My Leather Rescue Kit

My Leather Rescue Kit
Over the years I've accumulated quite an assortment of leather care products, but there are a handful of tried-and-true products I simply can't live without. Because I work with so much used, abused, and neglected tack, I've put together a triage kit to remedy the most common problems I seem to encounter.

Deep Cleaner:
When I want something clean, I want it deep down clean, and that means all the dirt and grime gone with no residue. I can't get that type of stripped-down clean with traditional saddle soap. I've found Pears Soap will suds up, remove the dirt and grease, and rinse clean without gumming up stitching or leaving a waxy or tacky finish. Because it has a slightly drying effect on leather, following up with a serious leather conditioner is mandatory.

Cleaning with regular Pears Soap and water gets tack deep-down clean without leaving a waxy or sticky residue.

Maintenance Conditioner:
Passier Lederbalsam is the bomb to keep everyday work tack pliable, moisturized, strong, protected, and looking great. It has a Vaseline-like texture, but less greasy and more waxy. It smells fabulous, absorbs completely, and leaves a subtle sheen when buffed out. If I have well-maintained leather without any major problems, Passier Lederbalsam is my go-to conditioner to keep it in top condition year after year.

Passier Lederbalsam

Deep Conditioner:
Because I work with so much abused and neglected leather, Oakwood Leather Conditioner is my old standby. When something is crusty, stiff as cardboard, dry, blotchy, or basically on its last legs, Oakwood can practically resurrect the dead. It's my absolute favorite on hard, dry, heavy saddle leather because of its ability to penetrate deep down to restore moisture and pliability.

Yeah, it's a bit greasy. Yes, it can darken leather, but I feel the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Oakwood Leather Conditioner is easy to use, economical, and it works. Definitely on my HG product list.

Oakwood Leather Conditioner Before (left) and After (right). Easy to use, and reliable results, particularly on distressed leather.

Non-Darkening Conditioner:
When light oil and natural colored leather positively, absolutely, needs to remain light, or the color unchanged, I reach for Bickmore Bick 4. Bick 4 is excellent to soften and restore distressed leather, and keeps new leather looking new. Bick 4 soaks in easily and leaves no residue, so leatherwork is less prone to attracting dirt and grime. As an added bonus, a nice buff afterwards leaves a very nice, natural-looking sheen. An excellent choice for show tack, particularly pieces with a lot of detail or deep tooling.

Bickmore Bick 4 on buckstitched leather
Vintage buckstitched halter treated with Bick 4 (right side) is brighter, cleaner, and better conditioned than untreated side (left), without altering the leather's natural color.
Top Dressing/Conditioner:
Blackrock Leather 'N' Rich
is an excellent "sealer" on fine leather goods that have already been conditioned. It imparts a very natural looking luster when buffed, and seems to enhance underlying dyes and colors, almost with an HD effect. As a standalone conditioner, I find it works very well on well-maintained or light duty leather, but it isn't my go-to deep conditioner for leather that's been distressed or abused. While Blackrock softens leather, it maintains body to the leather rather than becoming limp and oily, making it an ideal conditioner for lighter weight leathers and bridlework. Hands-down, Blackrock is my favorite "fancy" finish for leather bridles and halters.

Blackrock Leather 'N' Rich gives a nice sheen to fine leather, enhancing its natural colors with an almost HD effect.

Cotton T Shirts:
I like old, heavy, 100% cotton T shirts as rags for just about everything. You can wash them seemingly forever, bleach them, abuse them, and they just keep performing. Since they're past their prime, they've already shed most of the lint they're ever going to shed. The "harder" cotton fabrics are excellent to buff out top finishes to a nice shine.

heavy old cotton T-shirt rags
I love heavy, old, cotton T-shirts as rags for cleaning, polishing, and rubbing off excess dye.

Microfiber Rags:
They wash well, outlasting most cotton rags, and maintain just enough texture to work surface dirt loose without damaging the leather's surface.

Baby Soft Toothbrush:
I shop for the softest children's toothbrushes I can find, and use them to clean leather with soap and water, get sludge off hardware, clean engraved silver, and get into dirty stitching.

soap, water, and a soft toothbrush
A super-soft toothbrush, soap and water can lift even the worst dirt from neglected tack.

Round Toothpicks:
Toothpicks can get in all the little crevices around buckles and hardware, plus clear out buckle holes after cleaning and conditioning.

round toothpicks for clearing holes
Round toothpicks are super handy to clean out dirty stitching lines, get in small spaces around buckles, and clear cleaners and conditioners from punched holes.

I have a shelf full of leather care potions, cleaners, oils, conditioners, and some of them pretty decent, but these are the items I reach for time and time again because I've found they work the best for me.

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