How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (2023)

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (1)

How to darken leather boots

You can darken your leather boots naturally and without damaging the leather. Apply mink oil or neatsfoot oil evenly across your boot. Use a horsehair brush to buff your leather and let your boots rest for 24 hours. This will darken the leather and add a layer of natural weather protection to your boots.

We know the feeling: you love your boots, but wish they were just a tad darker.

The good news is that darkening your boots isn’t just easy: with the right materials and technique, it’s actually good for the leather.

In this guide, we’ll break down exactly how to darken leather boots the right way. You’ll learn what products to use, how to use them, and what you can expect to find after you’ve treated the leather.

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What You Need to Darken Leather Boots

To darken your leather boots, you need a leather conditioner. The best products we’ve used for darkening leather are mink oil and neatsfoot oil.

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (2)

Both mink oil and neatsfoot oil are animal derived fats that saturate leather fibers and produce a rich color. As a bonus, when you use either of these oils, you’re also adding a layer of weather resistance.

Many folks use mink oil and neatsfoot oil to condition their leather to keep it from cracking, so it’s also a great product to have on hand when you need to condition your other leather items.

Mink oil is a byproduct of the fur industry, though many of the popular products only contain 10-20% mink. Products like SofSole blend mink oil with other fats, conditioners, and waxes to help protect your boots against the elements.

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (3)

Sof Sole Mink Oil for Conditioning and Waterproofing Leather

  • Mink oil for Waterproofing, conditioning, and preserving leather goods
  • Ideal for leather boots, shoes, purses, jackets, hats, baseball gloves, saddles and harnesses
  • The oil creates a WaterProof barrier against the elements and helps to protect leather by preventing Water, salt, and perspiration stains
  • Easy to use and dries within minutes; may darken some leathers, test first in an inconspicuous area
  • Resealable tin contains 3.5 ounces of mink oil; tin measures 3.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches and weighs 0.34 pounds

Buy Now at Amazon

(Video) SADDLE SOAP vs MINK OIL: Which is Better for Your Boots? | BootSpy

Neatsfoot oil is a byproduct of the beef industry, with the oil being extracted from the shins of cattle. This also saturates your leather to protect and condition your boots.

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (4)

Bickmore 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil 8 oz - Leather Conditioner

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Of these two products, we prefer mink oil. Neatsfoot oil products don’t have the same added waxes and conditioners as many mink oil products, so mink oil is a little more well-rounded for boot care.

How to Naturally Darken Leather Boots Without Damage

Step 1: Brush your boots and remove all dirt

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (5)

Before darkening your leather boots, remove your laces and knock loose any dirt. Take a close look around the welt, as mud tends to stick there.

Use a microfiber towel or a horsehair brush. If you have both, use them both.

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (6)

Kiwi 100% Horsehair Shine Brush

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The reason you’ll want to get as much dirt and dust off as possible is because a small grain of sand can scratch the leather as you’re darkening it, creating a light “gash” across your boot. Most often you can buff the scratch out, but it takes extra work and you might not get a perfectly even treatment.

Also, dust on the surface of your boots prevents the oils from fully saturating the leather. This can also lead to an uneven treatment and splotchy looking boots.

Step 2: Apply mink oil

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (8)

We’re using mink oil for this example, but this step is the same if you choose neatsfoot oil. If you’d like to go vegan, you can also use coconut oil, but make sure you’ve warmed it up before applying.

Dab a teaspoon of mink oil on a microfiber rag and work evenly into your boots in a circular motion. Try to create as much friction as possible to warm the mink oil up as you work it into the leather for deeper saturation.

You may need to go back and pick up more mink oil to ensure you have an even spread across your boots.

After you’ve coated your boots, they’ll have a slick shine to them with excess oil on the outside of the boot. Use a microfiber rag to wipe away the excess. Don’t worry about buffing the leather yet.

