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Cleaning your leather tack...

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  • Cleaning your leather tack...

    Hello COTHers. Show season is right around the corner, and I am beginning to get my equipment in good, clean order. I need some instructions: For daily/weekly saddle or leather tack cleaning, what do you use, and what do you find that works to clean and preserve leather? Also, does your daily/weekly leather cleaning differ from you "before a show/event" cleaning? I have never been very diligent about tack cleaning but I want to change that. Thank you!


  • #2
    I clean my tack after every ride, so there is no show cleaning necessary. (The exception would be a real 3-day, which ain't a-happening for me anytime soon!)

    It's best to wipe everything down first with a damp towel, which looses hair and dirt, and then I like to rotate what I use to clean or condition. My go-tos include a good glycerine bar or Murphy's oil when tack is dirty, a good everyday cleaner/conditioner like the Butet or Tad Coffin cream, and deep conditioners/oils like Lederbasalm and neatsfoot oil. I never oil the billets or on the underside, as I understand the oil can penetrate foam panels and deteriorate them.

    Cleaning tack is almost an OCD problem...it really bothers me if I ever have to put my tack away without cleaning it first.


    • #3
      I just use leather therapy wash daily after i ride. condition as needed (usually every few weeks). Prefer more of a lederbalsam for saddles... I remove the bit and clean by dunking in h2o. Sometimes I will just wipe everything down w/ a damp sponge- just depends on my mood! haha


      • #4
        I'm a less is more type of person.

        Wipe with damp towel when I have the chance after a ride (just looking to get the arena dirt/dust off the saddle and bridle). If dust has been removed and it is looking a little dry, I might give the equipment a quick swipe with Effax Lederbalsam (love this stuff!!).

        Every so often (probably about once a month or so), I pull out the Effax Leather Combi waterless cleaner stuff, give the tack a wipe with this and then more Lederbalsam. I very rarely use the "full" cleaners like glycerine soap and the like, mostly because I find tack gets a bit gummy and sticky with it. I might pull that out once or twice a year for girths/strap goods that get really muddy/dirty.

        I've adapted my cleaning regime from the custom saddlery people - if lazy is good enough for them, it is good enough for me!


        • #5
          It's like asking "how do I feed my horse?" or "what saddle should I buy?". There are many ways to get the job done, with some basics that are standard.
          (remove funk frequently, avoid excessive moisture or dryness, etc.)

          Personally I like to rinse my bit after every ride and I will clean off the worst of the crud if the ride is muddy and I use mostly synthetic girths so I make sure those are rinsed off and not nasty. But hard-core tack cleaning? Mostly just before shows and a final loving clean/condition before the show tack goes into hanging storage for the winter in my tack room.

          Lexol, Murphy's Oil soap, castile soap for really dirty stuff, or plain old saddle soap--no big preference. Neatsfoot oil or Lederbalsam if some conditioning/oiling is needed. Effax Leather Combi is great, too, but a little expensive.

          I think the act of cleaning is more important than which product, to a degree. Whatever the leather needs and however often it needs doing.
          Click here before you buy.


          • #6
            After daily use I wipe it down with a damp rag.

            After hunting it usually needs to be cleaned so I'll use Murphy's or Castile to get the muck and sweat off.

            For conditioning I use Flexalan. A little goes a long way.

            Bit and brightwork polishing is done before high holy days.
            Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
            Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
            -Rudyard Kipling


            • Original Poster

              Thanks for these ideas, I know there are many ways but I was never taught a certain one, so I just wanted some ideas. Thanks!


              • #8
                Doesn't it depend on the environment to some degree? I live in a cool, humid climate and leather stays soft and supple if cleaned with saddle soap once a week. So wiping off the mud and sweat is enough after a ride. In Spain, I have seen air-conditioned tack rooms because in the hot, dry climate the leather dries out so much that it is seriously weakened. And that is Spanish leather, tanned for the job.
                "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


                • #9
                  I am a little bit less is more. I use lexol cleaner. You rub it on then wipe with clear water. Then I usually follow with Tattersals because I like the shine it gives. I use lexol conditioner when things need it. If something is really dry I use lederbalsm oil.

