When it comes to leather polish, there’s nothing as renowned as neatsfoot oil. It’s one of the most recognized and praised oil products in the industry. You can use it to soften leathers, waterproof items, lubricate fibers, and even add suppleness to textiles. Saddle and boot makers simply love it! If this is your line of work, you’ve probably already heard of it. You probably also know where it comes from and that there are quite a few different types of neatsfoot oil.
How is Neatsfoot Oil Made
Neatsfoot oil is the thick yellowish oil that is extracted from the bones of cattle. That’s probably how it got its name. Don’t worry; it has nothing to do with feet. It’s the first part that I’m talking about. The word “neat” is actually an old word for cattle. You won’t find people calling cattle “neat” nowadays but the word still lives on with neatsfoot oil. Its consistency is similar to that of mink oil, which a lot of us have probably used at one point or another. So when you’re out there buying your neatsfoot oil, remember: it’s yellowish and feels like mink oil.
Traditionally, neatsfoot oil was used to treat dry skin. Nowadays, it’s more commonly used in the leather industry. You most likely won’t find a better conditioner for your leather products. But before you go buy some neatsfoot oil and use it on your precious leather items, there are a few precautions you should know about. But we’ll get to those in a bit. Another thing you should know is that leather isn’t the only thing that can benefit from neatsfoot oil. You skin can, too! Let’s first find out exactly what this oil can do for you and where this high-quality oil comes from.
Properties and Health Benefits of Neatsfoot Oil
It’s important to know why and how neatsfoot oil does what it does. First of all, neatsfoot oil is a powerful emollient. Emollients are substances that have a soothing or softening effect on skin. They’re also great for nourishment and hydration. In other words, neatsfoot oil can act as a moisturizer for your skin. Now, let’s stop and think for a moment. You’re probably under the impression that moisturizers are things that add moisture to your skin, right? Here’s a question for you: how can neatsfoot “oil” add water to your skin? I thought water and oil were opposites. Well, you’re partially correct.
Most moisturizers work by adding water to your skin, but not all of them. Not neatsfoot oil. Neatsfoot oil specializes in hydrating your skin by keeping all of its moisture in instead of adding it externally. Think of it this way, isn’t it smarter to make sure your skin stays healthy rather than patch it up when it becomes dehydrated? That’s how neatsfoot oil works.
Neatsfoot Oil and Dry Skin
Neatsfoot oil has been used for quite a long time in treating dry skin, way before people even knew of its emollient properties. Through trial and error, neatsfoot oil became a cornerstone in healing all kinds of skin problems, along with other animal-based products. Today, animal-based products have lost popularity but neatsfoot oil remains on top of the market. Just make sure when choosing your brand of neatsfoot oil that it’s of high-quality and free from harmful additives and your skin problems will be gone in no time.
Neatsfoot is an excellent insulator. It protects your hands, feet, and arms from all the heat or cold of the surrounding environment. You might not know it but deep down, on the cellular level, your skin hates winter months. The extreme cold weather makes it numb, dry, and very dehydrated. This is because the cold weather causes your blood vessels to get narrower, reducing the blood flowing to your skin. Less blood equals less nutrients and oxygen.
Great for Dry Skin
This means your skin becomes malnourished. It also becomes liable to diseases and deterioration due to the decreased blood supply. Luckily, neatsfoot oil is a powerful insulator that keeps out all the cold weather. Your blood vessels won’t sense the coldness which means they’ll stay dilated, providing your skin with the blood supply and nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Neatsfoot oil protects your outer skin layer, the epidermis, from direct contact with cold air. Even in sub-zero temperatures, neatsfoot oil can knock off a few degrees, helping you avoid that feeling of numbness.