(Video) RUINED? How To Fix Over Conditioned Leather Boots

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (9)

Sof Sole Mink Oil for Conditioning and Waterproofing Leather

  • Mink oil for Waterproofing, conditioning, and preserving leather goods
  • Ideal for leather boots, shoes, purses, jackets, hats, baseball gloves, saddles and harnesses
  • The oil creates a WaterProof barrier against the elements and helps to protect leather by preventing Water, salt, and perspiration stains
  • Easy to use and dries within minutes; may darken some leathers, test first in an inconspicuous area
  • Resealable tin contains 3.5 ounces of mink oil; tin measures 3.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches and weighs 0.34 pounds

Buy Now at Amazon

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Step 3 (optional): Apply mink oil, again

If your leather is dry and hasn’t seen a conditioner yet, you’ll want to apply a second coat of mink oil. This helps drive nourishing compounds deep into your boots and helps restore damage done from excessive dryness.

Repeat step two if you’d like your boots another shade darker or if your leather needs a little extra love.

Step 4: Let mink oil set, and buff with a brush

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (10)

Allow the mink oil to saturate your leather for 10-20 minutes. Use a horsehair brush and buff out the leather.

Be sure to pay special attention to any eyelets or welts where oils gather. A horsehair brush is much more effective than a microfiber rag at getting into small crevices and evening the tone of your leather.

What if I Don’t Want to Darken My Leather Boots That Much

This gif shows how much mink oil darkens your boots:

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (11)

If you’re thinking that’s way too dark, there are other options.

There are many leather conditioners on the market that only darken your leather slightly. One of our favorites is Venetian shoe cream.

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (12)

Venetian Imperial Leather Balm

After testing 10 of the most popular leather conditioners, Venetian came out as my top pick because it nourishes leather, doesn't change the color, and actually adds a decent amount of weather resistance as well.

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While mink oil darkens your leather boots five or six shades darker, Venetian will only take it two or three shades darker. It’s an excellent product for conditioning and keeping your leather supple and nourished.

How to Darken Leather Boots: Avoid These 3 Mistakes (13)

We recommend having both products in your leather care arsenal, as each has its own specific uses, but both are good for darkening leather.

How Not to Darken Leather Boots

In researching this article, we came across several methods of darkening your leather boots that will cause lasting damage to your footwear. We want to call those out now to prevent you from having a boot disaster.

  • Don’t use olive oil to darken your boots. Olive oil is low in saturated fat and goes rancid relatively quick. If you use olive oil, you’ll have sour, stinky smelling boots in a month or less.
  • Don’t use canola oil. Yes, it will add some water resistance, but it’s nowhere near as effective as mink oil or other dedicated boot care products. Really, what you’re doing is creating a barrier so that all your future boot care is less effective.
  • Don’t use baby oil. It’s for babies.

Ready to Get Started?

Darkening your leather boots is easy. Even better, it’s good for your leather.

So if you’ve been waiting to add rich, dark tones to your leather, now is the time. Mink oil is fairly inexpensive and does wonders at darkening, conditioning, and weatherproofing your leather.

If you don’t already have it in your boot care tool kit, we recommend you pick some up today.

For more boot care guides and reviews, check out our YouTube channel, where we post new reviews and guides every week, like this one:

And if you gave mink oil a try and added some depth to your boots, let us know in the comments below!

FAQs

Should you oil new boots?

Oiling your boots will darken the leather significantly. If you enjoy the color of your boots as you bought them, we don’t recommend you oil them. But if you’re only concerned with weatherproofing and conditioning the leather, oiling your new boots is a great way to protect the leather throughout its lifetime.

Does boot oil darken leather?

Boot oil darkens leather significantly. There are products available that don’t darken the leather as much, such as Venetian shoe cream.

Does olive oil darken leather?

Olive oil will darken your leather, but we don’t recommend you use it as a leather conditioner. Olive oil is low in saturated fats, so it goes rancid quickly. If you use olive oil on your boots, they will smell sour and strange within two weeks.

