots if used strategically and in the right amount. The oil gives all the care your boots need. So are you ready to use it and increase the life of your boots?

Stephen Luettgen
I have 12+ years of experience in construction, inspections, handy work, and currently working as a Construction Site Manager. In today’s day we spent a significant part of our time at workplace and a right work gear can have significant impact not only on your safety but also work quality.

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