April 22 2020
How to care for your tack and leather goods
At Ranchlands we make a point to regularly clean our leather goods. It lengthens the lifespan of the leather and keeps it looking and feeling fresh. Bri, one of our shop artisans, is going to walk us through how you can care for your leather products. All of these cleaning steps can be used for any of our goods, but Bri will demonstrate with her reins since they were in need of a deep clean. Please note that horse tack and other working gear will be collect far more dirt than a handbag or a belt, so modify the intensity of your cleaning accordingly!
What You'll Need
- good saddle soap, such as Fiebings
- cup of water
- extra virgin olive oil
- a cloth or rag
- piece of cardboard or newspaper
- leather conditioner, such as Skidmores
Step One. We use saddle soap, water, and a sponge for the first initial cleaning. Make sure to pay close attention to any spots that are visibly dirtier than others - corners, cracks, stitching, and curved sections often need the most love. Don’t be afraid to really get after it! Dirt is an abrasive that’s going to wear your leather down faster, so it’s important to remove as much of it as possible. You may need to use a scrub brush if your leather is especially crusted over, and, even though it’s unorthodox, sometimes a little Dawn soap doesn’t hurt. Belts usually don’t need extra scrubbing but saddles and headstalls often do because they take a bit more wear and tear.
Step Two. After this initial cleaning, you can do another pass with the sponge and water. This extra step gets rid of any soapy residue left over.
Note: cleaning your leather gear is also a great time to assess it and see if there’s any damage. By giving it careful attention you may notice certain repairs need to be done.
Step Three. It’s time to oil! We buy extra virgin olive oil in bulk because we like the way it conditions the leather and it lasts a long time. To polish, we use an off-cut of sheepskin, but you can use any type of cloth or rag you’d like. Bri is oiling her reins, which have darkened over time, so the color change is subtle. But if your leather goods are new, or you’re oiling a lighter veg tan leather, the color change from light to dark is more noticeable. If you'd like to darken your leather good, you can stick it out in the sun.
Note: Since Bri is going to be making and handling other leather products on this surface, she’s using a piece of cardboard to protect her work table. If you’re caring for your leather goods at home you can take them onto the porch, in the backyard, or put newspaper over a table.
Step Four. The last step is to apply Skidmore's. It’s a beeswax-based conditioner that helps moisturize your leather. Using saddle soap to clean the leather is important, but if you don’t condition too, you’re just rubbing in the dirt and the leather will dry and crack. A little Skidmores goes a long way! Really buff it in there.
That's it! We give our leather goods a deep clean at least once a year. But since most of our leather goods are pretty well-used, we try to clean and condition them every few months.