What products do you need to clean your tack properly?

There are about as many tack cleaning products out there as there are horses, you just sometimes need to weed through them to find something you like.  But most tack cleaning things can be broken down into a few categories:

  • Soaps
  • Creams (aka potions and lotions if you are so inclined.)
  • Oils



A cream, a spray, a soap!


You can buy them, or in some cases, make them yourself.  For a home-made recipe, click this totally amazing step by step. 


  • Soaps (a very general term I might add) come in lots of varieties - liquid, solid, somewhere in between.  Generally speaking, many are glycerine based.  You can find them in spray bottles, tubs, trays.  Easy to use.  A damp sponge is all you need.  


Some porous things (like leather) can get clogged up with glycerin based soaps, in which case you may want to switch to a castile soap.  Avoid using glycerin based soaps on your own leather boots if you polish them, the shoe polish gets wacky gross and chunky and looks horrible if you use glycerin based soap.  Boots are better cleaned with castile soap.  


Some soaps are milk based, some have yummy smelling essential oils, some can be made at home.  


  • Creams are really more like a goop, the lederbalsam is a good example of this.  Usually made of a beeswax base, lederbalsams are deep conditioning, creating shine and a tiny amount of stick so your pants have some extra grip.  Some creams are in squeezable containers, which can certainly help keep things tidy at the barn.  


A lederbalsam ready for smearing and conditioning


  • Oils are just that - oily.  The most common oil is neatsfoot - which in the good ol’ days was made from cow shin and foot parts.  Today you will usually find neatsfoot compounds, which many people believe is not as good as the original.  Both types will darken leather.  


Choice of container:


  • Spray bottles - Wonderful for the busy horse owner.  Easy to spray directly on your saddle, or onto a rag or sponge.  


  • Tubs - small and easy to store, but any semi-solid goop like a lederbalsam can melt a bit in the summer.  More solid soaps are often packaged this way. 


  • Hanging bottles - specifically designed to dangle from your bridle cleaning hook, these containers contain a cream cleanser/conditioner that you squeeze out, toothpaste like. 


  • Wipes - many formulations of leather care products also come in wipes, which is great for shows or quick cleanings.  Keep them sealed or they may dry out. 


Wipes are super for shows!


  • Tubes - some cleansers for leather come in tubes.  Often it’s hard to get the last bits out, so you can cut open the folded end to get every last drop. 


  • Foams and sprays - there seems to be no end to the possible delivery systems for tack cleaning.  These handy containers allow for precise application on the tack or a cloth.  



The choices are fairly overwhelming - so if you don’t have a clue what to use on your tack - the first thing to do is chase down the manufacturer of your tack and see what they suggest.  Many manufacturers also make their own tack cleaners.  Hopefully this eliminates some of the guess work!

What’s your favorite type of leather cleaner?