Can You Use Vaseline on Leather?

Photo of a person using vaseline. Can You Use Vaseline on Leather?

Vaseline seems to be good for everything on the market, pretty much. So, what about leather? Can you use vaseline on leather safely? Take a look.

Vaseline can safely be used on leather as a moisturizer and softener for dried-out and old leather. Vaseline can remove scuffs and scratches, help bring out its natural color, and clean your leather if you’ve gotten grease or another stubborn stain on it. Lastly, vaseline will help protect your leather and waterproof it.

There are some important cons to consider to using vaseline, however, such as breaking down leather’s natural strength and integrity and possibly causing rot. You’ll want to know how to use it to promote the pros and limit the cons!

Can you use Vaseline on genuine leather? 

You can safely use vaseline on genuine leather. We’ll talk about synthetic leather in a little bit. Vaseline is an excellent conditioner and protectant for:

  • Leather shoes
  • Leather boots
  • Leather jackets
  • Leather furniture
  • Leather gloves
  • Leather bags

It makes sense when you think about it, really. Men and women have been using vaseline for years as a moisturizing product. In fact, Statista says that vaseline is one of the most popular skincare and cosmetic brands in the United States in 2022. This includes surveys given to both men and women.

Fun Fact:

Since leather is animal hide, vaseline can have a lot of similar benefits to leather as it can to human skin!

Is vaseline safe for all leather products?

While you can use vaseline on all those leather products, Makeup and Beauty suggests that you go easy on using vaseline to shine shoes! This is because vaseline attracts dust and debris, making your shoes look grimy again much faster. However, it works in a pinch!

Can leather be moisturized with vaseline?

You can rely on vaseline to moisturize the leather. While it might not be as efficient or purpose-designed as a leather conditioning product, it is an effective moisturizer option for your favorite leather goods and accessories.

Does vaseline damage leather?

As mentioned briefly above, you’ll find some information that vaseline can damage leather if you misuse it. This is definitely true, which makes using it properly necessary — more on that later.

Vaseline can break down the natural strength and integrity of your leather product, primarily because it sinks deep into the pores and physically breaks down the leather’s tensile strength. You’ll know this is happening if you start to spot cracks.

It can even cause rot if used excessively on some leather products. Once rot sets in, it can be hard to reverse. Finally, vaseline can also cause the stitching to break down because it gets into the fibers of the stitching just like it would get into the pores of the leather.

While Vaseline states that vaseline products won’t clog your skin pores, it is known to clog the pores of the leather. This is what gives it its protectant properties!

What makes vaseline good for leather?

If you’re feeling a bit confused about the downsides of vaseline, take a moment to understand what really makes vaseline a safe and helpful product for leather. 

Vaseline will help keep the leather soft, smooth, and flexible on your well-loved leather products. Since leather can break down over time and with use (especially out in the elements of the world), vaseline can help keep it supple and strong longer than not using anything at all. Vaseline helps prolong the life of leather so that it doesn’t dry out, crack, or peel.

The other main benefit of conditioning is that it can help protect your leather against water damage. Since leather can’t protect itself against any water damage, vaseline effectively waterproofs the surface of the leather by clogging its pores!

Will vaseline darken leather?

You will find that vaseline does darken leather. If you compare the same leather pieces before and after, vaseline could visually darken the leather. While vaseline doesn’t have a natural tint, you can use it to draw out the natural color of the leather. If it’s applied too often, it’s a good thing. 

This darkening is why you must be careful in using vaseline on leather as far as your actual application process. You must get every inch of your product; otherwise, it can create a two-toned product!

Does Vaseline soften leather?

Vaseline acts as a conditioner for your leather product, softening the leather and making it more flexible.

Faux leather versus traditional leather

Most leather products are made from cows, goats, sheep, and pigs. There is a growing population that now no longer supports the use of animal hide for fashion or practical purposes. This change in ethics has created faux leather, made from petroleum products. This is very different than classic animal leather.

Can I use vaseline on faux leather?

Faux leather is a common choice for those who don’t want to use leather for ethical or allergy reasons. You’ll want to be aware that silicone-based products (aka fake leather) don’t do well when combined with vaseline! It can damage the silicone finish on the faux leather product, and it can even cause stains.

Silicone leather is an eco-friendly product, making it great for green living. You can’t use the same products to care for it!

Can vaseline damage some forms of leather?

Other than silicone leather, vaseline isn’t safe for all types of traditional leather. Nubuck and suede don’t tolerate vaseline well. Vaseline is too greasy for these types of leather, causing stains. This is part of why reading care instructions for your leather before doing anything is so important!

Does vaseline make leather waterproof?

As you’ve read already, vaseline can help build up surface waterproofing to the leather product, but it doesn’t make it literally waterproof. It just builds in some resistance. 

Does vaseline remove scratches from leather?

Yes, vaseline can help remove scratches, minor dings, and more from leather products that have gotten a lot of use in your daily life! This is especially if it’s seen sunlight and other other elements (such as bags, gloves, and more).

Does vaseline shine patent leather?

Vaseline is an excellent product to help shine patent leather and keep it looking its very best. It also helps soften it, which many enjoy with the tough and rigid patent leather!

How to apply vaseline to leather

You’ll want to follow proper instructions for using vaseline responsibly on your leather products. Here are the steps:

  1. Grab a clean, lint-free cloth
  2. Put a generous amount of vaseline on it
  3. Apply it evenly and thoroughly over your product
  4. Use a hair dryer to sink the vaseline into the pores of the leather
  5. Remove any excess leftover
  6. Dry your leather good for an hour

Be careful when you’re removing the extra vaseline. You don’t want to remove too much that you have an unprotected element. It should be a bit tacky to the touch until it dries (similar to freshly moisturized skin.)

How to soften leather with vaseline

If you’re ready to see what vaseline can do specifically to soften your leather, let’s take a look at the step-by-step process:

  1. Use a neutral cleaner to clean your leather
  2. Use a lint-free cloth to apply a generous amount of vaseline to your product
  3. Make sure to get every inch of the leather so to protect against discoloration
  4. Leave the vaseline to dry for an hour or longer

Some guides will tell you to use rubbing alcohol as a cleaner, but this is a controversial topic in leather care! Rubbing alcohol dries out leather (much like it does with human skin), which can have the opposite effect on protecting your leather product! 

While you shouldn’t use rubbing alcohol regularly to clean your leather product, you can use it if you have nothing else available. It also removes oils, grease, and other tough messes/stains without leaving any residue.

How often to use vaseline on leather

If you want to maximize the pros and minimize the cons, you’ll want to use vaseline often. This is, in itself, a bit of a drawback. It would be best if you kept up on your vaseline protection consistently. 

Since you’ll have to apply it very accurately and regularly, you’ll need to get used to caring for your leather product carefully. This is why traditional purpose-designed leather care products are still used widely — they’re more convenient.

Vaseline is an excellent alternative to classic leather conditioning products. Vaseline is safe for authentic leather products, though this doesn’t carry over to synthetic leather products.

Using it on authentic leather will remove scratches, highlight its natural color by darkening it slightly, remove stubborn stains, and provide superficial waterproofing. You’ll need to learn how to use it properly to protect against drawbacks such as breaking down natural strength and causing rot.

If you know someone who is looking for easy ways to care for their new leather product, consider sharing this with them to help them understand their options!

Andre from leatherninja.com

Andre is a passionate leatherworker who spends his spare time working with leather. He loves the smell and feel of leather, and he takes great care in selecting the right pieces of leather for his projects. Read more here.