Kiwi Conditioning Oil Review – How to Use and Before & After

Despite the very New Zealand name, Kiwi was actually launched in Australia in 1906 (by a man with a New Zealand wife) and it’s since become phenomenally popular. In the US and UK it has two thirds of the market share and in Malaysia, the word ‘kiwi’ has even become part of the Malay language, meaning ‘to polish one’s shoes.’

Now, the company is best known for their boot polish but because I’m all about trying to find the best boot conditioner, I picked up the product they designed specifically for that purpose: Kiwi Conditioning Oil. It’s one of the top 5 best sellers on Amazon and it’s designed for oil tanned and other smooth leathers. I decided to try it out on a very, very old, never-conditioner pair of Clark’s Desert Boots to see how it performed.

[Buy Kiwi Conditioning Oil on Amazon here!]

Kiwi Conditioning Oil Ingredients

  • “Contains a rich blend of conditioners”
  • Comprised mostly of paraffin, silicone, and solvents

Like most leather conditioners, Kiwi doesn’t disclose the ingredients on the tin. (It feels like this should be illegal, doesn’t it?) But I called up their parent company, S.C. Johnson, and found out that despite widespread belief that it contains mink oil, it’s actually a blend of paraffin, silicone, and solvents.

Paraffin is a translucent waxy solid which is not very oxygen permeable, so it’s decent at creating a barrier around the shoe and making it more water resistant. It has a really low melting point, it’s softer than beeswax and it applies quite easily, but it’s not quite as good as beeswax at the waterproofing.

Silicone bonds to leather, also making it more waterproof. Some people worry it can dry out the protein bonds, others think it’s not such a big deal.

Solvents, meanwhile, help to clean. Solvents are also controversial in conditioners, with some people saying they dry out the leather and others saying they’re really good for cleaning because they evaporate quickly. Let’s see what happens when I try them out on a very beat up pair of Clarks Desert Boots in beeswax leather.

kiwi conditioning oil top view

[Buy these Clarks Desert Boots here.]

How to Use Kiwi Conditioning Oil

Kiwi notes that this is not for use on suede or delicate leathers and that it “may cause light colored leathers to darken.”

The oil is quite hard, so it needs to be heated up before applying. You might consider letting the tin sit in some hot water and applying it with a lint-free rag, but I just put a small amount in my (freshly washed) hands, rubbed ’em together to heat it up, and rubbed it all over the boots.

Then you wipe off the excess immediately and let it dry for a few hours. Here’s how it looked once I was done.

[See my review of the most popular shoe conditioner, Venetian Shoe Cream!]

kiwi conditioning oil before after

Kiwi Conditioning Oil Results

  • Darkens leather
  • Increases water resistance
  • Penetrates deeply

As you can see, the leather darkened pretty dramatically. The good news, though, is that the boots — which were several years old and hadn’t been conditioned once — are much more consistent in color, and the leather is softer and more pliable. Kiwi is known for penetrating very deeply into the leather and when I tried throwing some water droplets onto the boots, the conditioned one definitely beaded water away much more effectively than the old, dried out, catcher’s-mitt-looking boot on the left.

kiwi conditioning oil leather closeup

Kiwi Conditioning Oil Price 

You can pick up some Kiwi Conditioning Oil for about $5 for 2 and 5/8 ounces, so it’s about $1.90 per ounce. 

Conditioners vary a lot in their ingredients, which makes it hard to compare them across the board. Still, the cheapest you’ll find are brands like Lexol and Bick 4, which wind up at about $1 per ounce. Industry favorite Venetian Shoe Cream is about $3 per ounce, and then there’s the very underrated Cobbler’s Choice at $5 per ounce and the crème de la crème, Saphir Renovateur, for $9 an ounce.

So on the spectrum of conditioners, Kiwi is definitely on the cheaper side.

