Neatsfoot oil

Neatsfoot oil
Neatsfoot oil

Neatsfoot oil is a yellow oil rendered and purified from the shin bones and feet (but not the hooves) of cattle. "Neat" in the oil's name comes from an old name for cattle. Today, many[who?] consider the best quality neatsfoot oil to be that which comes from the legs of calves, with no other oils added. Neatsfoot oil is used as a conditioning, softening and preservative agent for leather. In the 18th century, it was also used medicinally as a topical application for dry scaly skin conditions.

"Prime neatsfoot oil" or "neatsfoot oil compound" are terms used for a blend of pure neatsfoot oil and non-animal oils, generally mineral or other petroleum-based oils.



Fat from warm-blooded animals normally has a high melting point, becoming hard when cool – but neatsfoot oil remains liquid at room temperature. This is because the relatively slender legs and feet of animals such as cattle are adapted to tolerate and maintain much lower temperatures than those of the body core, using countercurrent heat exchange in the legs between warm arterial and cooler venous blood – other body fat would become stiff at these temperatures. This characteristic of neatsfoot oil allows it to soak easily into leather.

Modern neatsfoot oil is sometimes made from lard.[1] It is sold as neatsfoot oil in pure form. If mineral oil or other petroleum-based material is added, the product may be called "neatsfoot oil compound". Some brands have also been shown to be adulterated with rapeseed oil, soya oil, and other oils.[2] The addition of mineral oils may lead to more rapid decay of non-synthetic stitching or speed breakdown of the leather itself.[3][4]


Neatsfoot oil is used on a number of leather products, although it has been replaced by synthetic products for certain applications. Items such as baseball gloves, saddles, horse harnesses and other horse tack can be softened and conditioned with neatsfoot oil.

If used on important historical objects, neatsfoot oil (like other leather dressings) can oxidize with time and actually contribute to embrittling.[5] It also may leave an oily residue that can attract dust. On newer leather, it may cause darkening (even after a single application), and thus may not be a desirable product to use when the maintenance of a lighter shade is desired. Neatsfoot oil is more useful for routine use on working equipment.

Neatsfoot oil is often used to oil sign-writers' brushes (pencils) that have been used in oil based paint as this oil is non drying and can be easily washed out with solvent at any time. By oiling the brushes it reduces the build up of pigment in the ferrule, the metal part that many brushes have to hold the hairs in place.

See also


  1. ^ Fredericks, M. Progress in Leather Conservation (Conference Review) University of Texas, Austin, March 1997.
  2. ^ McCrady, E. (1985) Leather Conservation News 2(1) 7, reprinted from Abbey Newsletter, October 1984
  3. ^ "Tack Repair and Maintenance" Accessed August 1, 2009
  4. ^ "Recommended Leather Care," accessed August 1, 2009
  5. ^ Canadian Conservation Institute, Note 8/2: Care of Alum, Vegetable and Mineral Tanned Leather

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mink oil — is made from mink fat and originates from China. The fat that is made into this oil is stored just beneath the skin. Removed from pelts destined for the fur industry, the fat is rendered into mink oil. Mink oil is a source of palmitoleic acid,… …   Wikipedia

  • Dippel's oil — (sometimes known as Bone Oil) is a nitrogenous by product of the destructive distillation manufacture of bone char [1]. This liquid is dark colored and highly viscous with an unpleasant smell. The oil contains the organic base pyrrole. It is… …   Wikipedia

  • Bone oil — may refer to: *Neatsfoot oil, a yellow oil used as a conditioning, softening and preservative for leather *Dippel s oil, a nitrogenous by product of the dry distillation manufacture of bone char …   Wikipedia

  • neat's-foot oil — [nēts′foot΄] n. a light yellow oil obtained by boiling the feet and shinbones of cattle, used mainly as a dressing for leather: also neatsfoot oil …   English World dictionary

  • Leather — For other uses, see Leather (disambiguation). Modern leather working tools Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different… …   Wikipedia

  • Saddle soap — is a preparatory compound containing mild soap and softening ingredients such as neatsfoot oil, glycerin, and lanolin. It is used for cleaning, conditioning and softening leather, particularly that of saddles and other horse tack, hence its… …   Wikipedia

  • Cattle — Cow redirects here. For other uses, see Cow (disambiguation). For other uses, see Cattle (disambiguation). Cattle …   Wikipedia

  • Saddle — A saddle is a supportive structure for a rider or other load, fastened to an animal s back by a girth. The most common type is the equestrian saddle designed for a horse, but specialized saddles have been created for camels and other creatures.… …   Wikipedia

  • Force-fire — The force fire (Scottish Gaelic: teine éiginn, which also translates to Need fire), or a fire produced by friction, was used in folk magic practice in the Scottish Highlands up until the 19th century. Believers considered it an antidote against… …   Wikipedia

  • British Museum leather dressing — NOTOC NOEDITSECTION British Museum Leather Dressing has been used by many conservators since its publication. [(Plenderleith, 1946)] [cite book title=The conservation of antiquities and works of art last=Plenderleith |first=H. coauthors=A. Werner …   Wikipedia