Years ago, when I started working with leather I would often use the commercially available polishes on the store shelves, or the proprietary blends found at the leather craft stores. They ended up being pretty costly, but more so, they didn't last very long and contained chemicals that seemed counter intuitive to traditional craft. So I set out to create my own.

My first attempt was simply a mix of paraffin wax, harvested from candles and heavy grade mineral oil. It worked, but again, I was still using chems on my work. So the formula evolved from there. As usual, I had to research. A trip to the library proved very informative. I started by looking at recipes that were nearly 1000 years old, and although they didn't really mention ratios, they did talk about ingredients in detail. (interestingly, human urine featured heavily in most). So, I eventually made a trip to a local bee keeper and picked up some natural beeswax and started experimenting with that.

I wanted my polish to do five things:
1 - It had to soften the leather; Dying can end up removing the natural oils in the leather so I needed a way to put them back.
2 - It had to Condition; Leather should have a supple feel when you handle it and though it may not be stiff, it shouldn't end up feeling course either.
3 - It had to protect; I mean long term protection that kept the oils inside, preventing the leather from drying and cracking, and also keep outside elements like salt and dirt from saturating.
4 - It had to shine and bring out the natural luster of the leather.
5 - It has to degrease; old leather can be pretty dirty.

Now, I have my own proprietary formula that I sell, and I'm not about to give that one up, however I wanted to offer some insight into mixing your own, personalized blend of ingredients for a polish that will enhance your work.

Here's a caveat; This polish works on A LOT of different materials, and not just leather. I use it on wood, pleather, canvas (for oiled canvas) even metals, but does not play well with suede. If you're not sure if it will work, I recommend trying a tiny bit on a hidden area before using it on the whole piece.

In the first image, you can see a before and after using the polish. I generally use pieces of old cotton hoodies for buffing rags, and tho they may leave a bit of lint behind, they polish extremely well. Another interesting factoid; in a different form, this polish can be used as lip balm. It's all about switching up the ratios which I'll talk about later.

Step 1: Tools And Supplies

Measuring spoons
Tins for your polish (I'm not a fan of plastic bottles but you can use them)
Pyrex measuring cup
Small pot
Small aluminum pie plate
Wooden spoon
Bamboo skewers (optional)

Beeswax - solid; Protection for leather. Creates a barrier for environmental influences
Coconut butter - semi solid; Conditions the leather surface.
Sweet Almond oil - liquid; Softens the leather internally and replaces the natural oils lost through dying
Castor oil - liquid; Heavier oil that provides the 'shine'. Can be replaced with mineral oil if necessary.

