We’re going to talk about which products are best for weatherproofing your boots, which are best for maintaining the color, and what’s going to be best for your individual needs.
So boot care is a surprisingly complicated part of owning a pair of shoes, and we completed the Mink Oil versus the Leather Oil debate. Red Wing, of course, is one of the most popular boot companies in the United States. They are so popular in fact that they have their own tannery, S.B. Foot Tanning Co, which produces about six million linear feet of leather per year.
Red Wing has a ton of boots out there for a bunch of different purposes, but Red Wing Heritage is the most popular line. Because while they do produce very tough boots, they’re a bit more fashion focused. They’re not the kind of boots that you need on the floors of warehouses, the boots that are resistant to electrical current and acid and things like that.
Some people say Mink Oil is absolutely best, and others say the Boot Oil is. What’s actually in these products?
Why Mink Oil?
- Clogs boots’ pores
- Creates a weather resistant barrier
- Ideal for work boots, tough weather
Mink Oil Ingredients
Mink oil, by the way, is made from the fat that’s removed from mink pelts that are destined for the fur industry. The reason that it’s so popular in boots is that it’s very high in unsaturated fat, for animal fat. It’s like 75% unsaturated, but it’s a lot more stable than other unsaturated fats like plant oil, so it’s a lot less likely to go rancid, so it’s going to last longer. That’s a big reason why people like mink oil for their shoes. Besides, it has a long shelf life.
In addition to that, this has pine pitch in it, which is made from the sticky sap in pine trees. Historically it’s been used as a wood preservative. People also used to use it, and I think they still do sometimes, they put it on eczema and psoriasis and skin conditions and stuff like that. But, it’s also often paired with mink oil because apparently, it may be able to extend the amount of time the mink oil can stay active and useful for the boot itself.
There’s no silicone in this either. As for other ingredients, it’s kind of hard to figure out because Red Wing, as well as pretty much everyone else who makes shoe care products, they’re very cagey about the exact ingredients and exact ratios of what’s in here because they don’t want people stealing their products.
That’s basically how these boot oils work. Mink Oil has lanolin, and the mink oil and the silicone. All Natural Boot Oil is more a blend of mink oil and pine pitch. So, which is better? Now, most of Red Wing’s Heritage boots are made with oil tanned leather. They do have some new bark, and they have some rough out. If you’re using their smooth finished leathers, like the Teak Featherstone, you’re probably going to get some different recommendations.
But generally speaking, you can use the same products on their leathers like the Amber Harness and the Rough & Tough. On their website, they do speak about them slightly differently, but 100% of these six or seven Red Wing employees said you don’t have to use different products for Rough & Tough or the Amber Harness or most of the oil-tanned leathers, which is good news. You don’t need to make quite as many purchases.
Does Mink Oil Darken Leather?
Mink Oil will darken your boots by about two to three shades. The reason for that is that it clogs the pores. And so in doing so, it sort of produces this slightly more water resistant, weather resistant layer to the boots. Mink Oil is more generally recommended if you’re going to really like put some damage on your shoes. If you’re going to use them as actual work boots, people in the military, the oil tan boots are often recommended to use Mink Oil. If you’re going to be in a really tough winter, things like that. It’s for people who care more about the boot’s weather resistance than like the luster and patina of the leather and how it ages and how beautiful it’s going to look at the time. That’s really what Mink Oil is most generally recommended.
In fact, it does condition them and it protects them against the elements and everything like that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve ruined your boots unless you’re someone who prioritizes that patina and the changing of colors and everything as leather ages again.
Why Boot Oil?
Features of Boot Oil:
- Suitable for extreme temperatures
- May require fewer reapplications
So does that mean you should try the Boot Oil? Probably not if darkening the leather is something you’re really worried about because again, this contains mink oil and it’s got the pine pitch. Now, neither of these products are going to technically waterproof the boots. They’re not going to become waterproof. They’re just going to become more water resistant.
A lot of people said that the Mink Oil is more about weatherproofing, whereas the leather oil, the Boot Oil, is going to do a better job of conditioning and weatherproofing. But there’s also a lot of reports out there and a lot of competing companies that combine the mink oil and pine pitch because that’s meant to extend the weather resistance that the mink oil confers on its own.
The pine pitch that can make the mink oil last for longer on the boots and it’s often used on people who need to make their shoes really resistant to very extreme temperatures and extreme elements. Because you know, pine trees, they’re pretty tough trees. They can last a lot. The pine pitch is a big part of that.
Red Wing Boot Oil vs. Mink Oil: Conclusion
So what we do know is that Red Wing’s Mink Oil and Red Wing’s Boot Oil, while they have slight differences, they will both help to increase the water resistance and they’re both going to darken the leather. So you might be thinking about maybe some other products if you want to maintain the color of your leather, like maybe Red Wing’s leather conditioner. But that’s honestly just Red Wing’s Boot Oil but in like a paste form and it has some beeswax added to it as well. It has pretty much the same effect, though it may be a tiny bit more water resistant because of that extra beeswax.
If maintaining the color and conditioning the leather and keeping the leather supple and soft for years to come, if that’s your biggest priority, what you actually want to do is get Red Wing’s Leather Cream. This is specifically formulated by Red Wing to help to maintain the color and the patina of their Heritage line. It’s much more gentle on the boots, does a great job of conditioning them, and also maintain that color. This is made from neatsfoot oil, which is made from the rendered chin and feet bones of cattle. Pretty gross, but all these products are pretty gross at the end of the day.
The Leather Cream is much more gentle. It’s going to do a better job of maintaining the color. The downside is that because it is much more gentle, it does not condition quite as deeply, doesn’t quite sink into the boot quite as much. If maintaining the color is your priority, the Leather Cream is definitely the best one to do it, but you may find you need to condition them more often just because you aren’t quite moisturizing it quite as deeply as the other products.
We do really want to emphasize you are not damaging your leather by darkening it. You’re just darkening it, and you are making it tougher, as well. And for a lot of people, that’s the priority. So it’s not a big deal if you do darken the leather or use the Boot Oil, or use the Mink Oil. Both fantastic products. Both very good at conditioning and taking care of the leather.
But you know, if you just kind of like to wear your Heritage boots around town, if you really like the look of old leather, if you’re really going for that look, Leather Cream is a fantastic product. You just want to condition it like once a month or so depending on how often you wear the boots. So that’s all. Let us know in the comments what your favorite products are to use on shoes.
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