Many people assume that saddle soaps are meant for horse equipment because of the word “saddle”. Well, these folks are not wrong. This type of soap is used to clean leather saddles and tacks. However, they are also excellent for washing and preventing your leather products from deteriorating.
Choosing the best saddle soap is easier said than done, especially for those who have not cleaned leather materials before. For starters, I recommend checking these three basic components:
- Usage: Considering the wide variety of leather goods, you will find different types of cleaners. Besides “all-purpose” products, there are formulas for regular maintenance or deep cleaning. Others make specific saddle soaps for tacks, boots, bags, shoes, belts, or furniture. Before you buy, read the label to check the ingredients and manufacturer’s recommendation. More often than not, these products have unique ingredients that only work on certain materials.
- Ingredients: Most saddle soaps contain beeswax and lanolin. Obtained from wool-bearing animals, lanolin is known for moisturizing and protecting leather. Meanwhile, beeswax comes from honey bees, which creates the soap’s buttery consistency. Glycerin soap can also moisturize and remove dirt when combined with other ingredients like lanolin and neatsfoot oil. As much as possible, avoid lye-based soaps as it absorbs moisture fast, which causes the leather to dry and crack.
- Color: You may have noticed that your work boots darkened after cleaning them. Blame it on the saddle soap! Certain formulas turn the leather’s brown color into a deeper shade. Rest assured, this is not necessarily a bad thing as some people like it. If you want to retain the color of your leather goods, you can choose white or yellow saddle soaps.
Beyond this surface-level information, I’m sharing six leather soaps that I have used in the past. As a bonus, I have also included a review of my go-to sponge. If you need tips on finding a specific cleaning product for your leather items, then head over to the Buying Guide.
Table of Contents
- Top 7 Saddle Soap Reviews
- What Is Saddle Soap
- Type of Saddle Soap
- Why Do You Need Saddle Soap
- Buying Guide
- Care and Maintenance
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 7 Saddle Soap Reviews
1. Fiebing’s Saddle Soap
Let’s start with a brand that sets the gold standard. Fiebing’s saddle soap is favored by ranchers, laborers who wear work boots, and leather aficionados. Initially formulated for saddles, this versatile product is also suitable for shoes, gloves, and other items. Scoring high in ease of use, I only need a small amount to keep the leather clean and supple. But what I love the most about this product is its pleasant scent.
Capable of penetrating deep into the pores, this leather cleaner can revive my dried-out, tired leather products and prevent cracking. Note that the manufacturer recommends applying neatsfoot oil or leather conditioner afterward for the best results. Based on experience, the total process does not take too long. Thanks to this true saddle soap, my leather shoes and accessories are well-preserved, enabling them to last years without damages.
2. Kiwi 31600000000 Saddle Soap
Across the globe, Kiwi saddle soap rules! Perhaps, it is partly because this brand dominates the footwear industry in every country but it is popular for a good reason. The name is synonymous with quality shoe care products. If you often come home with muddy leather boots like me, then this one’s for you! Through simple steps, I managed to remove all sorts of stains and the most stubborn embedded dirt. All I need is a stiff shoe brush or a clean cloth.
Take note, this is a saddle soap made of quality wax for extra protection. Therefore, you must treat it as a 2-in-1 product. The blend of fine non-toxic ingredients leaves leather soft and supple. As indicated on the packaging, the formula is also safe for other items, like leather saddles, baseball gloves, belts, and gun holsters.
3. Bickmore FBA_BIC10FPR139 Saddle Soap
Echoing the product description, Bickmore saddle soap is indeed not just for saddles. Besides my muddy pair of boots, it is an excellent cleaner for other leather sports equipment that is often exposed to the elements. As such, this western saddle cleaner is popular among cowboys but you don’t need to be one to appreciate its true power. Your purses, satchels, or hats made of animal skin can benefit from it.
Combining lanolin and neatsfoot oil, this glycerin soap can draw out salt stains, grimes, and dirt from my boots and saddle. It conditions the leather, leaving it supple and shiny. Plus, I like that the formula is more on the gentle side since it works on soft and hard leather. What fascinates me the most is that it can also fix scratches. Best of all, the application only requires a damp cloth and the results show up within minutes!
4. Fiebing’s ABCD White Saddle Soap
Crafted for light-colored items, this white Fiebing’s saddle soap cleans leather without darkening it. But this does not mean that the formula is weaker! It is equally capable of removing dirt. In my case, I like to use it to bring my old leather boots back to life. Apart from smoothening out the cracks and scratches, its moisturizing formula effectively preserves leather. That’s because the soap seeps deep into the fabric.
