Leather Therapy Makes Leather Behave...Beautifully

Get Mould and Mildew Off Your Leather Saddle For Good

Saddle before Leather Therapy
Saddle after Leather Therapy

“Judy’s Tack Shop has been carrying your products for several years now with good success; however, we recently received a badly moulded and mildewed saddle that proved to be the ultimate test. The saddle, an older Hermes Steinkraus, had been left in a basement for years with no care. To make matters worse the basement flooded and the saddle was left to mould and mildew extensively for weeks. Not an inch of the leather was unaffected. The flaps were so stiff and curled under it looked as though they were folded. The leather was in the worst condition possible. Up for the challenge, we took the saddle to be restored. We began by using Leather Therapy WASH and took the offending mildew off successfully within a few rounds. Now totally clean, we used Leather Therapy Restorer/Conditioner to restore the moisture balance and “life” to the leather. A rich patina emerged and the saddle looked as though it had been well cared for, not left to mildew in a wet basement. The customer was amazed with the results and could not believe it was the same saddle. Please know ‘Judy's Tack Shop’ recommends and uses your products with confidence.”
- Amy L., Judy’s Tack Shop, Tennessee

At the microscopic level, leather is made up of a tangled mass of fine root-like fibres. These fibres are held together with protein bonds—once broken, they cannot be mended and the leather is permanently weakened. Leather damage usually starts from the inside out, and by the time you can see it, the leather’s strength is badly compromised.

Leather is a natural product with its own unique chemistry. It is acidic by nature, but many leather “care” kits are alkaline by nature, and react with the leather fibres over time. These alkaline products destroy the very leather they are supposed to preserve!

Not only are many leading brands of leather cleaners harmful to your leather, they are harmful to the environment. Many contain petroleum distillates, silicones and waxes which make them potential fire hazards. Many are potentially toxic if not applied with suitable protective clothing and masks. And did you know some leather care products are so hazardous they are banned from air transportation and pose a threat to the environment during waste container disposal?

Why would you want horses, riders and trainers to come into contact with such products?

Safe leather cleaners contain only natural and synthetic oils and surfactants. They do not contain any petroleum by-products, silicones or waxes—making them much safer to use and store in the home or tack room. Our range of proven and tested leather cleaners are made by Leather Therapy in the United States and in fact have been approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as being Non Flammable, Non Toxic and Readily Biodegradable, and are approved for safe transport by air.

A quality leather cleaner like Leather Therapy won’t leave a soapy scum or residue behind, and nor will it darken leather or leave greasy spots that encourage mould or mildew. And a quality leather cleaner like Leather Therapy penetrates deeply to the innards of the leather, nourishing it thoroughly throughout.

  1. We suggest you work on your leather saddle outside and in direct sunlight as much as possible. This is probably not a good rainy day project! Simply touching a mould or mildew patch releases countless numbers of spores into the air, and you don’t want these colonising other leather items in your tack room. The heat from the sun will help dry your leather, preventing new spores taking hold. The UV rays in sunlight will kill any remaining spores (see point 4 below)
  2. Have a supply of old rags you are prepared to throw away. Wipe as much surface contamination as you can with a wet rag, then discard. Repeat with a clean wet rag. Be sure to discard rags in a way that won’t allow spores to spread further. Don’t rinse and reuse the rags as you will never remove all spores on the rags. Use an old toothbrush to clean stitching lines and crevices
  3. Leather Therapy Wash
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    Next, with all visible surface mould or mildew removed, use a water-based, pH neutral, “spray on–wipe off” product like Leather Therapy Wash to give a safe, deep clean that removes the embedded dirt and organic residue that aids future mould and mildew growth. You want to get rid of any surface dust, dirt or sweat that has accumulated. It is important to have the leather clean first before applying any conditioner—conditioner soaks in deeply and you do not want to drag in the dirt as well
  4. If possible, allow the saddle to dry fully in the sun—not only will evaporating excess moisture from the leather prevent new spores taking hold, but the UV rays of the sunlight will kill any remaining spores. Otherwise, allow your saddle to dry naturally in as well-lit and well ventilated a room as possible
  5. Leather Therapy Restorer/Conditioner
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    Once dry, condition the leather with a pH-neutral product such as Leather Therapy Restorer/Conditioner. Apply the conditioner with a sponge, VERY sparingly as leather will only absorb what it needs. The Restorer/Conditioner will soak in and disappear, so there’s no need to wipe off. It will not stay wet or greasy unless you apply too much at once. The conditioner will not alter the colour or the gloss of your leather. But it will penetrate deep into the centre of the leather, nourishing and lubricating the fibres without introducing more moisture to trigger the mould and mildew cycle again. And being pH neutral means it won’t interfere with the natural acidic environment of leather but will increase its life. Leather Therapy Restorer and Conditioner is the only United States Environmental Protection Agency tested and approved product that contains ingredients that inhibit growth of mould and mildew
  6. We suggest you repeat this process with the Wash and Restorer/Conditioner every three months to add years of life to your saddle. Wash keeps the leather clean on the outside while Restorer/Conditioner nourishes and protects the leather from mould and mildew from the inside
  7. Leather Therapy Finish
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    Wash and Restorer/Conditioner are all you need for basic ongoing leather care and mould and mildew control. However, you may wish to go a little further and use Leather Therapy Finish to give your precious saddle a beautiful new shine while providing a protective shield from the elements. Not recommended for use on leather intended to have a non-shiny appearance
  8. Leather Therapy Water Repellant
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    A final treatment with Leather Therapy Water Repellant will give even more protection from water, wine, tea, coffee, mud, dirt and salt. Unlike Finish, the repellant will not make the leather look shiny. If anything it tends to give the leather a more matt finish so is best not used on anything you want to look glossy

