How to Make High Grade Natural Beeswax Leather Polish and Conditioner


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I'm the kind of person who's mind doesn't stop. Literally, I take medication to fix that just so ...

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.

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Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Tools:
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)

Supplies;
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.

**Optional**
Pure Ammonia or Alcohol - liquid; Cleans and degreases the surface before polishing. As I mentioned before, the old recipes called for human urine.

Step 2: Prepping Your Equipment

The setup is extremely simple. The small pie tin is flattened, and holes are punched in it to allow bubbles to pass through. It's a very important step because allowing the pyrex cup to sit on the bottom of the pot could cause the preparation to burn. Next fill the pot so that the water just covers the pie tin  by 1/4 of an inch. Finally the Pyrex cup is sat on top of the pie tin.

Step 3: Adding Ingredients

Ratios;
Ingredients are broken down into three categories; solid, semi-solid and liquid and the ratio of each depends on the consistency of polish you are trying to create. A safe mixture ratio would be 2-1/2-1/2 liquid to solid and semi-solid respectively, however you can change it up depending on your application. If you wanted a softer polish, you can increase 3-1/2-1/2 or even as much as 4-1/2-1/2, however I wouldn't go much softer than that. If you reduced to 1-1/2-1/2 you would be making something the consistency of lip balm. More beeswax/butter means firmer mixture while more oil means softer. The choice is yours.

Ammonia/Alcohol;
When using your polish on older items, grease and dirt can embed themselves in your project. That means cleaning before you apply, however, it's difficult to get everything out. For this, we add a grease cutter to the mix to ensure that the polish soaks in evenly allowing for max protection.  It doesn't take much to do the job. In fact, only a few drops will do the trick as it really doesn't blend well with the mixture. I've tried it with more and found there is no benefit so 4-5 drops per cup should be enough.
Caveat; if you intend on making lip balm, leave out the ammonia.

First Step;
Add the beeswax and coconut butter. If you need a measurement to start with you can use 1/8 cup of beeswax and 1/8 cup of coconut butter. Allow them to melt completely and add your  ammonia, if you choose to include it.

Next;
Keep stirring then slowly add your almond oil (1/4 cup). It will cool the mix causing lumps so add it slowly allowing the mixture to re-melt. When it's fully blended, you can start adding the castor oil (1/4 cup). It's quite a bit thicker, so you'll need to stir it good to blend it in. 

Keep heating the mixture for 4-5 minutes making sure that it never boils. If you see steam rising from your mixture, reduce the heat and keep mixing. Don't worry about water steam covering the outside of the pyrex cup. It shouldn't interfere with your concoction. You can wipe it off and keep going.

Step 4: Pouring Your Mixture

Get your tins ready by removing the lids and lining them up. You can pour your mixture directly into them from your pyrex cup, filling them to 1/8" below the lip. If you can't find small tins, old altoid, mint, candy tins will do just fine, or you can purchase small plastic cups with lids from the dollar store.

Step 5: Let It Cool

That's it. All that's left is to let the mixture cool down. The ammonia will leave small bubbles in the mixture and won't mix completely, but that's alright. They'll stay suspended inside as sort of, 'micro beads' that will degrease your items as it conditions and protects.

As I mentioned before, this preparation will work on a huge variety of materials, is very long lasting, and is the basis for things like lip balm, oiled canvas, waxed leather etc. All you need to do is change up the ratios of ingredients. Experiment with them and never spend a cent on commercial chemicals that are designed to wear off quickly, forcing you to re-apply often and spend more money.

Thank you for following me and I hope you enjoyed the instructable.

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128 Discussions

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JeffS38

Question 4 months ago

I like the sound of this recipe for leather. I just recently bought some pure neatsfoot oil to oil some leather grips, bags etc that I'm making for our motorcycle. I then read about some recipes that uses a mix of neatsfoot oil and beeswax to finish leather. Have you used neatsfoot oil in this recipe before and if so what are your thoughts about using it?
Thank you....

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antagonizerJeffS38

Reply 4 months ago

No I haven't. I've replaced the coconut with shea butter tho. It's a pretty good upgrade to the recipe.

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Harosheth

1 year ago

Can coconut oil and extra wax subsitite for the coconut butter? Because I'm allergic to coconut meat, which is in the butter( Just to be safe). Also, do you know of a substitute for the almond oil?

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LinkiLHarosheth

Reply 4 months ago

I made this with coconut oil in stead of coconut butter and used olive oil in stead of almond oil. Worked perfectly. I added a tiny bit more beeswax, because I like it to be more stiff and balm-like. I did 1/8 cup (plus maybe an extra tablespoon) of beeswax, 1/8 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup castor oil.... I made it a previous time without castor oil (castor was replaced with more olive) and I think I maybe like that more. The castor makes it a bit more sticky to work with and the result is more shiny. I prefer the leather a bit more matte.