Can you stain leather shoes darker?

You can dye your leather shoes a darker shade if you’d like, but using mink oil to naturally darken your leather boots is a much cheaper, easier, and safer way to get the job done.

(Video) Does Vaseline darken leather? Can I put Vaseline on my leather sofa?

FAQs

How can I make my leather darker naturally? ›

You can darken your leather boots naturally and without damaging the leather. Apply mink oil or neatsfoot oil evenly across your boot. Use a horsehair brush to buff your leather and let your boots rest for 24 hours. This will darken the leather and add a layer of natural weather protection to your boots.

How do you darken leather slightly? ›

Next purchase a leather darkener, such as neatsfoot oil, mink oil, or leather honey. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil on a non-abrasive cloth and rub it into the leather in a uniform layer. Let the oil dry overnight and decide if it looks dark enough. If the leather isn't as dark as you'd like, apply more coats of oil.

What kind of oil darkens leather? ›

Because coconut oil is a natural oil (like neatsfoot, olive and mink oil), it will darken leather when applied.

Can I darken leather shoes with polish? ›

Leather boots can also be darkened using shoe polish. This method is simple, effective, and inexpensive. However, you should do it correctly and carefully. A sloppy polishing job won't give you the kind of results you desire.

Does coffee darken leather? ›

First of all, yes, you can use coffee as a leather dye. It works best on vegetable-tanned leather, and you must have sufficient leather conditioner around in order to dye your leather without ruining it, but you can very easily use coffee dye instead of a brown dye manufactured somewhere.

Does Sun darken leather? ›

Leather is a natural material made from animal skin. So, it will react to the sun in much the same way that your skin would. If you spend too much time in the sun your skin will darken, dry out and crack and just not be very healthy. Leather will also become discolored, dry out and crack if left out in the sun.

Is olive oil good for leather? ›

Using olive oil on leather can restore colour and repair small scratches. This works on shoes, couches, chairs and other items. The process is the same as with wooden furniture, but just use straight olive oil – no lemon needed! Pour some oil onto a cloth and rub into the leather in a circular motion.

What oil can I use on leather boots? ›

Mink oil is a great product to add oils back into your dry leather boots. It also adds water resistance to leather. Mink oil will darken your leather permanently and give it a matte look, we recommend other conditioners if you want to preserve the look and feel of your leather boots.

Can I use coconut oil on my boots? ›

Treating leather with coconut oil does have a few upsides: it will soften the leather and provide a thin layer of waterproof protection. Because coconut oil is a natural oil (like neatsfoot oil, olive oil, and mink oil), it will darken leather boots when applied.

Does real leather darken? ›

In general, dyed leather is prone to losing some of its color, becoming lighter over the years. On the other hand, natural or vegetable tanned leather will darken from contact with exterior factors (such as skin oils, dirt, UV exposure, etc) and gain a precious patina.

How can I make my boots darker? ›

The simplest method for how to darken leather boots is to just use boot grease or leather conditioner as normal. It's known for the darkening effect that it has on leather, along with the protectant properties that make it an essential part of boot care.

Is Vaseline good for leather? ›

What Can You Put On Leather To Soften It? Leather conditioners are the finest way to soften the leather. Use a damp cloth to apply the conditioner to the leather surface. It's also possible to use water and natural oils such as coconut or olive oil, as well as Vaseline.

Can you change leather from black to brown? ›

Black cannot be dyed to another color (but you could certainly paint it). To start, you will want to use a leather preparer/deglazer.

Do leather boots darken or lighten over time? ›

As a general rule, brown leather boots will darken over time but black leather boots will usually lighten a little. Tan leather will eventually turn into a medium brown, and darker browns start to turn chocolate if not nearly black.