Great for the Elderly
Neatsfoot oil is especially useful for older people because the older you get, the thinner your skin’s fat layers become. This is why older people are much more sensitive to cold temperatures. By applying neatsfoot oil to their skin, they’re basically adding an extra layer of protective fat that can keep out the cold. There’s been a lot of research on lard that has proven that it can increase your body’s thermogenesis, which is the generation of heat. That means it not only keeps the cold out, but it also encourages your body to heat itself up from within. With those two mechanisms, there’s practically no way you’ll still feel cold after using neatsfoot oil.
How to Use Neatsfoot Oil for your Leather Products
Neatsfoot oil is meant to be used in liquid form but quite often, it tends to solidify. If that happens, take a small amount and warm it up a bit first before using the oil. Next, you should clean you leather product and then massage the neatsfoot oil into it. You’ll see the leather’s become a bit darker but don’t worry, give it some time for the oil to be absorbed and the leather will go back to normal. This is because neatsfoot oil takes time to penetrate into the micro-spaces in the leather. But once it’s there, it’ll give your jacket, saddle, boots, shoes, coat, or belt the shiny, rejuvenated appearance you’re looking for.
How to Use Neatsfoot Oil for Wood Polish
It’s true. Neatsfoot oil can be used to polish furniture, desks, and all kinds of wooden objects. Here’s a pretty simple recipe: mix some neatsfoot oil with some turpentine oil in a ratio of 1:1 and then apply them to your wooden items for a conditioned, shiny, lustrous appearance.
Neatsfoot Oil for Oil Painting
If you’re someone who loves oil painting, then you’ll definitely love neatsfoot oil. It’s perfect for cleaning the metallic part of brushes where paint gets stuck during the painting process. All it takes is a small amount of neatsfoot oil to dissolve the paint away, so that you’re left with a fresh, clean brush that’s ready for your next painting.
Where Does Neatsfoot Oil Come From?
It’s true that neatsfoot oil got its name because it was first extracted from the bones of cattle, but did you think that would go on for long? Of course not. Manufacturers needed a much more reliable and animal-friendly source so that they could make their neatsfoot oil in large quantities and quickly. It had to be a quick source because of the increasingly popular demand for the oil. Manufacturers soon turned to lard. It might not have been too animal-friendly but it was definitely a much cheaper and much easier starting material for making neatsfoot oil. Of course, this shift from cattle bones to lard didn’t happen abruptly. It took time. Today, some neatsfoot oil is still made from cattle bones but it’s a very small amount and different authorities make sure it stays that way and doesn’t exceed a certain limit.
How Many Different Types of Neatsfoot Oil are There?
Prime Neatsfoot Oil
There are quite a few varieties when it comes to neatsfoot oil. However, you’ll most likely encounter two types: Prime neatsfoot oil and pure neatsfoot oil. The first one, prime neatsfoot oil, contains a lot of additives, most of which are petroleum-based products. This makes it potentially harmful to some types of leathers. It’s not guaranteed to harm all kinds of leathers but why take the chance? Leather is expensive, isn’t it?
Pure Neatsfoot Oil
The second type, pure neatsfoot oil, is much less harmful. As you’ve probably already guessed, this type is much more pure and contains fewer additives. It’s usually made from lard and is quite similar to the original neatsfoot oil. In short, you’re better off going for pure neatsfoot oil rather than risking it with prime neatsfoot oil.
Neatsfoot Oil is Easily Adulterated
One thing you should know is that neatsfoot oil can be easily adulterated with different types of vegetable oils. It’s also hard for you to find out if it is. If that happens, you might have a hard time polishing your leathers because its efficacy decreases when other oils are added to it. And let’s not forget that it’s a waste of money buying adulterated products. That’s why when you go out and buy neatsfoot oil, you’re better off choosing a decent, reputable brand.
They’ll be less likely to add vegetable oils to their product. There might also be other ingredients in neatsfoot oil like lanolin and glycerin. These aren’t really adulterants but you’ll find them in petroleum-based neatsfoot oils and most animal-based products. There’s no need to worry too much about the brand because neatsfoot oil is very effective so regardless of what type you choose, it’ll definitely make your life much easier. Try it out and you’ll see for yourself.