Want to buy or sell something? Check the classifieds

Dubbing, Mink Oil, Sno-Seal, etc: The Boot Treatment

Undertow

My Mail is Forwarded Here
Messages
3,126
Location
Des Moines, IA, US
I'll be purchasing a pair of Red Wing Iron Rangers as soon as the dealer gets a hold of my size.

Meanwhile, I've been doing some reading on boot prep. I've been treating leather shoes for a long time and I'm familiar with most creams, polishes, waxes, etc. However, I'm not familiar with the dubbing process. While dubbing seems similar to mink oil, it sounds like dubbing is has different content. Additionally, I've seen folks on the FL as well as other forums relate that Sno-Seal is quite similar, if not identical, to the stuff used in Dubbin.

I'd like some feedback or evidence regarding the application of these treatments and which one should be avoided or recommended. It's important to note we're discussing a welted boot, so resoling shouldn't be an issue.

It seems to me Sno-Seal/Dubbin would be a fine treatment to work into my boots, but should I avoid both as they are beeswax-based and use mink oil? On an interesting side note, Red Wing has their own leather treatment that appears to be nearly identical to Sno-Seal, but naturally Red Wing dealers suggest you avoid all aforementioned treatments and buy only Red Wing formulas. [huh]
 

Fifty150

One Too Many
Messages
1,489
Location
The Barbary Coast
Mink oil, neatsfoot oil, and even flaxseed oil is pretty easy to use. Rub it into your leather, allow time for absorption, then wipe off the excess. If you repeat the process a few times, you will have the peace of mind in knowing that your leather is well saturated with oil, is well conditioned, and will resist rain.

Sno-Seal is a bees wax that requires you to heat the leather. The pores will be open, the heat will melt the wax, then the pores will constrict with the end result being a wax infused leather. This is similar to waxed canvas that is found on popular brand name outdoors wear.

In the old days, guys would put a bunch of wax paste shoe polish on their boots, then melt the shoe polish with a lighter before polishing. The lit shoe polish would warm the leather, and the melted polish would infuse into the open pores of the shoes and fill in the voids at the stitching and seams.

Spray on coatings have also provided good results. Brands like Fiebing's, Granger, and NikWax offer spray on coatings that many cobblers, tailors, and dry cleaners use to "water-proof" shoes, coats, et cetera.
 

sal

One of the Regulars
Messages
222
Location
my own little slice of heaven
I am a believer in Sno Seal. I use it regularly on a variety of leather shoes. In the summer I will let shoes, etc outside in the sun to heat or in the winter I put them in the oven for a bit. It really works well. Just get the leather warm enough to melt the product. It also softens the leather nicely
 

camjr

Familiar Face
Messages
62
Location
DFW, TX
I've had a pair of Iron Rangers for about a month now, and absolutely love them. RW recommends their boot oil or mink oil on their website for oiled leathers (the amber harness color is an oiled leather). Also, the RW store will oil your boots for free if you take them up there. If you go with the rough-out Hawthorne, then dubbing, etc. will dramatically change the appearance.

I have the amber harness color, and after about a week of wear I treated them with mink oil. It darkened them a little, but they look great. I swear by Sno-Seal and have used it for years on other boots with great results. Obenauf's LP is another product that people absolutely love.

There are some great forum threads you may have already seen about these boots on Style Forum or Badger and Blade that are very helpful.

Best of luck with your Iron Rangers!

Cheers!
 

4spurs

One of the Regulars
Messages
271
Location
mostly in my head
Spend the $30 or whatever it costs for the RW oil that comes in a plastic tub with the screw-off top that has the applicator brush in the top. RW will refill it for you at a lower price when you run out. Heat the oil when you are going to use it by placing the tub in a pot of boiling water with the cap loose. You won't regret spending the money on their oil.

I figure that since they made the boots, they know what is good for the boots, and my experience with a pair of RW boots that I've worn in the woods, in mud, in the city, and elsewhere for 18 years that I have kept oiled with their oil confirms this.
 

Flat Foot Floey

My Mail is Forwarded Here
Messages
3,220
Location
Germany
Don't use mink oil ever or neatsfoot. Use Snoseal or Obernaufs. That is the consensus. Oils can go rancid.
WTF? I just bought Red Wing Mink oil. They recommended it in the store. Why do I always know so late about the consensus?

But it won't hurt on a single treatment, will it?
 

Undertow

My Mail is Forwarded Here
Messages
3,126
Location
Des Moines, IA, US
Cookie, this is what concerns me.

I've used mink oil on many pairs of leather shoes and I've never seen the leather rot, or the mink oil go rancid. However, the Sno-Seal link I posted even states, "In addition, animal fats weaken and rot leather."

