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Mink Oil – The Rare Occasions This Works Well for Leather

Mink oil is sure to be a familiar leather conditioner to most of us as leatherworkers; we often hear it suggested as a final touch to soften up leather goods or condition leather boots. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly mink oil is and if it’s right for you and your leatherworking projects.

Mink oil is made from rendering mink fat. It is useful for conditioning leather while adding some water resistance. It can most commonly be found as a paste, liquid oil, or spray, and a long-lasting amount often costs less than $10.

Mink oil is a conditioner directly derived from an animal (the mink), so it can be worth learning more about it in order to determine if it’s a product that you want to use. Animal ethics are important when it comes to business image, so finding out more about mink oil and how it’s made can be significant for any leather crafter.

What is Mink Oil?

Mink oil is a leather oil commonly used to condition leather. It is derived from the rendering of mink fat removed from pelts headed to the fur industry. Though it is likely that Native Americans (such as the Chippewa) first observed the softening properties of mink fat, the American mink grew in popularity for its coat after World War 2, and along the way, the byproduct of mink oil was produced en masse. 

Mink oil contains an acid called palmitoleic acid, which is similar to human sebum. This allows it to coat, moisturize, and protect leather. 

When choosing which leather oils to work with and other leather care products, toxicity can be a matter of concern. We’ve all had moments where we’ve gone from working with leather to handling something that gets ingested or times when we’ve spilled dyes, glues, etc. on our hands when working. In this study done by FA Andersen, it was found that mink oil does not increase skin sensitivity nor does it cause serious irritation to the eyes. It is not safe to breathe, as the particles are larger than what is safe to inhale, but apart from that, it is a very safe substance to use on your leather projects.

The most well-known benefit is how it operates as a leather conditioner; working some mink oil into your leather softens it considerably, and it does so by replenishing the oils in leather that dissipate over time.

How Mink Oil is Made

Mink oil is made by harvesting animal hides and scraping the fat from the hide. It is then rendered using a high-temperature process (230-240 degrees) and saponification (the process of converting fats to soap or alcohol) to reduce the amount of free fatty acids. This leads to mink oil that is virtually free of any impurities.

Mink Oil Liquid and Tools - Liberty Leather Goods
Mink Oil Liquid and Tools

Benefits of Mink Oil

Mink oil has some great benefits for those working with leather. The most well-known benefit is how it operates as a leather conditioner; working some mink oil into your leather softens it considerably, and it does so by replenishing the oils in leather that dissipate over time. Since mink oil replenishes the oils in leather, it also provides a measure of water resistance. 

Mink oil is a stable oil, which means that it can keep for years without going rancid. It is also a safe product to use, having been demonstrated to be non-toxic for improving hair texture in a study by Ju-Sub Kim. Therefore, it can be a good option for those looking to avoid chemical conditioners and seeking out natural options.

Helpful Mink Oils to Start With

Here is an easy-reference table with paid links to items that I trust – these are some helpful mink oils to try.

Mink Oil LiquidFiebing’s Mink Oil LiquidView on Amazon
Mink Oil PasteFiebing’s Golden Mink Oil PasteView on Amazon

Characteristics of Mink Oil for Leather


Mink oil can be white if in its paste form, and in its liquid oil form, it is a clear, faint yellow color.


Mink oil in the paste form is usually sold in 3.5 oz tubs, while the liquid oil form can be readily found in 8 oz bottles. 


Mink oil is fairly inexpensive, as a 3.5 oz tub will cost anywhere between $4 to $9 and the liquid form is usually found for under $10 for 8 oz. 


Mink oil is often sold in either a paste, a liquid oil, or a spray. The paste is often used in more delicate, light applications, while the liquid is useful for replenishing thoroughly dried-out leather. The spray makes it easy to coat leather boots with mink oil.

Mink Oil Liquid for Projects - Liberty Leather Goods
Mink Oil Liquid for Projects

Pros and Cons of Mink Oil for Leather

Pros of Mink Oil for Leather

Mink oil is a popular choice for conditioning leather due to its natural properties and affordability. Here are some of the pros of using mink oil for leather:

  1. Conditions leather, making it soft to touch
  2. Rehydrates leather that has lost its oil
  3. Non-toxic
  4. Inexpensive
  5. Darkens leather

Cons of Mink Oil for Leather

However, there are also some drawbacks to consider. Here are the cons of using mink oil for leather:

  1. Darkens leather
  2. Byproduct of the mink fur industry
  3. Not for all kinds of leather; avoid using it on rough-out boots and nubuck leather

Uses for Mink Oil on Leather

Mink Oil for Leather Goods

Mink oil is commonly used to soften and darken natural vegetable tan leather. It’s important to test a small amount on a discreet patch to see if it will darken the leather beyond what you want.

