Leather conditioner test strips, veg tanned leather

Recently a user on the Goodyear welt forum on Reddit finished a really ambitious test where he had leather strips from four different leather types hang outside for two years, where all types of leathers received none or a varied amount of different types of conditioners. The result is quite interesting.


One often wonder how different shoe care products affect ones shoes, and some people can even question if they do any use at all. The user Varnu on the Reddit Goodyear welt forum decided to make a test on some leather conditioners, and what started off as a simple thought ended up in a very thorough, systematic test which surely can be said to show some real evidence of things. In the test, he has four kinds of leathers – vegetable tanned saddle leather, Alden tan calf, Red Wing Teak Featherstone and Brown Chromexcel. These have been exposed to the elements, and regularly bent, while various strips have been conditioned regularly, infrequently or not at all, to see the long term effect of conditioner on leather.

Leather conditioner test, leather strips

The board with the strip, which has been there for two years. The hinge is there so they can be bent while still in place.

The result is in most cases rather logic, but still interesting. You can read the summary on Reddit here, and check out the longer document with photos here. But in general, it’s clear that conditioner do a lot of good and both prevents discolouring and especially cracking. In all cases conditioning shows better results than the control strip that hasn’t been treated at all, varies a bit which products shows best result and in some cases the ones who’ve been treated regularly has been sort of “over conditioned”, and it’s those who’ve occasionally got treatment that shows best result.

Veg tanned leather strips, test conditioners

Veg tanned leather strips, where the left is the control one that’s been kept in a drawer, the middle one the best result with infrequent neatsfoot oil, and right with lots of cracks is the strip with no treatment.

One have to have think of the fact that it’s conditioners tested here, and some of the leathers would need for example pigments from shoe cream added to not bleach, especially if heavily exposed to sunlight (conditioners, especially some, mainly nourish but doesn’t have protect). And on that, of course it’s not really a realistic situation the leather strips are put through. Which isn’t really the ambition either, and as the tester states, the test is most interesting on the veg tanned leather since only conditioners also during extreme strain is commonly used for these, and it’s also less sensitive to sunlight and has different reaction for extensive such compared to chrome tanned leathers (while chrome tanned has the pro of being less sensitive for being extensively bent, not tested here in the same way). Either way, do check out the test if you’re interested in learning more on this topic.

Alden tan calf leather strips, conditioner test

The Alden tan calf surely couldn’t take being out in sun, wind and rain all days for such a long time, even if treated with conditioners. Would have been interesting to see how a strip of this type of leather would have looked if treated regularly with a highly pigmented shoe cream.

Chromexcel leather strips, conditioner test

Chromexcel is a leather which has quite a lot of oils and waxes in it, which shows in that it looks more similar without treatment and doesn’t crack extensively either no matter what. Left control strip kept in drawer, middle treated with Venetian Leather Balm, right untreated. All pictures: Varnu / Reddit