In fact, I'm wearing a pair of casual Timberland shoes purchased a decade ago. First thing I did was protect the leather with two coats of mink oil. I've never saddle soaped them or reapplied mink oil since. I just wipe them clean with a wet rag from time to time and try to keep them covered from dust. I have yet to see rot in the stitching or on the leather. Perhaps these shoes haven't been worn long enough for this to take place?

Furthermore, there's talk that Sno-Seal's beeswax clogs the pores of your leather causing rot. Any advice on that? My head is spinning! Cookie, you're the man on this issue; I appreciate your input!

4spurs, you say that RW will refill your container when you run out? That might be a deal maker! Any idea what kind of cost there is to refill?
 

Fifty150

One Too Many
Messages
1,489
Location
The Barbary Coast
Red Wing mink oil is mink oil. Any brand of mink oil will work.

I've used different brands of oils with success on my leather. You will not have a problem.

I have never seen bees wax damage leather either.

If it is true that Red Wings will oil your shoes for free at their stores, then that is your best option.

Oil and wax will both work. Oil is a little easier to use. Waxing requires you to heat your leather. I wouldn't stick it in the oven. What if the item cools before you can completely treat it? Then what? Stick it back in the oven, and the freshly applied wax melts off? Use a hair dryer, and heat and apply in small patches.

You will not have a problem either way.
 

Fifty150

One Too Many
Messages
1,489
Location
The Barbary Coast
"In addition, animal fats weaken and rot leather."

Leather is from an animal. Animal fats will not hurt your leather. In a pinch, even lard will work. Think about the Eskimos who routinely rub the fat and blubber from seals and whales into their skins.
 

camjr

Familiar Face
Messages
62
Location
DFW, TX
Leather is from an animal. Animal fats will not hurt your leather. In a pinch, even lard will work. Think about the Eskimos who routinely rub the fat and blubber from seals and whales into their skins.

mmmm. Red Wing Bacon Rangers...
 

camjr

Familiar Face
Messages
62
Location
DFW, TX
The information below is copied and pasted directly from the Red Wing Heritage website page dealing with care of the oiled leather (Iron Rangers are oiled leather unless you purchase the Hawthorn in roughout leather). The Red Wing Leather Protector mentioned below is similar to Obenauf's or Sno Seal.

Oiled Leathers
1 Remove dirt from the shoe by cleaning thoroughly with a stiff bristle brush.
2 Scrub gently with Red Wing Shoes Leather Cleaner, then wipe off the cleaner and dirt with a clean cloth.
3 Using leather cleaner reduces the oil in the leather. To re-add oil to the leather apply Red Wing Shoes Boot Oil or Mink Oil as directed.
4 Add extra protection to preserve your footwear investment. Red Wing Leather Protector provides an invisible shield from water, dirt, oil and mud.

Roughout Leathers
1 Remove dirt with a suede cleaner kit brush.
2 Clean remaining heavy dirt with the rubber suede cleaner. DO NOT use leather cleaner for roughtout leathers, as it can stain and change the texture of the leather.
3 Remove loose fibers with the cleaner kit brush.
4 Lastly, apply Red Wing Leather Protector spray to all surfaces of the boots. Red Wing Leather Protector provides an invisible shield from water, dirt, oil, and mud.

Featherstone Leathers
1 Remove dirt from the shoe by cleaning thoroughly with a stiff bristle brush.
2 Soak a soft, clean cloth with Red Wing Leather Cleaner. Clean the boot thoroughly with the cloth. Boots should then be dried naturally in a cool, dry place, as high heat can remove oils in the leather.
3 Gently apply Red Wing Shoe Creme with a clean, soft cloth.
4 Shine the boot by brushing before the shoe creme is fully dried.
 
Last edited:

Jaguar66

A-List Customer
Messages
358
Location
San Rafael, CA
I once bought a pair of Pivetta Italian made leather, heavy hiking boots, and before I went on my first hike, my brother, an expert backpacker, said I should use sno-seal to keep the boots from getting wet on a long hike were about to do. It did make the boots water proof, however, the leather became very stiff. I could never get the leather to soften up or break in, despite all sorts of techniques. My boots became so uncomfortable, I had to get a new pair of boots, and they are no longer with me.
 

4spurs

One of the Regulars
Messages
271
Location
mostly in my head
"4spurs, you say that RW will refill your container when you run out? That might be a deal maker! Any idea what kind of cost there is to refill?"

I just had them refill my bottle about two months ago, I must be losing my mind because I don't remember what I paid, it was considerably less than buying a new tub that I know and I also remember thinking to myself, "glad I bought a tub to refill when I bought them new" because the cost of the tub now was about double the cost of a refill.

