View Full Version : Softening hard old leather

04-22-2003, 03:59 AM
I've got a box of large and useful pieces of 1/4" thick leather scrounged from a furniture manufacturer. Unfortunately they had beenleft out in the rain for a while and are as hard as boards.I've soaked samples for a day or two with little success. Are there any proven methods of rehabilitating such as this.....its too good to throw out !

Dave Carnell
04-22-2003, 05:47 AM
Archaeological leather recovered from sunken ships becomes extremely brittle if allowed to dry. At my suggestion, the North Carolina Maritime Museum tried ethylene glycol auto antifreeze to make the leather flexible for a long time. The fact that your samples don't soften on soaking in water makes we wonder if glycol would work here, though.

04-22-2003, 07:03 AM
Would a product used to soften baseball gloves work? (Hot Glove??)I remember buying a can of spray for my sons glove that you would warm the glove to 100 deg's F in the oven, spray on the stuff, and in a couple of days the leather was as soft and supple as could be. As a matter of fact, that was 7-8 years ago, and the leather is still soft. Then again, it was new leather, I don't know about something old and dried. Hmmmmmm

04-22-2003, 07:49 AM
They use a product called Lexol for saddles and such. I found it works fairly well.

04-22-2003, 07:51 AM
Lexol (http://www.lexol.com/)

Ed Burnett
04-22-2003, 07:54 AM

See if you can get hold of some "Neatsfoot oil". This is pretty good stuff, and may be the magic ingrediant in spray mentioned above.

The only brand I know of is called "Gozin" (presumably because it does). We could also go in to a long debate about where neatsfoot oil comes from - is it extracted from the foot of the "neat"? (a small mammel found only in parts of Amazonia), or did Mr. Neat develop it for treating some podiatric ailment or other?

Hope you can find some....


Ken Hutchins
04-22-2003, 08:28 AM
Peter, try bag balm.

04-22-2003, 01:10 PM
Neatsfoot oil, readily available from horse tack places. Most tack shops will have commercially prepared leather restoratives too.

Neat, as in cattle. smile.gif From the cow, back to the cow; paint the oil on, leave it to soak in, repeat.


04-22-2003, 01:30 PM
I go along with neets foot oil. It has always been cautioned against using neets foot oil on hiking boots for the very reason you need-it softens leather. Warming the leather and oil might help too. Open the poors of the leather and thin the oil for good penetration.

If you do get it soft, I then recommend the green label BIWELL. Great stuff! It has kept my leather Pivetta's looking good for ages. A good backpacking store should have it.

BIWELL (http://www.altrec.com/shop/detail/1109/BIW)

No worries, the neet's feet are harvested in a sustainable manner. :rolleyes:

04-22-2003, 01:32 PM
Originally posted by Venchka:
If you do get it soft, I then recommend the green label BIWELL.
BIWELL (http://www.altrec.com/shop/detail/1109/BIW)CORRECTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

RED LABEL BIWELL for leather.

Alan D. Hyde
04-22-2003, 02:30 PM
A neat is a cow.

Hence "cow's foot oil." (That's where it comes from.)

Too much will tend to darken, soften, and perhaps weaken leather...

"Blue Ribbon" was once a common brand. Not sure if it's still around, though.


04-22-2003, 02:57 PM
You may find neatsfoot oil in a hardware store also. Good stuff! A cow is a neat animal because it chews the cud, so they told me at Colonial Williamsburg.

Ed Burnett
04-23-2003, 02:51 AM
Ahhh, so it's a sort of nail varnish for cows then?

04-23-2003, 02:56 AM
Neatsfoot oil it is then.....I checked my local ag store and they have it in big bottles, good for horse gear and general leather care !! Thanks all.
Peter Sibley

04-23-2003, 09:40 AM
NO NO NO NO. Not Neatsfoot oil. See Alan's comment above. Oh, okay us it on leather you don't give a long range hoot about. A leather conservator in a museum would throw you out just for mentioning the produce. Lexol (see above) is not oily, non acidic, and could, when I was in the business, be used on exhibit materials.

Ed Burnett
04-23-2003, 10:56 AM
Wow, sorry Norm. What's wrong with the Neatsfoot oil? In softening the leather does it break it down as well?

Looking at the Lexol website one gets the impression that one of their products (Lexol NF) is Neatsfoot oil that has been processed or added to in some way to make it less greasy etc. Sounds good to me.

I guess it comes down to what the leather is for and how long you expect it to last anyway. Where I have used Neatsfoot in the past has been on oar leathers and gaff saddles etc. where there is a lot of wear and a bit of greasy residue is not a problem. The Neatsfoot helps with working what is often pretty heavy leather in the first place and seems to form a good basis for subsequent applications of tallow.

Garrett Lowell
04-23-2003, 12:45 PM
Soak them in boiling olive oil for about 20 minutes.

04-23-2003, 01:15 PM
And serve with a nice Chianti and a fresh salad. :D

04-24-2003, 11:29 AM
The Inuit (Eskimo) women chew various hides to make them soft. Ask your wife/lady friend to chew it for you.

Barrett Faneuf
04-24-2003, 11:31 AM
*Vetos Bayboat's suggestion*

04-24-2003, 11:35 AM
Originally posted by Bayboat:
The Inuit (Eskimo) women chew various hides to make them soft. Ask your wife/lady friend to chew it for you."Right on!", he said hiding under the bed.

"I wear the pants in this family when SWMBO says I can!"


04-25-2003, 07:05 PM
Hey, Barrett, a veto without even trying it?
Or did you?