Mink Oil for Leather Boots

Mink oil is great for rehydrating worn leather boots. While it can be used to break in and soften new boots (adding some heat will help with its absorption), it is at its best when used to replenish the oils that have escaped from leather over time.

Mink Oil on Suede

Mink oil can also be used on suede leather, which is characterized by its soft, velvety texture (but avoid using it on nubuck). Make sure to clean the suede with a suede brush and apply the oil using a cloth. Letting it dry afterward will achieve the best effect. Once it no longer looks greasy on the surface, the oils have been absorbed, and the suede is ready to go. 

Mink Oil Liquid - Liberty Leather Goods
Mink Oil Liquid

Tips for Working With Mink Oil

  1. Mink oil darkens leather, so make sure to apply it to a cloth first before applying it to your leather goods or boots. 
  2. A little goes a long way. Multiple thin coats of mink oil can be helpful to avoid over-darkening and oversaturation. 
  3. Use mink oil to break in boots! By applying generous amounts of mink oil to heated boots (which opens up pores to soak in the oil faster), you can break in boots a lot faster than simply wearing them in.  

In this helpful video, you can learn what to look out for when selecting a mink oil to use and what’s really in it before adding it to your leather possibly forever:

Alternative Options to Mink Oil 

Some alternatives to mink oil include neatsfoot oil, leather balms, and leather conditioners. Neatsfoot oil is another leather oil that is an animal byproduct, so if that is a concern, then one would likely want to seek out an all-natural leather balm or a leather conditioner, which should achieve the same effect of replenishing dried-out leather and add some water resistance.

The Price of Mink Oil Compared to Similar Alternatives

So, how does mink oil compare to its alternatives? The table below shows the price of mink oil relative to similar quantities of alternatives. 

Mink oil (Fiebing’s)8 oz$8$1.00/oz
Neatsfoot oil (Fiebing’s)16 oz$10$0.63/oz
Leather balm (Smith’s)4 oz$8$2.00/oz 
Leather conditioner (Fiebing’s)8 oz$9$1.13/oz
The price of mink oil compared to alternative products

Mink Oil Storage and Care

How to Store Mink Oil

As long as the mink oil is kept out of direct sunlight and kept somewhere cool and dark, it can keep for many years since it is a stable oil. It is fine to store it in the container that it was purchased in, but if you would like to store it elsewhere, it may be best to keep it in a dark glass container. 

Related Insights

Is mink oil really from minks?

Yes, it comes from fat that’s scraped off of mink hides that are used in the fur industry. It is then rendered and becomes the product used in leatherworking.

Is mink oil good for leather?

Yes, it can soften and add water resistance to leather goods and boots. When the oils in leather dry, some mink oil can bring them back to life.

Is mink oil the same as saddle soap?

No, they have slightly different applications and are entirely different products. Saddle soap is primarily a leather cleaner, while mink oil is a leather conditioner, so using the two in tandem can be helpful (even though they achieve different goals). 

Can you put mink oil on wet boots?

It is best to apply mink oil to clean, dry boots; putting them in wet boots can make drying take longer, and the presence of water can make it harder to absorb the mink oil.

Does mink oil rot stitching?

It is possible for mink oil to rot stitching. However, most thread that rots from applications of mink oil is made of cotton thread; waxed thread will likely be more resistant to rotting.

Is dubbin the same as mink oil?

Dubbin is not the same as mink oil (although some dubbins may contain mink oil). Dubbin is more of a wax product, while mink oil is an oil. 


Mink oil is definitely a product worth adding to your leather care shelf. It can help you achieve darker coloration, rehydrate dry leather, and generally soften the leather you’re working with.

Mink oil is inexpensive and can be found at most leather retailers in paste, liquid oil, or spray form. It should be the final step in finishing up your next leather project. Whether your leather is new or old, there’s a use for mink oil in various circumstances.