Definition of Oiling

Oiling is a technique that involves the application of oil to the surface of leather to keep it moisturized, soft, and supple. 

There are many types of oils that can be used for this purpose, which include:

  • Neatsfoot oil
  • Mink oil
  • Coconut oil 

Neatsfoot oil is derived from the shin bones and feet of cattle and has been used for centuries to keep leather soft and supple. It’s a highly effective conditioner that is absorbed deeply into the leather to restore lost oils and waterproof it.

Mink oil is obtained from the fat of the mink, a small carnivorous mammal. The oil is known for its ability to soften leather and prevent it from cracking.

Coconut oil is another natural oil that's used for oiling leather. It’s a highly versatile oil that’s readily absorbed into the leather to improve its softness and flexibility.

American Bench Craft Leather Balm is yet another product that not only contains oils, but also contains tallow—the fat of cattle and sheep—and is exceptional at moisturizing and waterproofing leather.

The process of oiling leather involves applying a small amount of oil to the surface of the leather and then rubbing it in with a clean, soft cloth or sponge. 

The leather should be clean and dry before applying the oil to ensure that it absorbs the oil properly. It's essential to apply the oil sparingly to avoid oversaturation, which can lead to discoloration, staining, or a greasy look.

However, it's important to note that not all types of leather can be oiled, and some may require a different conditioning process. For example, suede leather is not suitable for oiling because it darkens.

This table highlights different types of leather that are suitable for oiling:

Leather Type Description Benefits
Full Grain Top-quality leather that responds well to oiling, maintaining its natural characteristics Enhanced softness and suppleness. Preservation of natural appearance.
Vegetable-Tanned Leather that has been tanned using natural materials, making it suitable for oiling Improved durability and flexibility. Deep conditioning effect.
Nubuck A type of leather with a velvety texture that can benefit from oiling Restores and maintains the soft nap. Provides water resistance.
Aniline Untreated leather that can be oiled to enhance its suppleness and richness Intensifies the natural beauty and patina. Adds a luxurious feel.

Additionally, some types of leather may already be saturated with oils during the tanning process, and adding more oil will cause it to become greasier. 

Example of Oiling in a sentence

“The axe sheath was brittle after years of use but oiling brought it back to its former glory.”


Leather softening, leather restoration, leather revitalization.

Related terms for Oiling