Mink Oil vs Saddle Soap: The Differences & 21 Helpful Tips

Difference between mink oil and saddle soap

Leather is an awesome materials for boots, jackets, belts, upholstery, etc. And if you happen to own any (pure) leather item you would have by now heard of mink oil and saddle soap. In this article, I’m going to tell you the differences between these two and give you a couple of tips to help you give your leather items the best of the best treatments.

So, what’s the difference between mink oil and saddle soap? The main difference between mink oil and saddle soap is that saddle soap is a cleaning agent and mink oil is a conditioner for hardwearing leather items. These two are also different in terms or ingredients and how they’re applied to leather items.

While this is a quick answer if that’s what you came for, I have in addition researched a couple more differences between the mink oil and saddle soap and some helpful tips to help you to better understand these materials.

I’m super exited to share everything with you in the remaining part of this post. Keep reading to find out more!

What is Saddle Soap?

Saddle Soap basically contains a blend of ingredients which cleans, softens and preserves smooth leather. This simply means that generally, saddle soap will clean and lightly condition leather.

A typical saddle soap will contain a cleaning agent and things that will moisturize the leather. The key thing about saddle soaps are the fine amount of mild soap that help remove dirt, stains, and grime from leather quickly.

Saddle soap like kiwi saddle soap or lexol goes a notch further to add glycerine, lanolin, wax in addition to cleaning to make the leather soft, supple, and well protected.

Tips On How To Use Saddle Soap on Leather

  • To use saddle soap to clean your leather items, you need only a few tools such as a boot brush, clean cloth, and ordinary tap water (warm).
  • You will apply a descent amount of saddle soap to your leather items that’s new, seen a bit of wear or a secondhand or old leather item you’ve bought or thrifted.
  • In most cases the saddle soap you use to clean, moisturize or shampoo your leather item will have antibacterial properties.
  • Since the shape of leather can change especially when wet, if it’s a shoe you’re cleaning with saddle soap, you would want to put a shoe tree into it to ensure the shoe doesn’t deform. If it’s anything else like any type of bag, you would want to stuff it quite a bit with some clean cloth.
  • To get a nice rich saddle soap lather, first dip your cleaning brush into warm water. The warmer the water, the quicker your saddle soap with break down nicely for a much better application. This is especially the case if your saddle soap contains beeswax.
  • With a good cleaning brush, it doesn’t matter how aggressive you scrub your saddle soap on the leather item.
  • After you have scrubbed every inch on the leather item, wipe off the lather immediately with a clean cloth.
  • If you notice some saddle soap lather in the crevices of the leather item that the cloth cannot remove, you can use a soft or sable brush to get it out by gently polishing.
  • If your leather becomes a bit soaked after the cleaning, just leave to air dry nicely.
  • With the right type of saddle soap, you should be able to have a descent cleaning job done even without conditioning with oils.
  • What you’re going to notice after cleaning your leather goods with saddle soap is that the leather will look noticeably darker, have even or uniform color, and won’t appear scuffed.

What is Mink Oil?

Mink oil is a type of leather conditioner with substantial waterproofing properties usually applied on leather in the form of paste to nourish and protect the leather.

You can learn more about Mink oil from this article I wrote earlier.

One thing mink oil doesn’t do for Leather is to clean leather.You can check out an article I wrote earlier on what mink oil does for leather. In this article, I did a detailed research on all the things Mink oil does to leather to enable you understand what goes on when you apply mink oil to your leather goods.

The biggest question most people ask themselves and others about mink oil is whether it’s good for leather or not. While I personally think Mink Oil is generally good for leather I find the answer to this question rather interesting that’s why I did a detailed research on this a couple of articles early on. You can check it out over here.

Tips On How To Use Mink Oil on Leather

The worse enemy to Leather is it drying out and when leather drys out it becomes weak, brittle, and starts to crack and peel. You may know by now it’s really hard or almost impossible to repair cracked leather. That’s why it’s important to keep it well oiled and conditioned.

You can oil once a week, a month, or quarterly every year depending on how often the leather item is used and how exposed the leather item is to water or super dry conditions.

