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How to Clean Your Leather Saddle

Clean your saddle at least once weekly, choosing either the tried-and-true glycerin soap approach or a leather cleanser formulated for cleaning tack. With either cleaning method, you'll want to be sure to clear away ring dust, sweat or grime that has accumulated on the leather during rides.

If you're using the traditional method of glycerin soap, fill a small bucket with cool water and make sure a clean sponge or cloth is barely moistened before wiping away grime. Wipe stitching, too, and clean cracks and crevices around the skirts and stirrup bars. Pay particular attention to cleaning areas of your saddle that are under pressure and exposed to horse sweat, such as billet straps.

Next, flip your saddle to clean panels and gullet. You can rest your saddle upside-down on a towel or use a saddle stand that adjusts for that purpose. Unfasten stirrup leather buckles and work on the creases created by the hardware and your stirrup irons. Your saddle's seat, knee rolls or thigh blocks may require extra conditioning to maintain grippy characteristics.

When the leather feels smooth and clean, rub a nearly dry sponge or rag against the glycerin soap bar. Apply a thin layer of glycerin soap (no suds during this step) to your leather to seal its pores and keep it soft, but not sticky.

Newer methods of cleaning your saddle involve easy-to-use cleansing and conditioning products—one-step leather cleaners also condition as you wipe away grime. Two-step cleaners usually advise following cleansing with the associated conditioner that will soften, nourish and protect the leather. You'll use the same approach of clearing away grime from your saddle's cracks and crevices. If you need to apply a conditioner, wait until your saddle is thoroughly dry before doing so.

Almost every tack manufacturer has a recommendation or product preference for cleaning and conditioning its products, and some saddle makers produce their own formulas. Always follow manufacturer's guidelines when considering commercial leather cleaners and conditioners for use on your saddle.