What Kind of Oil Stretches Shoes?

Mink oil restores moisture and pliability to shoe leather.
Mink oil restores moisture and pliability to shoe leather. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Wet leather tends to shrink as it dries, altering the fit of shoes, boots and gloves. Left untreated, leather will eventually dry out and crack, rendering it useless. Mink oil is commonly used to stretch shoe leather, as it restores moisture and natural oils into the leather, particularly oiled leather. Although mink oil may darken leather and make it tougher to shine, its waterproofing and moisturizing features make it an attractive option for footwear that routinely gets wet.

What Is Mink Oil?

Most mink oil products are combinations of ingredients that moisturize and waterproof. The sebum in mink skin is closer to human sebum than any other animal, and scientists say minks are the only animals that never contract any type of skin disease. The base of mink oil is fat located directly under the coat of a mink, and it often contains silicone and other compounds. Similar to the oils humans naturally secrete, it's also widely used in skin care products and cosmetics. For leather, mink oil is perfect for re-shaping footwear and keeping your feet dry when applied to shoes and boots.

Prep and Cleaning

Brush the shoes with a horsehair brush to remove loose dirt. Wipe off any stubborn dirt or stains with a damp cloth. Pay special attention to the welt, which is the seam and joins the sole of the shoes to the upper. Use a damp old toothbrush or suede brush to remove any trapped contaminants. If the shoe has any old or cracked polish on the surface, you can remove it using a little nail polish remover and slight pressure. Do not rub too hard, as excessive force can remove leather pigment. Should this happen, you will have to polish the shoe with a matching wax prior to applying the oil.

Re-shaping Shoe Leather

Apply the mink oil onto a cotton cloth, or you can use your bare fingers. Rub the oil into the leather, using a little pressure to force the product into the pores. Repeat the process for the other shoe as the first is absorbing the oil. Without applying too much pressure, wipe off any excess mink oil with the cloth. Insert shoe trees, adjusting them until the shoes begin to gradually re-shape themselves. Let the oil soak in and dry overnight. The next day, remove the shoe tree, re-applying oil and stretching the shoes further if needed.

Drawbacks of Mink Oil

Although great for reviving shoes, mink oil is not recommended for every type of leather or shoe. Mink oil fills leather pores. Although this helps greatly with waterproofing footwear, it also makes the shoe less receptive to polishes and other cleaners. Mink oil also has the tendency to darken leather. Depending upon the shoe's color, that may not be desirable. Mink oil should never be used on suede, nubuck or microfiber, as the oil will matte the fine nap and destroy the appearance of the shoe.

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