  • I especially like to apply mink oil on new leather items as a way to soften the leather, darken it quite a bit, keep it waterproof or water resistant. One of the biggest things you will get to learn about mink oil is its waterproofing qualities prowess.
  • You will also treat leather items that has seen a fair amount of wear with mink oil. You can also treat leather goods that has been abandoned for months if not years with mink oil to bring it somewhat back to life.
  • Mink oil for leather will usually come in the form of paste, and my favorite kind to buy is this mink oil by Red wing’s heritage.
  • To apply mink oil, you need a mink oil brand of your choice, and a clean cloth.
  • Don’t be stingy with your mink oil! With you cloth, load a liberal amount of mink oil and apply on your leather item. When you realize you have applied too much, simply rub it in or spread it to other parts of he leather item you’re oiling.
  • You will apply the mink oil as even as possible on the leather item, working it in as much as possible. You have to always work mink oil into the very tight areas around seams, flaps, laces, etc. If not it’s the seams the that will be first to be attacked by dryness and as a result they will tear up.
  • You will know you’re done oil after the mink oil has covered every inch of the leather and will look dry. You can go over and wipe off any excess mink oils from the leather or simply rub it in.
  • Mink oil after it’s applied will cause the leather to look darkened and have a greasy look.

Difference Between Mink Oil And Saddle Soap

So from all that has been shared so far in this article, there are obviously differences between mink oil and saddle soap you might have noticed even with his they’re applied.

There’re clear differences between mink oil and saddle soap with its constituents or ingredients, how they’re obtained, purpose, usage or application, and what it does to the leather material itself.

1. Difference By How They’re Obtained

There’s a difference in how mink oil and saddle soap are obtained. Mink oil is obtained from mink fats which has been removed from mink pelts and saddle soap is a proprietary compound.

2. Difference By Ingredients

One of the primary differences between mink oil and saddle soap is basically what it’s made up of. Mink oil no matter the brand you buy will generally have (pure) mink oil and possibly lanolin, silicone, tallow, etc.

While saddle soap on the other hand will have its main ingredients as a type of mild soap, softening ingredients such as lanolin, natural oils like palm or coconut, synthetic polymers or water soluble ester, preservatives like beeswax and other types of soap agents.

3. Difference By Function

The main reasons why someone will use mink oil as against using saddle soap will clearly hint you on the difference between the two. The primary reason behind getting mink oil will be to oil leather while the basic reason to get saddle soap will be to clean leather.

4. Difference By Application

While almost the same kind of tools can be used for both mink oil and saddle soap, it’s application is somewhat different. The way you apply saddle soap to leather is different from how you apply mink oil to leather.

Saddle soap involves the use of warm water to bring the saddle soap to some lather, while mink oil on the other hand requires no form of water.

Even with both in somewhat of a paste form, when you apply saddle soap, it will lather, because it’s obviously soap and so you will have to clean off the lather. On the other hand, with mink oil you’re going to be working the oils and all of it’s residue into the leather.

5. Difference By Effects on Leather

There are different things that happens to leather when it’s either conditioned with mink oil or cleaned with saddle soap.

Saddle soap when applied cleans the leather by lifting or removing dirt, grime, stains, or debris. In some cases, saddle soap will not only clean but also lubricate the leather quite a bit.

Mink oil on the other hand does an entirely different thing to leather. Mink oil conditions, softens, and waterproofs the leather by forming a protective layer for the leather. This protects the leather from damage from water, salt, and other weather and environmental elements.

Another significant difference between the saddle soap and mink oil in terms of effects is that mink oil makes the leather somewhat greasy while saddle soap largely causes the leather to become soapy or damp if not wet.

Similarities Between Mink Oil and Saddle Soap

  • Both mink oil and saddle soap are best used on only smooth leathers and aren’t recommended for use on suede or nubuck leather.
  • Mink oil are saddle soap are also best used on hardwearing leathers such as all forms of work boots, and winter boots.
  • Both mink oil and saddle soap will sometimes come in a paste form.
  • Both contains special oils that help nourish and protect the leather.

Differences Between Leather Mink Oil and Saddle Soap – Summary

Here’s a quick summary of the differences between mink oil and saddle soap I discussed in this article.

Mink oil Saddle Soap
How They’re Obtained Mink oil is obtained from mink fats from Mink pelts. Saddle soap is a proprietary compound.
Main Ingredient Mink oil Mild Soap
Function To oil Leather. To clean Leather.
No form of water is required. Also, all residue is worked into the leather.

Saddle soap involves the use of warm water to bring the saddle soap to some lather. All residue (lather) are cleaned off.

Effect on Leather Mink oil makes the leather somewhat greasy. Saddle soap largely causes the leather to become soapy or damp if not wet.


While here are some differences between the mink oil and the saddle soap, the best way to look at these two materials is that they’re two very complementary materials.

Soaps are generally high in alkaline, which can eventually cause some damage to the leather. This is because saddle soap removes some of leather’s tanning agents, which can lead to the leather hardening and cracking.

So always use saddle soap that is pH-balanced to clean leather and in which case you will have to follow-up the cleaning with a nice deep conditioning with mink oil for your leather especially if it’s a hardwearing leather item.


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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