Pure Ammonia or Alcohol - liquid; Cleans and degreases the surface before polishing. As I mentioned before, the old recipes called for human urine.
<p>Awesome, love this instructable! Has saved much of my leather that was dying from lack of nourishment. Thank you for sharing. </p><p>Could you make a suggestion for replace the coconut butter please? Just in case I get pulled up at an event (living history). </p>
Hello I recently was given a leather purse. I love it however it has an odd sour beeswax sort of funky smell to it. how do I remove or lesson that odd smell? <br>I normally like beeswax but this one is not right.
<p>Sounds like something 'homebrew' was used on it since beeswax doesn't have a shelf life or go bad. Getting smells out of leather is a task and a half since they absorb and retain everything. Vinegar and water spray is the easy answer. Just mist on, then wipe off, let dry and re-coat with a true beeswax polish. Potentially a 1:1 mix with a higher ratio of wax; 1tbsp beeswax, 1tbsp shea butter, 1tbsp castor oil, 1tbsp almond oil (or you can replace the oils with mineral oil as a neutral scent). Just remember to test it on an inconspicuous place first.</p>
<p>try adding vit E to the mixture of oils as it help things not to go rancid </p>
Thanx it will try it .. What's the ratio of vinegar and water.
<p>1:1 and only use white vinegar or you could stain your purse.</p>
Fantastic stuff. Made with grapeseed oil and Shea butter (nut allergies) and it works great. A note on the buffing: unless I'm doing it wrong, you're not going to get a gloss like store-bought, but i found the traditional spit-shine method with an old sock did a great job with little effort in bringing out a shine. Used the standard 2:.5:.5 liquid:solid:semisolid ratio, but next time I may go 2:1:.5 in an attempt to increase the shine.
<p>No, this should give you a satin to semi finish depending on how much castor oil you use. If you want a high gloss, make your mixture closer to 1:1 solids to liquids. It'll be stiffer, and you'll need heat to work it, but you should end up with a brilliant finish.</p>
<p>So I should try to make the oils-to-butter+wax ratio roughly 1-to-1? Thanks! I will have to try that, although I'm REALLY happy with how well this has worked on every leather item I have!<br>You said you can use this on wood: do you mean like a paste wax finish? Or for other purposes? And what ratios do you recommend?</p>
Didn't put the pic in my previous comment.
<p>I'm very interested in making my own as I have yet to find a good polish/finish I like. Any suggestions as to what Coconut product to use? Would using the coconut oil ruin dyed projects? I have easy access to the coconut oil in the image below but no butter anywhere nearby. Thanks for the Tutorial!</p>
<p>Coconut oil/butter are essentially the same thing. The brand I use calls it butter, but I suppose the majority refer to it as oil. You should always test your polish on a small non-visible section of whatever you plan to polish first. There are some heavily processed leathers out there that just won't accept any polish and rely on synthetic sprays.</p>
<p>Thank you for this information!</p><p>I do want to point out something regarding this question though.</p><p>Actually, coconut oil and coconut better are very different products, used in different ways. <br><br>Coconut /oil/ is the extracted oil from coconut meat. It may or may not be refined. If it is refined it will not smell/taste like coconut. If it isn't, it will have a slight scent/flavor. It's rather doubtful you could make it yourself at home. While you can use it IN cooking, like in place of butter or other oils, you can also cook with it just like you would use olive oil or any other oil. It looks solid below about 75* but will start to liquify in a warmer room. You probably wouldn't eat it right out of the jar.<br><br>Coconut /butter/ is the meat of the coconut, just really, really blended. It is /not/ interchangeable with coconut oil. It is more akin to a natural peanut butter in texture and because it is actually the coconut meat, it is used in recipes the same way as a nut butter might be. You could eat it right out of the jar. Or use it on toast and such if you really like the flavor of coconut, which it will always have, because that's what it is.<br><br>It will NOT liquify on it's own at warmer temps, though it may separate with the coconut oil rising to the top the way peanut butter does, in which case you'd have to mix it up to use it just like you would with a natural peanut butter. You would /not/ be able to cook with it as a cooking oil at it has solid particulates of coconut flesh and would just create a burnt mess.<br></p><p>Hope this saves someone from making a hot mess of their shoes. :-)</p>
<p>Thank you, I'll play with a few different types to see what works best for me. Have you tried using directly over a dyed veg tan project with no other sealers? That's mostly the type of work I do with leather so that would be my application of it.</p>
This was VERY helpful! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!
