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What leather conditioner to use

Jish1969

Familiar Face
Messages
95
Location
Buffalo, NY
Hi all,
I just dropped a little coin on some Chippewas and was wondering what you all recommend for leather care. I picked up the 20080, which I intend to use primarily for motorcycling and secondary for hiking(to the places I bike to). I have pure mink oil, but there seems to be an even number of arguments both for and against it, and today I picked up some Kiwi conditioning oil as well. I've read about Obenauf's and Sno-Seal too, but I would like your opinions on the matter. Ive used my mink oil on my old harness boots and snowshoe bindings and was quite happy with the results, but I am leaning towards trying the conditioning oil now. I picked this boot both for its classic look and the Vibram hiking sole, which can be resoled. I want this boot to last a long time, and I even purchased cedar shoe trees as well, so your opinions are greatly appreciated...
Jish
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Lean'n'mean

I'll Lock Up
Messages
4,046
Location
Cloud-cuckoo-land
I wouldn't advise anyone to use animal fats on leather. Mink oil, neatsfoot & bear grease are all pretty cheap & there are dudes that swear by them but they aren't the best thing for most leathers. They weaken leather, can attack stitching & may also encourage mould.
I treat all my leather stuff with waxes. The major advantages of wax is that it doesn't alter the structure of the leather but provides a protective surface layer. I used to use Sno-Seal & would have recommended it to anyone wanting to proof their outdoor gear but they changed their formula a while back to keep costs down & now it's nothing more than vasaline. Nik-Wax make a reasonable waterproofing wax as do some of the high end walking boot manufactures such as Mendl. Avoid anything with silicone which although does a good job repelling water, it does dry out the leather in the medium term.
You can make your own gunk by melting down some bee's wax & adding a litle baby oil. I could suggest other brands but I'm not sure you'll be able to find them in your part of the world.
The secret of keeping footwear for a long time is to keep them clean, dry them slowly if they do get wet & don't overdo any treatments, you can kill a pair of boots with too much love just as you can with neglect.
I would like to add that no proofing will be 100% waterproof in all conditions, anyone who has hiked through soaking vegetation will know what I mean.
 
Messages
10,673
Location
Alabama
I would echo what Lean'n'mean said. If your looking for just straight up conditioners, Lexol and Bickmore 4 are two that I am familiar with. They're easily available and are good products. I collect and wear cowboy boots and outside of an occasional polish with cream, treatment about twice a year with the Bick 4 is all they get out side of being kept clean. Some of my boots are nearing thirty five years old with no problems.
 

vintage68

Practically Family
Messages
959
Location
Nevada, The Redneck Riviera
Give Bickmore a try. Excellent product, Bickmore Bick 4 is the only conditioner I use on my leather shoes and accessories. 4.5 stars on Amazon with 163 reviews. Guaranteed not to darken leather.
 

andy b.

One of the Regulars
Messages
191
Location
PA, USA
I've used Lexol on occasion, and it's pretty good for conditioning leather. For normal use, I just use Obenaufs LP.
I don't like SnoSeal because it seems kind of like a wax to me (well, it IS partially beeswax, or used to be). It seems to me that wax doesn't allow the leather to breathe like Lexol or Obenaufs does.

I have to agree with Lean'n'mean regarding cleaning. I have a horsehair brush that I only use to brush off my footwear at the end of the day, or after it dries if I have to clean off any heavy stuff such as mud. If you let dust and dirt build up in the creases of leather, it chews it up and will lead to cracking. The best thing to do is at the end of every day just brush your boots off. This also goes for things like leather jackets if they get dirty.
 

LuvMyMan

I’ll Lock Up.
Messages
4,560
Location
Michigan
Bick is made by Cadillac Boot and Shoe Care ...it is actually the exact same product. So far for all around leather care, as much as we have had hundreds of vintage shoes and boots come and go and have used about every product on the market, the Caddy or Bick gets our votes.

