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Caring for Western Leather Goods
by Bob Brooke

 

Leather is timeless. Many western antiques were made of it in whole or part. But just because leather is famously durable doesnít mean that it shouldnít be given some TLC. To ensure that leather goods have a long life, itís vital to regularly clean them and perform some light maintenance.

More than anything, itís important to keep your leather clean. Try to brush it down with a damp cloth at least once a week. Use a damp cloth. Start by brushing off any dirt of grime from the leather with your hand, then switch to a damp cloth. Do not use any soaps or cleansers. Then let the leather dry slowly.

Clean stains as soon as possible. Remove them as soon as you spot them to prevent extreme discoloration.

For minor stains, use a mild solution of three parts ivory dish soap to one part distilled water for minor stains. However, leather corrects itself over time, so even marks that seem major will eventually contribute to the overall patina.

For faded leather, use a conditioner, as it will rehydrate and reintroduce oils into the leather. If the leather has stains, apply conditioner not only to the stains, but to the entire piece. Conditioning leather will darken it, so consider that before doing it. Apply the conditioner, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe off the excess.

Handle With Clean Hands
An important thing to keep in mind is that the natural oils from human skin will gradually discolor leather over time, so itís a smart idea to keep your hands clean when handling your most precious products. Body oils encourage the further aging of leather, so itís important to keep contact with them at a minimum. Wearing white cotton gloves while handling western leather antiques may also help.

Wipe Away Dust
Aside from wiping down your leather goods with plain, white cloths, itís also crucial to regularly dust them to prevent irritation.

Dust has a way of drying out the surface of a leather, so itís a good idea to periodically dust leather products. Not only will this protect the oils in the leather, but it will help to create longevity.

Just like your skin, leather needs to breathe, so after you have finished dusting your jacket, leave it to air out before storing it again. Leather is meant to change as it gets older, and itís through this aging that its true value becomes apparent.

So instead of getting upset over minor stains, scratches or blemishes, think of a leatherís patina as a reflection of the life itís led.

Cleaning and Care of a Leather Saddle
The longevity of any leather saddle is directly related to the care and maintenance it receives. How often you need to clean your saddle depends on the type and frequency of your riding. If you use your saddle in sporting events and competitions then youíll need to clean your saddle more often than someone who simply goes for weekend pleasure rides. If you expose your saddle to dirt, mud, and sweat, youíll need to clean your saddle more often.

To clean your saddle, take a damp sponge and apply a mild leather cleaner or saddle soap. Work the soap into a lather and apply it to your saddle in small circular motions. Cover the entire leather area of your saddle carefully, avoiding suede or rough-out areas. Make sure you get the undersides of the leather, as well as between flaps. You may need to rinse and reapply saddle soap to your sponge several times during this process, depending on how soiled the saddle is.



Next, dampen a towel and wipe your saddle down to remove any excess soap residue. Itís import to make sure you remove all residue so that it doesnít damage the leather over time. Keep in mind that residue left in folds and crevices can attract dirt and grime later. Use a cotton swab to remove soap residue from those hard-to-get-to areas.

Next, apply a non-detergent leather conditioner sparingly and according to its directions. Be careful not to over apply leather conditioners. Applying too much conditioner to your saddle can cause the conditioner to penetrate through to your saddleís padding or the tree, leading to damage over time.

Finally, youíll want to clean the metal fittings on your saddle and wipe with a dry cloth to remove any residual cleaner. If you have a western show saddle, at this point you may also want to polish any silver trim with a quality silver polish, being careful not to get any on the leather.

NEW: Watch a video on how to restore cowboy boots.

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How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

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