Mink Oil vs Leather Conditioner: Which One Should You Apply on Your Boots?

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When it comes to taking care of leather products, especially boots and shoes, mink oil and leather conditioners always come first. They both nourish, soften and recover the leather.

However, there’re a few special cases where you need one of them specifically to carry out the job. Here, most people feel confused about whether they use mink oil or leather conditioners. 

The truth is, the debate between ‘mink oil vs leather conditioner’ isn’t endless. If you know when to use which one, consider half of your work is already done. 

To eliminate all your confusion, I’m going to talk about the differences between the mink oil and leather conditioner in the following section. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the main section.      

Mink Oil vs Leather Conditioner: What are the Differences?

Mink oil and leather conditioners have several significant differences. I think the best way is to portray them on a table so that you can understand them more clearly. 

So, check out the following section to know about the differences between mink oil and leather conditioners:

Features Mink OilLeather Conditioners
IngredientsMade of fat extracted from mink peltMade of beeswax, oils, and tallow
UsageFor recovering heavily damaged old leather shoes which are worn out and dried outFor recovering minimal damages, especially if your boots are filled with dirt
Amount of Unsaturated FatVery high, around 75%Minimum 
Staying PowerMuch more than the conditionersLess
Waterproofing CapabilityCapableNot Highly Capable
Weather ProtectionYesNo
Clogging PoresClogs the pores of the leatherDoesn’t clog the pores of the leather
Finish TypeThe finishing isn’t as shiny as leather conditioners Provides a shiny finishing
Darken AbilityCan darken the leatherCannot darken the leather
Increasing Lifespan Ability Can increase the lifespan of your leather bootsNot capable of increasing the longevity
Dry Time Takes longer to dry than the conditioners, around an hour Doesn’t take as long as mink oil
SmellDoesn’t offer a pleasant smellOffers a pleasant smell  
SuitabilityPerfect for leather and suede boots, not suitable for rubber bootsSuitable for all types of boots and shoes made from leather and rubber 
Leather Penetration AbilityCan penetrate deeperCan’t penetrate as deep as mink oil
Elasticity Less elasticMore elastic
ConsistencyThick Lighter 

What are the Similarities Between Mink Oil and Leather Conditioners?

You already know that this post is all about the differences between mink oil and leather conditioners. However, these 2 leather essentials share some similar features that you need to know.  

  • Mink oil and leather conditioners both share many similar ingredients.  
  • Both of them soften the leather of your boots and make them flexible.
  • They’re capable of nourishing the fibers of the leather.
  • When it comes to providing a protective layer to your favorite pair of boots, they’re your top preference.
  • Mink oil and leather conditioners both are great ways to restore the natural oils in leather.

Mink Oil: What You Need to Know

Mink oil is extracted from the minks’ abdomen fat which has been boiled to make a liquid-based product since the 1940s. It’s a safe and natural product to take care of leather. However, if you’re vegan or allergic to animal fat, probably this product isn’t ideal for you.

Anyway, mink oil goes deep into the leather, nourishes the fibers, and protects the leather from heat, water, cold, and so on. For cleaning and softening leather, mink oil is always a top priority among shoe enthusiasts.   

Who Should and Shouldn’t Use Mink Oil?

It’s really important to know whether you should use mink oil on your shoes or not. Apply mink oil if-

  • Your shoes or boots are made from any type of well-finished, smooth leather.
  • Your pair of boots are exposed to water or a damp environment.
  • When it comes to adding a protective layer over the leather, use mink oil.
  • For waterproofing your boots, mink oil is your top priority. 

Avoid using mink oil on your shoes or boots, if-

  • Your boots or shoes are made of suede leather, don’t even think about applying mink oil to them. Mink oil can ruin your favorite suede shoes.
  • You’re sensitive to any of the ingredients in mink oil, don’t use it on your boots.

When to Use Mink Oil?

Do you know when to use mink oil on your boots or shoes? If not, let me help you.

