Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oiling Leather Boots & Gloves

Last night I finally got around to doing something I had been planning to do for several months. I applied a layer of oil to my work boots and a new pair of gloves that I had not yet used. Properly caring for such items is not something that I have a good track record of doing, but I'm trying to change that. I like to buy quality products so they will last, and I realize that by not caring for them I'm making it less likely that I'll get the full benefit from them.

I had posed a question on Earthineer previously about oiling leather. Olive oil was one of the suggestions that I was given. Unfortunately, however, I had already purchased a can of Kiwi Mink Oil Shoe Polish based on the recommendation from someone at a leather shop. Since I already had the mink oil on hand I decided to go ahead and use it.

The other suggestion I was given on Earthineer was to put gloves in an oven to heat them a bit before applying the oil. The idea is that this opens the pores in the leather, which allows the oil to soak in better. I decided it was worth trying that approach, so stuck the gloves in the toaster oven for a few minutes, until they were nice and warm. I suspect that it is important not to overheat the gloves when doing this, although I'm not entirely sure what would happen if one did.

I used a rag to apply the oil. I tried to apply a thin, even coat to the surface. I spent a little extra time on the seams, making sure to get both sides. Luckily the oil causes the leather to darken so that its fairly easy to tell which sections have already been coated. I found that the gloves were more difficult to coat than the boots, due to their size and location of the seams. My hands were starting to cramp by the time I finished oiling the gloves.

Before oiling the boots I cleaned them with a damp rag. I probably should have cleaned them more thorougly, but since oiling them was on my mind I didn't want to wait for them to dry. The process for applying the oil was the same as the gloves, although was a bit easier. I tried to coat every surface, including the tongue.

After drying for 18+ hours I can't tell much difference in the gloves by looking at them. The boots, on the other hand, look much better. The oil darkened them up a bit, and they look more like they did when they were new. Of course they still have plenty of scuffs and scratches, but they do have a bit more of their original color than they did before I applied the oil.

It will be interesting to see if I'm actually able to notice the impacts of oiling the boots once I start wearing them again. My guess is that the impacts will not be obvious, but will ultimately result in extending their life, provided I remember to reapply the oil as needed. I do expect, though, to see the impacts of oiling the gloves. I've yet to have a pair of gloves last me me more than 6 months without getting holes in them. I believe this is partly caused by my using when loading wet wood and brush. I'm hoping that the oil will help the gloves stand up to the moisture. It would be nice to keep a pair of gloves long enough to get them really well broken in for a change.

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