Is Neatsfoot Oil Bad for Leather? (Plus 12 Pros & Cons)

Is neatsfoot oil good for leather

Neatsfoot oil is an age-old leather oil used to nourish, protect, and help to restore dried up the leather to a nice supple feel. But is neatsfoot oil really good for leather? In this article, I’m going to delve into the pros and cons of neatsfoot oil on leather.

So, is neatsfoot oil bad for leather? Generally, neatsfoot oil is not bad for leather. Neatsfoot oil contains conditioning and preservative qualities that help to make leather last long. However, Neatsfoot oil also comes with a common disadvantage of causing light-colored leather to drastically darken.

In order to learn more about the pros and cons of using neatsfoot oil on your leather items, read on!

Pros of Neatsfoot Oil

1. All-Natural Oil

Unlike other leather conditioners, neatsfoot oil comes all-natural with a gentle amber color that is suitable for a wide array of leather and leather items. Neatsfoot oil has no artificial lubricants that will complicate the work it needs to do on your leather item. The main natural oils in Neatsfoot oil do a precise job of softening and conditioning.

2. Waterproofs Leather

One of Neatsfoot oils chief characteristics that has remained a cornerstone quality from the time it was first discovered in the 18th century till date, is its waterproofing ability on leather 

Neatsfoot oil has a special quality that allows it to repel and protect leather against wet substances — most leather oils on the market cannot boast of this feature.

All you do is to apply a layer of Neatsfoot oil on your leather jackets, shoes, etc, ensuring it’s evenly applied, and allow it to penetrate, settle, and air dry for a couple of minutes. 

The thick layer formed after the drying of Neatsfoot oil on your leather goods seals and blocks the pores of the leather preventing it from soaking water or being ruined by other liquid substances. 

With this, you can be rest assured and secured when your leather item comes into contact with rain or other liquid stains. 

3. Neatsfoot Oil Is a Good Leather Preservative

Neatsfoot oil by nature contains 100% natural lubricants and preservatives that work on your leather to keep and maintain a healthy appearance and quality so that it will be able to withstand the test of time no matter the temperature it’s exposed to. 

It can protect and preserve the most hardwearing goods like leather saddles, boots, while giving them a fresh new look. 

Neatsfoot oil keeps your leather goods durable with its instant care and treatment when applied. So a regular application of Neatsfoot oil on leather will definitely add some extra years to your leather items. 

4.Gives Leather A Nice Shine

One of the most important ingredients leather needs to maintain their suppleness and sheen is conditioning. Neatsfoot oil is one of the best oils that offer conditioning and preservation agents that serves this purpose particularly well for leather. 

This is because Neatsfoot oil is able to lubricate the surface of the leather and entirely rejuvenates its fibers causing it to react and give the leather the nice shine leather sometimes needs.

5. Neatsfoot Oil Is a Good Leather Softener

Neatsfoot oil is a well known and long-established oil used by leather workers and leather users across the globe to treat leather materials and already-made leather goods for it to get to the softness that keeps leather functional. 

This type of oil when applied on leather surfaces trickles deep into the fibers of leather that have especially become hard or dry.

Leather or animal hides if not treated will gradually lose its natural oils as a result of tanning, cleaning or its exposure to certain elements of the weather like UV — or a combination of either factors. 

Using Neatsfoot oil can substantially help to prevent your leather from easily breaking or developing cracks. 

So by simply rubbing a small amount of neatsfoot oil, your leather will get back its natural softness, flexibility and pliability.

6. Neatsfoot Oil Gives a Vintage Finish To Leather

When neatsfoot oil is applied on dark colored leathers, it further enriches the dark nature of the leather giving it a fresh touch and newness. It can also be used to tone down the hues of a light-colored leather item to achieve an enhanced coloring. 

The Neatsfoot oil formula helps it to penetrate the pores of the leather and as a result darkens it significantly. The Neatsfoot oil after its application settles and creates a final color tone that makes it more oily and lustrous. And to make your leather a lot darker in appearance, several layers of Neatsfoot oil can be applied. 

