Best Leather Conditioner for Boots Reviewed
Leather boots must be, hands down, one of the most iconic pieces of footwear a person could ever own. Every pair tells their own story, every style speaks to its own culture or subculture. Two pairs of boots can start out as identical pieces of leather and be so different as finished products that nobody would think the two pair had anything in common. But as different as any two pairs of leather boots may appear, every single pair every made has something in common. They all need to be properly cared for, which means they all need a regular treatment with leather conditioner.
Without proper care, leather will crack fairly quickly once exposed to certain conditions. These range from conditions that get the boot too wet before letting it dry, bent while too dry, or coated in salt and left to sit. Leather will crack if left in these conditions too long and the boot is no good once this happens. There are patches available, but nothing will be as reliable or as effective as avoiding the trouble of cracked leather in the first place. And while it is true that a new pair of boots could always be purchased, being a proud steward of quality and well-cared-for boots has a stronger appeal. It saves money, avoids waste, and allows for the purchase of a quality product that could last more than a decade if treated with care.
Most leather boots will need a conditioning treatment straight out of the box before they are worn for the first time. Boot manufacturers will not often condition the boots prior to packing and, even if they did, the boots are likely going to be sitting in relatively dry circumstances for several months before being purchased, if not longer. After the initial treatment, boots will need to be conditioned every three to six months, though particularly brutal climates may require more often.
- Leather Honey Leather Conditioner
- Lasts six months
- Company is family owned
- Bickmore Bick 4
- Will not darken leather
- For multiple leather types
- Lexol Leather Conditioner
- Easy to Apply
Even if a boot owner has never conditioned their boots before, it is never too late to start so long as the leather has not cracked. There are many guides on the details of the process, but at its core a leather care routine is simple. First, the boots must be cleaned and then left to dry thoroughly, usually several hours to overnight. Once they are dry, the conditioner is applied and the instructions on the packaging followed. Any excess is wiped away and then the shoes can be polished. It is important to note that it is not a polish or a waterproofing agent. Those are products that must be separately applied and have their own benefits for fans of leather boots. Conditioners may also darken leather, but the original color often returns with time. Leather conditioner is simply a moisturizer, much like lotion. and the best kind to purchase depends on several factors, which are explained below.
10 Best Leather Conditioners for Boots
1. Leather Honey Conditioner
Like most manufacturers, Leather Honey is not one to give out the exact amounts of everything in its formula. They are more than willing to answer specific questions, however, and list most of the ingredients on their website. The ingredients are natural, avoiding the caustic nature one might expect from a softening product.
Intense, Deep Moisturizer
One only has to scroll through the pictures uploaded by satisfied customers to see how effective Leather Honey is. Some before pictures are of boots that hardly resemble leather at all. One treatment of Leather Honey later and they are stunningly transformed into supple, strong boots that more resemble something from an ad than their own before pictures. Leather Honey states that one application of their product will last close to six months, lending longevity to the intensity of their formula.
Cost and Value
This is not the least expensive product on the list, but everything from the company's reputation to the before and after pictures makes the value of this product well worth the moderate cost.
- Time tested formula
- Responsive and friendly family owned compny
- A little goes a long way
- Natural ingredients
- Can darken leather for a time
2. Bickmore Bick 4
Most leather conditioners darken the leather, though for many of them this effect is only temporary. Bickmore, however, states that their conditioner will not darken leather. Reviews have almost entirely backed this up, with users applying the product to everything from white purses to burgundy couches, and tan leather boots with success.
Approved for Multiple Leather Types
Though this list is primarily focused on leather conditioner that is ideal for leather boots, it is worth noting that Bickmore is effective on nearly any leather product. A few people have even reviewed its effectiveness on leather that came from sources other than cows and found it to be wonderful for their leather care needs.
Cost and Value
Bickmore is right in the middle of the price range. It may need to be applied more often than other products and so will cost a little more in the long run, but the color safe nature of the product may make it worth the cost over time.
- Responsive customer service
- Will not darken leather
- Approved for multiple forms of leather
- Only lasts three to six months
3. Frye Leather Cream
Most leather conditioners have to sit for several hours and some even suggest leaving the boots to soak up the conditioner overnight. These conditioners often do not need to be wiped away and instead soak into the leather entirely. FRYE, however, takes a different approach. Their conditioner sits on the leather to condition and provides light weatherproofing before being wiped away after only fifteen to twenty minutes.
