I have a lot of sport gears where some of the material is leather. Over time, the leather become easily broken. There must be some oil or something to protect the leather cover. How can I oil/protect the leather to last longer?

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  • 1
    Welcome to Sports SE! The tags you requested are not necessary. See this for more information.
    – user527
    Jun 4, 2013 at 16:55
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    Anyone care to explain their off-topic close vote? I believe equipment maintenance is an important factor for participating in any sport.
    – user527
    Jun 5, 2013 at 14:56
  • I don't understand why close it. What I could understand is that the question seems something broad to me. Maybe different type of equipement need to be maintain different? for leather soccer balls, you usually use animal fat to prevent broken leather.
    – gbianchi
    Jun 6, 2013 at 12:29
  • @gbianchi what kind of animal fat? Is it something to get from grocery store like chicken fat or is it something to get from sport stores? Does it smell and would you use on the both sides of the gloves?
    – hhh
    Jun 6, 2013 at 12:34
  • @hhh Mine is not an answer. I only know about that. for a pure leather soccer ball (old ones) you use to used cow fat. The one you take out from the meat before cooking it. But I don't know for gloves (you don't even specify what kind of gloves!)
    – gbianchi
    Jun 6, 2013 at 13:09

3 Answers 3


Yes it is a major task to maintain any leather material,

How to clean a leather

There are two main types of leather

  1. finished
  2. unfinished

and you can use water to differentiate different leathers, video here showing how: shortly, if it soaks water, it is unfinished leather; if it does not soak water, it is a finished leather. This page explains the below about working with different kinds of leather. The steps are

  1. preservation/softening

  2. conditioning

where the preservers contain mink-oil and neatsfoot oil. Saddle soap is an example about conditioning, a key component is the beewax-turpentine mixture.

Copied from the informercial here

Washing Finished Leather

  1. Apply a gentle, moisturizing soap such as Dove with a clean cloth.
  2. Work soap into a lather.
  3. Wipe away lather with clean damp cloth.
  4. DO NOT use water to rinse the lather off of the leather.
  5. Polish with a dry towel.
  6. Let dry completely.
  7. When the item is completely dry, treat with a leather conditioner.

Washing Unfinished Leather

  1. Rub saddle soap into the leather with a damp cloth or sponge.
  2. Work soap into a lather.
  3. Remove lather with clean cloth.
  4. Allow to dry.
  5. When completely dry, oil the leather with a preservative such a mink oil.

Additional Tips and Advice

  1. When storing leather handbags, stuff with tissue to help retain their shape.
  2. Never store leather in a plastic bag or other non-breathable cover as it will dry the leather out.
  3. Avoid storing leather in very humid or very dry environments, and avoid placing in direct sunlight.
  • @hhh it will not you will need to clean the soap lather with a clean cloth and allow it to dry you must carefully handle the cleaning part otherwise it will make them slippery.Also don't forget to dry it well.And thanks for extra information.
    – NetStarter
    Jun 12, 2013 at 6:43
  • @hhh what do you want to add? are you talking about the time to soak the water by leather?
    – NetStarter
    Jun 13, 2013 at 7:27
  • Hello, I found interesting information. I think the key here is to find animal oils to maintain the gloves because many sport gloves are leather of some animals such as cattle (mine looks like it). I am still trying to undertand why animal oil would be better over non-animal oil -- my speculation is that it is more saturated so the precipitate is not so easily water after some usage (bad for the gloves).
    – hhh
    Jun 13, 2013 at 22:39

Suppose your ice-hockey gloves use leather made of cattle. It sounds natural that the best oil to use with it is an oil of cattle such as neatsfoot oil or some other animal-oil with similar properties. Mink-oil cannot be used as a neatsoil because it is not liquid in room-temperature, this is a key feature way neatsfoot looks to be the best candidate to get your gloves soft and last longer. After letting the leather to absorb the neatsfoot oil, you can add the final polish with minkoil that can be bought as a solid in room-temperature, better protection against hits on the top layer. So my recommendation is to use neatfoot oil and mink oil or a creamy animal-oil (see the below example). Do not use the mink-oil for the final polishing if you need extra friction like on ice-hockey gloves. For baseball-gloves where the friction is a no-brainer, I think you could add it or choose the plan III.

I. Neatsfoot (animal oil) is recommended over linseed oil due to smell here and one answer recommends to use neatsfoot oil for leather and linseed oil for wood. This sounds logical because of the different ecology.

II. Mink oil (animal oil) for adding the final protection on the leather.

III. Creamy animal oil only (heat/dry it well before using -- example below apparently with lamb oil)

and the non-animal-based solutions

IV. Linseed oil (non-animal oil) is a cheap candidate but results into a nasty smell like baseball-glove over time, more in the thread.