  • You can use mink oil on all kinds of leather; for example, oil-tanned leather, full-grain leather, top-grain leather, corrected leather, and many more.
  • If you want to make your pair of boots soft and flexible.
  • For preserving your leather boots like protecting them from sun rays, mink oil has always come first.
  • It can keep your leather boots safe from hazardous elements.
  • If you want to darken your leather shoes and boots, go for mink oil.
  • Mink oil works like a shield on your lovely pair of boots during extreme weather conditions. It can protect against water, salt, snow, mold, mildew, external abrasion, thunderstorms, and so on.  

What are the Benefits of Mink Oil?

Mink oil brings immense benefits when you apply it to leather. Here’s a list of benefits that you’ll get by applying mink oil:

  • Restores the natural oil of leather
  • Lubricates the leather’s fibers and makes them durable and flexible
  • Darkens and softens the leather
  • An affordable way to care for leather products 
  • A non-toxic, natural, and safe product to apply to leather
  • Doesn’t leave any residue behind
  • Widely available

What are the Drawbacks of Mink Oil?

Although mink oil brings benefits to your leather boots, there are still some drawbacks to it.

  • If you want to remove stubborn stains, dirt, or grease marks, mink oil isn’t an ideal solution 
  • If you use mink oil for a longer period of time, it’ll harden the leather
  • Darkens the leather excessively 
  • Since it contains animal products, it’s not vegan-friendly
  • Overusing can damage your leather boots
  • Can’t provide glossy shine like leather conditioners
  • It’s difficult to wash out of your leather boots, especially if you don’t completely rinse them off 

Related: Revitalize or Protect: Decoding Leather Honey vs. Mink Oil

Recommended Mink Oils

There are so many mink oils available out there but you can try Red Wing Heritage which is widely well-recognized by shoe enthusiasts. 

Red Wing Heritage mink oil is made with a combination of lanolin and silicon. It softens and conditions the leather quite effectively. At the same time, it increases water resistance in the leather.  

However, here you’ll get to know more about the other mink oils in detail. Don’t forget to check them out!

Related: Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam Alternatives: Best Options for Leather Care

Leather Conditioners: What You Need to Know

Unlike mink oil, leather conditioners are mostly made from chemicals. They are used to nourish the natural fibers in leathers, moisturize them and ensure good flexibility. 

Just like our skin, leather loses natural oils over time. It needs to be moisturized and restored and to do that, leather conditioners are specially made.  

The interesting part is, that a few manufacturers use mink oil in the formula of leather conditioners to make them even more effective. 

What are the Types of Leather Conditioners?

There are 3 types of leather conditioners available out there and each type carries out a somewhat similar task. However, there are differences as well which I’ll discuss in the following section.

1. Conditioning Oils

Conditioning oils are great when you want to make the leather soft and supple. Neatsfoot oil, Lanolin, and Lexol are great examples of conditioning oils. 

However, applying the wrong type of conditioning oils can be dangerous as they’ll make the leather sticky.  

2. Conditioning Creams

When it comes to nourishing and moisturizing the leather boots deeply, conditioning creams come always on top of the list. 

Most importantly, they keep the fibers of the leather soft and flexible. On top of it, they don’t change the color of your favorite pair of boots. 

3. Wax Conditioners

Wax conditioners ensure top-notch surface protection against any type of liquid. However, they don’t nourish the leather deeply like conditioning creams as they’re not capable of penetrating. 

Who Should and Shouldn’t Use Leather Conditioners?

You can apply leather conditioners to your leather boots if you want to-

  • Soften your boots without causing any damage or making them look greasy
  • Make your boots flexible and restore the natural oil
  • Protect and maintain the leather boots properly
  • Make your wet boots dry faster after cleaning or polishing them
  • Give your boots a nice, shiny appearance

Leather conditioners are great for protecting and maintaining your leather boots. However, the fact is, it’s not mandatory to use them. If you love your pair of boots or shoes, you can use leather conditioners on them. 

On the other hand, if you treat your boots like work boots or winter boots, maybe you don’t need to waste your money on leather conditioners. 

To be honest, I’d say if you want to provide care for your boots go for the conditioners otherwise it’s not necessary. Here, the word ‘care’ plays an important role.    