One thought about leather..if what you use on it...cannot soak in deeply...it is not going to give the leather the nourishment it needs. The real Mink Oil...(original) is something we have used without any problems...however, I have heard of some people applying that to boots and then having them develop mold and mildew! I have seen a pair of boots like that with a deep green "ooze" on them from Mink Oil....I have to conclude the leather had something already in it and the mink oil trapped it and gave some bacteria some "food".....????

I highly recommend washing any leather with saddle soap, (NOT suede) and letting it dry and then using a spray lightly on the entire boot or shoe and on the inside as well, with a anti-bacterial spray like Hospiseptic...it kills any germs or bacteria. I would do that before any conditioner is used. I do that also on NEW shoes and boots....there can always be germs or a bacteria on any leather product.
 

LuvMyMan

I’ll Lock Up.
Messages
4,560
Location
Michigan
I would echo what Lean'n'mean said. If your looking for just straight up conditioners, Lexol and Bickmore 4 are two that I am familiar with. They're easily available and are good products. I collect and wear cowboy boots and outside of an occasional polish with cream, treatment about twice a year with the Bick 4 is all they get out side of being kept clean. Some of my boots are nearing thirty five years old with no problems.

It is amazing how well leather can actually last, if taken care of. I had purchased a pair of boots over 85 years old that just made it to the point of no return condition wise, and we have a few Men's dress shoes that are about 75 years old that are just like new now...all thanks to conditioner and keeping them cleaned up and properly stored.

We have shoes and hats all over our home. The best hats and shoes are kept in a cool dry place, one very large walk in closet that has no source for heating so it stays cool as the door is kept shut...and no bugs. I am positive it makes a great deal of difference in how the shoes and hats will last keeping them in a cool place to be stored when not in use.
 

Harry Morgan

New in Town
Messages
12
Location
NM
I've found two things concerning leather boots.

Most conditioners are made up of various petro oils and waxes and all work about as well. I've used tallow as well and find it holds up better in my application. In these days of the internet it wouldn't surprise me a bit that one could get genuine mink oil (for huge $$$ as these things go), but if you go buy Kiwi or something at the local store, it's going to be oil, wax, and perfume.

Second is that boots last a long time if they are not used :D Boots that are worn daily do not last as long, and boots that are worn daily as work boots will last a couple years if taken care of (more like a year if not). The only way to keep them looking new is to not wear them.

So, while it does matter what you condition boots with, there is no magic bullet for keeping them looking new. Waxy shoe polish applied often and very light use is probably as close as you can get, if you are willing to put in the time. If these are work boots, they will get scuffed and they will wear out. Since mine get rebuilt/replaced every couple years, I find tallow to work well. Someone desiring decades of light wear will likely come to a different conclusion - as they should.

What absolutely kills leather is water, not the conditioner. Wetting and drying is what makes leather crack. Oils make leather pliable and soft but do not repel water like wax does. Wax really keeps the water out (except the moisture from your feet of course :D) but scuffs off easily.
 
Messages
10,673
Location
Alabama
Harry Morgan, I have to diagree with you somewhat in the sense I've found no deleterious effects of water on leather, provided said leather was allowed to dry properly and conditioned afterwards. After all, leather is born in water.

Of course leather shoes and boots will last longer if not worn everyday. I typically don't wear the same pair more than once in a week.

I've often used wax on shoes and boots when I needed a glossy shine but otherwise I use conditioners and if polish is needed I use shoe cream. The problem with wax, though it will help to shed water it also diminishes the breathing ability of the leather. Also, waxes contain petroleum distillates and sometimes silicone. Neither are good for leather. Waxes provide no conditioners to leather the way a cream polish will.

As to conditioners, a leather product left to is own devices in a controlled environment will, over time, dry out to a point where it can't be brought back to life. One of the earliest tanning agents and conditioners was emulsified brain matter. Though some of the more popular conditioners, Lexol and Bickmore 4 ingredients are proprietary, it is thought they are synthetically recreating the brain emulsification.
 