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Bee bikerHarosheth

Reply 8 months ago

I would also like to know if coconut oil can be substituted for coconut butter with extra beeswax as I am not able to find the coconut butter localy.

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MarcR98

9 months ago

Antagonizer, you mentioned you make your own proprietary formula. How can I purchase some to rejuvenate my leather sofa? marcareich@gmail.com.
Thanks,
Marc

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iwoodirisannwood

Question 11 months ago

@antagonizer Hiya, I'm looking to sub-out castor oil for coconut oil as the shiny effect of castor oil is a little more on the intense side of the effect I'm after - in this case, would you consider coconut oil a semi-solid or liquid?? I was thinking semi-solid because it is soft at room temperature but it's still considered an oil? Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for the awesome tutorial :)
- Iris

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antagonizeriwoodirisannwood

Reply 10 months ago

It should work just fine. Castor oil is very thick, much like the coconut oil at room temp, so a 1to1 replacement of ingredients would be good. You can also use shea butter in the mix, tho you'd have to add oil to compensate for the density of it. It's a great conditioner, just make sure it's well melted otherwise it'll be gritty in the mix.

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iwoodirisannwoodantagonizer

Reply 10 months ago

Thanks so much for getting back to me, just have my first prototype batch cooling now. This will make a lovely Christmas present for almost anyone. Cheers!

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Klpena

1 year ago

I appreciate the effort you put into this instructable. I will make this to use on car leather seats. Thanks.

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migrance

Question 1 year ago

Hello! very nice! Great recipe! Help me please, where you bye yours aluminium jars? I beg you, say me please! thank you in advance!

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Klpenamigrance

Answer 1 year ago

I have seen aluminum tins in Michael's and Hobby Lobby. You could also do a Google search for mail order sources.

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ian_gillingham

1 year ago

This is perfect! Just what I've been looking for. Commercial off-the-shelf products have never seemed any good to me. I recently bought some Chatham deck shoes, which surprisingly leak like a sieve in wet weather. This afternoon, I followed your recipe, but as I didn't have almond oil, I substituted rape seed oil. I have now seasoned my shoes and squeezed plenty into the welt, to try and plug the hand-stitched seams. Rightly or wrongly, I finished off by using a hair dryer to remelt the polish and let it soak deep into the leather. I love the end result, the leather has a luscious feel to it. My hands are now silky soft and smelling of honey (which partly grates with my manhood ;) - I tried to wash it off with detergent, but it didn't touch it!! Ended up using a hot dishcloth. Thanks for sharing this brilliant recipe :)

Ian

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antagonizerian_gillingham

Reply 1 year ago

I'm glad it worked for you. If you look at the labels on commercial polishes, they're filled with chemicals that, though they may condition better in the short term, can break down leather over the long term, or make it impossible to strip next time you need to do a major cleaning. And ya...I'm hooked on the smell too. Mix it a bit thicker and you get a good lip balm. lol

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JosephS308

2 years ago

Can you give us an idea of how much yield each batch will produce?

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jjarrett1999JosephS308

Reply 2 years ago

I did 1/8 cup each wax and butter, then 1/4 cup each almond and caster oil. Made 3/4 cup.

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simpleshoemaking

2 years ago

i read somewhere that you could give a "funky" look to suede by rubbing leather protector into it--i made these vellies (aka chukka or desert boots) from a light-grey colored suede which i regretted because i just didn't like the color. so i spread some fiebings aussie leather conditioner on them (and added a strip of bicycle inner tube for a lace so i didn't have to tie and untie) and i ended up with a light-dark mottled surface that i love... i will be following your recipe and spreading it on some suede, expect that it will be more natural and less expensive - thank you for this instructable!

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RachelleJ3

2 years ago

Will this wax work on distressed buffalo

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Marius Parvu

2 years ago

Hello. I was looking for a good DIY leather sealer since acrylic resolene sucks and nobody can recommend a better product. I used 50 ml of almond oil, 50 ml of castor oil, approx 50 mg of coconut butter and 50 mg of beeswax. I am very satisfied with this product after trying it out. It makes the leather barely permeable and it gives it a nice sheen. It's just like applying KIWI shoe polish but I believe the beeswax will hang around for a longer period of time and the oils are a great treat for the leather. Thanks for this great solution. Unfortunately I can't post a picture of what I've got .. for some unknown reason.