When to Use Leather Conditioners?

When to use or how often to use leather conditioners depends on where you live and the climate of that area.  

If you live in a dry, arid area and your boots are exposed to sun and heat very often, you should condition your boots every couple of months. Then again, for a humid and moist climate, conditioning after 6 months or a year will be enough.  

If I want to say differently, I’d say if your leather boots look dull, you need to condition them. It’ll restore the natural oils in leather fibers and minimize friction which may damage the boots. 

On top of it, when dirt and grime build up on your boots, you can apply conditioners. Also, for making leather durable and stronger, leather conditioners are always great.  

However, don’t forget that over-conditioning your boots may cause damage.

What are the Benefits of Leather Conditioners?

Leather conditioners bring immense benefit to your leather shoes and boots. Check out the following section to know about them.

  • Protects against stains, water, cracks, dirt, grime, scratches, fades, and so on
  • Nourishes and moisturizes the leather fibers and restores them
  • Lubricates the leather without causing any damage
  • Softens and makes flexible your leather shoes and boots
  • Capable of bringing back the shine and providing a glossy and lustrous appearance 
  • Provides a pleasing smell and takes care of bad smells like sweat or mildew in your boots
  • Saves both your time and money in the long run

What are the Drawbacks of Leather Conditioners?

Leather conditioners don’t have any serious drawbacks. However, there are a couple of minor drawbacks that you should be aware of.  

  • Maybe you need to rob the bank for them because they’re expensive 
  • It may leave oily stains on your clothing if you apply it excessively
  • It may bring up a negative effect if it’s not properly absorbed
  • It takes significantly longer to dry than the mink oil
  • Boots may be ruined if the conditioner’s color doesn’t match the boot color 

Recommended Leather Conditioners

You should go for Saphir Leather Conditioner to condition your shoes and boots. On top of that, it’s applicable to other leather products as well. This product is great when it comes to smoothing, conditioning, cleaning, and polishing your leather boots. 

However, if you want to purchase other leather conditioners, worry not. Here’s a detailed post about them. Don’t forget to check them out. 


  1. Is Mink Oil Bad for Leather?

No, mink oil isn’t bad for leather shoes and boots. In fact, it can repair the damage to leather and restore the leather fibers, no matter how worn out your leather boots are.  

  1. Can You Use Mink Oil and Leather Conditioner Together?

Yes, firstly you should condition your boots and after that, you should apply mink oil. The leather conditioner will work on your boot’s appearance and the mink oil will keep it safe from hazardous elements and moisturize it. 

  1. Is Mink Oil a Leather Conditioner?

Mink oil isn’t a truly leather conditioner. Mink oil is used to take care of severely worn-out leather whereas leather conditioner is used to remove dirt, and stains and treat faded leather.  

  1. Which will soften my boots faster, mink oil or leather conditioner?

Generally, leather conditioners work faster than mink oil. The reason is that leather conditioner has a liquid consistency compared to mink oil (which has a consistency like oils) which absorbs into the leather faster. 

  1. Does Mink Oil Go Bad?

Mink oil doesn’t go bad if you store it properly. On top of it, the fatty acids in it make it last longer. Place the tub in a cool space and keep it away from heat. Hopefully, it’ll last for years.

Final Thoughts

Both mink oil and leather conditioners have their own pros and cons. For me, I’d pick leather conditioners as an on-the-go solution since mink oil takes longer to apply. 

Most importantly, leather conditioners are made for a specific purpose but the mink oil is a natural substitute for it. 

On top of it, leather conditioners provide a pleasant smell whereas mink oil doesn’t. However, I’m not going to share the detailed opinion here since I’ve already done it above.

My suggestion is please go through the article and identify your purpose. After that, you can decide effortlessly which mink oil or leather conditioner is perfect for your shoes and boots. 

Have a good day!

Richard Nelson

Richard is the Head of Content here at Bootpedia. From an early age, leather boots have been a passion for him. So, he thought why not share his knowledge with the rest of the world? 

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