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What's in your saddle soap?

By Leslie Potter | April 2009 Exclusive

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The tack store shelves are full of a variety of tack cleaners and conditioners, but you'll find that most have the same key ingredients. Here's a guide to some of the common ones.

Glycerine: Available in bar or liquid form, glycerine soap is the classic leather cleaner. It is also a popular ingredient in regular bath soaps for its humectant properties—it draws and retains moisture. This helps keep your leather—or your skin—hydrated and supple.

Neatsfoot Oil: A time-tested leather conditioner, neatsfoot oil is a powerful ingredient typically made from lard. Though it is an effective lubricant, it is known to darken leather, so should not be used if you want to preserve a light-colored saddle's original shade. Pure neatsfoot oil is typically recommended over neatsfoot oil compound, which has added ingredients such as mineral oil. The mineral oil can deteriorate the stitching in tack over time. The name "neatsfoot" comes from "neat," an old term for cattle, as the oil was originally made from the bovine legs and feet.

Lanolin: This waxy substance is derived from sheep's wool. It is used both as a moisturizer and as protection thanks to its waterproof properties.

Oil Soap: Not an oil, but a soap derived from vegetable oil, this type of product also includes glycol (as in glycerine soap) and is used as a general purpose cleaner.

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