<p>Hi there! You mentioned that you make and sell your leather polish and conditioner. How would I go about buying it?</p>
<p>I have been experimenting with different ratios and combinations of all the ingredients but none of my formulas will buff to a shine. It always ends up being very dull. What am I missing? less beeswax? the coconut butter I am using is liquid at room temperature. Would a higher melting temp butter help? I am at a loss.</p>
<p>I'm guessing you're looking for a gloss finish rather than just a conditioning matte polish. Try this; 1tbsp beeswax, 1tbsp shea butter, 1tbsp castor oil, 1tbsp almond oil. Basically, you're mixing 1:1 solid to liquid which will result in a stiffer polish, but one that will buff to a high gloss. If it's too stiff, you can re-melt and add an extra 1/2 tbsp of castor oil, but the consistency should end up being slightly stiffer than refrigerated butter. In other words, difficult to move, but not so stiff it's a solid block. Hope that helps.</p>
I tried that recipe last night and it does make a stiffer polish but when I buff it with a cotton cloth it just rubs everything off the shoe rather than it hardening like traditional polish. I tried letting it dry for 10 minutes and then I let it dry for 2 hours and even got the cloth wet but it still ends up dull with no shine. I really have no idea what I am doing wrong.
<p>The new recipe I gave you shouldn't &quot;rub off&quot; due to its higher beeswax content. Are you sure you got the consistency right?</p><p>Another thing. unlike commercial polish with is essentially lacquer, beeswax polish needs elbow grease, and lots of it. Buffing, buffing and more buffing. It doesn't &quot;dry&quot; like they do, rather the oils sink in and the beeswax creates a top layer that seals. Also, if your cloth is too soft, you could be making more work for yourself. Things like terrycloth are no good for buffing. </p>
<p>Be careful using vegetable oils, they will go rancid. Also, I don't want to be critical, but many of your statements on oils are inaccurate. Mineral oil is actually great in that it won't go rancid.</p>
<p>Actually; </p><p>1 - Almonds and castor beans are both legumes not vegetables while coconut is all three catagories.</p><p>2 - shelf life of almond oil is 9-12 months</p><p>3 - shelf life of castor oil is 12+ months</p><p>4 - shelf life of coconut butter/oil is 12+ months</p><p>5 - shelf life of beeswax...indefinite</p><p>6 - mineral oil is a petroleum distillate and is suspected of being carcinogenic. Either way, it's not very natural.</p><p>7 - it's not being eaten. It's polish, however if you wanted to eat it, it'll last over a year unrefrigerated.</p><p>Hope that clears it up for you.</p>
<p>Going rancid doesn't just effect if its being eaten. Its one of the first signs of a natural product rotting and can smell bad. I'm sure you been playing with leather a lot longer than me but I'm not gonna rub anything that stinks and is rotting on my leather. Then again before I learned any better the ranch hands taught me to use olive oil to bring leather back from being dried out and they used it on everything. On heavily used items where it wears out fast I still use it.</p>
<p>Olive oil works great to condition leather, tho I wouldn't use it in heavy amounts. However without the beeswax sealant, you'll find you're re-applying more often than you should. Honestly, I'd stay away from oils that are extracted from fruit and vegetables and only work with legume oils.</p>
<p>What is your opinion on Neatsfoot oil? I've had some pretty good results with it, but leatherwork is not my main hobby, so my experience is limited and probably not as extensive as yours. I'd be interested to know what you think.</p>
<p>I don't personally use it. I find neatsfoot hardens leather and prevents other conditioners from sinking in. Some guys swear by it tho. I met a traditional artist in Inuvik that liked to use bear grease, but again, I prefer plant based oils.</p>
<p>Oxidation is what makes the oils go rancid. In a liquid state, oxygen can easily diffuse through the oil and cause a whole bottle to go rancid. However, beeswax is almost as good at stopping the penetration of oxygen as the plastic containers that cheese and cold-cuts come in at the supermarket. The other ingredients mixed into the beeswax will probably compromise this somewhat, but still, I'm pretty sure you'll find that this prevents oxidation (i.e., rancidification) of the oils mixed into the beeswax, provided they are well mixed.</p><p>If you don't use your polish for very long time perhaps you'll eventually get a thin rancid layer on the top (which is exposed to oxygen), but I suspect you could wipe that away and carry on. And if you're using the polish so infrequently then it probably isn't worth your time to make it yourself in the first place....</p><p>Mind you, I am speculating a bit here -- I have not performed a real-life verification test or anything. But in my day job I do a lot of chemistry and physics and I think I'm on pretty solid footing here.</p>