                  I go with Lexol because it is Ph balanced for leather--did some reading on that years ago. And a guy that fixes and makes saddles and stuff told me he hates glycerine soap for leather. He said it was no good at all. He said Ph balanced stuff is good.


                  • #10
                    Ah ha! I knew this thread would give us a bunch of options! I clean tack more often in winter than in summer; I clean after I ride only about once a week, when I have the time. Once a month, about, I go thru all the strap stuff (bridles, martingales) and lederbalsam them.
                    Humidity and dryness affects tack. I also put tack in the house sometimes to avoid cold or humidity in the tack room which does not have heat/air conditioning. When I hunt, I often put the saddle in the front of the truck with me, rather than in the cold trailer. I think it is better for the horse and me.
                    I have used Lexol, don't use glycerine soap; the lederbalsam stuff is cool; also use One Step and koachaline when needed on a really dry piece of tack.
                    Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                    Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


                    • #11
                      I wipe my tack after every ride. I live in Florida, but most of my tack is kept in a climate controlled room.

                      I use a damp rag and wipe down my my bridle/breastplates/girth with it. Then I get saddle soap (Moss or Tatersalls or plain bar soap) and Lexol Conditioner and wipe it down with no water. If I am feeling super pressed for time, then I just wipe with spray glycerin soap no water.

                      Boots get spray glycerin soap no water after every ride.

                      Saddle gets wiped with Lexol and saddle soap. No water unless really dusty or dirty.

                      After rain/when dry is Henning Conditioner or Effax Leatherbalsm.

                      Brass/chrome is polished with Brasso before show or if just grimy.

                      It sounds like it takes a long time, but it doesn't. 5 mins to do a full wipe down on one set of tack and boots.
                      I am on my phone 90% of the time. Please ignore typos, misplaced lower case letters, and the random word butchered by autocowreck.


                      • #12
                        I wipe down my tack with Leather Therapy after each use.

                        Apologizing profusely for this, but once again I will refer to my website because I just did a step by step photo portion on how I obsessively clean my tack when I finally do a thorough cleaning.

                        It is under the Step by Step section but you will have to scroll down a bit to get to the tack cleaning section. Don't laugh too hard at the photos, I was trying to take pictures one handed while cleaning tack!

                        I think I could give the woman with "man hands" on the Seinfeld episode a run for her money!



                        • #13
                          i fall in the ocd category too

                          i generally hose off my bridle/breastplate/girth because my mare has anhidrosis so the inside of the tack gets gunky since she doesn't sweat 'freely' if that makes sense.

                          i do that before hosing her off/cleaning everything else up, so it is mostly dry by the time i wipe it down with leather therapy wash. i also use the leather therapy restorer when i think necessary (probably more often since i hose off my tack!)
                          Pisgah: 2000 AHHA (Holsteiner x TB) Mare (lower level eventing, with a focus on dressage)

                          Darcy: 7? year old Border Collie x Rottweiler? Drama Queen extraordinaire, rescued from the pound in Jan 2010


                          • #14
                            Wipe everything with a damp rag.

                            Wipe strap goods with Tatersall using an almost dry sponge.

                            Wipe saddle with glycerin soap using an almost dry sponge (I dip the bar in water first).

                            I almost never need to condition strap goods unless they are brand new or got horribly abused somehow (hours in the rain, for example). I am still in the early stages of a relationship with my saddle, so I do condition it once a week to 10 days (leather balsam). Once it feels totally broken in, I'll probably only do it a few times a year.

                            Since I do all the most days, there is nothing special for show prep. I don't even have any big brass buckles or metal clincher browbands to polish (which would be the only thing I'd do pre-show). For BIG events (like three days), I'd probably pull it all apart to clean buckles thoroughly, check stitching very carefully, and just give it a good cleaning, but even that wouldn't be much different than normal.