The Awl & Needle
Caring for Your Tack
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Several factors harm leather - wet, dirt and mold.

Leather is made of fiberous tissue connected and kept flexible by tallows, keratin and elastin. Mold feeds on the tallows, keratin and elastin. It grows in the absence of light, in still air, at moderate temperatures. Mold grows where the spores land. It is imperative to keep your tack room clean and free of dust. Keep tack clean, don't just clean it once in a while. Even tack that isn't regularly used, clean at least once a month. If possible cover clean tack to prevent mold spores from landing on it.

NEVER use alcohol or other distillates to kill mold on leather. Alcohol breaks down the oils, tallows, keratin and elastin which hold the fibers together and maintain the leather's flexibility. The only way to safely treat leather for mold is to clean it properly after every use with clean water, a clean cloth or sponge, and proper leather cleaner and conditioner. Never put tack away dirty, and never put wet tack away without air drying. Sunshine will kill mold spores, but too much sun will also damage the leather.

Regular cleaning with a leather cleaner, such as Lexol, followed by a conditioner will ensure your tack's long life. It is important to first clean your tack of any dirt with a wet cloth, then apply the cleaner as directed. But you should never just clean your tack and put it away - cleaning and daily wear-and-tear removes vital moisture from the leather, and this moisture must be restored to ensure the longevity and quality of your tack. Always use a leather conditioner after cleaning, according to the product instructions. All-in-one products are created for the user's convenience, not the leather's needs; therefore, we don't employ them.

Soaking of leather in treatments of oil should be reserved for heavy tack or harness. This tannage is different from bridle leather which can in fact be weakened and experience radical colour change when exposed to such oils.

Regular cleaning with the proper cleaners and handling with care will ensure reliability and suppleness desired in fine tack.

If you see a whitish haze, called bloom, on your new tack, you may think you have to get it off - you don't! It's not bad for the leather. In fact, it's meant to be there. Tanning, the process that turns cowhide into leather, dries the leather. Then, to restore moisture and pliability, the leather is "curried" with a mixture of tallows and cod-liver oil, leaving a clear residue that turns whitish as it dries. Bloom rubs off so it'll disappear as you use your tack. To speed the process, just rub with a clean, dry cloth, or simply clean and moisturize your tack as described above with a good quality cleaner and conditioner.
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