Breathing New Life into Old Leather

Posted by Carolyn Adams, Thu, Aug 8, 2013

Despite our best intentions, sometimes regular tack cleaning falls to the bottom of our to-do list, leaving tack brittle, dusty or moldy. Luckily for you, tack can recover from all kinds of tragedies!

Let us help you bring your tack back from the dead!

Restore Hard or Brittle Leather:

When tack gets neglected and dried out, it can be disheartening. Follow these steps to help restore your leather gear before giving up!

  1. Begin by taking apart your tack; it is important to disassemble the equipment so you can clean underneath buckles, where trapped dirt can break down leather.
  2. Next, clean the leather with Lexol® Leather Cleaner to remove surface dirt and sweat before oiling.
  3. Apply a thin coat of Lexol Leather Conditioner, which is full of beneficial oils. Applying some oil is good, but a little oil goes a long way. Too much oil keeps the leather from being able to breathe, and will hold excess moisture and cause the leather to rot. Too little oil and the leather can become brittle and dry, causing it to crack or tear.
  4. If the leather is still stiff and brittle after a day or two, lightly work in another coat of Lexol Leather Conditioner using a damp towel. Allow the leather to absorb the conditioner for 20–30 minutes, then wipe it down with a dry towel.
  5. If the leather is still in need of softening, wait a month and repeat the entire process. Sometimes you can help soften leather by wetting your hands with Lexol Conditioner and “working” the leather with your hands.

How to Remove Mold and Mildew:

Unfortunately, once mold and mildew spores get into leather fibers, it is almost impossible to completely destroy them. If mold and mildew access your leather, take these steps to limit the damage:

  1. Clean the leather outdoors, to avoid filling the air in the tack room with mold spores. Have a supply of old cloths handy that you are willing to throw out; do not rinse and reuse infected cloths or brushes.
  2. Next, clean the leather with a pH-balanced leather cleaner such Lexol Leather Cleaner. Use plenty of water and scrub the leather with a soft cloth or soft bristled brush that won’t scratch it. If using a brush, we recommend testing a small area of the leather to make sure it does not leave any scratch marks.
  3. After cleaning, lightly apply Lexol Leather Conditioner to protect and soften the leather.
  4. Dry the tack in the sun and allow the water to evaporate before storing. The sun’s ultraviolet lights have great disinfecting properties! Be cautious of using traditional saddle soaps to clean moldy leather. Saddle soaps often contain glycerin, which acts as a “humectant”—meaning they tend to attract and hold atmospheric moisture. Although this property is great for softening leather fibers, it sets your tack up for future mold and mildew growth!

Prevention is Key!

Be Proactive and Keep Your Leather Gear Looking Like New.

  1. After each use, clean dirt and sweat off your tack and allow the undersides of saddles and headstalls to dry before they go back in the tack room.
  2. Store your saddles and tack in a clean, dry, well-ventilated area with a controlled temperature. If you live in an area with high humidity, a dehumidifier may be a good investment to help keep your tack mold free.
  3. Keep your saddle on a rack or stand whenever it is not being used. Try to avoid storing your saddle on its side or by its horn, as this will cause it to become misshapen.
  4. Rodents may also be an issue for stored tack. Never underestimate the value of a barn cat!
  5. Always keep your saddle covered when not in use; it will keep critters off your saddle and dust from settling.


Sarah 08/11/2021, 3:54:41 PM

As a professional saddle cleaner this post of SPOT ON! Lexol products are my go-to for saddle cleaning, conditioning and restoring.

Dave Beem 03/30/2022, 10:14:12 PM

Hey, we've got a REALLY old saddle and the leather is so dry it's like wood. Seriously ,we're afraid to bend any of it because it feels like it will break. Is there ANY way to salvage this thing? I'm pretty sure it's at least a 100 year old saddle (it was up in the loft of a barn my son was cleaning out and I'm sure it has been soaked and dried a thousand times due to the shape of that roof (original shingles from around 1852?)

He's putting armor all leather conditioner on it (which isn't doing a damned thing). I was tempted to have him just dunk the entire saddle in a barrel of kerosene myself. Then coat it with olive oil IF it finally started to flex. Any help would be appreciated. it does have a steel saddlehorn that is oddly uncorroded, but the leather shrank off the top (ripped the stitching). The rest is complete but the leather around the seat is curled up (between the seat and the wool pad sewn to it underneath, there's a layer of leather that curled UP, making it impossible to sit in, it's like a wooden wedge and it will not bend at all.

Any ideas would be helpful. I don't hold much hope for it, but my son (who is 20 and knows nothing about leather) insists it can be saved. I said sure, pull the horn off and pay someone to make you a new saddle (or rebuild that one). He wasn't amused


Dave Beem

Beth 06/01/2022, 3:50:05 PM

I’m in the same spot as Dave. What to do when you inherit the piece and the leather is already rock hard? Not to ride again but at least preserve?

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