Easy to Apply
FRYE's leather conditioner is incredibly easy to apply, requiring only a soft cloth and the time to rub the cream gently into the leather. It wipes off easily as well, though is rather hard to get out of fabrics. Because of this, it is recommended that sufficient time is taken when using this product to avoid contact with fabric other than the cloth used to apply it.
Cost and Value
This product is one of the most affordable on the list. However, it may be a case of getting what you pay for, as many reviewers comment on the color change to their leather and frequent needs for reapplication.
- Deeply conditions leather
- Provides mild waterproofing
- Only needs to sit for 15-20 minutes
- Some potential color fading
4. Beesbutter Shoe Conditioner
Beesbutter takes all natural to a new level with their leather conditioner. The product is made with a blend of animal oils and beeswax. Straight from the container at room temperature it has the consistency of soft butter and melts into the leather when applied. These ingredients are gentle enough that many reviewers have applied the product directly to the leather with their fingers.
Deeply Moisturizing Formula
Among the customer-submitted pictures in this product's reviews are numerous before and after images. Leather so worn that black has turned to near-white or brown has faded to pastel yellow is restored nearly to its original color. Folds in the leather are smoothed as the material regains its suppleness and boots destined to the waste pile are returned to active wardrobes. None of this would be possible without the deeply penetrating moisturizers and effective conditioners blended into the easily spread beeswax of Beeesbutter's formula.
Cost and Value
Beesbutter may be on the pricier end of the spectrum, but the photos provided by customers speak for themselves: this is worth the cost.
- A little goes a long way
- All natural non-toxic ingredients
- Easily applied
- Conditions deeply
- Cost can run high
5. Otter Wax Leather Salve
Otter wax uses a base of shea butter and carnauba, a wax secreted by a variety of Brazilian fan palm. This combination provides a richly moisturizing salve that is safe for human skin and that can easily be worked into leather by a soft cloth or using one's fingers.
Not all leather conditioners provide waterproofing, and for some people, waterproofing is not desirable. But for those who want their leather boots waterproofed, Otter Wax may be just the product to get the job done. The waterproofing is not perfect, but reviews have stated that water beads on the leather's surface and rolls off, which can help prevent damage in the long run.
Cost and Value
The price may seem high for only two ounces, but given the quality of the product and the fact that a little goes a long way, this is a great value purchase.
- All natural ingredients
- Shea butter is easy on skin
- Will slightly darken leather temporarily
6. Fiebing's Yellow Saddle Soap
This is one of the few multipurpose products on this list. It both cleans and conditions the boots, though it is recommended that obvious excess mud or dirt be removed from the boot prior to applying the saddle soap. Once the soap is wiped away and the boots buffed, the product leaves the leather supple and clean.
Fiebing's saddle soap is one of the most affordable products on this list, coming in at less than a dollar an ounce for a twelve ounce can. This is a particularly good deal given the dual purpose of the soap.
Cost and Value
This product has a low cost per volume, which has its appeal. There is no guarantee of all natural ingredients, however, which must be taken into consideration.
- Cleans and conditions
- Quality product with a long history
- Cleans many kinds of leather
- Great value
- Cannot be applied by hand
7. Huberd's Original Shoe Grease
Most waterproofing products can clog the pores of leather, rendering the material unable to breathe. Despite its name, there is nothing greasy or clogging about Huberd's Shoe Grease. The product waterproofs the leather and still lets it breathe so that the boots remain comfortable for the wearer. Huberd's will also waterproof the stitching of the boot, ensuring that the fibers will not soak up water or dirt and become weakened or discolored.
All Natural Ingredients
Huberd's is all natural, containing no harsh chemicals that could damage leather or the hands of anyone applying the product. It also contains no animal oils that could turn rancid, giving the can a fairly long shelf life so that the product will last between applications. Some reviews state that the "Grease" is actually beeswax and pine tar, an entirely natural pair of products that will darken leather slightly until the product dries entirely.
Cost and Value
Huberd's falls towards the lower end of the price spectrum, though it is not the least expensive item on this list. For those seeking waterproofing that won't clog the leather of their boots, however, this is the best possible product and well worth the money.