Does saddle soap darken leather? ›

Saddle soap and similar soft soaps are strong alkaline base with a pH of 10 or above. When treated regularly with saddle soap, leather will gradually change from its normally state to alkaline. This pH change will cause the leather to harden, darken, and weaken its structure.

Does beeswax darken leather? ›

Beeswax products also protect split, sanded, suede, rough, and recycled leather. These materials need the protection of wax for rugged use, but it will change their appearance. As wax coats the exposed fibers and fills surface gaps, these non-top grain materials become darker and slicker.

Does Kiwi shoe polish darken leather? ›

So is Kiwi Conditioning Oil right for you? Well, it darkens the hell out of your leather, so if that's a problem then it's off limits. But for a lot of guys, they don't care: they want something that will increase water resistance and clean and moisturize the leather without costing too much.

Is sun good for leather? ›

Protect your Leather Furniture From The Sun

You can protect your leather furniture by positioning it where sunlight never strikes it. Sunlight may over time cause fading of color on the exterior surface, and the UV rays of the sun will damage any surface, eventually even leather.

Can you restore darkened leather? ›

This usually results from excessive exposure to sunlight. Many people actually use the sun to restore their leather if it has significantly darkened.

What household items can I use to dye leather? ›

Mix two commercial products: leather conditioner and shoe polish. Mixed in equal parts. This solution can be rubbed onto leather, allowed to dry, and buffed into the material. Darker shades can be achieved by repeating the application several times.

What causes leather to darken? ›

The accumulation of dirt, body oils, sunlight and wear and tear (like spilling a drink on a leather coaster) create a darkening and soft sheen to leather goods. Over time the leather will oxidize and age naturally to give these effects.

How long does it take the sun to darken leather? ›

The visible change you will notice first (as early as just 4-6 months of regular exposure) is discoloration. Discoloration in and of itself isn't necessarily a problem - some folks even do it on purpose to change the look of the leather.

Does leather conditioner permanently darken leather? ›

Impact on Leather Color

Most leather conditioners make the leather darker when applied, however mostly the darkening effect is usually temporary. Once the leather is dried after the application, the color can go back to normal. However heavier leather conditioners can change the color of the leather permanently.

What oil restores leather the best? ›

While neatsfoot oil will restore dried leather, improving flexibility and pliability, mink oil is a better alternative for leather care and conditioning.

Which oil is best for leather? ›

Neatsfoot oil, lanolin, almond oil, and mink oil are best for softening your leather. All of these are natural oils that moisturize leather, keeping it from drying and cracking. The fats in these natural oils will deeply moisturize the hide in leather products.

Does vinegar destroy leather? ›

Any cleaning product with a high pH, like vinegar or lemon juice, damages leather fibers and results in excessive drying that creates unsightly cracks. Also avoid products like olive or coconut oil and furniture polishes.

Is WD 40 good for leather boots? ›

Stubborn Stains

For leather work boots use WD-40® Multi-Use Product to restore your boots to good condition. Spray the formula directly onto areas with stains, grease, or other grime and let the product sit for several minutes.

What does olive oil do to leather boots? ›

Olive oil, and every oily substance for that matter, will not “nourish” your leather, but actually accelerate its deterioration. Leather is extremely permeable, and will soak up any oils you put on it. When oil first saturates leather, it seeps to the back—to the part you can't see.

Is baby oil good for leather boots? ›

Baby oil is a pretty light lubricant (it's mineral oil with some fragrance added) but will still over-soften the leather, much like mink oil would do. So you might find that the leather has turned to something akin to mush.

Does oil ruin leather boots? ›

A leather product can easily be ruined by oil stains. The alternative products that should be used to remove oil stains are leather soap, oil cleaning products, and spray cleaners.

Do you leave coconut oil on or wash it off? ›

For a quick deep-conditioning hair treatment, apply your coconut oil before shampooing and conditioning your hair like you normally would. Simply leave it on for 30 minutes, then wash your hair like normal. Or, for an extra-hydrating hair mask, leave your coconut oil hair treatment on overnight.

