Whether you are sweltering or shivering, humidity has a sneaky year round influence on whether your leather tack and gear is stiff or supple, moldy or spotless. Which way do you tend towards? I personally tend toward a slightly stiffer supple and spotless, of course. :) In this sixth article in our 7 Worst Enemies of Your Leather series, catch the tips and know-how you need to manage and protect your leather from humidity in any climate or season.
Why Humidity Hurts
Say the word “humidity” and my mind automatically cues images of frizzy hair, sweaty faces, and running mascara. Well, just like me, your tack is really not a big fan of humidity either.
Modern leather ideally loves to be at its best in relative humidity ranging from 35-70%. Too little or too much humidity and your tack gets grouchy.
Leather is somewhat hygroscopic, which means that it likes to absorb moisture from the surrounding air. That sounds nice, like maybe your leather can just automatically condition itself from the air on a humid day. And it does to a degree! Unfortunately, what this means is that leather can easily suck up too much moisture on a humid day, especially when combined with conditioning. This makes it prone to mold and oversaturated leather fibers. Bummer because oversaturated leather fibers equals weakened and permanently damaged fibers.
On the flip side, leather can definitely dry out in an environment with too little humidity. As your leather loses moisture to the atmosphere, the leather begins to shrink, stiffen, and crack - picture a cellulose sponge shrinking up as it dries. Again, the leather fibers are permanently weakened and damaged to a degree when this occurs.
So…this is where a good leather conditioner comes into play as an important tool in your toolbox, but balance and awareness of your leather and environment are absolutely key to helping your leather stay in the perfectly moisturized sweet spot.
How to do this? Keep reading ‘cuz that’s next!
What Can You Do?
No matter your climate or time of year, try these easy tips for keeping your saddle supple and healthy:
Condition your leather on an as needed basis only. This is the #1 hands down best way in our opinion to ensure a healthy moisture balance in your tack. US riders are notorious for overconditioning their tack, and fortunately, this is less common in other countries. Just don’t do it! Slapping on a layer of conditioner after every ride is not the way to go.
Your leather will tell you what it needs, so only use a very light amount of conditioner. This means using just enough conditioner so that it fully absorbs within about 2 minutes. If the conditioner is still partially unabsorbed after 5 minutes, wipe off any excess to avoid oversaturating your leather.
Condition more frequently during your cold dry winters and arid summers. Does this mean every day? Every week? Once a month? Again, you will want to experiment a little bit by applying a little conditioner to your tack and seeing what happens.
Condition less frequently during your rainy seasons, cold humid winters, and hot humid summers. This may mean conditioning once a month or even once every few months depending on your environment and the needs of your leather.
Store your tack in a well ventilated space so that it can breathe and try to balance itself naturally.
Consider putting a fan or dehumidifier in your tack room during particularly humid months.
When you get right down to it, managing the damaging influence of humidity on your leather is really all about balancing natural humidity (the atmosphere) with supplemental humidity (leather conditioner). Your favorite jar of leather conditioner is simply a handy and powerful tool you have at your disposal to control the moisture level and health of your tack. The small challenge is that in order to use that conditioner properly you may need to develop a little bit of a different mindset and habit about tack care. Thank heavens it’s an easy new habit to get into - and it’s really about doing less work rather than more! :)
I know many of us were taught to condition frequently and regularly, so years ago I too was guilty of mindlessly conditioning my tack constantly! However, now you know the role humidity plays in your leather’s health and have the know-how to easily tailor your tack care to meet your tack’s needs on a day to day basis. By taking the easy first step of experimenting with and tweaking your conditioning routine you will be well on your way toward helping keep your leather healthy and in perfect balance.
**Be sure to keep an eye open for our next and final article in our Series coming out next month!
Miss the other articles? No problem! Check them out here: