When I first purchased used leather goods, I had no conditioning supplies to rejuvenate the leather. This led me to try various products to rehydrate old items, some good, others bad. Once I found what worked, I applied my DIY leather conditioner to everything.
A DIY leather conditioner is a combination of household products used as a substitute for premade ones. One can create a product that can rehydrate dry leather by using a blend of oils and waxes. DIY conditioners can be a budget-friendly solution when needing to condition leather in a pinch.
Conditioning leather is key to prolonging its life. In this article, I will cover how to treat any leather at home using household items, what works best, and how to apply it.
What Is a DIY Leather Conditioner?
A DIY leather conditioner is a house made product used to rehydrate and rejuvenate leather. Combining common oils with waxes can make a product that will not only maintain the leather but also offer some waterproofing. As leather is used over time, exposure to various elements will cause the leather to dry out.
The dryness can cause damage to the leather if left untreated. A DIY conditioner will address this issue by applying various oils that will soak into the fibers of the leather. This will not only create a softer feel but also prevent cracking. A DIY conditioner may also contain waxes. The wax will sit on the leather, providing a protective film resistant to water, dust, and debris.
What We’ll Explore
- Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
- When You Might Use a DIY Leather Conditioner
- DIY Leather Conditioner Quick Reference Table
- Homemade Leather Conditioner
- DIY Leather Conditioner Characteristics
- DIY Leather Conditioner Pros
- DIY Leather Conditioner Cons
- DIY Leather Conditioner Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
- DIY Leather Conditioner Costs
- Alternative Options to DIY Leather Conditioner
- Experienced Tips for Working with a DIY Leather Conditioner
- My Personal Research with DIY Leather Conditioner
- DIY Leather Conditioner Care and Maintenance
- Helpful DIY Leather Conditioner Insights
- Key Takeaways
Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions
With leather being a sensitive material, DIY conditioners are often considered a bad idea. However, following simple steps and testing products before use can easily help hydrate leather properly. A common concern with oils is spoilage.
Olive, almond, and some coconut oil may all turn rotten over time, producing a terrible smell, and should be avoided. However, other oils, such as neatsfoot, or fractionated coconut oil, will not have this problem and can benefit the leather.
Other popular oils such as castor, linseed, and mineral can help condition leather but should be used sparingly. These oils dry out and are better suited for mixtures where their water-resistant properties can shine. DIY leather conditioners can be a great option for leather, but it is always important to understand how oil reacts with leather before coating a product.
A common mistake made when trying to condition leather at home is using random lotions. While some lotions may help condition leather, it is important to check the list of ingredients before applying it. Many lotions will contain additional chemicals for fragrance, or other benefits, that can react poorly with the leather.
This can range from dark spots all over the item to the color being removed from the leather or causing the finish to begin peeling. Typically fragrance-free, sensitive, or baby lotions will be able to be applied with no damage. However, testing all products on a small hidden surface is vital to understanding how they will react with your leather fully.
When You Might Use a DIY Leather Conditioner
Using a DIY leather condition can be useful when lacking the proper products. Leather items do not need to be conditioned often, so some may look for alternative ways to keep their goods healthy. Using a DIY leather conditioner can also be frugal.
Many will already have multiple oils and waxes that can be used on leather, avoiding the need to order something for a single task. A DIY conditioner may also be great to use in a pinch. Dryness can occur at any time. If no leather conditioners are available nearby, a DIY conditioner can be applied to address any problem areas on the fly.
DIY Leather Conditioner Quick Reference Table
|DIY Leather Conditioner
|Various oils and waxes
|Depends on the maker
|Cost Range ($)
|Remove any contaminants from the conditioner
|In a leakproof bottle and a temperature-controlled environment
|To address dryness, soften the leather, or rejuvenate cracking areas of a leather item
|How Long It Lasts (on average)
|Depends on the oils used
Homemade Leather Conditioner
The variations of DIY leather conditioners come from the type of ingredients used to create them. Popular choices for oil include coconut, mineral, linseed, castor, or neatsfoot. The purpose of the oil is to rehydrate the leather by allowing it to seep into the fibers.
Heavier oils, such as castor, and mineral, also sit on the leather, helping produce a shine. Each oil will affect leather in its own way, so some will darken leather more than others. Testing each oil is necessary to avoid damaging the leather when creating a conditioner.
Wax is also a common ingredient mixed with the oil. Beeswax, and paraffin wax, both serve the same purpose of creating a protective film that will help keep in the conditioner and keep out the elements. The type of DIY conditioner created will depend on the chosen ingredients.
DIY Leather Conditioner Characteristics
The only necessary ingredient for a DIY leather conditioner is a trusted oil. Ideally, the oil chosen will be more natural and tested before use. Coconut, linseed, and neatsfoot are all good choices. When picking an oil to use, ensure it is fragrance-free. The more chemicals added increase the possibility of having an unwanted reaction with the leather.
Heavier oils, such as minerals or castor, can also be used. While they may not penetrate as easily, they will help create a shine on the shoe when buffed. However, these oils alone may not be enough and are often used with a lighter oil for complete penetration. Although unnecessary, wax is a popular ingredient to add when making a DIY conditioner.
Both beeswax and paraffin wax are used to create a protective film, adding wear resistance to a leather item and keeping it conditioned longer. More materials are being discovered for leather-safe use over time.
Adachukwu N. Nkwor, and Pius O. Ukoha, from the Department of Chemistry/Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, at Alex Ekwueme Federal University, in Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, in Abakaliki, Nigeria, researched the use of sulphonated Afzelia africana aril cap oil with leather. Finding it is comparable to other oils used in the tanning process. This discovery showcases the potential for future oils used in leather conditioning.
The amount of DIY leather conditioner needed will depend on the item and conditioning routine. DIY conditioners can quickly be added in a pinch when away from standard products. Small amounts can be created to allow a one-time cleaning.
However, those who want to stick to a DIY conditioner may want to create a large amount at once. After finding a mixture that works for your leather items, follow the ratio to make as much leather conditioner as you want — store conditioners in mason jars or other sealed containers for later use.
There are many variations of DIY leather conditioners due to the number of possible ingredients. Possible oils are coconut, castor, mineral, linseed, or neatsfoot. These oils can be mixed, further increasing the potential variations. Usually, a light oil will be combined with more aggressive oils such as mineral, castor, or linseed.
This helps balance saturation and prevents the surface from becoming too dry over time. In addition, waxes can be added to the combination of oils. Both beeswax and paraffin wax are a great choice to protect the leather. All these ingredients can be combined in unlimited ways while trying to determine the best ratios for a specific need.
DIY Leather Conditioner Pros
DIY leather conditioner allows for a specific combination of oils and waxes. If a product reacts poorly to a specific leather item, it can be avoided in DIY conditioners. Any potential ingredients being household items can be created in large amounts at little to no cost.
Many of the pros of DIY leather conditioners are the same as store-bought conditioners and include the following benefits for leather:
- Prolonging lifespan
- Preventing cracking or peeling
- Providing a wear-resistant layer
- Protection from the elements
Combining common oils with waxes can make a product that will not only maintain the leather but also offer some waterproofing.
DIY Leather Conditioner Cons
While DIY leather conditioners may be a good choice for some, there are a few points to consider. Creating a specific conditioner for specific leather products is a trial-and-error process. This could lead to a lot of wasted supplies, trying to find the perfect ratios of products.
Making a DIY leather conditioner may also be too messy for some. The process includes mixing oils and melting wax. Creating a cleanup that can be avoided with store-bought conditioners. Finally, a DIY conditioner may not be useful for everyone. With tons of leather conditioners being easily accessible, attempting to create a DIY one may not be worth it.
DIY Leather Conditioner Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
Making a DIY leather conditioner is a straightforward, quick process.
- Gather your oils, waxes of choice, and a measuring tool, pot, and glass container.
- Fill the pot with water halfway, and set it on the stove at low heat.
- Measure and add any waxes or hard conditioners to the glass container.
- Place the container into the pot and continuously mix till completely melted. The mixture should never boil, so adjust the temperature accordingly.
- Measure, add any heavy oils, and continue to mix.
- Add any light oils that will be used.
- Continue to mix for up to five mins until a complete liquid.
- Pour the mix into storing containers, allowing it to cool down and harden before use.
In this helpful video by James Berry – LeFrenchCrafter, James provides a quick look at how a simple leather conditioner is made.
DIY Leather Conditioner Costs
The cost to make a DIY leather conditioner depends on what is used in the product. A conditioner can be as simple as applying an at-home oil to the leather, avoiding any cost. However, for creating a mixture, each product will add to the cost of the conditioner.
Oils are around $5 each, and waxes are about $3. This means a simple two-ingredient leather conditioner can be made for about $8. While this cost is similar to store-bought conditioners, the supplies purchased will create much more product, helping to save on the cost of leather conditioner over time.
Alternative Options to a DIY Leather Conditioner
The most direct alternative to a DIY leather conditioner is a store-bought one. These conditioners have already mixed in various oils and waxes to provide a product that should work for most leathers. Another option is to use an oil by itself.
A light oil such as coconut is a great choice to rehydrate any leather product quickly. While heavier oils, such as castor, mineral, and linseed, can be used alone, they may cause excessive dryness depending on the leather type. Keep in mind that using oil alone will not provide any protective benefits and will only work to rejuvenate the leather.
Experienced Tips for Working With a DIY Leather Conditioner
Some general tips can be helpful when learning how to work with a DIY leather conditioner, including:
- Always purchase the purest ingredients possible to prevent unwanted reactions
- Apply DIY conditioner in small amounts to a hidden area to test the product created
- Store any leftover conditioner in a sealed container to keep it for future use
My Personal Research with DIY Leather Conditioner
After learning how to make a DIY leather conditioner, I decided to try it myself. Doing so gave me a better understanding of what makes a good conditioner and a few tips to share for creating one yourself.
When picking supplies, I looked at what I already had first: coconut oil, neatsfoot oil, and beeswax. I also purchased mineral oil for this project. My tip for picking the best ingredients is always to choose the most pure versions possible.
This reduces unwanted interactions. I also tested all the oils on scrap leather to see how they performed. Coconut oil did not soften the leather as much as neatsfoot, but neatsfoot darkened it more. I also learned that mineral oil left the leather feeling greasy. I considered this information when creating my conditioner.
Creating the Conditioner
The best part about a DIY leather conditioner is being able to make what you want precisely. I have always preferred a soft conditioner that doesn’t leave leather oily or darken it. Keeping this in mind, I mainly used coconut oil, with a small amount of neatsfoot and mineral oils. For every part of the coconut used, I only added 1/8 neatsfoot and 1/16 mineral oil.
I went with my gut since this was my first time making a conditioner. Melting everything together was simple; I placed a glass measuring cup in a pot with water on low heat. I added my beeswax and mixed it until melted, followed by the mineral, neatsfoot, and coconut oil.
When dried, the conditioner was too hard for my liking. I placed it back on the heat and added more oil to create a softer result. Adding more oil or wax can help achieve the desired results if a mix is not the consistency you are after.
Testing the Conditioner
When it was time to test the leather conditioner, I used it on scrap leather with a clean cloth. Everything went smoothly, and the leather seemed to soak up the conditioner with no trouble. After leaving it to dry, I noticed a slight darkening of the leather, but otherwise had no oily feel to it.
I proceeded to buff the leather producing a light gloss — just what I was after. The leather conditioner was less aggressive than some others I have purchased. However, I was still mostly happy with the results. I keep my leather products well-conditioned and do not need a high-strength product.
Overall, I was happy with the conditioner I made, but it was not perfect for my needs. The leather darkened more than I was hoping for. However, this is the beauty of DIY leather conditioners. Next time I make a batch, I can use even fewer darkening oils to hopefully create a perfect product for me.
DIY Leather Conditioner Care and Maintenance
How To Clean DIY Leather Conditioner
If a DIY conditioner becomes dirty through rub-off, debris, or dust, it must be removed. The best way to do this is to harden the conditioner by placing it in a cool environment and scooping out the contaminated areas. This prevents the tainted area from mixing with other parts of the DIY conditioner, retaining most of the product.
How To Maintain DIY Leather Conditioner
When using a DIY conditioner, always use a clean cloth that will not pill for application. Section off areas of the cloth to ensure no rub-off or other debris is being transferred into the conditioner. Over time, the oils in the conditioner may begin to seep to the bottom, leaving mostly wax on top.
In these cases, the conditioner can be warmed up by placing the container in a water bath. This will soften the conditioner allowing it to be mixed to its original state.
How To Store DIY Leather Conditioner
All DIY leather conditioners should be stored in a resealable container. This can be as simple as a plastic tub or mason jar. Having a lid is key to keeping the conditioner free from any contaminations.
When storing the DIY leather conditioner, consider how large the opening of the container is. Reaching deep into a narrow jar will make application difficult in the future. In addition, always keep DIY conditioners sealed and in a controlled environment when not in use.
Helpful DIY Leather Conditioner Insights
What is the best DIY oil for leather?
There is no best oil for DIY leather conditioners. Each oil has pros and cons, allowing crafters to choose what qualities they want most. Popular choices include coconut, neatsfoot, castor, mineral, and linseed oil. Oils can be tested on leather to see how they affect the leather before being added to a DIY conditioner.
What is a simple homemade leather conditioner?
Using any oil alone is enough to condition any leather. This will rehydrate the leather but will not add any protective coating. Otherwise, a leather conditioner can be created with just two ingredients; oil and wax. When mixed, this combination will provide moisture and protection.
What is the best homemade leather conditioner recipe?
There is no best recipe when creating a DIY leather conditioner. The benefit of making a conditioner at home is the ability to tailor the product to specific needs. Most conditioners will consist of light oil, heavy oil, and wax. This trio of ingredients will provide a hydrating product that will produce a shiny protective coating.
What household items can you use as a leather conditioner?
Many oils used in skincare may be used in a leather conditioner. This includes coconut, castor, and more. Ideally, when choosing an oil to use with leather, pick products with natural ingredients that are as pure as possible. Added chemicals may cause unwanted reactions to the leather. Paraffin wax, as well as beeswax, may also be used in a DIY product.
How do you make leather moisturizer at home?
A leather moisturizer starts with a good hydrating oil. Light oils such as coconut do a good job of helping condition leather without much darkening. These oils can be mixed with waxes to help create a protective layer. The more waxes used, however, the harder the product will be when dried.
- DIY leather conditioners hydrate and protect the leather, prolonging its lifespan.
- Household items can be used to create a conditioner that rivals a store-bought product.
- DIY leather conditioners can be tailored to specific conditioning needs.
As leather crafters, we are always finding new ways to be creative in our workshops. Creating our own conditioner is yet another way. By creating DIY leather conditioners, we can tailor each back to our specific needs — all while saving money along the way.