Posts tagged #saddle

Yes, pH Matters - Get Happily Ever After For Your Tack By Avoiding the 7 Worst Enemies of Your Leather

Quality leather tack is certainly one of the bigger investments we make as part of our time with horses. So it goes without saying that you’d like your precious saddle, harness, and other leather gear to last for an awfully, awfully…..awfully long time. We’re just like you…always babying your tack, cringing at every scratch and ding, or freaking out every time it gets put away “wrong”. We probably look crazy to non-horsey people, but hey, they’d probably get a little out of sorts too if something that cost them a few dozen Benjamin’s got roughed up.

No matter your discipline, most of the ways you protect your leather focus on addressing environmental or factors external to your leather, as we’ve been discussing the past few months in our 7 Worst Enemies of Leather Series. However, you can also protect your leather by taking into account its actual inherent physical properties.

And this is probably the MOST IMPORTANT, but least known and most ignored factor when it comes to the health of your leather. (It’s ok, you are not alone. We didn’t know this either until we started working on our company and creating our own line of leather care products.) :)

So we’re going to let you in on the big secret that nobody else is talking about by covering this little known fact about leather care in this fourth installment in our series of 7 articles. Just what exactly does the physical make-up of leather have to do with the leather care products you pick, and then how do you make sure you pick the best products that will keep your leather as happy as a cow in clover?

It’s all about two letters: pH

One of the very best ways to protect your leather tack and your investment is to ensure that you care for your leather using products that support the natural pH of the leather. Ok, so what on earth do we mean by natural pH?

The term pH refers to the measure of acidity or alkalinity of a material on a scale of 1 to 14.

On the pH scale...

-          Acids have a pH between 1 and 7

-          Alkaline materials (also called bases), such as soap and most cleaning products, have a pH between 7 and 14

-          Neutral materials, such as water, have a pH of 7

And modern tanned leather has a pH averaging around 5 (give or take), so leather is acidic.

 

Why does pH matter so much?

Ok, so now it gets super interesting. (Have we mentioned before that we really love science? LOL!)

A chemical reaction occurs when materials of differing pH touch each other. This means that when a product with a pH that is not near the pH of leather is applied to your saddle, your saddle leather reacts just like an elementary school science project volcano. Do you remember adding the vinegar to the baking soda in the volcano and then watching it foam and erupt? This same reaction is taking place in your leather at a cellular level.

The reaction caused by using leather care products not matched to the pH of leather results in damage and premature deterioration to your tack, including:

-          Hardening

-          Brittleness

-          Darkening

-          Loss of strength

Although this damage may not be immediately visible, microscopic damage is still occurring every time a non-pH matched product is used, and this irreversible premature deterioration will become apparent over time.

However, isn’t leather just like our own skin?

Shouldn’t the leather be able to withstand alkaline products since we use alkaline products, such as detergents and soaps, on our skin all of the time?

Yes, leather is essentially just like your skin (our skin is similarly acidic) and should be treated with the same tender care. However, the difference is that your skin is able to constantly renew and repair itself. Leather is unable to repair itself, so we are the gatekeepers to preventing deterioration of our leather tack. Deterioration is often chalked up to leather “just normally aging”, but often this isn’t really the case and is actually the result of improper care.

One of the challenges to ensuring proper care is to find leather care products that are matched to the pH of leather. Many common leather cleaners and saddles soaps on the market are alkaline, so they will unfortunately react with and damage leather.

The Takeaway

Ok, so basically, you’ve gotta just say “no” to alkaline products. Anything “soap” is out for sure. More acidic products like vinegar (pH around 2.5) and lemon juice (pH around 2) should also be avoided.

When searching for leather care products, look for products that are formulated to be the same pH as your leather. Look for wording such as “pH balanced” or “pH matched”. Products with a neutral pH are also a good choice, as these will not react with your leather either. Wondering about our products? This is why Sterling Essentials’ Leather Cleaner is pH matched to your leather and our Leather Conditioner has a neutral pH. With consistent care, using pH matched leather care products will go a long way toward helping you keep your leather in mint condition and lasting for years to come. 

**Be sure to keep an eye open for our next and fifth article in our Series coming out next month!

Miss the other articles? No problem! Check them out here:

https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-water

https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-light 

https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-bugs-dust-grime

Why is The Sand Arena Ballerina Hooked on Sterling Essentials?

