What Kind of Oil Is Neatsfoot Oil?
Neatsfoot oil is an animal-based oil that has long been used for its restorative and moisturizing properties. While the formula has changed over the centuries, the oil is still prized for its ability to condition and soften leather goods as well as restore the shine to unfinished wood products. Neatsfoot oil has also been used as moisturizer to help treat dry and cracked skin of the feet and elbows.
Neatsfoot oil was originally made from the shin bones and feet of cattle and has been in use since the 18th century. Neet used to be a common reference for cattle. The bones and feet, not the hooves, would be rendered into a yellowish oil that would not solidify at room temperature like other animal fats. This is due to the physiological properties of cattle's legs, which have a reduced blood flow and required a different physical make-up to compensate for functioning at lower temperatures.
Today, neatsfoot oils are available in two mixtures. The first is 100 percent, or pure, neatsfoot oil; it is now predominantly made from lard. The other product is neatsfoot compound, which is a blend of lard and mineral oil or other synthetic oil.
Neatsfoot is most commonly used to condition, or moisturize and soften, leather goods. Baseball players have long used neatsfoot oil on their baseball mitts to keep them from drying out and cracking at the end of the season. The glove is rubbed with neatsfoot oil and tied closed around a baseball to retain its shape while in storage. Horse aficionados also use neatsfoot to treat horse tack such as saddles, bridles, reins and riding gloves. Neatsfoot oil will stain leather a darker color, so it is advisable to first apply the oil to a small area to see if the darkening is acceptable.
Neatsfoot oil can also be applied to unfinished wood, like cutting boards and wooden utensils, to add a shine or "glow." The oil is rubbed in with a clean cloth and allowed to dry for several hours. The wood can then be buffed with steel wool before applying a second coat for a deeper luster. Just as it is used in leather, neatsfoot oil will help prevent wood from drying out and cracking. It will also stain the wood a darker color.
Before modern moisturizers came on the market, neatsfoot oil was used as a topical treatment to aid in the healing of dry and cracked skin. The oil would be massaged into the skin like any other moisturizing lotion. However, since neatsfoot oil is made from animal products, it does have a slight odor that makes it a less-than-popular choice for a skin lotion.
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