Is Petroleum Jelly Good For Leather?

Genuine leather products such as shoes, bags, and belts have been a staple for the wealthy since the early days of civilization. Such sumptuous, opulent, ritzy products are usually only made by skilled craftsmen who have inherited the sacred technique of leather crafting from their expert predecessors. The grandeur and elegance of these handmade masterpieces come with huge price tags, and demand a lot of care.

Leather care products are abundant in the market, but such products may be overrated after all. An excellent alternative to restore your kangaroo leather bag or your calf leather boots may be sitting on your shelf right now without you even knowing.

It’s petroleum jelly!

What Is Petroleum Jelly?

Discovered in 1859 by Robert Augustus Chesebrough, and virtually unchanged since petroleum jelly is made from a mixture of minerals and oils.

As its name suggests, the main benefits of using petroleum jelly come from petroleum (which is an important ingredient in the making of petroleum jelly). The following product excels in helping your skin retain moisture while helping it heal from wounds and cracks by sealing your skin with a hydrophobic layer that acts as a barrier, protecting the wound from water, as well as dust.

Pros Of Using Petroleum Jelly On Leather

The above-mentioned properties of petroleum jelly largely match with those of high-end leather care products, making it suitable for your leather goods.

Cost and Availability of Petroleum Jelly

While leather cream may not be too tough to find, we reckon a tub of petroleum jelly must be sitting somewhere in your house! If not, petroleum jelly can be bought from your local grocery store for much cheaper than other leather products. Petroleum jelly won’t burden your wallet much and can serve other purposes when your leather products don’t need to be pampered.

Restores Color In Old, Faded Leather

Those of you who have used leather-made goods in the past know about the great tragedy when the leather starts to fade away after a few months of use, making it look rather dull, old, and worn out. This can happen as a result of direct exposure to intense sunlight or from coming in contact with various elements such as dust and moisture. Using petroleum jelly is an excellent way to bring back the lush brown tint of natural leather.

Petroleum Jelly Helps Make Leather Waterproof

Genuine leather is porous, and hence can never be completely waterproof, so getting stuck in the rain with your leather-crafted messenger or your leather shoes may not be a good experience after all.

However, a greater problem arises when the soaked-up leather is dried. As water evaporates from the leather, it takes away some of the natural oils. The loss of natural oils from the leather means that it will become more brittle, potentially decreasing its lifespan.

Although wet leather is not an unfixable issue, it’s best to keep leather away from moisture.

Petroleum jelly, when applied to a surface, creates a hydrophobic barrier, preventing water droplets from seeping through the pores of the leather, essentially making it waterproof. So applying petroleum jelly to leather may be a lifesaver!

Removes Stains From Leather

Leather is particularly easy to scratch or tears under mildly harsh conditions. As pathetic as scratched leather maybe, they can be easily fixed with something as simple as petroleum jelly.

While generic leather polishes tend to only cover the surface, petroleum jelly can seep and absorb into the leather, temporarily removing unwanted scuffs and scratches.

Softens Leather And Makes It Supple

When leather gets wet, it loses its natural oils when drying. Dry, hardened leather tends to lose flexibility, making it brittle. This, in turn, cracks the leather easily when underuse.

Applying petroleum jelly such as Vaseline moisturizes the leather, which can help restore its softness, making it supple, so you never have to worry about your favorite leather shoe cracking again!

Works as a leather shiner

Nothing beats the look of a clean, shiny leather bag or shoe! Sure, you can use shoe polish to make leather shiny, but shoe polish is not as versatile as petroleum jelly. While shoe polish only manages to make leather look shiny, petroleum jelly, while bringing the shine to your leather-crafted product, also makes it waterproof, removes scuffs and scratches, softens the leather, and even cleans it (with the help of some of its ingredients which act as a cleaning agent.

Apply a fingertip unit of petroleum jelly on your leather-crafted product of choice, and rub with a clean cloth to form a thin, even layer across the surface to turn old, dull leather as shiny as brand new!

Saves Money, Space, And Time

As wise men say, time is money.

All of the above-mentioned benefits of using petroleum jelly on leather definitely can be found in other specialized leather care products, but they only serve one purpose per product. This means, if you want to take care of your leather-made goods and choose to avoid using petroleum jelly, you will have to buy a wide range of leather care products, which will take up a lot of space on your shelves, and also take away much of your precious time.

Additionally, having to purchase a wide range of products costs much more than only buying a tub of petroleum jelly. Petroleum jelly is a work of art for those who appreciate leather-made goods!

Cons Of Using Petroleum Jelly On Leather

Petroleum Jelly May Not Offer Top-Notch Conditioning

Despite petroleum jelly being a useful alternative to many specialized leather care products, petroleum jelly’s primary purpose is not to be used for leather. Hence, it is only a great substitute, but if you are looking for a product that will serve your leather-crafted product with the best quality care, we would rather suggest you consider buying specialized leather care products.

Not Effective For Long-Term Use

Most people who use petroleum jelly on leather, use it for conditioning leather.

As per expert advice, leather conditioners should only be used two to three times a year.  Petroleum jelly melts at room temperature, so does not stay on the surface for too long. This is because petroleum jelly has a low melting temperature, and doesn’t find with the fibers too well.

For a proper treatment of leather using petroleum jelly, a thin layer of it should be applied evenly throughout the surface of the leather two to three times a week.

If applied in excess, petroleum jelly can make the leather sticky and too soft. Softening the leather too much can, in some cases, result in permanent deformation of the product.

Harmful For Some Specific Types Of Leather

Petroleum jelly works well when applied (in an adequate amount) to leather and patent leather shoes or bags, but should be avoided in the case of rawhide leather.

If your leather-made good is made of rawhide leather, it’s best to use care products that are specifically made for it.

Easily Collects Dust

We know this might sound rather ironic, but despite possessing cleaning properties, petroleum jelly is not great for keeping leather clean. The viscous nature of petroleum jelly results in the dust being easily collected onto any surface petroleum jelly is applied to.

However, this issue can be minimized if petroleum jelly is used in a small quantity.

How To Apply Petroleum Jelly On Leather

  • Clean the surface with a warm, wet towel.
  • Let the leather surface dry up.
  • Apply an adequate amount of petroleum jelly. There’s no need for accurate measurement of how much should be applied.
  • Using a clean cloth, rub the petroleum jelly throughout the surface, making sure that the ointment is absorbed onto the pores.
  • Using a different towel, rub off the excess petroleum jelly from the surface, leaving a thin, even layer.

Tips And Tricks Applying Petroleum Jelly On Leather

  • Confirm that petroleum jelly is suitable for your leather in question.
  • Avoid using way too much petroleum jelly, as it may end up making the leather mushy. This can create all sorts of problems, from loosening the stitching to worsening the tensile strength of the leather.
  • Rub the surface using a lint-free cloth or a microfiber cloth. Avoid using paper towels as they may leave unwanted residue on the surface. Such residues stick to the surface due to the sticky nature of petroleum jelly and may be very tough to remove.
  • Once applied evenly, help the petroleum jelly to further seep into the pores by blowing a hairdryer towards the surface. Make sure the hairdryer is not blowing air that is too hot, as it may damage the leather.


Whether you use petroleum jelly rather than specific leather care products depends on how much you care about attention to detail. Petroleum jelly can get the work done, but using specially formulated products will always help preserve leather better. However, purchasing such products will hurt your pockets a bit more. In short, petroleum jelly, as well as specialized leather care products have their pros and cons. The choice is yours to make!

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