Is Petroleum Jelly Good For Leather? (12 Pros And Cons)

is petroleum jelly good for leather

Petroleum Jelly is known all over the world and has earned itself a reputation as a highly versatile product that also offers moisturizing and protective benefits. But apart from the tried and tested advantages of petroleum jelly is it also good for leather?

While the application of petroleum jelly on leather items can help remove scuffs, scratches, and make dried leather soft, it also has some downside of promoting rot to the leather and the stitches on it.

With petroleum jelly’s use on leather being such a controversial issue that divides the leather care world, I’m going to show you the pros and cons of using petroleum jelly on leather goods. Keep reading this article to find out more!

A Little Info About The Petroleum Jelly

The term petroleum comes from the Greek words for “rock oil”. This is an umbrella term for all oils pumped out of the earth.

These oils after they are pumped are refined to make special compounds called petroleum derivatives.

It’s the petroleum derivatives that are used for products ranging from gasoline to petroleum jelly.

Due to how it’s pumped, refined, and its chemical ingredients, there’s a huge debate over whether or not it’s good for leather.

The concern of most people is that with time petroleum jelly is going to affect the color and luster of the leather. But is this actually the case? Let’s find out!

Pros Of Petroleum Jelly On Leather

Now that we have taken a look at some basic information about what petroleum jelly is about, here are some advantages to its use on leather items.

1. Petroleum Jelly Can Remove Scratches

The first advantage I’m going to touch on in terms of the use of petroleum jelly on leather is how it’s able to treat scratches, scuffs, and minor tears.

Although a lot of the leather goods you will come across today on the market will have some amount of protection on its surface (to make it resistant to scuffs, stains, water), leather will still take on decent amounts of wear.

When you apply petroleum jelly, whether it’s vaseline or any other petroleum jelly product, it can make scratches, scuffs, and minor tears from daily use disappear within a short time.

Petroleum jelly has the ability to go into the fibers of the leather to rejuvenate it in order to enhance the appearance of any blemish from the leather item’s use.

2. Enhances The Color Of The Leather

In addition, using petroleum jelly on your leather items can help to restore them to a rich natural color just like when the leather item was new.

Leather generally after it has seen a bit of wear and exposure to the outdoor elements will lose some of its color richness.

It will often look dull as if it has faded even if it hasn’t seen any sun.

But using petroleum jelly is a great way to bring back the color of your leather to that rich luxurious look that we all love about pure natural leather goods.

3. Petroleum Jelly Help Make Leather Soft And Supple

Another advantage of the petroleum jelly is how it makes leather soft and supple.

Leather contains natural oils that help to lubricate its fibers so that the leather remains soft and flexible.

But oftentimes with constant use, cleaning (especially without conditioning), and exposure to the weather elements leather will loose these essential oils which has to be replaced no matter what.

Because petroleum jelly contains oils, when it’s applied on leather that has dried out it can help to restore it to a nice softness.

This is important because this will help prevent the leather from cracking and peeling.

4. Petroleum Jelly Can Be Used To Put A Shine On Patent Leather

Petroleum jelly is great for use on patent leather goods. Generally, patent leathers are made to have a high gloss on their surface.

From time to time, the shine on patent leather begins to dull up and the petroleum jelly can be pretty helpful at helping to restore the shine.

Not only will the petroleum jelly put a nice shine on your patent leather goods, but it can also help to soften it and make the leather very easy to use.

You can also use petroleum jelly for in-between times. You will be able to get a shiny surface on your leather items in less than a minute.

This is why you will often find that petroleum jelly is a common component of most shoe polish. 

Related Article: 5 Effective Ways To Prevent Patent Leather From Cracking

5. Petroleum Jelly Has Cleaning Properties

Petroleum jelly indeed has some cleaning properties that will help rid your leather goods of stubborn stains.

Petroleum distillates are normally used as cleaning agents for difficult-to-remove organic compounds like grease, oil, or tar.

Petroleum distillates have a pretty cool chemical muscle that can enable them to go into tiny spaces to remove dirt.

This is because petroleum compounds have low liquid surface tension and this allows them to penetrate and clean in-between small spaces.

And because leather comes with very tiny pores on its grain surface, the petroleum jelly is going to be great at cleaning those pores on leather.

The best part of this is that unlike a silicone-based cleaner, petroleum distillates will safely clean your leather without affecting the color of the leather item.

6. Petroleum Jelly Is Great For Oil Tanned Leathers

Petroleum jelly is a great alternative when it comes to treating oil tanned leather items.

Generally, there are different types of leather. These leathers can be grouped according to how they are tanned.

Tanning is a process of turning raw animal hides into leather. It’s the process that makes natural leather not to decay or decompose.

There are different types of tanning and the way a raw animal hides is tanned depends on a couple of factors like availability of tanning materials, etc.

The two most common tanning techniques worldwide are the vegetable tanning and the chrome or oil tanning.

While vegetable tanning will involve using natural plant extracts to turn raw hide into leather, chrome or oil tanning will be more chemical-based.

The vegetable tanning process is a pretty difficult and lengthy (up to 6 months) process and because of this most vegetable tanned leathers are quite expensive.