<p>Hi Antagonizer, Your tutorial is very informative. Thank you for uploading it. I had a few questions though.</p><p>If i were to use this mixture on cotton fabric, do i really need coconut butter or shea butter for conditioning? Similarly, you said almond oil makes leather supple by restoring natural oils. Would these work in a similar manner on natural fibers?</p>
Would this type of mixture possible work on wood? Anyone have an idea please
<p>Works great on wood, leather, pleather, vinyl, etc. Just try it on an inconspicuous piece first.</p>
Thank you!
<p>Just made this recipe following the recipe [2-1/2-1/2 liquid to solid and semi-solid] and happened to spill a little water into the final mixture. Will this batch be spoiled, or can I just apply as usual?</p><p>Also: for degreasing my leather jacket, how would I go about using alcohol (70%) to degrease and clean before applying the polish? I'm under the impression I shouldn't add it to the mixture, rather, applying alcohol to the garment directly and allow for drying before applying ...</p><p>Thoughts anyone? Much appreciated!!</p>
<p>The mixture is hydrophobic, and water won't affect it. You can mush it up, cold, a bit and any water will leech out of it. Then you can just pour it out.</p><p>Put a couple drops of alcohol in the mixture. It'll degrease as you polish and help it apply more evenly. Ammonia works good as well. Like the water it won't mix, but if you blend it well will make little beads in the finished polish.</p>
<p>I have bought small glass mason jars that are just the right size for balms and creams. They are wide mouth and you can replace the metal ring with those plastic screw on lids they sell. All available at Wal-Mart.</p>
<p>tried my first batch today. hope it turns out great. used a presto pot. i'm a pomade brewer btw so i have different waxes at my disposal. thanks for this instructable</p>
A much simpler way to set up the pans is to use a medium sized saucepan and a glass mixing bowl. You want the bottom of the bowl to touch the water in the saucepan, but not the bottom of the saucepan. Easy peasy.
<p>Hi! Question for you on your polish, and perhaps I'm not understanding the purpose of the conditioner/polish/sealant, but you mention that it doesn't work on suede. Does that include the &quot;suede&quot; side of regular veg-tan leather as well? For example, with your hat 'Ible, did you use the conditioner on the inside of the hat as well as the outer side? Meaning, did you use it on the inner suede side of the leather as well, or just on the outer smoother side? I would think you'd want to coat all sides of the leather to protect and condition it. Sorry, but as I said, perhaps I'm not understanding correctly the purpose for its application.</p>
<p>I was referring to brushed suede as in jackets and boots, but the rough suede side of veg. tan leather should be fine. Just remember a polish will darken whatever you're using it on. </p>
<p>Thanks for the response! So did you use it on the inside of the hat as <br>well? Does that protect against sweat stains, or do weird things to <br>your skin since it is right next to it?</p>
<p>No, there's nothing reactive, so unless you have an allergy you shouldn't have an issue. The oils absorb into the leather and the wax seals, preventing the salt from your sweat absorbing. </p>
<p>Could soy be used in place of the coconut? I use a skin product called Waxlene that is great for all sorts of things, though I've not tried it on leather.</p>
<p>I've never used soy, personally, but I don't see why not. When substituting all you're looking for is oils with similar density as replacements. Mess with the recipe. Make it your own and experiment.</p>
<p>How would I change the ratios for a wax for waxing canvas garments and/or leather?</p>
<p>I saw an instructable, recently that produces great waxed canvas here if you're interested; </p><p><a href="http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Brown-Bag/" rel="nofollow">http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Brown-Bag/</a></p><p>If you want to maintain the conditioning of my formula, just increase the beeswax 2-1 solid/semi-solid to liquid and you can use the technique in asergeeva's instructable. That should give you some impeccable waxed canvas.</p>
<p>sorry, confused about what exact order the ratios are in (I found that section a little unclear, maybe edit it to make the order of all the ratio mentions the same?) </p><p>Anyway, for the canvas, you mean 2:2:1 (solid:semi-solid:liquid)?</p>
<p>Thank you for your Instructable</p><p>Nice job.</p><p>Rima</p>
<p>I may be home bound soon, ( me daughters car had an electrical fire, now we sharing car.$</p><p>So I am looking for everything to make myself</p><p>Thank you</p><p>Rima</p>
<p>thanks! does this darken the leather?</p>

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Bio: I'm the kind of person who's mind doesn't stop. Literally, I take medication to fix that just so I can sleep at ... More »
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