Saddle soap is the go-to product for cleaning leather. This concept is nothing new, and since the 18th century people have been using it to clean leather products like saddles, tucks, and boots. However, some people think it is a bad practice to use saddle soap on your leather boots.
If used incorrectly, saddle soap is definitely bad for your leather shoes. When used correctly, saddle soap can retain health and limit the aging of the leather on your boots for a longer period. If you’d like to know more about saddle soap and how to use saddle soap on boots, let’s jump right in.
What is Saddle Soap?
Originally, saddle soap was used for cleaning horse saddles. Saddles are generally made from thick well-oiled and well-waxed pieces of leather. They’re made like this to protect them from harsh elements and the general wear and tear of riding.
Saddles get really dirty, so they need a powerful soap to get them clean. Saddle soap is an astringent which means that it shrinks or constricts body tissue. This allows it to get rid of stains, dirt, wax, and oil from leather.
What is Saddle Soap Used For?
Today, saddle soap is marketed as a cleaner for your leather boots. Usually, we want oil and wax to stay where it is, and that’s where the problem with saddle soap comes in. Some people believe saddle soap will strip the leather of your boots of all oils and wax ultimately damaging them. The biggest difference between a saddle and a pair of boots is the thickness of the leather. The leather used for saddles is thick and thus more forgiving than the thinner pieces used in leather boots.
However, modern saddle soaps are made to be used on the thinner leather of our boots and shoes. Choose one from a reputable brand and read reviews before using it.
Saddle Soap Ingredients
Saddle soap is a proprietary cleaner, and it may not be possible to know exactly what’s in it. Most likely all saddle soap will contain some sort of astringent that removes dirt and stains, fat, oil like tallow or neatsfoot oil, and wax, such as beeswax or paraffin wax.
All soaps are generally made from a fatty acid, such as tallow, with a strong base, such as lye. However, you may find that some brands will list the ingredients in their saddle soap. One good example is Fiebing’s saddle soap that lists all its ingredients.
How To Use Saddle Soap On Boots
If you’re wondering how to use saddle soap on shoes and boots made from leather, then gather up your supplies and follow the simple steps outlined below.
Things you’ll need:
- Horsehair brush
- Some water
- Paper towels or microfiber cloth
- Saddle soap
1. Prep Your Boots
Start by giving your shoes a good brush using a horsehair brush. Make sure the brush is clean and does not have any pigments leftover from previous use. Run your fingers over it and feel for any leftover polish or residue from other products.
Remove your laces and be sure to get the brush into the fold in and around the tongue. Make sure you brush away all dust, dirt, and gunk from the boots.
2. Create A Lather
After making certain that there’s no residue on the brush, dip it into some water and vigorously rub the brush on the surface of the saddle soap. Keep rubbing until it starts to lather up.
3. Start Cleaning
Once you have an even lather going, select a panel of leather to start cleaning. Lightly scrub the area for five to 10 seconds using small circular motions. It is important to do one panel at a time because you don’t want the leather to absorb too much of the saddle soap.
4. Remove As Much Saddle Soap As Possible
Grab a sheet of paper towel or microfiber cloth and remove as much of the saddle soap as possible from the first panel that you’ve been cleaning. Any residue or film leftover from the saddle soap will dry out the leather and potentially damage your leather boots.
5. Reapply And Scrub Any Discolored Patches
After removing the saddle soap from the first panel, check to see if there are any discolored patches from stubborn stains. If you do see discolored patches, then you’ll need to clean the spot a bit more. You can rub the saddle soap a little deeper in the areas where there’s a stubborn stain. You can use your fingernail to push the saddle soap a little deeper into the stain as well. Once the stain is gone, you can give the panel a quick once over with a well-lathered brush to even out the color.
6. Remove All Traces Of Saddle Soap Off The Boot
Take a wet paper towel, cloth, or sponge and try to wipe off all the saddle soap remaining on the boot. Pay special attention and try to get into the stitching and folds so that the soap doesn’t build up there.
7. Repeat The Process On Every Panel Of The Boot.
Repeat steps 1 through 6 and cleans every panel on the boot.
8. Leave The Boots To Dry
Put the boots in a well-ventilated area and leave them to dry overnight.
9. Condition The Leather
The next morning, use a moist cloth and clean the surface of your boots. Take some conditioner and rub it into the leather. This adds some oil and fat back into the boots that may have been removed during the cleaning process.
Using saddle soap on your leather shoes and boots is perfectly fine as long as you use it correctly. It is understandable why people may still be nervous about using it. If it gets into the deep layers of the leather, it can cause it to dry out and crack.
But don’t let fear stop you, follow the simple steps in this guide to get stains and dirt out of your leather boots. Remember to remove all traces of the saddle soap after cleaning and condition the boots the next day and your boots will be fine. Read up on more tricks in this article on how to clean leather boots and shoes.