Thursday, August 13, 2009

Leather Care Part 1: Initial Oiling or Pre-Conditioning

It is recommended that most leather equipment get an initial, light oiling prior to use. This is most important on the flesh side as it provides a first "conditioning" and aids in the "break-in" process. Some stirrup leathers, such as Oakbark leathers, do not require oil as they are made with ample lubrication. Suede products should never be oiled. Also, please note that some manufacturers have specific care and/or product recommendations for oiling (or not oiling) and/or pre-conditioning. Therefore, please consult with the manufacturer prior to beginning any product care regimen.

In many cases, people will use oil to darken leather products. Please note that some products contain a darkening agent to aid in this process whereas others may not. For example, if you are looking to darken leather, you may use Neatsfoot Oil Compound instead of Pure Neatsfoot Oil.

Avoid Over Oiling! It is important to understand that over-oiling is both easy to do and impossible to undo. When a product is over-oiled, the leather becomes saturated and, in some cases, it can cause excessive stretching on items like stirrup leathers, reins, billets, girths, martingales, etc... Over-oiling can also cause the glues used in areas like saddle knee pads to delaminate, resulting in premature wear and tear. Never soak leather in oil for any length of time.

Oil should be applied at room temperature or slightly warmed, but it should always be comfortable to the touch. Using a piece of sheepskin or soft paint brush, apply the oil sparingly to avoid over-oiling. Resist the temptation to add oil to areas that don't seem quite as dark as another area. Allow the oil to dry at least overnight. If the leather is not completely uniform in color, don't worry! Normal cleaning and conditioning plus use will help to even out the leather color, but it's important that you do not over oil in an effort to rush this process. Keep in mind that some excess oil may be present on the leather when the product is used the first few times. So, we recommend you don't wear your finest show clothes immediately after oiling your saddle!
If you have any questions regarding the initial oiling process, please post your comments at the end of today's article so others may benefit as well!

Up Next... Leather Care Part 2 - Cleaning Leather: A 4-Step Process

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