Homemade Leather Balm

For a vegetarian, I really like leather. In fact, I’d say I like leather a lot even for a meat eater. Especially for shoes. I really love leather shoes. And purses. And wallets. And boots… oh lordy. Especially boots. I have a boot problem (damn you, eBay!). I like to buy nice leather boots and then maintain them, rather than go out and buy a new pair every year after the previous crap pair falls to pieces and are so crap they cannot be repaired. Having a good cobbler is essential for when zippers go, heals wear away, and holes show up in soles (I like Conti’s). For more day-to-day care, waterproofing and leather balm help maintain the leather.

Leather is, of course, hide from a (once living) animal, and just like our skin, it can dry out. Waterproofing sprays help protect the leather from the vicious wet/dry cycle that comes with winter wear, but eventually your boots are going to start to show some wear. They’ll look a little dusty and sad, usually down around the feet and ankles where they suffer the most abuse. That’s where this leather balm comes in.

The darker boot has had the leather balm applied.

It’s a simple recipe, basically just a modification of my massage bars. Whereas the massage bars are 1:1:1 beeswax, cocoa butter, and liquid oil, these are 1:1:2, giving the balm a slightly softer texture as opposed to being a very determinedly solid bar. This is still a balm, though; if you want more of a cream, I’d recommend a 1:1:3 ratio.

Once you’ve made the balm, massage it into your dried out leather boots with a rag. It’s easiest to apply while you’re wearing the boots. Watch the leather darken and come back to life with a beautiful shine. When you’re done, the leather will be beautifully soft and supple, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this earlier. Don’t overdo things, and be sure to wipe off any excess. Follow up with a waterproofing spray.

The boot on the right has been ‘balmed’, the one on the left hasn’t.

Homemade Leather Balm

25g beeswax
25g cocoa butter
50g sweet almond oil (or other not-too-greasy liquid oil)

Melt everything together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour into a 125mL mason jar and let cool until solid, 30–40 minutes. Use whenever you like. Also makes a nice body balm!

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Wondering where I get my ingredients? I get almost everything from New Directions Aromatics (Canada, USA, Aus, & UK) and Saffire Blue!

29 Responses to Homemade Leather Balm

  1. Cynthia Booker says:

    Thanks. This is a great idea. I am finding more and more reasons to buy these ingredients and I think you just gave me another one. I am also a fellow eBayer and you should also try the Shopgoodwill.com site. I have bought a lot from this site in the way of boots and coats. You can find some real treasures… sometimes for a lot and sometimes the same item is going for almost nothing.

    Again, thanks for the info.

  2. Nigel says:

    On your homemade leather balm could you use Neat’s foot oil instead of the almond oil, and if so would it work better?
    Just that I understand Neat’s foot oil is used quite a lot in the shoe making industry.

    • Marie says:

      I’d never heard of “Neat’s foot oil” before, so I went and did some research. Wikipedia tells me it’s “neatsfoot oil”, “neat” being an old word for cattle. Meaning it’s the oil of the lower shinbone of cows. It’s liquid at room temperature, and it sounds like that’s what makes it good for treating leather with. The article also mentioned that most neatsfoot oil these days is actually made from lard, which is solid at room temperature.

      So, if you could get pure, original, liquid at room temperature neatsfoot oil, I’d recommend substituting it for the liquid oil in this recipe and seeing what you think. If all you can find, however, is the lard stuff, I wouldn’t bother, since what makes original neatsfoot so good is it’s liquid room temperature consistency, which lard does not match. Hope that helps!

  3. Asia Stockwell says:

    Instead of using cocoa butter, can coconut oil be used instead? as in use for muscle rubs, bars, and balms?

    • Marie says:

      I really wouldn’t recommend it, Asia. Cocoa butter has the texture of chocolate—it’s hard and brittle at room temperature, and even if you rub it on your skin, it takes quite a bit of time to melt. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is very soft at room temperature, and liquifies as soon as it touches the skin. If you want to use coconut oil instead you’ll need to add more beeswax, but even then it won’t be the same due to the texture differences.

  4. Cristo says:

    What do you recommend if I can not find sweet almond oil? BR,

  5. Patricia Miller says:

    I plan to try this balm on a saddle that needs some TLC. It sounds like just the ticket. Thank you for posting.

