Leather Care Recommendations
I often get asked what my favorite leather care products are, and to be honest, it really depends on the leather I am cleaning. If it is tooled, rough out, higher-end leather, or a simple working tack.
My first step when cleaning anything is taking a damp rag to it to clean off the dust and dirt. My go-to cleaners include the Carr & Day & Martin Belvoir Tack Cleaner Spray or the Stirling Essential Cleaner. I love using these liquid cleaners, especially on any tooled tack. These products feel like I can get a true clean without leaving any residue on the tack. I will spray down the leather with these products, then wipe with a damp cloth.
Sometimes I get tack accessories that are very dirty due to a build-up of salt, dirt, sweat and a wipe just is not enough to clean it. This can hind on the backside of Western fenders too. For these cases, I will take an old toothbrush and some warm water to really scrub. A bit of Murphy’s Oil Soap can be helpful to take the build-up off.
It is important to make sure your leather is completely clean before moving onto a conditioning step. If you apply conditioner on top of any dirt, then it will layer and build a residue of dirt making it harder to properly clean later.
For any suede/roughout tack, I take a damp rag and a metal bristle brush and curry out the dust and dirt. I don’t add any extra product on top of this type of leather. A vacuum with a brush attachment can be useful too if there is a ton of dust on the tack.
Moving forward to the next step truly depends on what the leather needs.
If the leather is quite dry, I will warm up some oil. I like to use 100% Neatsfoot or Effax’s Leather Soft. By popping the oil in the microwave for 30 seconds, the leather is happier to absorb it more evenly. I will let the leather sit for some time to see if the leather needs a second coat.
Moving on to conditioner, I will finish a saddle with a balsam. This adds a nice shine when taking sale photos. A little goes a long way with this product. I love the Sterling Conditioner, Effax or Passier Leather Balsam. For higher-end tack, that has more of an “open-pore” leather, I love the Antares Conditioner.
Some leather, typically the lower end type, will have more of a seal as a finish. This type of tack is extremely hard to soften once it dries out as the seal blocks the oil from absorbing into the leather. The best you can do is apply some balsam and work it in. This is a prime example of you get what you pay for when considering higher-end tack vs lower-end.
I don’t recommend any all-in-one product when it comes to leather care. They are similar to a two-in-one shampoo conditioner, which personally never leaves my hair feeling clean or conditioned. They are just as prone to creating a build-up and rotting stitching if used too frequently.
Since I do consignment saddles, I will give all saddles a good clean before listing. However, as maintenance, I recommend wiping down your tack with a damp rag after every ride. You can use a little bit of soap, like the sprays mentioned above but don’t overdo it. Too much will dry it out, and if you use a glycerine soap this will leave a bigger build-up and seal on your tack. You only want to condition your tack maybe once a month. It is possible to over condition the leather. You will notice this in the winter as the beeswax will separate and you will find white on your tack. To get rid of this, just give your tack a clean and let sit.
When cleaning tack, you want to use products that feel good on your hands. If a product is leaving your hands feeling sticky then it might not be the right product for what you need.
Remember your tack is an investment, if you take care of it properly it will last and keep you safe!