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Caring for oily leather


To all those who own a pair of oily leather shoes, please read the following, we will explain how to take good care of them. Beforehand, we will see what distinguishes greasy leather from smooth or patent leather, and we will of course tell you a few words about the equipment necessary to carry out its cleaning and nourishment.

The very first care of greasy leather is very important for the softening of the shoes, and therefore allows a faster comfort in the days following the day of purchase. It is necessary to apply mink or bull’s foot type oil before wearing them and let them dry for one day. This will rehydrate the tanned leather several months before you buy your new pair of shoes.

Recognize oily leather

Knowing how to recognize greasy leather, or distinguish it from other qualities of leather, such as smooth, grained, patent, or Cordovan, is sometimes not a simple matter depending on the models and manufacturers.

In the majority of cases, oily leather is revealed above all by a soft and supple touch, slightly oily under the finger, not very shiny or even matt, sometimes irregular in color. The comfort of the first fitting is sometimes more pleasant than that of smooth leather.

Example of oily leather

Here above is a greasy leather recognizable by its greasy and soft touch. We can also notice an irregularity in its shade.

Example of smooth leather

Then above a smooth leather which distinguishes itself by its shine, its smooth and dry touch. You can appreciate its regularity of shade.

Concrete example

Beforehand, the greasy leather after tanning is treated at the manufacturer’s by oils giving it a greasy appearance to the touch and a more or less irregular color depending on the pair, Red Wing Shoes Company calls it the Oil-Tanned Leather.

For the tanning, you may be interested in houses like Horween Leather Company, surely one of the best tanneries in the world, with the SB Foot Tanning Company, historical tanner of Red Wing shoes.

To give you a concrete example, the Classic Moc 1907 model in Copper Rough & Tough Leather, made from skins tanned by the SB Foot Company in the United States.

Classic Moc 1907 en Copper Rough & Tough Leather


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Hardware Required


It is necessary to get a soft brush, in horsehair, famous for its soft hair and its strong shining power.

Boot Care Cloths

Two squares of cotton fabric to apply the different products on your leather.

Leather Cleaner

A leather cleaner for accumulated stains and marks, to be applied with the first square of cotton.

All Natural Boot OIl

A mink oil, to be preferred to grease. This one penetrates better the leather, is easier to polish and to clean on the next maintenance.

Neutral Boot Cream

A natural cream, or adapted to the color of your leather, according to everyone’s preferences, for a beautiful look and perfect hydration.

Leather Protector

And finally, if you wish, a waterproofing agent to protect your oily leather shoes from stains and rain.


Practical information

1-Brushing (Horsehair brush)

Before applying any products on your oily leather, you must remove your laces, then look at the level of dust deposited, brush it and not rub it with a cloth, this would mix the dust with the various stains and dirt accumulated. It is therefore necessary to brush gently to remove this fine layer.

2-Cleaning (Leather Cleaner)

Next, here is the most important step: you need to bring your first cotton square, a bowl of water and your leather cleaner.

This step is crucial for a good penetration of the moisturizing products applied afterwards. Apply leather cleaner to the entire surface of the shoe with a cloth, then lightly soak your cloth in water to remove excess product and the last traces.

3-Hydratation (Boot Oil)

Once well cleaned, let your pair of shoes dry for a few minutes, then spread your oil with the second cloth so as to cover the entire surface of the shoe.

The product must be applied on the cloth and not directly on the leather (you risk to run it everywhere, and to make halos if your leather is of light color), then spread it on the shoe with a soft and regular gesture.

The application of the oil will darken your leather slightly, which will keep it moisturized. By drying over several months, your leather will lighten, resulting in a dry look. This will give you a good indicator to nourish your leather again.


4-Aspect (Cream Boot)

For a nice look, you should let your shoes rest for a day after applying the oil so that it penetrates the leather properly. Brush off the excess with a gentle gesture, which will polish the leather and give it a lively look.

Then apply the cream just as you applied the oil. A neutral cream will leave the impacts and wear of the color slightly more visible than a cream adapted to the color of your leather, it’s up to you to see the rendering you desire.


5-Waterproofing (Protection against stains, rain)

The waterproofing is done with a spray that you spread with a cloth, again with soft and regular gestures.

Before applying the spray, it is preferable to wait an hour or two after applying the cream so that it has time to penetrate the leather. Once the spray is applied, you brush it off the next day for a perfect shine.


What frequency?

The frequency of maintenance will depend on your activities and environment. We recommend daily brushing and nourishment every two to three months to keep your shoes hydrated over the long term. These care tips are adaptable to other brands working with oily leather, just as the care products highlighted in this article are adaptable to brands other than Red Wing. The important thing is the type of leather, i.e. oily leather.

by Thomas Laot