Leather Therapy Makes Leather Behave...Beautifully

Colour Control For Leather

No more! Like ice cream, leather now comes in dozens of shades. Depending on their needs and tastes, modern riders can find leather tack in colours ranging from bleached white through multiple shades of brown to black. Manufacturers have learned how to successfully dye leathers to please a wide range of tastes.

While old time horsemen expected their leather to change colour over time, today’s riders are often more concerned with keeping the leather the same colour it was when they bought it. The trick is to use leather care products that are easy on both the leather and on leather dyes. Some of the old standbys used by grooms of yore are no longer the best possible choices on the market. Saddle soap, for example, can have a very alkaline pH which may chemically affect dyes. Liquid conditioners containing petroleum-based oils tend to darken leather and give it an “oily” feel that attracts dirt.

While you can’t control every factor that may affect the long-term colour of your tack, here are some tips on how to keep your leather as close to its original colour as possible:

• Don’t be too quick to clean brand new leather. Instead, use a conditioning product for several weeks to help dyes to set completely. Some cleaners can break the weak hydrogen bonds between dye and leather fibres. Then the dye leaches out.

• Avoid hard rubbing on new leather—instead, use a liquid conditioner that is easily and completely absorbed leaving no oily residue to trap dirt. Clean your leather using a pH-neutral product that lifts dirt out of the leather’s pores and stitching lines without leaving excess foam or any gummy residue behind. Alkaline products, like many saddle soaps, may move dyes.

• Many one-step cleaner/conditioners have heavy, greasy bases that attract dirt which can change the leather’s appearance. Conversely, an anionic product like Leather Therapy WASH actually creates a negative electrical charge that helps repel dirt. Avoid saturating the leather when you clean it. Condition your leather occasionally using a lightweight, penetrating animal-based oil like Leather Therapy Restorer and Conditioner that mimics the fat liquors used by quality tanners to supple and soften new hides.

• Avoid conditioners formulated with thick, greasy bases that only reach surface fibres and do not penetrate deeply to thoroughly condition the interior matrix of leather fibres. Avoid petroleum-based conditioners that tend to darken lighter coloured leathers. Read labels carefully (the word “compound” is often a tip off that you’re holding a blended product containing a petroleum distillate) and use your nose to sniff for a petroleum odour.

• Avoid greasy or waxy waterproofing products that tend to stay on the leather’s surface and attract dirt. They may mottle some kinds of leather and should never be used on suede. Keep suede saddle seats or chaps looking great with a water repellant spray that preserves the leather’s nap while sealing out rain or other moisture that can spot or mottle the leather’s original colour.

• Keep light-coloured leathers out of the sun which tends to darken them. Use saddle covers to help maintain the saddle’s original colour. A Western saddle that has been lacquered or shellacked to give it a showroom shine will tend to become mottled as the rider wears that coating off parts of the saddle, particularly under the thighs and legs. The same thing happens to saddles and bridles made from cheaper leathers that have been “glazed” to produce a uniform colour and surface. As the glaze is rubbed off, the leather beneath will no longer match the colour of the glaze. If this will be a problem, choose tack that does not have an applied finish.

• Quiz sales personnel about the leather used in a saddle’s construction. Many English saddles, for example, are made from several different kinds of leather. Although a factory dye job makes all the pieces look alike when you buy the saddle, over time the differences may become more noticeable, especially if one of the leathers is more porous than the others. Inspect tack closely to be sure that dyes or glazes are not being used to camouflage poor quality leather. Cheap tannages from some overseas producers trying to compete on price are sometimes made with poor or inappropriate dyes that may bleed, turn colour, or otherwise disappoint the buyer.

Anna Carner Blangiforti
President and Founder
Leather Therapy Products

Anna Carner Blangiforti’s hand-raised Arabian gelding Justinian provided the inspiration for her Leather Therapy line which includes Leather Therapy Wash, original Leather Therapy Restorer and Conditioner and new Leather Therapy Water Repellant.