  6. Victoria says:

    where do you get cocoa butter?

  7. Mehran says:

    Dear Marie,

    I am a subscriber to your newsletters and follow your blog and must say that I find the information provided by you quite useful, I have been thinking for sometime to make a beeswax based leather conditioner for my leather products. here in India we do not get very good leather care products, I had been using Mink oil made by Terrago but only one shop in my town imports it and the supply is not consistent. I had originally planned to make it out of Beeswax and Sweet Almond Oil in a mixture that would have a cream like consistency.
    A friend suggested that if I could bring the cost down maybe I can sell this stuff locally, so I started asking around for alternatives to sweet almond oil, I was told that out here Cottonseed Oil is very cheap and easily available. So I am writing to ask you about cottonseed oil, is it appropriate to use that as a replacement to almond oil? and also would like toknow anything that you can tell me about this oil.

    Thanks and Regards, Mehram

  8. Annie Blair says:

    i followed your recipe and it turned out nicely. just treated one of my boots and it looks good! thanks much.

  9. Joel says:

    Hi, what temperature do you recommend for melting the ingredients and for how long? Thank you.

    • Joel says:

      Never mind: 30-40 mins over medium heat. Thanks.

      • Joel says:

        Wrong again: melt over medium heat and let solidify in a mason jar for 30-40 mins. Can you tell I’ve never done this before?

        • Marie says:

          Yup, there we go :) No worries, sounds like you’ve got it now. Pretend like you’re melting butter over the stove, it’s more or less the same idea, just different ingredients. Let me know how it works out!

      • Marie says:

        Please don’t do this without a double boiler—your ingredients will likely catch on fire! :P

    • Marie says:

      Medium to medium-low heat is best, and just until everything has melted. The beeswax will take the longest to melt by a fairly wide margin—you can help speed that along by ensuring the bits of beeswax you’re working with are fairly small (big chunks will take ages to melt).

      • Lara says:

        Hi,

        I have a few questions (here we go!). Will this not block the pores of the leather? What is the long time effect on say bridle leather? Won’t the natural oils start to decompose with time? Do you think this recipe is somehow close to this all natural Leather Balsam
        http://www.otterwax.com/product/leather-salve-reg-tin/

        They say they also use Shea Butter and Flaxseed Oil. I want to create my own little leather balsam with all natural ingredients and just want to make sure that I do not make any mistakes. Would you use Olive oil (does it have to be virgin?) as a substitute for sweet almond oil?

        Apparently there is another maker of all natural Leather care and their mix includes tallow (what is that?), oils and beeswax.

        Thank you for coming back to me on this – sorry for the long line of questions. Much appreciated – I love your blog!

        Lara
        xx

        • Marie says:

          Hi Lara! I regularly put these ingredients on my skin and they don’t clog my pores, so your leather should be fine. The long term effect is the leather will stay soft and supple, rather than dry out. Yes, natural oils will break down over time, but that’s why you don’t absolutely drown your leather in the balm—you massage in a small amount and carefully buff off any excess. I’ve used this on boots and I promise they don’t start to smell like old chips after a year :P Plus, most natural saddle/leather balms will be made from similar ingredients. The one you mentioned says it’s from all natural ingredients, which means plant and animal based oils and waxes like these :)

          You can definitely use any kind of olive oil you like instead of sweet almond oil—and feel free to get the cheapest type :P Tallow is rendered beef/cow fat, you can learn how to render your own here. I would probably avoid flaxseed oil as an ingredient as it tends to go rancid faster than most carrier oils, meaning your balm won’t last as long.

          Thanks for reading & DIYing with me!

  10. Steven says:

    What are your thoughts about using this leather balm for brand new leather? I make some simple leather products, and have been looking for a natural softener and protector of my leather.
    I have seen another recipe of using olive oil and orange turp (not sure what that is). Any thoughts of this recipe as well?

    • Marie says:

      I’d say go for it, I can’t think of any reason not to. Orange turp is probably d-limonene, which is citrus terpenes (a natural solvent). I use them to clean with, so I’d hypothesize that recipe would be best for cleaning dirty leather.

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