Leather Care and what I do
I keep getting asked about how best to take care of leather.
Note: the following is gleamed from my experience and talking to others in the industry. It does not necessarily agree with the saddlemakers advice of the saddles I sell and – of course – your situation may be entirely different from mine eg: the climate you live in.
I don’t like saddle soap as it isn’t really a soap. Glycerine Saddle Soap is actually more of a conditioner but still needs to be wiped off otherwise it attracts dirt and dust.
I use a damp cloth and/or Effax Leder Combi. (Leder Combi is great for smoothing out marks on the saddle as well!)
Firstly – I never oil.
Good quality leather does not need oil and should be allowed to break in naturally.
Secondly – you need to look at the leather production process (and I mean more than how the cow grows)
Most leather produced today is “pigment dyed”, which is “spray painting” the leather with an impermeable coloured coating instead of putting the leather in an aniline-dye filled drum. The entire reason for this is speed and cost: the spray is much cheaper, you use a lot less of it, and you can spray-paint a hide in seconds vs. hours to days/weeks in a vat of dye, but unfortunately, these coatings completely seal the leather and will prevent any oil or conditioning agent from penetrating the leather, and when the finally wear away in spots, the leather looks horrible.
Back to the first point and why oiling isn’t good.
Leather is made up of interlocking fibres. They should move against each other. Too much oil lubricates the fibres too much and actually weakens the interlocking and the strength of the leather.
I like products with Beeswax and lanolin and other such goodies. My product of choice is Effax Leder Balsam but there are other great products out there. Now days the good products will state want leather (process) they suit!
For new leather I will apply a coating of balsam to both sides of the leather but from then on it is underneath only and only if it needs it. I’ve had really nice English leather saddles that have only been conditioned after extreme events – like our favourite rain soaking competitions were gear is going to get wet.