Whether it’s a new or antiquated leather item, I find the cleaning process quick and straightforward. Just like the yellow variant, it makes the leather soft and renders a nice shine. A regular application of this cleaner and leather conditioner can prevent the fabric from hardening. As a result, my shoe, belt, and bag collections last longer. If you own horse equipment, you will be delighted that this product is one of the most suitable saddle soaps for leather tack.
5. Farnam 32602 Glycerine Saddle Soap
Farnam leather saddle soap is a great option for those who hate cleaning agents in solid form. Just spray it on a cloth or directly on the leather and start rubbing. It gives me an easier time working on bigger surfaces like furniture. Yet, this liquid glycerin saddle soap offers another advantage: no more dried-out leather cleaner problems. Furthermore, I don’t need to mix it with water. This product is pretty much always ready to use!
In such a simple process, I’m impressed that this Farnam leather saddle soap can clean, moisturize, and make the fabric shine. Surprisingly, the sheen lasts longer compared to the ones I cleaned with other leather soap brands. Even better, it effectively removes the odor that is stuck in my leather shoes. All this can be accomplished with just a thin layer of soap.
6. Angelus Leather and Saddle Soap
For a small company, Angelus Direct has quite a big fanbase in the art and fashion communities. Renowned for leather dyes and paints, the brand also crafts one of the top-rated saddle soaps for cleaning furniture, fashion accessories, as well as horse and sports equipment. When paired with a high-quality conditioner, it can go beyond removing dirt. Its lubricating capabilities nourish the skin to prevent brittleness.
Bag collectors recommend this saddle soap for Louis Vuitton leather goods, vintage or new. Besides turning cracked, stiff skin into supple and smooth fabric, it makes the surface shine subtly. Indeed, I can count on this product to do a marvelous job for both DIY restoration and maintenance. The results look as if I hired a professional to refurbish my bags and shoes. Furthermore, it helps increase the value of collector’s items.
7. XILAOTOU Tack Sponges
So the saddle soap manufacturer’s instructions say that you need to combine the cleaner with warm water and use a sponge to apply the mixture. Before you grab the one you have in the kitchen, let me just warn you that it’s not good practice. It can transfer dirt from the greasy kitchenware to your boots and vice versa. Having a dedicated sponge for your outdoor leather equipment and footwear will keep things more sanitary.
Moreover, this type of sponge is made especially for cleaning leather equipment, decorative pieces, as well as painting and crafts projects. I think the cost is pretty inexpensive considering that it contains a dozen of sponges. If you need more, you will like that it also comes in a pack of twenty.
The sponge’s coarseness helps me scrub out the dirt and massage the leather without scuffing the surface. Yet, it is also pliable so I can apply the saddle soap on irregular-shaped objects and squeeze it to wring out excess moisture. Plus, it can pick up more soap and water so I don’t have to dip it in the mixture repeatedly.
What Is Saddle Soap
Saddle soap is made of lanolin and beeswax. It moisturizes and protects leather fabrics. Some variants also contain wax. This cleaning agent is sometimes referred to as “leather soap,” “leather cleaner,” or “leather shoe soap” since many people use saddle soap on shoes.
Those who own items made of leather can use saddle soap for dirt removal, maintenance, and restoration. You can apply it on belts, bags, jackets, boots, furniture upholstery, as well as sports and horse equipment. Note that the formula for each product can vary. Brands tend to craft highly specialized cleaners for full-grain, nubuck, or suede.
Type of Saddle Soap
Regardless of the ingredients, you will find saddle soaps in these three forms:
- Saddle soap creams
- Liquid saddle soap
- Glycerin bar soap
Why Do You Need Saddle Soap
If you own any leather product, buying saddle soap is a given. Even though leather is known for its durability and flexibility, the lack of proper care can weaken or harden the material. In turn, this makes them look unattractive and feel uncomfortable to wear. With saddle soap, you can keep your leather soft, supple, and polished.
Those who work outside would know that damp cloth can sometimes be insufficient when getting rid of grimes and gunk. Using saddle soap, you can effortlessly expunge the dirt that made its way to the pores.
Sometimes, reading a review is not enough to make us feel confident about our decision. No one wants to mess up their precious leather products by cleaning them with the wrong saddle soap! So, sit back, relax, and read the tips that I have gathered from forums like Reddit and other reliable sources.
Technically speaking, the saddle soaps stored in tin jars are a mix of soap, cream, and in some cases, wax. Usually, this form is great for leather saddles and shoes as it gives you more control over the amount to apply and target specific areas. For leather tack or couch, the saddle bar soap is much easier to use.
On the other hand, liquid glycerin saddle soap in spray bottles allows you to spread the cleaning agent more evenly on non-flat surfaces. Note that these are not strict rules since you can use both solid and liquid soaps on anything the ingredients are suitable for the material.