7. Remedies Cracks And Scuffs

Neatsfoot oil helps to prevent and treat leather scuffs and cracks. Leather products like shoes and bags lose their beauty when they dry up or start to crack or develop scuffs. Neatsfoot oil can be used to treat or restore leather to regain its natural texture and surface quality. 

8. Neatsfoot Oil Has Versatile Applications

Neatsfoot oil has unique properties that make it one of the best oils for leather care.  It can be used to give the leather the strength and durability it needs to last long. 

It’s ideal for almost all leather items, especially darker-colored ones, and also gives light-colored leathers that have faded or grown pale an enhanced appearance. 

So from leather belts to saddles through shoes, boots, and everything in-between you will find a great leather oil in Neatsfoot oil. Neatsfoot oil has a lubricating ingredient that makes it a high-grade versatile oil for both beginners and professionals alike. 

Cons of Neatsfoot Oil

1. Neatsfoot oil Oxidizes With Oxygen: 

While neatsfoot oil is going to help nourish and restore your leather goods, it will later react with oxygen on the surface of your leather and cause the leather surface to start to flake and crack.

This happens as a result of the Neatsfoot oil gradually clogging the leather pores. So in the end, you will see your leather item or product gradually turning into dust.

2. Neatsfoot Oil Will Discolor Leather 

Neatsfoot oil will always render your leather goods  2-3 shades darker than its original color. This is such a pain when you completely do not want your leather item to be significantly darkened. 

This is often a lot more obvious on light-colored leather items. Neatsfoot oil is notorious and even with a single layer of its application will cause the leather to darken. 

What’s worse when it comes to Neatsfoot oil application is even with multiple applications, you may not be able to get the color darkening to be uniform or even.

So if you seriously want to maintain the natural color and appearance of your leather items, DO NOT USE NEATSFOOT OIL!

Or better still, why not apply a little bit of Neatsfoot oil on a scrap leather or on an inconspicuous part of the leather item to test its effect before you use it on the entire section of your leather item.

3. Neatsfoot Oil Can Disrupt The Stitching On Leather Goods 

While a lot of the threads used for stitching leather goods are synthetic or waxed threads, your cotton threads will not fare well when Neatsfoot oil is applied. 

This is because Neatsfoot oil is acidic. So as the oil permeates the leather and begins to soften it, the stitches, if any, rots and weakens when it gets into contact with too much of Neatsfoot oil application. 

So Neatsfoot oil must be applied very minimally and sparingly at a time and elements such as moisture and warmth that promotes rot or vulnerability to rot will be kept away or at a very bare minimum. 

4. Neatsfoot Oil Cause Leather To Attract Dust Easily

Neatsfoot oil contains natural lubricants that soak easily into leather and softens it. This lubrication process opens the pores of the leather fibers which will usually block dust and other debris. 

Also, applying Neatsfoot oil on any leather surface which previously has been treated with other chemicals or conditioners may not absorb the Neatsfoot oil easily — therefore causing it not to completely draw in. This then makes those leather surfaces bear oil which will in turn take dust easily.

How To use Neatsfoot Oil On Leather Plus Tips

For excellent results of neatsfoot oil you need to apply Neatsfoot oil in minimal quantities at a time. Now follow these steps to apply your Neatsfoot oil in the best way.


Step 1: Ensure your leather item to be oiled is cleaned properly with a good leather cleaner

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

Step 3: Rub the oiled microfiber cloth as swiftly, quickly, and evenly as possible on your leather. If you’re oiling a large piece of leather item, apply it a section at a time. Continue this process till the entire leather surface is covered. Add a few more drops if you see the cloth is dry. 

Step 4: Use a more absorbent piece of cloth or towel to buff off any excess neatsfoot oil after application.

Step 5: Leave the application to air dry. The resulting outcome won’t only be a waterproofed leather but also well oiled with an amazing fresh shine.


So there is enough evidence that the softness, shine, waterproof, preservation qualities Neatsfoot oil brings to your leather items makes it needful for its proper care and conditioning. Yet, it comes with some awkward bad downsides or cons which may affect leather in certain aspects.


Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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