I've been thinking that the wax guys always say bad things about the oil guys and the oil guys always bad mouth the wax guys. Truth is, I've used whatever the manufacturers recommend and haven't gone wrong with that. I think the best thing is to wipe them clean of mud; drying mud dries leather out and causes it to crack of that I am fairly certain.
 

Undertow

My Mail is Forwarded Here
Messages
3,126
Location
Des Moines, IA, US
The Iron Rangers came in and I'm happy with my purchase! These are some great boots, fellas, so try a pair on if you ever get the chance. You have triple stitching, heavy leather that's buttery soft, solid construction all around and a relatively vintage look. As the marketing material states, these boots were originally produced for iron workers in the Mesabi range in Minnesota and after trying them on, I can see why!

So what follows are a few pictures of the boots, as well as some information on the sealing process I took. In case you're wondering, I'm a 14D, which should explain the monstrous size.

While prepping the boots, I simply brushed off any dust since I hadn't yet worn these. I also used a hair dryer to warm the areas I was treating so as to open the pores of the leather. I actually applied 2 coats per application, but I only counted each application as one coat because the leather sucked up the first runs so quickly. In essence, I applied 4 heavy coats. I used an old t-shirt as a rag, an old toothbrush and the leather dressing.

Step1a.jpg


New boots, untreated. They're a nice mahogany color with even coloring all around, even in nooks and crannies. The leather is quite soft and nicks easily - you definitely want to treat these with something, whether it's sealant or polish. You can see the heel savers I've added on the oil-resistant nitrile cork sole; sorta gilding the lily. ;)

Step1b.jpg


Top shot of the toe cap stitching and untreated color.

Step2b.jpg


The boot on the right has been treated with the Red Wing All Natural Leather Dressing. Ingredients: Pine Pitch, Mink Oil and Beeswax - no silicone or petroleum products included.

Step2a.jpg


Same shot, just a little closer.

Step2c.jpg


As you can see, this is a gusset tongue, which prevents objects or liquids from entering the boot through the eyelets. This shot shows the tongue treated with the dressing.

Step3a.jpg


Both boots treated with single coating. I even used a toothbrush to ensure ample dressing was rubbed along the crevices and stitching.

Step4.jpg


Both boots treated with two coats of dressing. Laces have been replaced and these puppies are ready for a trip out in the crazy Iowa weather.

Regarding the fit - many folks recommend going down a 1/2 to full size, i.e. a 14 would wear a 13.5 or just 13. While I can see how this would be fine for some, I tried on a 13 and it was too small. I stuck with my typical 14 and the boot fit right.

Regarding the sealant - stick with the Red Wing stuff. It's actually quite nice compared to the usual Kiwi or Lincoln brand I would have used. It smells very nice, is an oily consistency and wipes on quite easily. Hate to say it, but it's kinda like pomade!
 
Last edited:

camjr

Familiar Face
Messages
62
Location
DFW, TX
Great writeup, Undertow! Mine are a little over a month old, and are now more comfortable than nearly every other pair of shoes or boots I own. About a week after my purchase, I treated them with mink-oil (what I had at home already, and a recommended product on the Red Wing website) and it softened the leather up nicely. I'll pick up some of the Red Wing Leather Dressing, but might pick up some Obenauf's LP as well. I've been a life-long Sno Seal user for my boots and outdoor leather and have been happy with the results, but the more I read about the products have me leaning towards a move to Obenauf's. The Red Wing LP appears to have a similar composition.

I was sized at the Red Wing store as a 10EE, and decided to go with that size rather than go a 1/2 size down. There is room at the toe, but I think that may be by design since the break in the forefoot and the ball of my foot are in the correct place in the boot. They're definitely not too loose. I've worn them nearly every day during the month I've owned them and couldn't be happier with my purchase.

Now, don't forget to go to the Red Wing website, tell them your model number, and get your free set of replacement laces.

Cheers!
 

J.W.

A-List Customer
Messages
314
Location
Southern tip of northern Germany
As you might know, I want to treat my Roughouts with mink oil or snoseal. The problem is, I can't find mink oil in Germany, somehow. What's a good brand to order online and how much do I need for a pair of boots?
 

Rick

New in Town
Messages
30
Location
NWIndiana
I just received a pair of the ATF service shoe. Seems very nice and I've worn them only a couple days off and on to start breaking them in, which they have done nicely as they were very hard at first. The finish on the leather seems very sealed. So much so that it doesn't seem as though dubbing would actually do anything to the leather. I rubbed a little mink oil on a spot and it didn't seem to have an effect. Is dubbing something that is necessary on the boot right away or something to freshen them up and protect when the original leather finish starts to fade? I'd like to see them get a little darker anyhow.
 

Forum statistics

Threads
102,930
Messages
2,921,536
Members
49,864
Latest member
skylize
Top