Harry Morgan

New in Town
Messages
12
Location
NM
Your experience and mine are bound to be quite different. I wear the same pair of boots daily, usually in conditions that are not kind to footwear. I've had the best luck with tallow - but I certainly would not expect it to suit the needs of others who's boots serve a different role than do mine.

Generally it is best to experiment a lot and find out what suits one's needs. But since not everyone likes to experiment, advice is often asked. It should be remembered that the giver of advice may have different needs and standards of gauging success than one's own.

The problem with water is that it tends to remove oils that lubricate the fibers in leather. Surface wetting that can be easily toweled off does no harm. What I've found that kills a pair of boots is frequent and long use in snow or wet vegetation. Both are great for wetting a pair of boots through and through, and once they dry out they will look thirsty for oil.

Dust is another bad one (we get a lot of dust where I live, in addition to snow). Dust seems to suck the oils right out of leather.
 
Last edited:

abhinav

New in Town
Messages
3
Hi, Jish Leather shoes require good care and to keep shine and renaissance of your shoe, you must prefer using specialized pre-cleaner before starting the process as there can be some residual wax. Or if you want to use a conditioner only, then buy which has less chemical so that it does not damage the shine, like Lexol Leather conditioner which is preferably good for leather products. So, you can choose according to your need and specifications.
Good Luck!
 

seilerjp

New in Town
Messages
13
Location
Pittsburgh, PA
For years I had been using an "Apple" brand leather conditioner on my boots and leather products. I can no longer find it locally. In its place I use Bick 4. I am also trying a product from Wilson Leathers "TLC Leather Lotion". For a good polish and periodic treatment, I use the Melatonin or Justin Boot creams. To vary color or change it I use the Fiebings leather dyes.
 

andy b.

One of the Regulars
Messages
191
Location
PA, USA
Your experience and mine are bound to be quite different. I wear the same pair of boots daily, usually in conditions that are not kind to footwear. I've had the best luck with tallow - but I certainly would not expect it to suit the needs of others who's boots serve a different role than do mine.

Generally it is best to experiment a lot and find out what suits one's needs. But since not everyone likes to experiment, advice is often asked. It should be remembered that the giver of advice may have different needs and standards of gauging success than one's own.

The problem with water is that it tends to remove oils that lubricate the fibers in leather. Surface wetting that can be easily toweled off does no harm. What I've found that kills a pair of boots is frequent and long use in snow or wet vegetation. Both are great for wetting a pair of boots through and through, and once they dry out they will look thirsty for oil.

Dust is another bad one (we get a lot of dust where I live, in addition to snow). Dust seems to suck the oils right out of leather.

I agree with both Harry and Bamaboots. A little water won't hurt quality leather that has been conditioned. Repeated soakings where the leather is completely soaked through are not good because it removes the oils, as Harry stated. It is difficult to recondition the leather to the point where the conditioner soaks the boots with enough oil to replace all the oils lost to water.

I also agree that not wearing boots and just storing them can be as harmful as wearing them every day, especially if stored in an area that sees temperature and humidity extremes.

And finally, my own experience echos the fact that a build up of dust and dirt will suck the oil right out of leather. I have a horsehair brush that I use only for brushing my leather footwear off at the end of every day. If the footwear has mud or salt or other chemicals on it, I wash them off and allow to air-dry.

Yes, wearing leather footwear for work and getting large gouges or scuffs will certainly cause them to wear out, but that is just a mechanical process where holes or tears will develop. Wearing boots for kicking rocks and pouring hot tar will wear the boots out in a year no matter how well they are conditioned. Keeping the boots clean and conditioned will keep them wearable for many years, even decades. I had a pair of old made in the USA Dexter boat shoes. They were almost 20 years old when I got rid of them. They had been resoled several times and had many stitching repairs. The leather was fine. I only got rid of them because they needed to be resoled yet again, and the cotton stitching was falling apart. It wasn't worth having them repaired again. I have leather jackets that are over 30 years old and still in perfect condition (and get worn in rain and snow), and leather Civil War reenacting gear that is many decades old, and still perfect.

Don't be afraid to use your leather footwear and clothing. Just keep it clean and conditioned.
 
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