Neatsfoot or Mink Oil – What is Better for Your Leather Boots?

Neatsfoot oil and mink oil are two of the most commonly mentioned oil when it comes to leather care and maintenance. If you’re wondering which one is better for your leather boots or any other leather item, then continue reading.

What is neatsfoot oil?

Neatsfoot oil is derived from the feet bones and shin bones of cattle and other hoofed animals. The boiled skin and bones then release fat that will be skimmed off, filtered, and pressed to make the neatsfoot oil.

This substance is used for treating leather garments and furniture for a long time and has been known to have water-resistant features along with making the surface shiny. You can also use this on saddles, horse tack, and even baseball gloves.

What is mink oil?

Mink oil is also similar to neatsfoot oil but instead of bones, it is made from animal fats from the skin of minks or mink pelts that are harvested. However, there are now commercial mink oil products that do not come from natural mink oil due to animal rights concerns.

This oil is often used for cosmetic and medical products because it is similar to human sebum. Mink oil is also used to preserve and condition leather materials because it brings back the softness and suppleness of leather. It can also help make your leather jacket or boots water-resistant, but not waterproof.

Neatsfoot oil vs. mink oil for leather

Neatsfoot oil and mink oil are both used on leather items because of their conditioning properties, but each of these oils has advantages and disadvantages to them. Even though oils are great for restoring moisture to leather and preventing dryness that may lead to cracking, not all oils are good for leather.

In fact, leather enthusiasts would most likely suggest using leather conditioners like Leather Honey or Bick 4 Leather Conditioner which are formulated for leather use only.

Some conditioning oils often clog the leather pores causing them to become unbreathable, and sometimes they may also cause leather darkening. That’s why it’s important to know when to use mink or neatsfoot oil so you can know what to do and not to do.

Properties of Mink oil

Here are some of the pros and cons of using mink oil on leather boots:


  • Makes leather water resistant
  • Gives off a matte finish
  • Good for conditioning black or dark-colored leather items
  • Brings back the moisture of your leather boots


  • Takes away the shine of the leather over time
  • Darkens the leather and removes the natural shine
  • Can clog the leather pores if used excessively

Properties of Neatsfoot oil

Here are some of the pros and cons of using neatsfoot oil on leather boots:


  • Softens and conditions leather
  • Adds a bit of shine to the leather
  • Replenishes the natural oils in real leather
  • Makes it water resistant


  • Can cause oxidation in the long run which leads to leather cracking
  • It darkens leather just like the mink oil
  • It has fatty acids which can weaken the protective layer and the cotton stitching of leather items

Does all mink oil darken leather?

Mink oil has a tendency to darken leather, and that’s why a lot of experts suggest against using this on lighter-colored or dyed leather items. This is because the mink oil adds that oily substance that looks wet on the surface of the leather and it will stay looking wet permanently. That’s why it looks a shade or two darker even when it’s dry after conditioning.

However, this can be to your advantage if you have a black or dark brown leather pair of boots since it can restore the rich colors of the items.

Does neatsfoot oil damage stitching?

There is a chance that neatsfoot oil will damage the stitching on your precious leather items, but it is not something you need to worry about too much. The disintegrating of the cotton used on leather stitching is caused by the slightly acidic nature of neatsfoot oil and this will only happen if you put too much oil too often.

There are also a lot of leather products nowadays that use synthetic threads for their stitching, so you won’t have to worry about neatsfoot oil affecting the structure of the item negatively.

Which oil is the best for leather?

Applying conditioning oils on leather is important to slow down its deterioration and to bring back lost moisture due to wear and tear. If you’re wondering which oil between the two (neatsfoot vs mink) is the best for leather, then it would depend on whether you want to prioritize softening the material or making it water-resistant.

Mink oil is better used for making your leather garments water-resistant, while neatsfoot oil is better at softening and moisturizing leather. However, both oils have disadvantages to them that you also need to consider. If you are looking for a leather conditioner that also comes in the form of a paste, then your option would be mink oil.

It’s also important to note that none of these oils will waterproof leather. Mink oil and neatsfoot oil will only make your leather boots have water resistance to some degree, but they will still get wet if soaked underwater or in the rain for a long time.

What oil will not darken leather?

Leather conditioners that are designed only for leather care and maintenance are the only oils that will not darken leather. Others such as coconut, mink fat, neatsfoot, linseed oil, and such will definitely cause leather darkening. If you want to condition your light-colored leather items, then we suggest going for leather conditioners formulated specifically for leather goods.

You can check out our list of the best leather cleaners and conditioners for leather instead if you’re looking for safer options. Plus, they’re guaranteed to be colorfast-safe and can provide the nourishment your leather items need without the negative effects.


High-quality leather deserves quality care, so if you want to maintain and take care of your leather goods properly, then it’s better to go for leather conditioning oils such as Leather Honey made exclusively for leather. Using other oils such as baby oil, neatsfoot, mink, coconut, or olive oil may be sufficient for now, but it’s not good for your leather in the long run.


Can you use too much neatsfoot oil?

Yes, you can use too much neatsfoot oil and it’s not good for your leather goods. Neatsfoot oil is actually acidic and will cause the stitches to weaken on your leather goods. If you use too much on the entire surface, it can draw more dirt into the leather pores and it will also sweat out when exposed to the hot sun.

How long should I let neatsfoot oil dry?

Neatsfoot oil takes about at least one to three hours to dry completely. You can also test if it has dried fully by touching the leather surface and if it still feels greasy or slightly tacky, then it’s not fully dried yet. We suggest only using neatsfoot oil as an alternative to leather conditioners, but not as a substitute.

What oil is similar to mink oil?

There are other natural oils that function similarly to mink oil such as olive oil and coconut oil. These plant oil extracts are also great options if you don’t want to use animal-sourced oils. However, just like mink oil, there is a tendency for these oils to darken leather and cause patchiness if applied unevenly.

Does neatsfoot oil destroy leather?

Not necessarily. Using neatsfoot oil will restore the natural oils in your leather items to make them softer and more supple. The only reason why neatsfoot oil may destroy leather is if it’s used too much for long periods of time since it can cause dryness and make leather brittle. 


  • Luke

    With a 14-year journey dedicated to preserving and enhancing leather goods, his unwavering passion continues to fuel his expertise. When he's not immersed in the world of leather, you can find Luke enjoying exhilarating bicycle rides or exploring nature through invigorating hikes.

  • Ralf

    Ralf is a multifaceted creative enthusiast with a deep passion for various crafting hobbies, including sewing, pottery, and the captivating world of leathercraft.