Tack Cleaning 101
Cleaning tack is a dirty, time-consuming project, but it is an important part of being an equestrian. Caring for your tack, especially leather equipment, will ensure your tack is safe, saves unnecessary repair costs, and lasts for a long time. But if you have never cleaned tack, you probably don’t know where to start. Get out the Windex? Spray it down with a hose? Each piece of tack requires slightly different cleaning depending on the material it is made of, whether leather, cotton, PVC, or metal. We’ve covered some essential tack-cleaning tips to get you started on your path to squeaky clean tack!
Tack Cleaning Supplies
Set yourself up for success by gathering all your tack-cleaning supplies in one place. Most horseback riders have a combination of materials to clean, so you’ll need the right cleaner for each item. Here is a list of recommended cleaners:
- Leather cleaner or saddle soap
- Leather conditioner
- Bucket of warm water
- Stainless steel wipes
Cleaning Leather Tack
Most tack was traditionally made from leather, which is still a popular option for equestrians today. Saddles, bridles, stirrup leathers, girths, and accents are often made of leather. You will need to clean, condition, and buff it out to clean leather tack.
Step 1: Before cleaning, disassemble your tack, removing bits, buckles, and stirrup irons.
Step 2: Clean the leather with a leather cleaner or saddle soap. It will take a little elbow grease to clean off the mud and sweat. Pay attention to areas where grime gets stuck, such as near the stitching or seems on a saddle. Do not leave excess saddle soap on your leather. It is very drying.
Step 3: Wipe down the saddle with a dry cloth.
Step 4: Condition the leather with your leather conditioner. Rub the conditioner into the leather in a circular motion to help it absorb faster. For very dry leather, you may need two applications.
Step 5: Buff your tack with a clean, dry cloth.
As you clean your tack, check for dry rot, cracks, dings, or other wear areas. When you have finished cleaning your tack, reassemble and store it in a dry area away from heat.
Cleaning Synthetic Tack
The steps for cleaning synthetic tack are similar to leather but do not require the same cleaning supplies, and the process is much faster.
Step 1: Disassemble your tack, removing bits, buckles, and stirrup irons.
Step 2: Use lukewarm water and saddle soap to wipe the surfaces.
Step 3: Wipe with a clean, dry cloth
Step 4: Allow to dry before putting your tack back together.
Cleaning Metal Pieces and Bits
For the most part, metal pieces on your tack don’t require special care. You can wipe them with lukewarm water and dry them with a clean cloth. Stainless steel wipes can bring out the shine if you are heading to an event or horse show. We recommend removing bits, soaking them in warm water, and drying them once a week to remove any grass or grime buildup.