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Bridles, Reins & Nosebands
Leather Care & Facts
Care of Leather Bridles and Strapping
Leather, although traditional, is still a very popular material for the manufacture of many saddlery items. Not only does it create a natural and beautiful product, but can give many years of service when well cared for. Below are some leather facts and tips that can help you get the most from your tack.
Vegetable Tanned Leather
Most bridlewear and strapping is made from leather that has been "Veg Tanned". It doesn't matter how expensive the leather was to purchase, veg-tanned leather requires careful maintenance to ensure it's lasting suppleness and strength.
Vegetable tanned leather has a tendency to dry out over time. Untreated, this will lead to cracking of the leather fibres and eventually cause it to fail (usually at the most inopportune time). It is important to clean leather regularly with saddle soap and occassionally dress it with a good quality leather conditioner. Buff with a soft cloth to remove any excess and provide a soft sheen to the finish. Old or dried out leather can sometimes be restored using a light oil such as Pure Neatsfoot oil (not the petroleum based variety), but if it has gone as far as the dry rot stage, it generally can not be saved.
Just as it is important to keep leather well conditioned, it is equally important not to OVER condition. A leather item with too much conditioner will have a tendency to attract dust and the leather fibres can weaken. Use any oil or conditioner sparingly, and make sure to choose a good quality product made from plant or animal based oils & waxes.
If you find that you have mildew on your leather, this can be a sign that the leather has been over-conditioned. Too much oil, or a conditioner that is too heavy can block the pores, locking in damp and dirt and thus creating the perfect environment for mildew to grow. In this case, we recommend that you sit the item out in the sun to help kill off the mildew spores, then wipe down carefully with a soft cloth. After this, clean the item well with a good quality saddle soap.
Chrome Tanned Leather
Chrome tanned (mineral tanned) leather uses a process by which the lubricating oils are fixed into the hide. The use of saddle soap or oils on these products is not appropriate.
Leather products can be finished in a number of ways. Two of the most popular finishes used in saddlery are Laquer and Wax. Of course, some leathers have no finish at all, such as those items in our Oregon range.
LACQUER - Some people have been heard to lament that their leather is "peeling". In fact it is most probably the case that their leather had a layer of lacquer applied to the surface. This is what gives many leather products a shiny appearance when new, and the "peeling leather" is simply the lacquer layer wearing off due to cleaning and wear. This is quite normal, and in fact allows the leather soap or conditioner to work more effectively once this layer has gone.
WAX - That bridle that you just ordered has arrived with white/grey marks all over it. Don't panic! This is simply a wax coating that has been applied to the leather during manufacture. It serves to protect the leather from marks and drying out during transit. Many good saddleries will wipe the leather over to present it well in their stores and you won't even know that there was a wax finish on it to start with, but otherwise, the wax will buff out with a soft cloth or disappear with your first saddle soap treatment.
Scratches & Blemishes
Don't forget that leather is a natural product, and it is completely normal to see marks and faint creases - it reminds us of the animal it once was. It is extremely rare that any blemish you see in one of our leather items will have any ill effect on it's performance. Knocks and bumps through normal use can also cause marks in the outer-most layer where the dye has been applied. Unless a scratch or cut goes deep into the layers of the leather, it will generally fade out with the use of a good conditioner.