[Buy Kiwi Conditioning Oil for less on Amazon here!]

kiwi conditioning oil front view

Kiwi Conditioning Oil Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Improves color consistency
  • Softens leather
  • Cleans as it conditions
  • Penetrates deeply
  • Inexpensive

kiwi conditioning oil leather

Cons

  • Darkens leather
  • Not great for creating a base for polishing
  • Not for use on dressy shoes
  • Not everybody likes the silicone in the ingredients list

kiwi conditioning oil jar

The Takeaway

So is Kiwi Conditioning Oil right for you? Well, it darkens the hell out of your leather, so if that’s a problem then it’s off limits. But for a lot of guys, they don’t care: they want something that will increase water resistance and clean and moisturize the leather without costing too much. If those are your goals, Kiwi is a very solid pick. I wouldn’t use it on dressier boots — it’s not good if you’re looking for a polish — but if your rough and tumble, outdoorsy boots need to be more weather resistant, it fits the bill.

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By day: Manhattan-based journalist with reporting experience on four continents, published in Vice, Men's Health, Popular Science, and a bunch of other places.By night: ravenous consumer of anything and everything related to high end men's boots.Stridewise is where I nurture a maniacal obsession with footwear and share my findings. Say hey: [email protected]

5 thoughts on “Kiwi Conditioning Oil Review – How to Use and Before & After”

  1. Nice article,

    I bought a can of this today at Wal-Mart for $4.49. Did not know what/which boots I am working on today(ebay finds). So was looking for conditioning oil to start. Tough to find some products in Upstate, New York. You need ebay even for polish.

    I lived recently in Indonesia for 2+years. Bought beautiful boots in Bandung. City is known for all there hand-crafted boots. Amelia Earhart was there before her disappearance. One pair I have never worn, some 1/2-way cowboy style boot. Gorgeous. They cut and stack the heel elements differently. Toes and external stitching. Currently I get them and my Italian custom boots out every so often and use TUrTLE WAX – Luxe Leather. Seems silly – but that stuff works great. Keeps the boots healthy and breathing.

    Bought NOVEL heavy work boots (beauty’s) over in Jakarta – fell apart in 3-weeks on Jakarta streets. Bought Dr. Martins and they fell apart in 4-weeks. (Dr. Martins claimed they were knockoffs, but they were not.)

    Bought Forklift Boots made who knows where (china?), and they are so tough. Bought Black, red,and white. Wore the Black into oblivion. Saving the red & white for when I need that push need again. (Sometimes we needed to push Jakarta buses off the streets.)

    I owned Red Wings as a teenager working on the Upstate farms and forests 1960’s. Never lasted over a year. They were $90 back then. Some/all was my fault – did not succor them. We manage 120″ of snow here over 5.5 months. Get them wet and let them freeze overnight in the mud room , – they fail.

    Best! randy a. garrad

    • Thanks for your comment, Randy! I REALLY want to visit Bandung and make some videos there, it would be great. I’m amazed by how many boot companies are able to thrive there. You’re a man who knows how to annihilate his boots! What’s your favorite pair right now?

  2. Dear Nick,

    How nice of you to respond!

    I came across your website again, as I was curious why KIWI had changed their Oil Conditioning can lid. Something different added or subtracted?

    Bandung, Indonesia has the custom boot builders. Much, much different than Mexican boot builders. About a 5-hour trip from Jakarta. Train service. Hotels are gorgeous – Dutch influence maybe? Since they stack heels with wood and/or hard leather – suspect the Dutch may have started this as most Indonesians wear sandals. They love having their picture taken! And most speak English.

    Per your question on favorites. I spent my mid-late 20’s and early 30’s living in Denver traveling the West. Cowboy boots everyday. Still found my best Cowboy boots were my Abilene’s made in Pennsylvania. USA made. Best leather – Elk.

    Now I am back in the wild woods of Upstate NY again, and can tell you there is a distinction between Work boots and Hiking boots. My HHB Watermocs will make the 1,000 mile mark that good hiking boots should! Great boots, I did cut off the upper collar! Useless. But I would kill them in days using them for farming & logging.

    Dress shoes – Nunn Bush I have had since the 1970’s, made in Wisconsin.

    I use the KIWI Conditioning Oil on everything except my Suedes. Works great even on my Dress shoes. But when I am short of time, 2-minutes with the TURTLE WAX cleaner & conditioner gets me out the door.

    By the way I spend a lot of time in NYC. Most fun city in America. Shame about 9/11. Upstate did grieve with you.

    If you ever make Jakarta, they have 160 flights per week to Singapore. $50. And Bali is just off the end of Java Island – about the same when off tourist season.

    Best from Upstate!

    Randy A. Garrad

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