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The use of Birch tar dates back hundreds of thousands of years and its variety of uses during this time is huge. It can be used for everything from waterproofing leather, to fixing arrowheads. Or in the case of Otzi The Iceman fixing the copper head to his ax (Birch pitch). One of the most notable uses of Birch tar to waterproof leather is Russia Leather. This was a major export of Russia during the 17th and 18th century, and world renowned for its durability, resistance to water, and smell. A large part of this fame is due to the fact that Birch tar was used as a treatment and waterproofing of the leather.

Birch Tars Unique Ability

Birch tar has an amazing ability, something that other leather waterproofing products don’t have. The ability to completely repel water yet let the leather breathe. “Breathing” in this context means the ability for the leather to allow moisture to move from the inside to the outside. This is critical, especially in things like gloves and boots, otherwise you end up with wet hands and feet. Thich is not only uncomfortable but can cause health issues and or issues with the leather itself.

Here are a few other interesting characteristics of Birch tar which make it a great and unique leather waterproofing treatment:

  • It is anti-fungal. Ever put a pair of boots away wet somewhere only to forget them and find them a month or months later. Good chance they were invaded by fungus, if so they are done. This doesn’t happen nearly so easy when treated with Birch tar, in fact I have yet to see it or hear about it.
  • Repels insects. Very handy especially if you live somewhere where you need to worry about dangerous little critters crawling into your shoes or boots!
  • Imparts a nice smoky smell. Birch tar imparts a strong smoky smell on anything it touches and the smell can last for years, this is something that Russia leather was well known for.
  • Long Lasting. I have found the waterproofing to last as long as the boot in many cases.
  • Conditions leather as well as waterproofs.

How To Waterproof Your Leather With Birch Tar

  1. Warm your tar slightly with a candle on the bottom of the tin, not much is needed and you will see that it quickly turns into a more liquid state. This makes it easier to apply, gets you more coverage and allows for better penetration of the tar.
  2. Using a small brush lightly coat all leather, make sure to hit all seams well, use a blotting motion with the brush to make sure the tar sits down well in the seams.
  3. Let sit for 30 minutes and clean off any excess.


The tar does significantly darken leather, here is a picture to show the difference.

Before and after treating boot with Birch tar


Birch tar imparts its smoky smell on the leather, it is strong for the first week and after slowly fades, but remains noticeable for up to a couple of years.

Birch tar is a part of our history and evolution and unchanged it still remains one of the top ways to 100% naturally treat your leather keeping it waterproof, mold free, free of pests, your feet dry, and oh yeah, that unique and distinct smoky smell that only comes from Birch tar! Ready? Buy Birch Tar


In addition here is a video I made on the subject if you would like to check that out as well 🙂


Author Lorne

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