As you may have seen, we’ve recently been able to reach out and deliver our products to our friends in Australia. This has been a super exciting development, and the cherry on top with it all has been that award winning equestrian blogger, Andrea Parker of The Sand Arena Ballerina, checked out our products and gave us a stellar review!

Thank you so much to Aussie gal, Andrea, for her thoughts on our brand!

PC: The Sand Arena Ballerina

PC: The Sand Arena Ballerina

These exquisitely crafted products are infused with essential oils designed to leave your leather looking and feeling a million bucks. They also smell fantastic and will leave both your saddlery and hands free of any greasy residue.
— The Sand Arena Ballerina, May 2019

Get Happily Ever After For Your Tack by Avoiding the 7 Worst Enemies of Your Leather: Sunlight

Who doesn’t love a sunny day? Especially after gloomy winter skies. When that sun pops up, do you envision a nice leisurely trail ride, a hack in the outdoor ring, and days at the showgrounds? It is fabulous that you are so happy about that glowing bright orb in the sky (we are, too), but now the other shoe drops. Your saddle and other leather equipment and boots are sadly just not as big a fan as you are of those warming rays.

Truth be told, your leather has vampire tendencies - a predilection for dark places and a fear of the sun! Welcome to our second installment in our series of 7 articles about the worst things for your leather. No doubt you’ve guessed it. In this second article we are talking about why light is such a bummer for your gear and how to best protect your prized tack. Don’t worry - coffin not required! :)

Why Light Hurts Your Tack

It’s the usual good old story of how sunlight bleaches out the color in items that sit in the sun for too long. The sunlight’s UV rays do a number on leather, fading its color and dulling its patina just like it does to your car’s paint job and your patio furniture. As if wrecking the beautiful rich, deep color of your tack and boots isn’t enough, the UV rays are also able to penetrate deeply enough into your leather to cause fiber damage. This results in weaker, more brittle leather and a shortened lifespan for your favorite saddle.

Although sunlight is often the most common light source we think of in our equestrian pursuits, keep in mind that indirect and artificial light is also damaging. Tack room and barn lights, as well as arena lights, all emit UV rays and contribute to fading and fiber damage over time. And as you’ve learned about through the care of our own skin, you are aware that UV exposure even occurs in the shade and on cloudy days.

Ok, so it’s not exactly like you can slap a coat of sunscreen on your saddle and call it good. Hmmm, though we haven’t tried it, but strangely I don’t think we’ll get all busy with the Banana Boat just yet. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to shelter our tack and equipment from harmful light sources.

How to Avoid Light Damage

The good news is that your leather probably doesn’t normally get that much exposure to sun and other lights. Unless you just leave your saddle sitting naked out in the sun or in a lighted space regularly, your saddle isn’t picking up too many damaging rays. The real key to minimizing light damage is to shield your equipment.

Here are a few easy and inexpensive tips and habits to adopt:

  • Gotta have your tack outside, such as at a show or at your trail campsite? Keep your tack in the shade when not in use. A handy awning, tree, shade of a building…anything will do.

  • Cover your tack when not in use. Loosely cover your saddle with a saddle cover or a towel or blanket. Do the same for your bridle, girth, and other tack - pop it in a bridle bag or use a towel or blanket.

  • Don’t leave your tack chilling out in the sun while at horse shows. This is kinda a pet peeve of ours. Even if you aren’t able to get your tack cleaned and put away right away after your ride, just quickly drape a towel over it to protect it until you can come back to it.

  • Cover your saddle when you put it away in the tack room, your home, or wherever you keep your tack.

  • Store your boots inside and out of direct sunlight. Take it even a step further by keeping your tall boots in a boot bag or in the original box.

Of course, we are big fans of a regular cleaning and conditioning routine for all of your leather, too. (Find all the products you need here!) This will help keep fibers healthy and strong enough to stand up to and slow down damage, fading, and aging caused by normal use and light exposure.

The Takeaway

How fantastic is this that you can do wonders to protect your tack by just tossing any old towel over it? You have to admit that this is a pretty simple, zero effort, basically zero cost habit to get into, and your leather will love you for it! So cover up, Buttercup, and enjoy all the sunshine you want!

**Be sure to keep an eye open for our next and third article in our Series coming out next month!

Miss the first article? No problem! Check it out here: https://www.sterling-essentials.com/blog/get-happily-ever-after-for-your-tack-by-avoiding-the-7-worst-enemies-of-your-leather-water

Stop The Damage: Time To Save The Glycerin For Your Face, Not For Your Leather

You may have observed that our Leather Cleaners and Leather Conditioners are very similar to cosmetics or skin care products you regularly see in the stores and use. Ah ha, you found us out! LOL! Yes, our products are very similar by design. We want our products to be very gentle, and the principles of leather care are very similar to skin care.

However, one key difference between our cleaners and conditioners and your skin care products, as well as many of the other brands of leather care products out there, is that we do not use any glycerin in our products. Zip, nada. Why? Seems weird right?

Originally, it came as quite a surprise to us that glycerin is such a no-no for leather. This cosmetics workhorse is used all over the place in skin care - lotions, face creams, the list is long. Ok, so that makes sense because glycerin is a humectant. This means that glycerin actually attracts water to itself, sucking water like a big sponge into your top skin layers - a great property if you want to moisturize your face, but not so hot for ensuring your leather stays healthy.

Wait - don’t we want our leather moisturized and supple? Sounds like glycerin would be awesome for that! I know, I know; we thought the same thing. But let us explain…

Use Only What You Need

We are huge believers in providing your leather only what it needs to stay in great shape = clean and supple due to just enough moisturizing. To us that means paying attention to our tack and not just slapping on products out of habit when our leather really, really doesn’t need them. Minimalism….Yes!! So….we don’t include glycerin because your leather truly doesn’t need it. Why doesn’t it need it? Read on Macduff!

Clean Like You Mean It

Following from the minimalist theme, we don’t use any conditioners or moisturizes - glycerin or otherwise, in our Leather Cleaner. The objective of cleaning your tack is….to clean your tack. Period. In addition to attracting moisture, glycerin is a sticky substance that can act like a sealant. When included in a cleaner, the glycerin sticks to the very leather you are trying to clean, trapping dirt and grime within the pores and fibers. Plus, that leftover residue of glycerin-dirt-gunk keeps attracting more and more dirt. Talk about counterproductive!

Stop Conditioning So Much

Over moisturizing your leather is one of the cardinal sins in leather care. (We could wax poetic on this for quite sometime, but we will save it for another day). Your leather should NOT be conditioned every time it is cleaned. As a result, we do not put glycerin or any other moisturizing agents into our Leather Cleaner. Setting up cleaning and conditioning as two separate leather care steps ensures you have the very best control over the care and health of your tack. You are in the drivers seat to evaluate when and how much conditioning your leather needs to be happy - and dare we say, stay in safe and useful condition.

Water Is Not Your Friend

Additionally, we do not include glycerin in our Leather Conditioner. Yes, no doubt glycerin would help moisturize your leather, but at a price. Unfortunately, the glycerin will accomplish this by drawing water vapor from the air into your tack. Water is truly not a benevolent comrade of your leather, resulting in mold, weakened leather, and a whole host of other undesirable outcomes (for more on this check out our article on dealing with water). Also, as mentioned before, glycerin is sticky. I don’t know about you, but I’d get awfully bummed out if my saddle was still sticky and gunky after I cleaned and conditioned it. Yippee, it’s a good thing then that there are other extremely effective ways to supple and condition your tack without using glycerin to draw water into the fibers and cause damage.

Ok, so the bottom line is that we are not fans of glycerin in leather care products at all. Like we talked about earlier, yes, leather is essentially just like your skin (our skin is similarly acidic and you can learn about why leather’s acidity matters so much in our article here) and should be treated with the same tender care. However, the difference is that your skin is able to constantly renew and repair itself. Leather is unable to repair itself, so we are the gatekeepers to preventing damage to our leather tack.

Just like you, this means we are then super persnickety about what products we use to care for our leather because we want it to be healthy and last for a long, long time. Ha, finally an excuse to get to be persnickety!! :)

Interested in learning more? Visit our Learn Page for more tips and how-to or take a peak at our Products!