How Do I Restore Dried Out Leather?

Does your crown piece crack when you bend it? Or is your leather halter rock hard? How about your billets, do they look like they may snap if you were to attach the girth (such a good possibility that they will, yikes!) Leather that is allowed to sit for long periods of time and is not maintained can begin to lose the oil that keeps it supple.

When leather is allowed to completely go dry, the leather can become dry rotted- at which point it becomes unsafe and thus, un-salvageable. If the leather has not gone past the dry rot stage, simply oiling the leather should start to bring it back to suppleness. However, if said dry rotted leather in question refuses to supple up with time and care, it is most likely time to throw it away.

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This saddle has seen better days. There are many surface cracks in the leather, but the damage is obvious when looking below the buckle- that extent of dryness cannot be renewed, only replaced.

For a piece of leather to really be brought back to its former strength and suppleness, the inner core of the leather fiber has to be conditioned. The flesh, or back side of the leather is more open in its pore construction and can more readily absorb oils. This is especially true if the grain side of the leather has been “sealed” with a chemical sealer or with soap. We do not recommend soaking a leather item in a bucket of oil. You will know when the leather has reached its saturation point when the oil remains on the surface and doesn’t rapidly disappear when applied.

If you try to bend the leather and surface cracks start to appear, the leather is still too dry. It may take several applications before you can manipulate the leather without it cracking. Leather that has already cracked will not be made better with oiling – it is unsafe and should be thrown away.

Try to store your saddles, bridles and all other important leather goods in a clean and properly climate controlled area. This will help prevent excessive drying out and oil loss from leather. Ensure that you are regularly cleaning and oiling your products as well! Being lazy will cost you in the long run. 😉

-KW

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