Mild vs. Strong Cleaning Agents
Before you buy anything, determine which items you intend to use it with. Even though your work boots and belt are made of full-grain leather, chances are your footwear is dirtier, especially when you work in muddy areas every day. As such, your boots will require a stronger formula. If you need to use a powerful cleaner, check the color fastness in a hidden area before applying it to prevent discoloration.
Type of leather
Not all saddle soaps are suitable for nubuck and suede. Many automobile blogs also discourage the use of saddle soap on leather car seats since it will dry out the fabric. While they are all made of animal skin, each underwent different processes. As a rule of thumb, do not apply the leather cleaning agent on just about any leather item you have.
Of course, some brands make saddle soaps for nubuck, suede, and car seats. The easiest way to know if the cleaner is safe for these materials is to check if keywords like “safe for nubuck and suede” or “suitable for car seat” are indicated in the product description.
Unlike underwear, you don’t need to clean leather products every single day unless they are muddy. The small tin jar is just the right amount of soap you need for items like boots, belts, gloves, and purses. For bigger items such as sofas or car seats, it will be easier to use a block of saddle soap or its liquid form that usually comes in spray bottles.
Leather is a porous material. Naturally, it can trap dirt, dust, and moisture in its pores. This is unavoidable since we use our boots, saddles, and what-have-you every day. The thing is, even the saddle soaps can only do so much. Hence, they need to be paired with leather conditioners.
Now, here’s the tricky part: these two products must be compatible with each other to make the animal skin soft, supple, and polished. If you’re unsure, you can buy the same brand of leather soap and conditioner or read the saddle leather conditioner reviews.
The scent may not be our main criteria. After all, the smell does not affect the soap’s ability to wash off dirt, though it gives us the impression of cleanliness. However, it can be annoying to work with a saddle soap that gives off a strong chemical odor.
Fibeing’s saddle soap, Farnam leather cleaner, and Gold Label saddle soap are the best options for those who want their shoes and equipment smelling fresh and clean. Folks who are sensitive to strong scents can opt for brands that make fragrance-free soaps.
Care and Maintenance
Many of us pour water into the lid of the saddle soap’s tin can when we clean our leather products. Once you are done, remove the remaining water and wipe the lid dry before you close the container. Make sure that the container is tightly shut to keep the soap from drying out. For bar soaps, store them in a plastic container once they dry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is saddle soap bad for leather?
The answer lies in the ingredients and whether they are appropriate for the type of leather that you have. Experts recommend combining pH-balanced saddle soap with leather conditioners. Most leather cleaners and conditioners are sold separately but some manufacturers formulate 2-in-1 solutions.
Beware of saddle soaps with high alkaline content; they can cause damage and discoloration. Also, you need to make sure that you don’t overdo your cleaning. Apart from that, the leather item must have proper storage. Too much moisture or heat draws oils from the skin, making the leather fabric stiff or crack.
What is the difference between white and yellow saddle soap?
In terms of quality, there is no difference between white and yellow saddle soaps. Both are capable of cleaning and moisturizing leather goods. However, white is more appropriate for lighter leather fabrics while yellow is more commonly used for slightly darker shades.
Can saddle soap be used on suede?
As previously mentioned in the reviews and buying guide, manufacturers make saddle soaps for specific types of leather. My advice is to check the label to see if the leather cleaner is appropriate for suede. Do not assume that the product can be used for suede even if the label says “for all types of leather” or “all-purpose cleaner”.
Do you rinse off saddle soap?
When you apply saddle soap on a leather fabric, you will notice that it will thin out or disappear. After covering the entire surface, make sure to wipe off the residue with a dry clean cloth.
How to use saddle soap?
Each saddle soap comes with a specific instruction so be sure to read it before applying. Some products require mixing the soap with warm water, while others can be applied directly onto the fabric. Let me also reiterate that you need to do a spot test for colorfastness if you are using a strong soap formula. This way, you will not run the risk of damaging the leather’s color.
When cleaning leather boots, remove as much mud as you can and take out all the pebbles stuck in the soles if there are any. Regardless of the item, you can start by using a sponge or a clean cloth, and apply the saddle soap or mixture onto the leather parts. Rub it in a circular motion and repeat the process until you have covered the entire surface. Lastly, wipe off the excess soap with a fresh clean rag.
Be sure to apply leather conditioner. Otherwise, the soap alone may deplete the natural oils in the fabric.
Cleaning leather involves art and science. To preserve our shoes, garments, accessories, and equipment, we need to learn the proper technique and the contents of the cleaning products that we put on them. Granted, not all of us are chemists but it does not exempt us from the responsibility that comes with owning and collecting leather products.
Part of the challenge in finding the best saddle soap is familiarizing ourselves with the product’s formula and how it works on different types of leather. Once you get a good understanding of how the ingredients work, you will be able to choose the right product to clean, maintain, or revive a vintage piece.