Open main menu

Which Leather Waterproofing/Conditioner Do You Use and Why?

I recently treated a pair of leather gloves (Kinco) that arrived with a small packet of Nikwax and proclaimed they aren’t waterproofed or treated. They’re made from pigskin. I also have another pair of lighter-weight insulated leather gloves from a Jackson Hole-based company, Give’r, that come pre-waxed. Literature on their site indicates these gloves should only be re-treated with stuff that is not silicone-based. I have two pair of Limmer boots that recommend using their proprietary paste, Limmer Boot Grease, and a pair of LL Bean boots, rubber bottoms with leather tops - Bean also now offers a proprietary boot paste, though i have never used it. I also haven’t used Nikwax’s leather wax conditioner. I have not been able to determine the ingredients in most of these; Limmer’s container publishes the contents: natural hydrocarbons, lanolin, silicon, oils. Beeswax and mineral oil both contain natural hydrocarbons. 

In the past, I used Akto Sno-Seal on most boots. It’s a beeswax-based product. At some point, I moved to another beeswax boot treatment, Obenauf’s heavy duty LP. Neither have any silicone, and I use them primarily on leather gloves…but I’m thinking about using the Obenauf’s on the bean boots this time around. I ultimately decided to use the Limmer paste on the Kinco gloves; applied, let them sit, reapplied. Seems fine, haven’t worn them out in cold/wet weather yet.  





What do you use and why?

I use beeswax (no brand preference) on leather boots, because nothing else I’ve ever tried waterproofs as completely. I only apply it to my Lowas once or twice a year and the leather simply doesn’t get wet. It’s great for when I wear them snowshoeing, my feet stay warm down to around 10F because the leather doesn’t get wet and freeze. The beeswax does leave boots and laces sticky, though, and dust, lint, pet fur, etc, will stick to them. 

I generally don’t do anything to leather gloves, if it’s not cold I don’t mind if they get wet. In winter I wear army D3A wool glove liners in uninsulated leather work gloves and carry a couple extra pairs in an inside pocket. When they get wet I put dry liners in and put the wet ones inside my jacket or on the dashboard to dry. 

I have worked with leather horse and mule tack for 40 years.  There are some great products designed for saddles and bridles and the like.  Lexol, saddle soap and specialty products like Ray Hole's saddle butter make leather last a long time.  It replaces the natural oils, prevents cracking, and makes leather very water resistant. 

There are some traditional shoe products like Sno-seal and mink oil that are pretty good, especially for traveling in wet country a lot. 

It is important to keep leather somewhat clean and dry it slowly at night.  People that work in the rain all the time have Peet's shoe dryer.  A campfire is the fastest way to wreck leather. 

I hike behind my house several days a week.  The country is dry.  I put Lexol on my boots about once a month. 

Nikwax, for decades.  Leder Gris, more recently.

Neatsfoot Oil, on bicycle saddles.

R.M. Williams saddle dressing, on belts and fine leather stuff.

They all work.  :-)

I use the same as you, Obenaufs and Limmer. Both jars are probably 6-7 years old because the stuff just lasts forever. It important to remember not to over apply (too often or too much) as it can soften the leather up too much. 

It depends on what the manufacturer used to that the boots.   If they used an oil based product, you should also use an oil based product.  If they used a silicone product, you should stick with silicone.  Doing otherwise may risk impairing the boot's resiliency to repel water.   Some products are water based; avoid these as they are not as robust, subject to lose effectiveness more quickly.

Mink can be used on oil treated boots, however, mink oil often softens leather.  If your foot get a blister or hot spot from your boot, you can spot apply mink oil to soften it and reshape that area.  But applying mink oil over the entire boot may compromise its ability to support your foot in the manner you expect from a hiking boot.


I agree with Whomeworry,  one should always follow suit with what the manufactured originally  used to treat the leather.

My Gramps  use to restore antique furniture and one of the trickiest aspects of the restoration he said was dealing with  leather. Whether it was leather sofas or a leather foot locker or even the leather bellows of an old pedal Organ, Gramps had a whole wall shelf of oils, waxes and leather treatments and there was no all in one solution.

I have only used mink oil on baseball gloves  never even thought about using it on boots. whomeworry thx for the idea

Ppine  you brought me back to time when I lived next to a horse ranch in California, I cannot believe it never dawned on me to use saddle soap on boots. And I just wanted to take a minute to also again send my condolences to you for the horses you have lost past year.

I honestly do not remember what I use to use to waterproof my boots. I had donated all my leather boots  about 8 years ago after I had back surgery and have not worn anything but  ankle or below ankle hiking shoes ever since, and none of them are leather. The only boots I have still are 2 snow boots (not leather ) and a rubber fireman like waterproof, fit over shoes boots.



I never found a leather treatment, which I thought would give sufficient protection, for a multi-week hike, in wet weather.  As others have mentioned, drying sodden boots should be done slowly, away from direct sources of heat- or the structure of the boot may be irreparably compromised.  In the field, this is usually impossible, of course.  I have had success, ladling on Nikwax and wearing tightly fitting yeti gaiters, to entirely cover the upper of each boot.  Even this extreme approach may not work, in a swamp, or peat bog- at which point I ask myself....'what the hell are you doing, hiking through this mess?'  :-)

That is why they make Jungle Boots. Specifically designed to be used in those environments.. a shout out to the military for designing them lol

Sno-Seal has given good results for many years, but jungle boots ar the answer for rally wet conditions.  They also do well on fairly easy rock climbs

The worst thing about jungle boots is the hard rubber outsoles have no grip at all on wet rock. Outside most army posts you could find shoe shops that would slice off part of the outsole and glue on a Vibram sole, but since wet rock really wasn’t anything we got into it seemed like a waste of money. They would have worked better on snow & ice, but that’s what my more comfortable Herman’s and later Danner Ft. Lewis were for. 

May 27, 2022
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply