Neatsfoot Oil


Neatsfoot oil is a well renowned oil product for leather polish. In past times, this oil was also used for treating dry skin. There are many varieties of neatsfoot oil. It is actually a thick oil which comes from the bones of cattle. That is why it is called neatsfoot oil, as neat is an old word for cattle. This name for cattle has gone obsolete, but the name survives in the oil. It is yellowish colored oil, with consistency similar to mink oil. This oil is considered one of the best conditioners for leather products. However, there are many things that one should be aware before applying anything on your precious leather items.


Neatsfoot oil today is made from lard. It is not made from cattle bones and foot. This shift of the source has come gradually. Even if it is made from bones, that proportion is usually kept low. Pure neatsfoot oil is thus mainly obtained from lard. There are many types ( varieties )of neatsfoot oil.

  • Prime neatsfoot oil – This is filled with additives from petroleum based products. This oil may be harmful for leather products.
  • Pure neatsfoot oil – This oil, although written as pure is made from lard. It resembles the original neatfoot oil.
Pig fat or lard
Pig fat or lard (Image:Shutterstock)

Neatsfoot oil may also be adulterated with any vegetable oil. So, if you are going to buy neatsfoot oil, make sure that it is from a reputable brand. If it is adulterated with other oils, it may not be so effective at polishing leather, which is its main use. Other ingredients in neatsfoot oil can be anything like lanolin, glycerine, any petroleum based products and many other kinds of animal based products.


These are therapeutic properties of neatsfoot oil which is obtained from cattle bones and feet.

  • Emollient – it moisturizes the skin and keeps it protected from dryness.
  • Insulator – Neatsfoot oil is a wonderful insulator. One can apply it on hands, feet and any other skin region that is exposed to intense heat or cold. It protects the skin from adverse temperatures.

It is one of the best leather conditioners out there, but it can also be applied topically on skin.


These are the major uses of Neatsfoot oil.

Neatsfoot oil for Leather products

Take a small amount of neatsfoot oil and warm it up slightly, especially if it has solidified. Then massage it into the leather product after it has been cleansed. This darkens the appearance of leather. After some time, the oil is absorbed into the leather. It penetrates deep into the micro-structure of leather, rejuvenating its shine and appearance. Neatsfoot oil should be applied to condition leather products, like jackets, boots, shoes, saddles, coats and belts.

Neatsfoot Oil for Wood Polish

Neatsfoot oil can also be used to polish wooden items. Add neatsfoot oil in turpentine oil in a ratio of 1:1. Apply this on wooden products as a polish. It keeps the wood conditioned and shining. One can make use of this to polish furniture, cutting board and other wooden products, even the entire deck.

Neatsfoot oil for Oil Painting

Neatsfoot oil is a wonderful oil for oil painting. It doesn’t dry quickly. It is used to clean the metal part of brushes off paint that stays there as a residue. This acts as an impurity when picking up new paint which is undesirable. Neatsfoot oil dissolves away this impurity, rendering the brush absolutely clean.

Health Benefits

The pure neatsfoot oil is a good product for skin applications.

Relieves Dry Skin

100 % pure neatsfoot oil obtained from lard ( pig fat ), or from cattle foot and bones can be applied on the skin. It takes care of dry skin, effectively moisturizing.  Animal based oils and products have been used since ancient times as healing agents [1]. Their prominence has declined in modern times, but they can still be effective in treating many skin conditions. Neatsfoot oil, which is an animal derived product is also an excellent skin emollient. But, one should make sure that the oil is of high quality, free from harmful fillers.

Protect skin from harsh winter

Our skin suffers a lot in harsh winter months. The dry air and very cold climate makes the skin dry. Extreme cold temperatures, like in the Arctic circle can make the skin extremely numb, reducing blood flow which puts the body part at risk for damage. Applying neatsfoot oil all over the skin provides an extra layer of insulation, even when one is wearing warm clothes. It protects the epidermis ( outermost skin layer ) from direct contact with extremely cold air. As a result, neatsfoot oil effectively provides a cushion of a few degrees. Our skin may be well below sub zero temperatures, but still not feel that numb.
This is especially helpful for the old, because the fat layer of insulation in their skin has thinned with aging [2]. This exposes the internal body organs to cold temperatures, which is not good for health. Applying insulating oils helps to keep the body warm in cold.
Research indicates that a diet containing lard increases thermogenesis, that is increased heat production from within the body. This helps the body fight colder climates better. [3]

Neatsfoot oil is also used for industrial applications. The most prominent one is use as cutting fluid in aluminium machining. Neatsfoot oil, or lard oil controls temperature rise in aluminium when it is being cut to prevent thermal effects on the metal. This process provides a refined and well cut metal.

Side Effects, Safe Dosage and Toxicity Issues

Neatsfoot oil is generally safe to be applied on skin. However, products that are not of good quality and contain harmful additives can be harmful for the skin and overall health.

Nutritional and Medicinal Information

Neatsfoot oil obtained from cattle bones and feet probably contains many essential fats and fat soluble antioxidants. These are exceptionally good for our health, especially for protecting fat molecules right under the skin. Neatsfoot oil obtained from lard is a thick, yellow colored fat which has little odor. The oil is usually refined to prevent it from solidifying at room temperatures and regular temperatures in cold weather. However, this is not one should look for when using neatsfoot oil for leather polish. For that, one needs to get pure neatsfoot oil which is slightly more greasy and thick, like mink oil.

In terms of nutrition, neatsfoot oil from lard is similar to peanut oil. Both of these have significant amount of arachidic acid, which is a saturated fat. It contains many more nutrients, antioxidants and micro-nutrients. However, there are studies where lard oil may cause aggravation of inflammation produced by obesity. [5]

Where to buy Neatsfoot oil ?
Neatsfoot oil should be purchased with care, which is very important. One may have to do a lot of searching to find pure neatsfoot oil, whether you use it for leather conditioning, or for treating dry, scaly skin.


1.   Healing with animals in the Levant from the 10th to the 18th century. Efraim Lev. NCBI.
2.  Aging changes in skin. NCBI.
3.  Diet-induced thermogenesis is lower in rats fed a lard diet than in those fed a high oleic acid safflower oil diet, a safflower oil diet or a linseed oil diet. Takeuchi H, Matsuo T, Tokuyama K, Shimomura Y, Suzuki M.
4.  Differential effects of high-fat-diet rich in lard oil or soybean oil on osteopontin expression and inflammation of adipose tissue in diet-induced obese rats. Wang X, Cheng M, Zhao M, Ge A, Guo F, Zhang M, Yang Y, Liu L, Yang N. NCBI.

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