V. Wax (non-animal thing) such as beewax is also mentioned but this requires you to dilute it with turpentine to break carbon-chains smaller, apparently targeted for people loving animals. One example is the beewax, turpentine and linseed oil in 2:1:1 ratio (key pictures here and here about the process)

where the animal-oils are apparently better in protecting against cuts and holes, please, see the comment by the user gbianchi. Also the non-animal-based solution with beewax uses mineral oils that can be bad to your gloves according to Wikipedia: mineral-oil-based solutions can destroy the stitching and "speed breakdown of the leather itself". Examples are turpentine-beewax-solution and WD40. Some manufacturers add non-animal oils soya oil to the animal oils -- this may have no issue, anyway pay attention to concentrations. So if you choose a wax or a linseed-oil, pay attention that the leather does not break up easily. Also if you buy an animal-oil, check up the concentrations -- it may have some components such as synthetic oil bad to your gloves.

I have experience in using non-animal oils with leather footballs over two years' intensive training. Even though my balls were less intensively used to other balls, they apparently got dry because of the bad oil -- I used vegetable-oil that did no good with the balls: they become even more dry and eventually broken. My hypothesis is that animal-oil may be better and the way you process the sinking and afterwards cleaning is very important: you need to get the extra out and let enough time for the ball to absorb the oil and recover. If you are uncertain how to do this, do not do it -- otherwise you risk damaging your equipment!

enter image description here

I visited shoemaking places and leather craftmen around Helsinki and they recommended

A) do not use any oil and buy replacement service (75EUR) for the leather when needed or the gloves become too slippery

B) use a creamy animal-oil

where the A I think is pretty outrageous particularly if your gloves costed less than 75EUR. So I went on and tested the animal-oil cream lotion in Woly Creme Essentielle Leather Balm (150 ml costed me about 9EUR). Now because I strike from the left, the right glove is much more consumed than the left glove. The left glove was in excellent condition while the right glove getting too dry so I used the oil only on the right not wanting to get the left any slippery. The result: the gloves are much more confortable in the hands and and the right glove is not anymore dry to get broken and not too slippery! Even though the craftmen warned that the gloves can become too slippery and they tried to sell me service of replacing the leather, the leather did not become too slippery because I used it only the smallest amount and the places where really needed -- I think I saved a pair of ice-hockey gloves for a year at least! When you apply the oil, have some protective gloves because the animal-oil gets absorbed through your skin and it feels bad. Test your gloves only after getting the gloves totally dry so you won't get the oil to your hands. I also recommend to use the smallest amount posible the oil so your hands won't get the oil absorbed and the gloves not getting any slippery while still getting soft enough not getting broken and to last longer.

Whatever you choose for the leather to absorb the oil, heat speeds up the process. When you apply the oil to the leather, let it sink for a while -- many sources/videos recommend 24 hours' sinking. If you use wax, you need to rub it and use external heat to get it well into the leather. After the sinking/rubbing-heating, you need to rub/clean the extra oil/wax off. If you use your leather equipment such as gloves or ball too early, you risk damaging the equipment! You need to let enough time for the gloves or ball to recover so you don't get a hole to the leather after short time use or airs out of the ball.

Hope this saves you some leather equipments over time!

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    I think I have found the solution: neatsfoot oil and mink oil. Firstly, I am planning to use neatsfoot oil to soften the leather and then mink oil to add the final protection to get the gloves last longer. This way, I don't need a butane lighter or flammable synthetic solutions to be stored in my room -- looks to be the safest solution for me, not wanting to risk my apartment.
    – hhh
    Jun 13, 2013 at 23:04
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    One important thing I realised in writing this answer is the preprocessing of the oiling. If you poorly finish your oiling (not using hot air, not cleaning the extra oil out, not allowing enough time for the leather to recover/absorb the oil), you risk damaging your leather equipment -- some videos use hair-drier after rubbing in making sure the oiling is doen well.
    – hhh
    Jun 14, 2013 at 0:33
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    @NetStarter Thanks, I went on around the city and consulted a lot of people dealing with leather. Because I could not find neatsfoot oil, I decided to use a creamy animal oil (apparently some lamb oil). I was able to get the gloves soft again, not getting broken because not dry anymore. I decided not use the mink oil for the final polishing for ice-hockey gloves because I want to have extra friction. With baseball gloves, I would probably use the same cream oil but also mink oil for the final polishing.
    – hhh
    Jun 15, 2013 at 0:45

100% vegetable oil will not harm leather and can help restore the oils lost through use and different exposures, such as sun, heat, dirt etc. Neatsfoot oil would be great but what is labeled as neatsfoot is pig oil. There is no commercially produced neatfoot oil. Go find some Pappy's Dubbin.

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