- Great value
- All natural
- Provides breatheable waterproofing
- Temporarily darkens leather
8. TriNova Leather Conditioner
Many of the products on this list are all natural and safe enough to apply with bare hands. For those who are not keen on that idea, applicators or soft rags can be used. Finding just the right applicator can, unfortunately, be a bit of a task all by itself. Trinova solves this issue by including an applicator with the purchase of their conditioner, one designed to work well with their product.
Excellent Customer Service
Good customer service is the cornerstone of any good business. This is especially true when the business sells products to care for high-ticket items, such as good quality leather boots. Trinova's customer service is highly rated, even by people who did not like the product. That is no easy feat and it marks Trinova's customer service as one of the best on this list.
Cost and Value
Unless you're looking to add extra leather fragrance with the application of leather conditioner, this product is a little too pricey compared to its competitors.
- Applicator is included
- Great customer service
- Easy to apply liquid conditioner
- High price tag
9. Chamberlain's Leather Milk
Chamberlain's prides itself on producing all natural and non-toxic leather care products. They caution against harsh chemicals in their product description as such chemicals can damage the leather. The product page also states that the ingredients in this conditioner produce a rich and pleasing scent, which is a claim unique to Chamberlain's.
Applicator is Included
Because Chamberlain's conditioner is a liquid it would be difficult to apply in a controlled manner with one's bare hands. Though it should be safe for direct-to-skin contact, the ease of application would suffer without an applicator. Chamberlain's knows the issues that can arise when an applicator is needed and cut the guesswork out by including an applicator with the purchase of their product.
Cost and Value
The product is a good price for its size and efficacy, particularly given the non-toxic nature of the product.
- Easy to apply
- All natural and non-toxic
- Applicator is included
- Hard to apply without an applicator
10. Lexol Leather Deep
This product is an easy to pour liquid that can be applied with any soft rag or towel to the leather in need of conditioning. As it is not suitable for glove leather it is not recommended that Lexol be applied with one's bare hands, through the company has stated that there are no harsh chemicals in their formula.
Lexol is one of the most affordable brands on our list, likely due to the fact that it is mostly rated for vehicles than wearable leather goods. That has not stopped some users, however, from expanding the product's uses to include boots and other similar leather goods.
Cost and Value
If low cost is your goal, Lexol is the best bet though it may not be the best investment for your money.
- Easy to pour
- Low cost
- Limited range of uses
Leather boots are expensive. They are investment pieces and a foundation on which a strong wardrobe can be built. It may seem like unnecessary work to condition and treat the leather, particularly if the boots are not used in an area with harsh weather conditions. And, for a time, the boots will hold up under the lack of maintenance. But eventually they will crack and, short of a patch or filling the crack in with glue, the boots will be unwearable and whatever money has been spent on them will be wasted. They will simply be another pair of boots in a landfill. Proper leather care avoids this, giving extending the lifespan for a pair of boots past a few years and into a decade or more. Such a return on the investment is more than worth a few hours of work every three to six months. As more than one reviewer noted, if you’re good to leather then leather will be good to you.
Criteria For Evaluating the Best Leather Conditioners for Boots
Natural Vs Synthetic
Many people who wear leather do so because they enjoy its grounded nature. Leather is a durable, natural material that has been in use for thousands of years and for most of that was cared for with all natural materials. Given that some of the oldest leather goods are still intact for us to study today, it is not surprising that many people would prefer all natural formulas that have stood the test of time and proven themselves to be effective moisturizers for beloved leather goods. These all natural products are often non-toxic and more gentle on the skin as well, making them safer to use than other alternatives. For this reason, all natural products dominate this list and, indeed, the leather care industry.
Effect on shoes
In addition to softening the leather of a boot, many leather conditioners have side effects that may not be what the buyer expects. Many of the products will darken treated leather, albeit temporarily. It is suggested that a discreet piece of the leather be used as a test area before the entire item is treated with any treatment product. Some of the conditioners clean in addition to softening while others say that they lend a polished sheen to the boots once the product is buffed. These effects were taken into consideration when creating this list to ensure that any product with severe effects on the leather, beyond softening it, were screened out and only the most effective products were listed.