Oil-tanned leathers on the other hand is cheaper as their tanning process is super fast and can take less than 24 hours.

Because of this, oil-tanned leathers are very common and constitute 80% to 90% of all leathers on the market.

If your leather is oil-tanned, then you should be able to treat it with petroleum jelly. This is because the oil tanning process set up the leather to generally do well with all forms of oil treatments.

Related Article: Difference Between Vegetable Tanning and Chrome Tanning

7. Petroleum Jelly Can Help Preserve Leather

Petroleum jelly also has the ability to condition and preserve leather. Generally, leather needs to be conditioned every now and then whether it’s in use or not.

Using petroleum jelly on your leather is a good way to preserve the leather and keep it somewhat nourished especially if you do not have any leather specialized product readily available.

Although most people are afraid of the effect petroleum jelly is going to have on leather, what actually happens is after its application on the leather the petroleum jelly evaporates and does no harm to most leathers.

8. Petroleum Jelly Can Waterproof Leather

Leather as a material because of how durable it is, makes it one of the best materials for a lot of hardwearing goods such as boots, shoes, gloves, jackets, etc.

With most of these hardwearing leather goods being for outdoor purposes it’s essential they are waterproofed.

While there are a lot of leather products out there like mink oil that can hardcore waterproof leather goods, you should be able to use petroleum jelly to give leather an adequate amount of waterproofing or water resistance.

Cons Of Petroleum Jelly On Leather

Now that we have taken a look at some of the advantages of petroleum jelly on leather, let’s now take a look at the disadvantages of petroleum jelly on leather.

1. Petroleum Jelly May Breakdown The Tensile Strength Of The Leather

The very first disadvantage of the use of petroleum jelly on leather is how it’s going to gradually break down the leather with time.

One of the best ways I have found when it comes to applying petroleum jelly to leather for best results is simply oversaturating or put a significant amount of petroleum jelly on the leather and then using a hairdryer to melt the petroleum jelly deep into the fibers of the leather.

This is the application method you’re going to see most often when you visit other websites and YouTube channels.

The problem, however, is that when you apply the petroleum jelly this way it tends to cause the leather fibers or cells to expand or swell and subsequently resulting in the leather losing its tensile strength and bursting out cracks.

2. Requires Constant Application

Chances are you’re thinking of apply petroleum jelly on your leather to condition it.

Leather conditioning is something you wouldn’t want to do too frequently. Usually, experts advise that a leather item should be conditioned twice or thrice a year depending on how much wear the leather item sees.

The problem with using petroleum jelly on leather is when it’s applied it will almost immediately melt at room temperature and doesn’t stay within the fibers of the leather for a long time.

Because of this, you will need to constantly apply the petroleum jelly every now and then to maintain an effective concentration that can help to condition or preserve the leather.

This constant application can cause the leather item to become very soft almost mushy even and may in some instances result in the leather item losing its shape or form.

3. Petroleum Jelly Will Not Give Leather The Best Conditioning

When it comes down to it, petroleum jelly will not give your leather the best of the best conditioning and preservation like a product specifically formulated for leather conditioning will do.

This is because petroleum jelly will not adequately soak into the leather item to act as a conditioner.

Even if you use a hairdryer to help melt the petroleum jelly into the leather, it will still not offer your leather item the best deep conditioning.

For most parts the conditioning you’re going to get from applying petroleum jelly on leather is going to be very temporal and will require another round of application sooner than you would like.

4. Petroleum Jelly May Promote Rot On Leather

From my research and also having a lengthy discussion with a couple of friends on some leatherwork forums, it was clear using petroleum jelly on leather may also promote rot on leather.

While this may not be the case for all types of leather (especially finished leather), a lot of people mentioned having this awful experience at some point.

Others also recall the application of the petroleum jelly caused the stitching on the leather item to start breaking as well.

How To Apply Petroleum Jelly On Leather

After going over the pros and cons and you feel using Petroleum jelly is the best alternative for you, here’s a video on how to apply petroleum jelly to leather.

Video On How To Apply Petroleum Jelly On Leather For Deep Conditioning or Treatment.

Video On How To Apply Petroleum Jelly On Leather For Everyday Treatment And Conditioning

Tips On Applying Petroleum Jelly On Leather

  • In order to apply the petroleum jelly on your leather for the best results, you would want to first clean the surface of the leather with warm water mixed with dish soap.
  • Petroleum jelly has the ability make leather waterproof and more resistant than before.
  • You would want to use a clean, lint-free cloth to apply your petroleum jelly on your leather item.
  • You would always want to apply a generous amount of petroleum jelly and then sink it deep into the pores of the leather with a hairdryer. This will help soften the leather very well, make it shiny, and waterproof.
  • You would always want to buff off any excess petroleum jelly residue from the surface of the leather.
  • Before you use the leather item you have applied the petroleum jelly to make sure you allow it to dry for about an hour.


From this article, you can see some of the key advantages and disadvantages of using petroleum jelly on leather and to a large extent, the advantages seem to outnumber the disadvantages.

But the bottom line is, it only matters if it matters to you. There are definitely going to be some impacts to using petroleum jelly on your leather.

I hope I was able to bring a little bit of clarity to this topic. Thanks for sticking around and have a great rest of the day!


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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