“We’ve thoroughly cleaned and conditioned every piece of tack and washed every saddle pad twice but when we open the tack room door, we can still smell mould. After several days, we can see mould blooming on our tack again. What are we doing wrong? Help!”

“I use a leather care product with mildewcide and always clean off my saddle after every ride before I return it to my tack locker at the barn where I board. But my locker still smells funky and if I skip a day of riding, I’m likely to find mould on the undersides of the saddle skirt when I come back. Why isn’t the mildewcide working?”

These riders and many others have discovered that when mould and mildew invade leather tack and the areas where it is stored, a frustrating cycle begins. Avoiding mould spores altogether is impossible. There are literally billions of them floating in the air around us. When they land on an organic food source (like leather) and have the proper moisture level, they release enzymes that break down the food sources so they can grow and spew more spores into the air to perpetuate the cycle.

There is nothing more discouraging than “damage control”. The best way to deal with mould and mildew is to prevent them from invading in the first place. Spending minutes on prevention is much less time consuming than the hours spent in cleaning up a problem.

To prevent mould and mildew from getting a toehold in your tack in the first place, regularly apply a penetrating leather conditioner with a leather-friendly pH and a mildewcide that is non-toxic, biodegradable, Earth friendly, and has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Read the wording on labels carefully. The “mildew inhibiting” ingredients in some leather care products are untested and may even damage the leather matrix. Avoid using saddle soaps with glycerin that attracts moisture and supports mould growth. Some oils like neatsfoot compounds and lanolin can act as food sources for mould.

Understand that mildewcides are preventatives. That’s why you need to use them on a regular basis. Once mould and mildew spores get a toehold in the tangle of fibres that make up your leather’s inner corium, it is nearly impossible to get them out completely. While some of the products frustrated riders resort to may temporarily slow the regrowth of mould spores, they can also harm the leather. The pH of bleach can break the bonds among the leather’s inner fibres. Similarly, rubbing alcohol can dry the fibres out and make them brittle. Damaged or brittle fibres mean weaker leather—and possible safety concerns. If mould and mildew invade non-leather portions of tack such as saddle linings or stuffed panels, getting rid of nasty musty odours becomes more than just a surface challenge.

If you can’t remove the mould’s food source to inhibit its growth, the other alternative is to control the moisture level of your tack and tack room. Mould thrives when relative humidity is 55% or higher. Relative humidity is the amount of moisture air actually holds compared to the maximum amount it could hold and it fluctuates with temperature and weather conditions. Use these tips to control the humidity level of your tack and tack room. You may need to adopt a combination of them depending on the region of the country where you live and the changing seasons. Staying ahead of mould and mildew is a year-round job.

It goes without saying that using any electrical appliances in a barn (even something as simple as a light bulb) requires careful attention to every fire safety precaution. Before you plug in any appliances, make sure your barn wiring is up to code, that you are using properly grounded and protected outlets, and that the appliances have built-in safety mechanisms that will turn them off automatically should they begin to overheat. Take steps to be sure that light bulbs or heaters always have sufficient clearance around them and that they cannot be carelessly blocked should someone toss a saddle pad or clothing near them.