Effect on human skin
Products designed to soften leather take one of two routes. They either use gentle moisturizers or they use chemicals designed to abrade the hide until it achieves the desired softness. The harsher a solution, the worse it is to get on human skin. Because of this, the majority of the conditioners on this list are made with all natural and non-toxic ingredients. Many of them are so gentle on skin that the products can be applied to the boos with a person’s bare fingers.
Wax is a common base for leather conditioners because it holds oils or tar well and can be easily warmed until it easily spreads on the boots. Most of the wax used is plant or animal derived, as petroleum products are generally avoided by many of the companies listed above. These natural waxes are more gentle on both the leather and the skin of whoever is conditioning the boot. They can, however, be more difficult to spread than their liquid counterparts, at least until the wax warms.
It is difficult to term any good leather conditioner as a liquid since the range of ingredients that can condition leather often lead to rather thick mixtures. But any conditioner that is not wax-based can be generally considered a liquid. These have their own sets of pros and cons just as wax does. Liquids may be easier to apply, but they are often not made with all natural ingredients and must be applied with a specific applicator so they avoid continued contact with human skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are leather polish and conditioner the same thing?
A: For the most part, leather conditioner and leather polish are not the same things. Many conditioners may actually make leather duller for a time until the wax is wiped away or the moisturizing agents have fully soaked into the leather. Some of the products listed above pull double duty to condition and shine, but those are specialty products rather than the norm for a leather conditioner.
Q: How often should I apply leather conditioner?
A: Most leather care sites agree that boots should be cleaned and conditioned every three to six months, depending on conditions. Very dry or very wet conditions will shorten the time between applications. Winter in snowy climates, for instance, would lead to an cleaning and an application of conditioner at the start of winter, a few rounds of gentle salt removal over the course of the season, and then another conditioning treatment at the start of spring. Some brands, such as Leather Honey, give a six month minimum between applications, though that window might also be shortened by what sort of weather the boots are exposed to.
Q: How long should I leave the leather conditioner on?
A: The length of application time varies from product to product. Some, like Leather Honey, have a suggested application time of several hours that can stretch to leaving the product on overnight to soak into the leather. Others have an application time of fifteen to twenty minutes before it needs to be wiped away. These time frames depend on how deep the conditioner is intended to penetrate, the ingredients used to create the conditioner, and any additional effects the conditioner may have. Always be sure to read the included instructions prior to application and to test the process on a discreet section of the leather before applying the product and process to the entire item.
Q: Is leather conditioner safe to use with my bare hands?
A: Some leather conditioner is safe to apply with your bare hands. It may cause slight discoloration or an unusual scent due to the ingredients in the conditioner. Many who have reviewed the products on our list actually recommend applying them by hand, as using their fingers allows them to work the conditioner in more effectively. If there is an allergen concern or the conditioner does not say non-toxic, however, it is strongly recommended that the manufacturer be contacted prior to applying any product with your hands.
Q: Should I clean my boots before applying conditioner?
A: Boots should always be cleaned prior to applying leather conditioner. Any large portions of debris or caked on mess should be removed with a slightly damp cloth. Leather soap should then be used unless the conditioner in question also says that it cleans leather as it conditions. Only once the boots are clean and thoroughly dry should leather conditioner be applied.
Q: Will conditioner waterproof my boots?
A: As a general rule, leather conditioner will not waterproof the leather it is applied to. Some of the products listed above, like Huberd’s Shoe Grease, are designed to offer waterproofing. This, however, is not the usual effect of using leather conditioner.
Q: Are the ingredients all natural?
A: Most of the products on this list guarantee all natural ingredients in products. Some, however, do not so please be careful if an all natural product is desired. Similarly, allergic reactions can occur even with all natural products. If there is a specific ingredient or type of ingredient you are seeking to avoid, it is suggested that you contact the manufacturer directly. Many of the companies listed above have excellent customer service and are happy to answer any questions their customers may have.
Q: Will the conditioner change the color of my leather?
A: Nearly every leather conditioner will temporarily darken the leather they are applied to. Some conditioners have effects that last longer than other, but this is a natural side effect of returning moisture to a treated hide. Color usually returns to normal once the leather has dried completely, though this is not always an indication that a new application of leather conditioner is needed.