Oils for softening leathers and furs

There are many YouTube videos talking about using different oils for keeping leathers and furs soft and flexible. Many of them are “at-home” recipes that honestly suck, and can ruin your skins. I go over a few here. If they’re not listed, I haven’t tried them.

If you would like to purchase one of my sheepskins, please send me an email.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a functional oil in the sense that it will help a dry “cracker” skin become workable again, but does not penetrate while the skin is still wet, after it comes out of the final rinse. This oil would be best used after a skin has been stretched on a rack (if it’s not going to be worked by hand), to help the skin regain flexibility after drying. I would not try to use this as an intermediate-stage oil, as it does not absorb into the skin.

Mineral Oil

Do not use mineral oil on your skins. There’s a popular YouTube video with 200,000 views that instructs you to use this when processing buckskin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63Qt8BlfMac

Maybe it is fine for use with a vegetable tan, but most definitely it is not suitable for use in most synthetically tanned skins. I have had every skin pass through the workable moisture stage extremely rapidly no matter how I prepared the Mineral Oil or how often I applied it. This means that although they look wet, they get hard and you are unable to work them to softness on a post or with a tumbler.

Additionally, once you use mineral oil, the skins will reject any other oil you want to use and they will be effectively ruined. Mine always had become rigid and unworkable. Please do not use Mineral Oil.

ProPlus Oil from TASCO/Rittel

You can get it here: https://www.taxidermyarts.com/p-4030-proplus-oil.aspx

After a long time trying the two oils above, there’s no replacement for a commercial taxidermy product. Unfortunately there is very little documentation on most of the products on the taxidermyarts.com web site, and just a little information elsewhere. Forums are hardly helpful as the members aren’t communicating useful information.

The ProPlus oil mixes with water. Yes, I know it’s an oil, but it’s formulated to be diluted in a 1 part oil, 2 parts water ratio, and applied to the skins after being removed from the final rinse, then left to sit for several hours before either being oiled again, or beginning the working/tumbling/softening stage.

Usually I mix up 2 cups of the solution at a time and apply it by hand. Others use a mop, but I do not currently process enough skins to justify having a messy, oily part of my shop. Then, I roll them up and place them in a warm part of the house, as the warmer temperature helps the oil penetrate the skin.

I let the skins sit for 1 day, then oil them again, this time at a 1:1 oil to water ratio. The instructions do not say to do this, but I have had good results with it. For me the greatest difficulty is getting sheepskins to evenly dry so I don’t have to work them many times over the course of a week. The stronger oil ratio allows for slow, even drying to get to the workable moisture level of the skins.

I have applied this oil at a 1:2 ratio on completely dry skins, and they do revitalize them and increase their flexibility. I really like this oil and recommend it.

Summary

Olive Oil is ok, but is limited to after-processing application. Do not use Mineral Oil. ProPlus taxidermy oil is great. If you would like to purchase one of my sheepskins, please send me an email.

Tyler Dinsmoor
Dinsmoor Sheepskins

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