Do boots need to be dry before oiling? ›

Allow shoes to dry fully before conditioning/protecting. You do not want to lock in any moisture by applying boot oil, leather conditioner, or weather sealant before the boots are dry.

Is brown leather better than black? ›

Deep Brown – A dark brown jacket works just as well as a black one to intensify your look. Brown does, however, have an advantage over black as it's a bit more suburban. It is also likely to match with more of your shoes and belts effortlessly as well as bolder pastel colored shirts.

How can you tell high quality leather? ›

An item of good leather quality will usually have quality stitching to match. Flaws in stitching, hardware, and lining can indicate inferior leather. Pay attention to how it feels and looks. If the leather feels wrong (hard, plasticky, or thin), it probably is.

Does leather darken when wet? ›

If the layer of dye reduces, a couple of things might happen. The dye can pull in towards the area of leather that is wet, resulting in a higher dye concentration in the area of leather that was wet. This would result in a darkening effect.

Can you make brown shoes darker? ›

No, it is not possible to make shoes made of dark brown leather darker than they currently are... However, if you take some shoe polish and mix in a little amount of white shoe polish, you may deepen the color of the shoe by applying the mixture to the shoe (although you shouldn't use a lot of it).

Will leather honey darken my boots? ›

No oily residue either! Be aware – Leather Honey can darken light colored leathers – it wasn't really an issue for me as most of my leathers are dark brown. But if you have light brown leather's you'll want to test it in a small area with any leather conditioner you use. Also – you can't use this product on suede.

What happens when you spray WD-40 on your boots? ›

Waterproof boots and shoes Waterproof your winter boots and shoes by giving them a coat of WD-40. It'll act as a barrier so water can't penetrate the material. Also use WD-40 to remove ugly salt stains from boots and shoes during the winter months. Just spray WD-40 onto the stains and wipe with a clean rag.

Does mink oil permanently darken leather? ›

There isn't much you can do to completely remove mink oil from leather. Once you've applied mink oil, it's going to permanently darken the leather.

What does toothpaste do to leather? ›

Dab a bit of non-gel toothpaste on the stain. Use a soft toothbrush to scrub away the stain. Wipe the area with a clean cloth when finished, then dry with a towel. Toothpaste will also remove scuffs.

What does salt do to leather? ›

Salt sucks the moisture out of leather, so making sure they get the treatment they need is important. Using a conditioning oil, leather lotion, or conditioning cream will ensure your shoes keep looking their best.

Can I change the color of my leather boots? ›

Are your leather boots looking old and worn down? Luckily, dyeing leather boots is a surprisingly easy task. Whether you are covering up scuffs, scratches, or just want a new look, you can dye your boots all by yourself. It is a great way to freshen up your boots and give them a new glow.

Can you change the color on leather? ›

Well, it is possible to completely refinish and change the color of leather sofas & chairs or car seats, whatever the case may be, and completely cover over the original color.

How do you tint your boots? ›

Method
  1. Begin by rubbing your shoes with the Leather Preparer & Deglazer to remove the factory finish. Be thorough with this step. ...
  2. Dampen the leather using a spray bottle filled with water. ...
  3. Dye your leather by evenly applying the dye using a wool dauber, or a soft cloth. ...
  4. Allow your shoes to naturally air dry.

Is it better to dye or paint leather? ›

Dyes cannot be used to lighten a color (for example to cover darker stains). Only a pigmented finish (paint/coating) can accomplish this. Leather paints and finishes are therefore more versatile. You can change color (even to a lighter shade), and you can mimic the varied, marbled appearance of aniline leather.

Can you restore color of faded leather? ›

Due to exposure to sunlight or just a general wear over time, the original color of leather may fade. Leather fades as it becomes dry. To restore faded leather, apply Leather Honey which will bring back the lost color. Again, we recommend applying to the entire piece rather than spot treating.

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